Most people would agree that buying a house is the one of the largest investments they will ever make.
You might be surprised to hear, then, that the average buyer decides to make an offer after viewing the property for only 33 minutes, according to a poll by Aviva.
In fact, one in four people admitted to snapping up their new home after just one viewing – a seemingly hasty decision over an investment that might cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Even more interestingly, the average viewing time has decreased steadily over the past 20 years. Back in the nineties, buyers were likely to spend up to 39 minutes perusing the property before offering their best price.
One of the reasons the Aviva poll gave for such speedy decision-making was the increasing pace of the housing market, in which property shortages mean that people fear losing out to another prospective purchaser if they don’t act straight away.
So, have people just become more decisive about what they want or is it foolish to give your new investment only a cursory glance? Aviva found that many new homeowners have found themselves out of pocket due to their haste, having to spend around £1000 more than expected on unanticipated repairs that went unnoticed during the viewing process.
Home buying is a pricey business but you can safeguard against unexpected costs by viewing the property thoroughly (at least twice!) and making sure the appropriate survey is carried out before contracts are exchanged with the seller. This in itself can be a minefield, however. Most of us will only buy a new home once every few years at most, so it can be hard to keep up with the different types of surveys on offer and difficult to know what your home really requires. Surveys range from a basic valuation to a full building survey – your estate agent and/or mortgage company should be able to help advise you on what is needed in your case. Here is a brief summary to get you started:-
– Valuation Report: this is the report that your mortgage lender will insist on carrying out to determine whether the property is worth the amount you have agreed to pay for it. The valuer will undertake a very basic overview of the property and it is no substitute for a more comprehensive survey as it will only look superficially at the general condition of the building rather than looking at hidden problems. The cost of this report is often included in your mortgage fees.
– Condition Report: this is a cheap option for those buying a new build without a mortgage. It is a similarly superficial report to the valuation report but it does not include an estimate of the property’s value. It is only really suitable for new properties that are under warranty for structural problems. The price is roughly £200.
– Homebuyer Report: this type of survey is suitable for modern houses or for older houses that are of a standard construction and don’t have significant extensions or alterations to the original structure. It will point out any major problems with the building and highlight defects that might affect the property’s value. It is not suitable for properties that need major renovation or where you plan to make significant alterations to the property in future. In general, these reports cost from £300 to £500.
– Building Survey: this is the most comprehensive type of report and is recommended for old, large or non-standard properties (for example, properties constructed from timber). This report is also strongly advised for properties that need extensive renovations or where major conversions are planned. Where the Building Survey differs from the Homebuyer Report is in that it not only pinpoints problems, it also offers a comprehensive study of the construction of the building and an estimated price to repair any defects. The cost of this survey varies according to the size, age and location of the property, but you should expect to pay around £1000. This might seem steep, but you should also consider what the cost might be if major structural problems are found after you move in – repairs could set you back thousands of pounds or, worse still, when you try to sell, you might find you can’t get anyone to buy the place from you – or you may have to accept a price far lower than that which you initially paid.
An honest surveyor will help you to choose the survey that suits your property rather than merely trying to sell you the Building Survey, but unless your property is fairly new and is well maintained, the full building survey is definitely worth considering – a few hundred pounds is small change when you are spending many thousands, and you don’t want to be saddled with a home that isn’t worth what you paid for it.
So next time you’re shopping for a new property, think about spending more than 33 minutes looking around – it could save you a lot of money and trouble further down the line.
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