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In Hindsight: What Buyers Wish They Knew Before Completing

Introduction

For most of us, buying a house is the biggest investment we will make in our lifetimes. If you’re on the cusp of making an offer or exchanging contracts to complete on a house, it’s understandable to want to make sure that you have made the right decision. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the things buyers wish they had known before signing on the dotted line.

What I wish I’d known before buying a house

It’s common to look back after making a decision and wish you’d had more information or time. Buying a house is a huge step, and it’s natural to reflect on whether you made the right call further down the line. Here are some of the most common things buyers wish they’d known before they completed on their new home:

1. Buying a house takes time

If you read articles about buying properties online, you get a general idea of how long it takes, but every case is different. Typically, it takes up to 6 months to complete the process from listing to selling, but some people wait several months to exchange contracts and hold the coveted keys in their hands after making an offer. Buying a house takes time, and it’s wise to go into the process understanding that it may not be seamless and swift. It’s best to be prepared for potential setbacks and delays.

2. There will probably be highs and lows

Buying and selling properties can be something of a roller coaster ride. Most people who have bought a house will have a story to tell. Some sales proceed without any issues, but for many buyers, the road is fraught with obstacles. The legal processes can take time, especially if the seller is slow to provide information or documents, and there may be hurdles along the way, which adjust the goalposts. If you have a home survey done, for example, you might find that you want more time to think about your offer or renegotiate, or you may decide that you want to pull out of the sale. The seller may also decide that they don’t want to proceed. Until both parties have agreed on the terms of the contract and signed, the buyer and the seller can walk away.

3. I should have stuck to my budget

One of the most common regrets buyers have is spending too much money on a house or flat or going over their budget. Setting a budget helps to prevent overspending and reduces the risk of financial pressures. If you go over your maximum budget, you may find it difficult to keep up with expenses, especially if moving costs more than you anticipated. Some buyers wish they had haggled on the price and others wish they had opted for a cheaper property. Research suggests that around 20% of UK buyers go over budget when buying a house. The figure is highest among younger buyers, with 25% of 25-29-year-olds exceeding their budget.

4. Letting emotions settle

If you’ve ever watched TV shows where prospective buyers view properties, or you’ve looked at a lot of homes yourself, you’ll be familiar with the pursuit of that warm and fuzzy feeling a house gives you when you walk through the door. Many of us long for an emotional attachment when we view properties. The trouble is that our emotions can get the better of us. Many buyers wish they had let the initial emotional response settle before making a move. Over a third of buyers put in an offer after a first viewing (source). If you are in the process of looking for a new home, use your head and your heart and arrange a second viewing to ensure that the house or apartment is right for you. Sometimes, acting on emotion can affect your judgement.

5. Researching the local area is crucial

We are familiar with the adage, ‘location, location, location.’ Sadly, many buyers wish they had taken more time to research the local area and learn more about the property market, access to amenities and facilities and house prices. Taking the time to get to know the local area can be beneficial for several reasons. The main benefit is learning more about where you’re going to live and making sure that it’s right for you. It’s also important to make sure that you’re not paying over the odds and that the property valuation is accurate.

6. I should have resisted the pressure to buy

Buying a house is seen as the holy grail for many of us, particularly young people who are desperate to get onto the property ladder. Holding the keys for a home you have bought is an incredible feeling, but some buyers feel that they were pressured into buying. Sometimes, buying is the best option, but this might not always be the case. Renting can be beneficial and it can also make sense to wait if you’re unsure about where you want to settle, or you would be putting a strain on your finances by buying.

7. Consider the location carefully

Most buyers set out on a property search with the intention of buying in a specific area, but what if you look back and wish you had chosen a different place to live? It can be tempting to expand the area if you’re struggling to find something affordable or there are limited options, but do you really want to be out in the sticks or miles away from work? Some buyers wish they had thought more about the location of a property before buying. The location of a house doesn’t just affect its valuation or price. It will also impact the buyer’s lifestyle and routine.

8. I wish I’d thought more about my lifestyle

Buying a house isn’t just about falling in love with a pile of bricks and mortar. Moving can have a significant impact on the way you live your life. Some buyers express regrets about buying properties that are not suited to their lifestyle. If you love the outdoors and you crave peace when you get home from work, for example, it’s unwise to focus your search on city-centre properties in the heart of the action. When viewing properties, it’s helpful to think about how relocating would affect your lifestyle.

9. Be mindful of jargon and language designed to make you buy

One of the most common responses to questions linked to what you wish you’d known before buying a house was being less naive when it came to listening to jargon and language designed to generate a sale. Many buyers raised issues with estate agents and a lack of transparency related to the state of a sale or selling prospects. Some buyers said that they had been encouraged to act quickly or to proceed by agents who informed them that there was no chain or that there was an option to get the sale over the line rapidly. In hindsight, many wish they had taken more time to make a decision.

10. Checking mortgage criteria

The vast majority of people in the UK take out a mortgage to buy a property. In some cases, the process is simple and hassle-free, but there are scenarios that can make applying for a mortgage more complex. Not all properties or propositions are eligible for mortgages. Some buyers said they entered the process not knowing that the properties or plots they were looking at would not be considered by lenders. It is particularly important to check mortgage criteria if you are taking on a project and doing up an old house or you are considering building your own home. It’s best to be clear from the outset to prevent delays and avoid falling head over heels for a property you can’t afford to buy.

11. Research and verify everything

If it’s one thing that keeps cropping up when analysing what buyers wish they’d known before buying, it is researching and verifying every claim and morsel of information. From liaising with estate agents to reading a house survey report, buyers wish they had verified information and researched, rather than taking it as read. Buyers wish they had asked questions about claims such as no chains and gathered more information about issues flagged in home surveys.

12. Learning more about home surveys

It is estimated that around 7 million buyers in the UK have bought a house without a survey (source). Home surveys are more popular than ever, particularly among younger buyers, but many people wish they had paid more attention to the survey and found out more from the surveyor before proceeding with an acquisition. House surveys commonly identify issues, and some are not as serious as they may seem when marked in red on a building survey. Buyers wish they had asked the surveyor for more information and advice and some also have regrets about going ahead with the sale without trying to renegotiate.

13. Understanding mortgage types

Finding the right mortgage can be a challenge, especially if you’re buying your first home and you have limited knowledge of different mortgage types. Some buyers who have completed on properties wish they had known more about mortgages and the different products available when they submitted their mortgage application. There are fixed and variable rate mortgages available and one option may be better suited to a buyer than the other. It’s worth seeking expert advice and weighing up the pros and cons and comparing costs before deciding which type of mortgage to apply for.

14. I wish I’d arranged a second viewing

Statistics indicate that over 35% of buyers make an offer after the first viewing. A first viewing can provide a lot of information and give you an idea of how you feel about a property, but many buyers wish they had arranged a second viewing before choosing to buy. A second viewing offers another opportunity to get a feel for the house, but crucially, it also enables people to use their heads, as well as their hearts. There are buyers who wish they had checked the proportions of rooms to make sure their furniture fit and others who would have liked to have explored the local area more, for example.

15. Finding out more about legal ownership and shared assets

Sadly, some buyers say that they wished they knew more about the legalities of owning a home and having shared assets as a result of relationship breakdowns. For buyers who have split or gone through a divorce, for example, not knowing what the process entailed made it more difficult and confusing. Some people wish they had known more about what would happen if they divorced before they signed a contract.

16. I wish I had renegotiated after the survey

Did you know that 67% of buyers are able to renegotiate after a house survey? Some buyers who were asked about their regrets said that they would renegotiate if they were allowed to travel back in time. Home surveys can identify and highlight defects or issues that buyers might not be aware of at the time of making an offer. If there are problems that will be expensive to repair, or issues that require urgent attention, it’s natural to want to consider an offer carefully. In many cases, people are able to renegotiate a lower offer price or ask the seller to complete jobs before exchanging contracts. Research suggests that over 20% of sales have fallen through in 2021 as a result of buyers changing their minds and bad survey results.

17. Buying a house usually costs more than expected

When budgeting for buying a new house, it’s understandable to focus on the purchase price and the monthly mortgage payment. Many buyers found that moving was a lot more expensive than expected due to additional charges and the cost of home repairs and maintenance. For buyers who made offers at the top of their budget, there were extra financial pressures associated with purchasing a property and turning it into a home.

18. You don’t have to max out your mortgage budget

Some buyers look back on their property search and the process of buying a house and wish they had set a lower limit. When you apply for a mortgage or see an adviser, you’ll get an idea of how much you could borrow. Some buyers said they wished they had set a lower budget and not borrowed the maximum amount available from the lender. Paying off a mortgage is a long-term commitment and running a household can be expensive. If the monthly payment is a stretch, it can be difficult to balance the books. Some people said they would go back and borrow less if they could to make managing their finances easier and more comfortable.

19. Spending less

One of the most common buyer regrets in the last year is spending too much. According to a survey conducted by Aviva, 94% of buyers felt they were hurried into making a decision and 50% said they regretted paying the price they did. Almost a quarter of buyers paid over the asking price in 2020. Driving factors included the stamp duty holiday, missing out on other properties due to other buyers moving faster and not wanting to lose out to others.

20. Getting to know the neighbours and considering noise levels

A number of buyers said they would have spent more time getting to know the neighbours and monitoring noise levels if they had the chance to go back. Some people reported buying houses in locations that are a lot noisier than they thought when viewing the property and some have encountered issues with neighbours. Visiting a property multiple times can provide an insight into what to expect in terms of noise levels. In addition to learning more about noise levels, meeting the neighbours can also provide a useful insight into the history of the property, its previous owners and the local area in general.

21. Checking storage space

A survey carried out by the HomeOwners Alliance revealed that failing to check storage space and capacity was the most common regret for buyers. A quarter of buyers said they wished they had paid more attention to storage when viewing the property, with 21% suggesting they had regrets over a lack of focus on the condition of the house and taking on maintenance work and repairs.

Summary

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to making important, life-changing decisions, such as buying a house. When questioning buyers about what they wish they’d known before completing, there were several responses and a diverse range of answers and comments. Many people regretted acting too quickly and spending too much and others wished they had known more about the processes and phases involved in taking out a mortgage, submitting offers, arranging a home survey, negotiating offers and getting a deal over the line. Most people wish they’d known that it can take a long time to buy a house and that it’s not always plain sailing.

Author: Chris Bloor is a chartered surveyor and RICS Registered Valuer as well as being the founder and Managing Director of CJ Bloor Property Consultants – a property consultancy based in the Northwest of England. Prior to establishing CJ Bloor in 2019, Chris worked as a senior professional consultant in another established firm of chartered surveyors based in Newton-le-Willows.