Viewings And Offers
May 10, 2006
You'd be truly amazed at the number of people who think a potential home is not worth considering simply because they can't see beyond the orange flowery wallpaper. Or who think a house is absolutely wonderful because the sellers happen to have great taste in furniture. It must be a blind spot or something.
The disgusting wallpaper will easily disappear under a coat of paint, and the furniture departs with the seller. Why don't people realise that? When you start househunting, keep an open mind as you wander around a property.
If you walk into a house that is full of clutter, stinks of incontinent cats and has a sitting room painted a vile shade of purple, don't let these awful first impressions cloud your judgement about the property itself. You're not buying the clutter, or the cats, so banish them from your mind. Imagine a house painted in a colour more suited to your own taste and filled with your own furniture. It's really not unusual for properties to be on the market for a long time not only because the owner doesn't know how to present their home in the best light, but also because house-hunters can't see beyond their noses. In fact, in these instances, you might even be looking at a bargain, particularly if the owner has dropped the price in his desperation to sell.
It's the structure and layout of the house itself that's important, not the seller's appalling taste or slovenly habits, so don't allow yourself to be influenced by the wrong things.
Picture yourself as a seller
Another vitally important question to ask yourself as you're making your inspection is: "Will I be able to sell it?" You may be perfectly happy with the fact that you have to walk through the second bedroom to get to the third bedroom (not uncommon in Victorian houses) but you'd be restricting yourself to a limited market since many families would find it impractical. The same goes for bathrooms that are downstairs - a lot of people simply don't like the idea of not having a bathroom upstairs. You don't want to end up with a house that you'll find difficult to sell later on just because you're prepared to put up with its little foibles while you're living there.
If you fall in love with a property, don't be afraid to go back and view it several times and at different times of the day, including the weekend. The teenager next door may be at school if you visit during a weekday afternoon, but if he likes to practice on his drum kit in the evenings then you'd probably like to be aware of it!
Listen out for constantly barking dogs -- frequent trains -- lots of traffic. Do you want to live near that sort of noise? What about nearby properties? Do they look cared for? If people don't give a damn about their own homes then they're unlikely to give a damn about the neighbourhood. In fact, don't forget to knock on a couple of your neighbours' doors just to see what they have to say about the area and what it's like to live there. Apart from anything else, it'll give you a chance to see what they are like!
Making an offer
If you like the property, you like the area and you've asked enough questions to know that you really want to live there, your next step is to put in an offer to the seller's estate agent.
Think carefully about this. Don't be afraid of pitching it quite a bit below the asking price: if nothing else, you can learn a lot about the property's value from the response you get. In a way, it's a bit like buying a second-hand car -- if it's on sale for £4,995, you can make an educated guess that the seller will probably accept £4,500 -- maybe even £4,000 at a push. The same principle applies to a house. (Note however that in Scotland the convention is for offers to be made in excess of the asking price -- there are also other differences to the house buying process north of the border.)
Think about how you would play it if it were your house to sell. You would always pitch the asking price higher than the price you'd settle for. So will everyone else. At the very least, you should be very reluctant to go above the asking price. If someone else is interested and the 'bidding' gets above this level, then it's probably a good idea to walk away and start looking for another dream home. Remember that you're happy to pay what the property is worth in current market conditions, but you need to be very careful not to pay more than its true value simply because you've 'fallen in love' with it and absolutely must have it. There are plenty of other houses on the market that would probably suit you just as well.