The line between “fixer upper” and dud is a fine one, and the difference isn’t always easy to discern because people don’t always look at the right things when they’re checking out a property.
Getting a property inspected by a surveyor will identify problems that might be significant in the future, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to afford that for every property you’re interested in. In the meantime, here are some things to watch out for:
Questions To Consider
How long has the property been on the market?
If a property has been on the market for months and months, it’s probably priced too highly for the area or there’s some other issue with it.
Has the price been slashed?
A price reduction of 5% or so is pretty normal in real estate, but any more than that and you need to start asking yourself why the seller is so desperate to get rid of the place.
How many times has the property been on the market?
With sites like Rightmove and Zoopla, you can not only see when and how many times a property has changed hands (as well as changes to the price), but similar stats for other properties in the neighbourhood.
You won’t be able to see if there are cracks in the foundation unless you have x-ray vision, but try to check for obvious damage to the brickwork and roof.
Gardens can be smartened up pretty easily, but watch out for overhanging trees (which will drop seemingly endless quantities of leaves in Autumn) and damaged walls/paths.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: a nice lick of paint can cover a multitude of sins. Touching every wall to check for damp is probably overkill, but be wary of extremely fresh paint jobs. Likewise, a plush rug might be hiding threadbare carpet or cracked tiles.
Use the opportunity to check the taps and/or shower while you’re at a viewing. Low pressure isn’t an easy problem to address – it’s one that my parents have lived with for years rather than fix.
When you’re viewing a property, don’t just drive straight there. Cruise around the neighbourhood a little bit and get a flavour of what the area is like.
Being near a motorway, public park or sports/music venue might be a selling point to some people, but it will also deter many others. Be wary of this if you decided to go ahead with a purchase.
Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours. Come on, sing it with me. You can change a property, but you can’t change the people around it. Nightmare neighbours can seriously harm the resale/rental value of a property.
But Don’t Let Me Stop You…
Although you need to watch out for all of the factors above most of them aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, as long as you’re willing to put the work (and money) into fixing things.
Just be aware that this can be costly, and you might end up wishing you’d spent more on somewhere more turnkey.