Buying a property is well known as being one of the most stressful things known to man. It’s hard enough if you’re seeking to buy in your home country. So if you hail from far off shores, property purchasing can seem complicated at best, and terrifying at worst…
To help juggle through the maze of buying property in London, here are 9 tips for making the process as less stress-inducing as possible.
- It’s been said before, and will be repeated a million times over – but location, location, location is key when it comes to buying a property. Neighbourhoods that no-one in their right mind would have considered buying in only a decade or two previously have now received the gentrifying touch, and become the ultimate in ‘des res’ living (with the price tags to match). Areas such as Marylebone, Paddington, Notting Hill and Earls Court require deep pockets if you intend to purchase. Instead, look at areas such as Hounslow, Croydon, Bromley and Barking. Not quite so central but offering far better value for money.
- Haggling is key – yes, even in the ultra-reserved society that is the British public! Just because a property is listed at a certain price, it doesn’t mean that a) It’s what it’s worth, or b) It’s what the seller will accept. Do your homework as to what other similar properties in the area are worth. Websites such as zoopla.co.uk and www.rightmove.co.uk will give you recently sold-for prices.
- Consider less sought after properties, such as an apartment above a shop. In many cases this can provide you with far more space for your money.
- Check out your transport options. All of London, including the suburbs, is covered by the underground train system known as ‘The Tube.’ For your own ease of travel (and for future ‘saleability’ ratings), try not to buy a property located more than 10 minutes walk from a tube station. However, properties that don’t hit this mark are likely to be cheaper. Overground connections or a bus route can see you saving thousands on the price of a property. For travel times, check out the website commutefrom.com to see how long your daily commute to work will take. Other options of commuting around the London area are buses. More information on travel around London can be found at www.tfl.com
- Temper your enthusiasm when viewing. If the estate agent or vendor gets the vibe that you love the property, you’re automatically on a losing streak when it comes to getting as much off the asking price as possible.
- And on the subject of estate agents, this is definitely a case of Caveat emptor, or ‘buyer beware’. Always remember that these guys represent the seller. Plus the more they sell the property for, the higher their fee. Their living depends on reading their prospective purchaser – that’s you – and extracting the largest possible amount of money out of them. So don’t give away your life story or let them know how desperate you are to live in a certain area.
- Talk to the locals. If you like a property you’ve just viewed, take the time to explore the immediate vicinity. Are there any open spaces nearby for kids and/or animals to play in? Where is the nearest shop? Is there space to park your car? What are the pubs like? The clientele that frequent the local drinking establishments will give you a good idea as to the type of neighbourhood you’re in. If you’ve got the front, it doesn’t hurt to knock on neighbours’ doors and ask them what it’s like to live in the area. Most people are happy to give advice to the folk who may well become their next-door neighbours.
- Don’t dismiss auctions as an option. They are a fantastic way to get a London property, with a few caveats. You must do your homework if you’re thinking of purchasing in such a way. Ensure you (or your solicitor) reads through the paperwork on the property before going to the sale. And make sure you view the property thoroughly. But if you’re a canny buyer, bargains can still be had when buying in this fashion. Some reputable sellers of London properties at auction include auctionhouselondon.co.uk and www.barnardmarcusauctions.co.uk
- Team up with friends or family if you’re a first time buyer wanting to get on the London housing ladder. Be creative. You may not want to actually share a house or flat with someone, but what about a family member of friend who might like an investment opportunity? They get to put up some of the capital, you get to live in the property, and they get a nice return on their investment when the time comes to sell or you buy them out…
There are lots of ways you can make your London property search as stress-free as possible. Most important is to be flexible. Sure, we’ve all got the idea of the ‘perfect property’ in the ‘perfect location’, but a degree of flexibility on this can see you getting far more bang for your buck. There’s a bundle of information available online; from mortgages to property searches, estate agents to solicitors – take your time and don’t jump headfirst into anything with any provider until you’ve done your homework.
Despite the double-dip recession in the UK, London properties have remained in short supply. However, don’t let this deter you, as it is still possible to purchase a great value home in the London area without having to compromise too much on your requirements, or having to fork out every penny you own to become a house owner!
Take full advantage of free advice available. Estate agents, mortgage lenders and banks are good sources, as are reputable websites such as www.moneysavingexpert.com and the Citizens Advice Bureau (www.adviceguide.org.uk)
But most importantly, never rush into buying a property. If necessary, rent whilst you find the right place to buy. London might well be a city where everyone seems to be rushing to get their hands on the best bargain in the fastest time possible, but this doesn’t apply when it comes to purchasing a property. Take your time, do your research and while it might well be a frustrating process, the end result will be your ownership of a house or apartment in one of the most sought after cities in the world.