Am I paying too much for a house?


Help and advice from Independent Building Surveyors

We are highly qualified Independent Building Surveyors who can give you help and advice and can carry out a building survey on your prospective purchase. Our easy to read reports include photos and sketches to explain to you any problems we may come across. We also offer solutions and costs in relation to the problems, which will enable you to negotiate on the house price to get it at the right price for you.

What is going on in the housing market?

We were recently approached by a client that we have dealt with many times before who advised that they were looking to downsize. They had managed to sell their property almost in the same week as it was put on the market but had not had much luck with finding another property. They wondered if we had any advice or if we could help them in any way.

Although they had come close to buying other properties several times, in the end they felt the estate agents were selling them the property more than they were buying the property, which is as we would always say often the case where you don't know exactly what you want. As far as possible write down exactly what you want before you go even onto the web to look at properties.

estate agent

estate agent

A concrete underpinning sketch
typical of those we would use in
our reports when required

A diary of events

We discussed their requirements and here is the diary of what happened;

Day 0 of buying a property, the preparation and the planning.

Property one, a Post War House

This is a day in the days before we were involved. The additional factor was two quite different properties. One was a newish house, when we say newish we mean in the past forty years, time flies! This house had the benefit of great views, of being refurbished to a high standard, the area and neighbourhood looked good and it was convenient for work and children etc. etc.

Although we put in a good report on the property they decided not to buy it as it wasn't them along with a few other elements we had pointed out like the size of the flat roof over the main building and it being on a sloping site and a flood plain. Although in our living memory we hadn't known it to flood there, it of course is what the insurance companies think that is also important.

Property two, a Victorian Property

The next property that we surveyed for them was completely different; it was a Victorian property and was much smaller than the other property and rather than being in a rural location it was close to the village/town centre. This one had been relatively nicely extended if you don't count the quality of the work and there was certainly scope for negotiation and property purchase. Again it met the clients criteria or what we thought was the clients criteria, please read on.

Day One, Initial meeting with the client buying the house

This was the first day that we had a cup of tea meeting (it was coffee actually) in a well known coffee establishment and got to know the clients requirements a lot better. They explained the reasons why they didn't proceed with the other purchases and the reasons why they felt under pressure from the agent to exchange on the house.

This property sale had been talked about for a long time and there had been a valuation carried out by the mortgage company so it did look like it was going ahead but there was then a change in the couple's circumstances. Now one of the partners was coming back to buy the property with friends/relatives etc.

estate agent

A change in the house price market

Fortunately or unfortunately whichever way you look at it in the spring period the house market had most definitely moved stronger for this type of property in this area and as such the property could probably fetch about 5 to 15% more.

The problem was that our client felt obliged to sell to the original person and this certainly is the honourable thing to do, however this had meant that the market had picked up when she was looking for property and she was effectively having to down grade very slightly and dip into her savings which coming up to retirement was not the best time to be doing this.

The second property involved a change in thought as to where she would like to live as the size of the property she could afford tended to be for families or busy professional couples and as such they are often running around taking children to school or off to work without the time for a morning chat. Her thoughts were along the lines of it would be nice to get to know the neighbours. She also liked the idea of being able to walk into town thinking further ahead when perhaps driving would not be possible.

Which village?

It was then choosing the village. Five villages centred around the city ranging from a mainly Georgian village to a mainly Tudor village to pretty much everything in-between and one of them being mainly Victorian instead of having some development. Out of the five villages two were the sort of places she wished to live and retire in and these were the middle price range. This was good as she wouldn't have been able to afford the top end of the price range.

Tudor defined – 1485 to 1603

Georgian defined – 1700's to early 1800's

Victorian defined – 1837 to 1901

Finding the right property

In this particular case it was walking into an estate agent and it was the first estate agent that managed to sell her property and she never got round to going into a second estate agent. We are told that less and less people walk into estate agents and this was also said by the estate agents that we spoke to on day two.

estate agent

Thinking through what you really want in a property and defining the things you need to have

We now had a fuller brief which included that her family had a background of bad knees which ultimately meant they needed chairlifts so she was concerned with future needs for a chairlift. She also wanted the convenience of a bathroom and toilet etc. on the same floor as the bedroom. So when we had carried out the report on the older Victorian property again it was a reasonable report with slightly more than average repairs and issues due mainly to the existing owner being a builder or probably more correctly a DIYer and not completing work or finishing it to a good standard.

It was a combination of our comments with regards to this and the other feature you often get with a Victorian or Regency or older smaller property is the bathroom is downstairs. When the client explained the need for a chairlift in the future as there were structural walls on either side of the staircase we explained how this would be at a greater expense. All of these things put together meant she decided that this wasn't the property for her.

Our client having then looked on the internet and finding there was nothing but modern and older Victorian properties available then gave us a phone call..

To have an example of one of our surveys emailed to you please Freephone 0800 298 5424.

We have now got the clients criteria

We had a look on the internet at Rightmove and other popular house for sale websites and then went to visit each of the estate agents. We particularly like to do this as you get to know and understand which estate agents are keen to sell properties (you would think they all are but some of them wait for the sale to happen rather than helping the sale), what properties were really on the market as there is sometimes a lag between them going on the internet and being viewable on the website although we were advised by a few estate agents that the websites worked in real time.

This still does mean the estate agent has to physically put the information up and also get their clients approval that the details are correct. However if you go into the estate agents you will be able to see how the estate agency works and you also may get an indication from the estate agents that something is coming onto the market that hasn't been approved by the owner for sale yet or they are going to do a viewing where they believe they will be taking on a property that week etc., etc.

Register your details with estate agents

At the very least you can register your details properly with them and check they have put it into their computer system correctly and get them to know your face for the next time you come back.

Talking to estate agents

We also explained to the estate agent all of the benefits of selling to our client which were;

1.  Ready to move because they have sold the property they are in.

2.  No chain meaning no other houses in the sale process. The aim is to get into the estate agents red hot box which literally used to be a red box when we did things in that way, it now tends to be somewhere on their mobile phone or the computer.

Disadvantage to the estate agent

estate agentYou may think this is the perfect estate agent customer however it isn't in some respects as;

1.  They have sold their property so the estate agent will be selling a property without taking another property on.

Of course an estate agent without any properties to sell is simply an empty shop. So in a market with not much coming onto it this should be an important consideration for an estate agent when they have many customers who can proceed and purchase property.

2. No mortgage work

Often estate agents are owned by mortgage companies. In fact of the eight that we looked in all but two were owned by mortgage companies. This is not unusual, being owned by a mortgage company means they want the mortgage business ideally of both the seller of the property moving into a new property and the buyer.

3. Managing both properties and incentives

They want both properties to be within their agency as this makes it much easier to manage. They also may have solicitors they own that they recommend or use and also what is known as panel solicitors and panel surveyors that have connections to them maybe in the form of giving. We believe these to be technically incentives under a different name.

Day Two, Reviewing the properties

We reviewed what we had found out by going to the various agents and we had found three properties in fact that met the criteria plus the original Victorian property had also come back into the picture but subject to an appropriate negotiation taking place on the price because there had been literally tens of thousands of pounds worth of issues to the property. We had been back to the estate agent that this property was on the market with to ask;

1. Was the property still on the market that we had surveyed?

2. Was there anything else?

This gives a very good indication to the estate agent that you after looking for something else.

3. Could the owners negotiate and what position where they in?

The estate agent advised that the sellers or vendors as they are known had already moved into their new property and were waiting for this one to be sold. The estate agents asked whether our clients would be happy for the builder/DIYer to finish the work. Unfortunately this particular case wasn't really an option as they had missed out everything from the basic see-able things such as missing guttering and a missing string (support) to the stairs, general poor finishes on the kitchen units that had been put in and the bathroom units too. Dampness in the property both to the walls and coming in through the roof where the roof slate had been changed to a concrete tile but the edge detail had not been fully sealed. There were all sorts of other strange things to the property such as their being different coloured tiles to the roof but having said that there were also some very pleasant features such as the cathedral ceiling in the kitchen and the bathroom area. The entrance was lovely to the front meaning that the wind didn't come directly into the property and so the list went on.

Day Three, wait and see situation and more viewings

We were in a wait and see situation with regard to the house that we had surveyed. We booked to see the other two houses that were available and met the various criteria of the client and we got a far better understanding of the market by going around and actually visiting each of the estate agents during the middle of the day on a week day when they had some time to discuss more generally what they had on the market and more generally different areas of the town. We found for example one agent that dealt predominantly in properties worth approximately double what our client could afford who felt that the area where they had, had the survey carried out was not the best of areas.

They were in a fairly good position to make a comment as their office was nearest to the area and had been there over a decade.

We gave written many property related articles which you will find throughout our website to give you help and information. Here are a few;

A bit more to know about Estate Agents

Estate agents can be very, very good at selling property. It is one of the highest value products that is regularly sold and as such often attracts the best salesmen other than those that sell mortgages and insurance of course.

The phrase ‘Trust me I am an Estate Agents' is not necessarily true!

Remember, estate agents get paid on commission

Estate agents are very motivated by the way they are paid which is a relatively small salary with a bonus. Some of the more high profile and we would say forceful estate agents have smaller salaries and higher bonuses. Most these days have office bonuses but some still have individual bonuses. You can have fighting between estate agents in the same office.

Remember – do not forget that estate agents only get paid their bonus when they make a sale. They don't get a bonus for not selling, giving you good advice, talking about the weather and about the town in general.

estate agent

Be aware of estate agents

Once they have made the house sale there are lots of other sales they can make such as;

1. Selling you a surveyor they are panelled to or have connections with.

2. Selling you a solicitor they are panelled to or have connections with.

3. And the big one is selling you a mortgage.

This one sale generally achieves an income to the mortgage company every year for twenty to thirty years. (Sales don't get much better than that).

Things not to do with estate agents

1. Don't use an estate agents building surveyor whose reports you haven't seen. (Our example reports are available on this website).

2. Don't use an estate agent recommended solicitor unless they force you to and we count strong persuasion as forcing you to

Please free phone 0800 298 5424 to speak to a friendly surveyor for help and advice.

Our articles

We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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