Q. This may sound stupid, but I'm looking to buy a new property, and I wondered if you could give me any general advice on how to proceed.
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A. On average, people only move home every 6 or 7 years, so this isn’t a stupid question at all.
Broadly speaking, there are 5 steps involved in buying a property – 6, if you also have one to sell. Indeed, if this is the case, then Step 1 is: put your existing home on the market first. Not only will this put you in a much stronger position than competing buyers, but it will also give you a clearer idea of your available budget.
Which brings me to Step 2, which is: establish your price ceiling. How big a deposit can you muster, and how large a mortgage can you afford? Have you taken into account things like solicitor’s fees, Stamp Duty, and the other costs associated with moving? And don’t forget utilities. Remember, the bigger the property, the bigger the bills!
Step 3: start your house-hunting. These days, most people conduct their initial searches online, before contacting the agents concerned. Others still prefer to do it the traditional way, by registering with one or more agents in the area of their choice. Either way, make sure you give the agent all the information you can regarding your situation and your requirements.
Step 4: viewing. When it comes to checking out individual properties, don’t rely on looking at printed details or the internet. Go and inspect them, preferably with the agent (and if you can’t keep an appointment, let him or her know in good time!). Draw up a list of all the questions you want to ask the seller, and make your own notes afterwards, so you can review them at your leisure.
Step 5: keep in touch. Let the agent know if your situation or requirements change.
And finally…Step 6: when you find a property you like, first confirm it is really what you’re looking for and then make a formal offer through the agent. Don’t go making offers on several properties at once. It just wastes everyone’s time – and when you do finally find something that you want, you may find that you’re not taken seriously!