Top tips for buying a country house next year
Since the pandemic began last year, the West Sussex property market has been red hot, as buyers scramble to get their hands on the best country houses for sale. However, for many it has come at a price, and a considerably hefty one at that, as competitive bidding wars have meant purchasers have been paying (and are still paying) substantial premiums in order to secure the sale.
The scarcity of good quality houses has played a significant role, as have the two stamp duty holiday deadlines. Let’s not forget Covid-19 itself either, as buyers young and old revaluate their lives and head off in search for a better life in the peaceful, clean air surroundings of West Sussex.
However, it seems those who did pay a premium for their pandemic purchases are now realising the consequences of what they paid. Recently, Aviva showed 94% of the homeowners they surveyed who agreed sales during the pandemic felt the pressure to buy quickly. Interestingly, 15% knew they were going to make an offer within twenty minutes of their viewing! Other stats show that 50% of recent buyers regretted how much they paid for their homes. 23% said they agreed a figure above the asking price, and shockingly, 92% of buyers found issues with their properties such as vermin, subsidence, poor insulation, damp, mould, bad plumbing, and faulty fittings costing over £10,000. Some of those people had to pay more than £20,000.
It’s easy to understand why this has happened if these buyers weren’t being given the professional guidance that they needed at the time. There aren’t that many properties for sale and knowing how fast they’re selling, it’s easy for buyers to get pulled into the bidding war scenario – especially if they have fallen in love with the home. So, with all of this in mind, I thought I would suggest my top tips for buying in 2022…
Location is always at the top of my list when it comes to advising clients on buying a house. Get this wrong and you risk selling up sooner than you had planned. This doesn’t just have to include the area you’re planning on living in. You also need to consider whether you’d be living next door to a pig farm for example (it will smell a lot, especially in summer!), or on a busy main road. You won’t appreciate the mad rush of commuter and school traffic that happens multiple times a day whilst relaxing in your garden, or having your Sunday lie in disrupted by weekend traffic buzzing past your front door. If you’re looking at a village, see how close you are to local amenities such as shops, schools and the nearest train station too. Panic buying on location can be costly. They cause expensive mistakes and often people end up having to search again in two to three years time.
Don’t panic buy
Be prepared to walk away. Easier said than done, I know, but hasty decisions are being made because buyers think they won’t find a house. However, you will in time – I promise. I strongly advised a client during the pandemic that they didn’t purchase a house in the south downs as I knew from the estate agent that the offers coming in were 20+% over asking price. My buyer walked away from the property and I managed to find them something just as good elsewhere quickly, for a lot less money as it was off market and nobody else knew about it.
View more than once
Of course it’s easy to fall in love with a home on the first viewing, we’ve all been guilty of it at some point, but you must do your homework before committing to anything. Book your second viewing as soon as possible after the first. This is to ensure you are still able to put in an offer should it end up in a best and final or sealed bid scenario. It’s worth visiting the house again in the dark, so you can get a feel for what it’s like then, and/or at a different time to the first viewing so you can ascertain whether you can hear main road traffic now that the wind has changed direction or the commuter traffic whizzing along a mile down the road between 7am-9am. Sunlight is also a consideration – if you enjoy a gin and tonic on a summers afternoon in the sunshine, then you want to ensure the sun is in fact shining on your patio or garden at the time you want it to. By organising a second viewing, you are minimising the risk of rushing to purchase something that may not actually be suitable for you.
Do your research
If you are using a buying agent they will research everything on your behalf, but if you’re going it alone, you need to know quite a few things before making an offer. Investigate the reason for the sale and the ownership history, as these can often raise red flags. For example, if the vendor has been in the house a long time it demonstrates they love their home and can give you confidence it’s a lovely place to live, but if it has changed hands multiple times in ten years then I’d find that concerning. It could be the road position and it’s too noisy, or perhaps it’s a bad farm smell, a horrid neighbour or a damp problem and so on. If you’re a family and schools are important to you, find out how far away educational facilities are. If you’re a commuter, where is the station? If you need local amenities within walking distance, make sure you’ve worked out how long it would take to get to them. Ask about how much the house costs to run too.
Consider temporarily renting
It may cost a few thousand to rent for six months, but renting is worth considering when low stock is causing purchase prices to be pushed up. If you can, wait, as historically Spring is the best time to be buying a country house as gardens are in their full glory and everything looks wonderful for photos and viewings. This tempts vendors of these homes into selling, bringing far more houses to market for buyers to look at. This automatically helps stabilise prices due to the better balance between demand and supply. Many of these will be off market however and will not hit the property portals – which is where the benefit of a buying agent comes in.
Offer the seller a delayed completion
Sellers will be struggling to find a house too, so it’s worth offering them a delayed completion date which gives them the assurance of an exchange so that they can become a proceedable buyer for their seller. This flexibility can often tempt them into accepting your offer over the highest bidder. Other benefits for buyers include allowing time to seek planning permission, architects and builders for any alterations you plan to make. This is especially true now when Covid-19 has caused huge delays with planners, whilst builders are so busy with business there are long waiting times to book them in. For anybody moving from overseas, a delayed completion is ideal should you wish to secure the house via exchange and then wait until you are back in the UK to complete. You also have more time to secure the funds from the sale of your own home in order to complete the purchase.
Reduce your budget
With the sorts of prices being paid, I am actually advising clients to under budget at the moment. For example, if you are looking for a house around £2million, reduce this to £1.75m/£1.8million to take into account the premium you will most likely be paying. This is especially true if you go to sealed bids or best and finals where buyers are paying 10-20% over asking price. It also allows for any unexpected costs. There’s quite a lot of hidden expenditure if you don’t do your research properly. For example, a survey could say you’ll need to spend an extra £100k on the property due to a number of hidden issues, pushing the budget way out of control.
If you fall in love with a house you see, but somebody snatches it up from underneath you, it can be quite a downer. I’m all for keeping your glass half full, but in this game, it’s important to be realistic that there a is a high chance you will be outbid in the current market. Obviously be excited, but try to keep emotion out of it. Property is an asset class at the end of the day and needs to be seen as an investment that works for you now and in the long-term.
Retain a buying agent
A good buying agent will do all of the leg work for you, minimise risk by providing you the expert advice you need, whilst giving access to properties off market that nobody else knows about – reducing competitive bidding tremendously.
For more advice about purchasing a home in West Sussex, contact our Director at Property Acquisitions, Jennie Hancock , on +44 (0)7776452128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.