6 Ways To Save Time Finding The Right House
1. Decide on the one key thing you need from this house.
Depending on your age and stage, you’re likely to need different things from a home. Downsizers may focus on lack of steps and being within walking distance of services, couples with young children will want cul de sacs and green spaces for children to play.
Have you decided on the single most important thing that you want from your new home? Now is the right time to get really clear on this. It’s possible that your partner (if relevant) may not have the exact same priority as you so some good conversations on this subject now may save you from viewing many properties that just aren’t suitable. To help clear your thinking on this, you could ask yourself….
Is it location? eg. Are you determined to move to a certain neighbourhood even if it means a smaller house or garden?
Is it size? eg. Have you run out of space in your home? Does your new home need to be bigger even if means a longer commute or a less “desirable” location?
Is it a garden? Must you definitely have a bigger garden even if it means a less well finished house?
Is it a certain school? Do you want to be near a particular school at the expense of size, or orientation?
What is the one single feature of your next house that is non negotiable? If you can get clear on this…you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy.
It will be even more helpful if you can get clear on one or two other key features that the house needs to have…however, don’t move on to the second or third thing before being crystal clear on that first and most important thing.
2. Get painfully clear on your financial position.
There is no point going to view anything unless you have loan approval or cash in place to buy. Talk to a broker as well as your own bank. A broker may get you a better rate, may get you approved for a higher amount or may advise you how to strengthen your case in order to qualify for a loan.
3. First do a drive by viewing
Before you ever pick up the phone to an agent to schedule a viewing with a potentially suitable property, I strongly recommend you do a “drive by” viewing. Doing a drive by viewing at an off peak time will allow you to see if there’s something about the house that immediately rules it out for you. This will save you all the bother of making and keeping an appointment to view with an estate agent to view it.
Things to consider when you do a “drive by” viewing are:
- Any fields , sites , open ground around the property that might be developed? (take a photo of any site notices you can see to check them out on line).
- Any potentially noisy neighbours close by such as chippers, pubs, schools, health clinics, busy roads etc?
- Are there bus stops , benches, bins outside the property?
- Are there single or double yellow lines outside the house?(makes it difficult for friends to park when visiting)
- Can you turn right and left into the property (eg. no solid white line on road outside property).
- Is the road a one way road?(need to do a bit more driving coming to and from home)
- Is there obvious potential to extend?
- What way does the back of the house face (the orientation of the back of the house is generally considered to be most important as most of the living spaces such as kitchens / dining areas are here). Remember the compass app on your phone.
- Do there appear to be any shared entrances / side passages / gardens etc?
- Does anything else jump out at you?
4. Relax when viewing a property.
Hopefully at this stage you’re going to view a property that you know you can afford, that meets your single most important need and hasn’t put you off during your “driveby” viewing.
Now you’re walking in the door. My one word of advice to you is “Relax”. You’ve no idea how many people come into a property and before they’ve even glanced at it, start to fire off questions at the agent. First things first…..take a moment to see if you like it before you waste any energy on questions.
- Take a first walk through the property. Go into each room. Simply get a sense of the space and the light. Walk out to the garden. How does it feel? Is there anything about it that you like? Are you uplifted at all? Could this ever be the home you want?
- If you think the house has potential then go back into each room again and this time be a bit more methodical. On this second walk around, you are trying to get a better feel for the condition of the property. Make a mental note of:
Floors: Do they feel level / sloping? Does the furniture shake in the room when you walk around? Do the floors feel solid?
Windows: Single glazed/ double glazed / a mix of both? If you think you’ll need to replace them, count how many windows there are so you can roughly estimate the cost.
Heating: Storage /oil / gas fired? Is the boiler (if any) old or new? Are there solar panels?
Ceiling: Are there any suspended ceilings covering up a potentially damaged ceiling?
Electricals: Does the wiring look old? Key indications of old wiring are sockets located in wooden skirting boards, switches that stand proud of the walls and porcelain fuse boards.
Attic: Might there be potential to convert the attic? (You’d need 2.4m at the highest point)
Roof: How does the roof look? Any slates missing? Do you think you’d have to replace or just repair the roof? Is there a flat roof (if so, do you notice any water gathering on it?)
Outside: Is there potential to extend to the front, the side, the back?
5. Date your neighbourhood
If you’ve seen a house you like, that meets your needs and is within budget? Now is a good time to go on a “date” with the neighbourhood.
Choose an hour some weekend morning or week day evening to drive or walk around the area and just get a feel for it. You may think you know what an area is like, but it might have changed. Why not go and take a look? Have a coffee in a coffee shop, pick up a free local newspaper, sit in a park. How does it feel to you? Does the mix of people suit you? Do you feel safe? Would you be excited to live here?
Are there signs of community spirit? eg tidy towns, posters for local events,
What’s your thing, and can you do it in this neighbourhood eg. do you like running?, going for walks, playing football, drama, yoga etc. Can you do it easily here?
Are there any large fields / spaces close by that may be developed and so change the nature of the area? (check www.myplan.ie to see the zoning for any area you’re concerned about)
What about flooding? (check www.floods.ie to see if the area / particular street was flooded)
Who do you know that lives around here? Ask them what they think?
6. Don’t be afraid to make the first offer or a strong offer.
It’s tempting to come in with a low bid then hang back and wait for someone else to bid....Somehow, when another person bids on the thing you want, it validates your choice and gives you the confidence to bid again. However my advice is to look at the comparable evidence ( Property Price Register, myhome.ie and DAFT.ie) and make what you consider to be a reasonable, evidence based, first bid. It’s not necessarily advisable to go in below the asking price if your research suggests that the asking price is reasonable.
Here’s a true story. I was handling an executor sale. We had priced the property at €495,000. This, by all the comparable evidence available on the property price register and myhome.ie etc represented good value for the purchaser. My client, the vendor, was keen to sell and although he had been hoping for more than the asking price, would have sold at this level of €495,000. There were a few viewers who I felt were very keen but only one set of viewers made an offer. They offered €480,000. They had probably taken advice or read somewhere that you should always offer below the asking price. However in this case, there was no way the vendor was going to take this low offer, nor would I have advised him to. The bidder didn’t raise their bid on the basis that they “didn’t want to bid against themselves”. A week or two passed and more parties came to view and bid on the property. In the end, the property sold to the original bidder for €545,000. The original bidder ended up paying €50,000 more than they needed to for the property just because they didn’t recognise a good deal when they saw it. Effectively, they didn’t trust their own judgement.
So check what the vendors position is, check the comparable evidence and go for it. Work out the highest price you are prepared to pay for the property and stick to your guns. Don’t over think it. There is no objective right or wrong here. There’s just you and the house you want. So if you like it , the location works for you and you can afford it….then go for it!
Now, Move into it, and make it your own and as Mark Keenan said in his excellent Buyers Guide in the Sunday Independent: No regrets!
Best of luck!