I want to start this post by being 100% honest – I have never bought a house! What on earth makes me qualified to write this post then? I am in the middle of selling one. My parents have both passed away and selling their house is turning into one of the biggest headaches of my entire life – And I’ve had some pretty bad headaches!
Basically, my parents’ house was bought by my grandparents in the 50’s with a 99 year lease on the land. There’s 39 years left on it now and the land owners are refusing to extend the lease or sell us the land for a realistic price. (They want more than the bricks and mortar are worth). So… A few things I have picked up over the course of the past 18 months are:
1). Make sure the property is Freehold if possible – otherwise you’ll be at the mercy of the land owners when you want to extend the lease or buy it out. As it stands now, we have a house we can’t sell as nobody can get a mortgage on a property with less than 90 years on the leasehold. The bricks and mortar will become the land owner’s property in 39 years – unless we extend the lease or buy it out before then. (They want crazy money at the moment though so we are stuck between a rock and a hard place).
2). Make sure there’s no Asbestos lingering around. My Dad was a joiner by trade, and in the 60s he fitted out a loft which had asbestos insulation. He was in there for 8 hours a day for a week, and swore blind that was the only time he was knowingly exposed to asbestos. He died from a heart attack triggered by asbestosis at just 54 years old. Asbestos was still legal to use until 1999, so if you’re concerned, it’s worth getting an Asbestos survey completed. You can find more information by contacting your local Asbestos Solicitors
3). Go armed with lots of questions. Hubby already owned our house when we got together, so I wasn’t part of the buying process. We did almost sell our house and buy another before the kids were born, but it all fell through at the last minute. I went into each house we viewed and asked questions like: When was the boiler last serviced? Does the burglar alarm work? Who has keys to the side gate? What do you think of your neighbours? Who is responsible for maintaining the communal green out front? Do we have to pay upkeep for the communal car park? Which appliances are you leaving behind?
Sellers must have hated me, but I wanted to be 100% clear about everything.
4). Measure your furniture and your door and stair clearance! My brother and his wife bought a beautiful, quirky home 15 years ago, and when it came to moving in, he realised nothing would fit up the stairs! My poor Dad had to take their bedroom window out to get their bed’s solid wood headboard in through the hole, and they had to do the same when they sold it, too!
5). Change the locks when you move in. No offence to the people you bought from, but you don’t know who else has keys too. The first thing my Dad did when my brother got his first house was fit new locks for them. He said he wouldn’t sleep unless he knew they were the only ones with keys, and that has always stuck with me.
So there you go – some tips to consider when searching for your first (or next) home.