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Buying a new home is a daunting prospect, which is why one property expert has devised a 'streetwise' guide to navigating the market.
Georgina Burnett, the UK-based guru known as The Home Genie on Instagram, has shared her tried and tested tips on everything from how to secure the best mortgage to how to add value to your bathroom.
In just nine years, Georgina has gone from a one-bedroom flat Folkestone, Kent, to a stunning seven-bedroom house in Sevenoaks, one of the UK's most expensive areas, and she believes many people are also able to realise their property dreams.
In The Street-wise Guide to Buying, Improving, and Selling Your Home, Georgina highlights key questions to ask and consider when viewing a property for the first time.
Here, we share an extract from the illuminating chapter on savvy house hunting...
Georgina Burnett, pictured, known as The Home Genie on Instagram, has shared her tried and tested tips on everything from how to secure the best mortgage to how to add value to your bathroom. Here, we share her tips on how to be a savvy house hunter
Know your particulars inside out
Really study the details sent by the agent. But be warned that the photos may not be true to life – expect to be a little disappointed.
Note what is missing from the particulars. If there are certain rooms not included, it usually means they would put people off if shown.
If you have studied the particulars you are more likely to notice the important points not included.
Come armed with questions and don't let the agent shy away from answering them. Sometimes you may be shown around by a 'viewing assistant'. You can certainly ask them your questions, but it's worth double-checking with the actual agent as they should be more knowledgeable.
Do a drive-by
If it's a property you are really keen on, your appointment shouldn't be the first time you view it. Have a little drive by at different times of the day. Get out and walk around.
Definitely talk to neighbours. It's a legal requirement to give details of a neighbour dispute, but some may slip through the net. You are more likely to get an honest picture of the road from Doris who lives opposite.
If the main selling point is the location, test out the time it takes to get to the station or the local school. Do this at different times of the day so you can get a true feel for the area – is it always quiet? If it's near a school is it like Piccadilly Circus at pick up time? These are important factors that might not be apparent at just a single viewing.
Never show excitement to either the vendor or the agent. You don't want to be too negative though either.
These days, particularly with the rise of online agents, it's more common than it used to be for the vendor to show you around the house and if there's a chance to meet them it's always a good thing.
Ask directly why are they selling? If you know the answer to that it can help you to understand their situation. If they're in a hurry you might get away with a cheeky offer, if not you will have to come to terms with the fact they may hold out for a higher price.
Really study the details sent by the agent. But be warned that the photos may not be true to life – expect to be a little disappointed. Stock image
Damp is a really important thing to check for. There's good and bad damp though.
You could go as far as to buy, borrow or rent a damp meter. Look out for hotspots (or soggy spots as they should be known!) like chimneybreasts – particularly if there is a loft conversion.
Rising damp is another issue though and one that is likely to be costly, if not impossible to fix. There are also things like dry rot and wet rot that you may not be able to uncover as they are below floorboards. Look out for bouncy floorboards, salt deposits and flaky paint at low levels on the ground floor. It could be a minor issue though like flowerbeds above the damp course or broken guttering or downpipes.
Condensation is one of the most common issues.
If you buy the property with damp issues you would get an expert in to fix them, but for now it's enough to recognise the warning signs. Look out for mould, flaking plaster, bubbling wallpaper and watermarks on walls and ceilings. It's not necessarily a reason not to buy, but should be a big consideration when negotiating.
Does it suit your needs?
By this I mean, think about the furniture you have, the rooms you tend to spend most of your time in. Is there enough storage? This may not be your forever home, but you do need to live fairly comfortably there for a short while.
Do the stamp and knock
If you're looking to improve a property, sometimes opening it up can modernise and make it seem larger and lighter. It's also desirable for the bulk of today's homebuyers to have an open-plan style. A really easy and cost effective way of doing this is by simply knocking down stud walls, usually added by previous generations.
Tapping the wall to hear if there's a hollow sound will tell you if the wall is weight bearing or not.
I also go around stamping my feet – not so that I can get my own way (although that does happen) but so I can work out if there might be some original floorboards under the carpet, which could save me money.
Come armed with questions and don't let the agent shy away from answering. Stock image
New kitchen needed?
If the kitchen looks like it needs to be replaced because it's shabby or out-dated, check inside the cupboards as you may find that if the layout and the carcasses are good, you only need to replace or paint the doors and get a new worktop.
See through the smoke and mirrors
When you're buying you need to be able to see through certain techniques that may be creating a red herring to divert your eye from something they don't want you to notice.
If it comes down to comparing that feeling of space with another property, make a note of any strategically placed mirrors, and look at what the actual measurements are telling you.
Watch out for clever use of lighting as well. Light can also make a room feel bigger or smaller. If a place feels dingy because they haven't been clever about the lighting it can be an easy fix, so worth bearing in mind if that's putting you off an otherwise desirable property.
Talking of light you need to know which direction the property faces as well so you understand when, if at all, it will have sunlight. Daylight can have a big impact on the appeal of a
The Street-wise Guide to Buying, Improving and Selling Your Home by Georgina Burnett
Have as close a look at the roof as you can. This can be a very expensive thing to correct. Whether it's a tiled or a flat roof it will have a shelf life, so you need to be aware if that is a consideration.
Sometimes a roof has been retiled with cement ones which used to be fashionable. These are incredibly heavy and can actually cause sagging, so watch out for them.
If the property doesn't have double-glazing it could cost a fortune to heat. Also if it's not double-glazed the frames could very well be old and potentially rotting as well. Even if it is double-glazed, how good are the windows, and do they come with the appropriate certificates?
Electrics and plumbing
How old are the sockets? Ask to see the fuse box – if that's old it's an indication you may well need to have the whole place rewired, which again will cost you a pretty penny. The same goes for the plumbing situation. Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it most likely is. Try running taps and showers to see the pressure.
Get a builder's opinion
It's worth finding a builder you feel you can trust to help identify warning signs and how much any problems are likely to cost to fix. They will often give you half an hour of their time for free as there is potential work for them in the near future. Even a small fee is worth paying if it helps you to understand the cost of doing up the property before you make your offer.
The Street-wise Guide to Buying, Improving and Selling Your Home is available at Ideal Home Show, where Georgina will be doing book signings, on or £14.99 on Amazon. For signed copies and more information visit www.GeorginaBurnett.com