The case for doing a bit more than just a single viewing was illustrated perfectly last week when I visited a site of some derelict cottages in a countryside location on the outskirts of a village in Scotland. On the face of it, they were ripe for renovation and one of the real plus points was the fact that they boasted lovely countryside views and enjoyed a peaceful location. That is…at the weekends which is when the couple who purchased the lot had gone to do their viewing. However, during the week the lane outside the properties (which came to a dead end) was a turning circle for buses and during our time filming, we were interrupted on several occasions by the engine noise of buses doing their about-turn. Not great, if you want tranquillity and quiet!
So here, are my top 10 tips on how to become a property sleuth:
1. Visit the property at least two or three times – at different times of the day and week. That quiet village location might tell a different story if the property is near a business or organisation that has deliveries or activity at unusual times of the day, i.e. pub or bakery that has deliveries during the early hours.
2. Investigate where nearby transport links are such as railway lines and flight paths. You may visit during a time where there is no noise from passing planes or trains but this could be a nuisance factor if they travel near to your property on a regular basis.
3. Snoop around the neighbourhood and try and find out what the community is like. Parish notice boards, post offices and newsagents are good for this and you’ll find that most local organisations have an internet presence of some sort.
4. Check out what neighbouring properties are like. Do they scream ‘ASBO’ with unkempt gardens, tatty exteriors and junk cluttering up driveways and outdoor space. Or do they suggest that their inhabitants love their homes and take pride in how their properties look. These are all tell tale signs of what the local area is like.
5. Visit the property in the evening (when most people will have returned home from work) and suss out what sort of cars are parked on driveways. Does the next door neighbour bring home the works van or lorry and park it in the street? Again, this sort of thing may not be immediately obvious if you do a single viewing.
6. Research what the crime rate is like in the area. You can do this by visiting information websites such as www.upmystreet.com or from the Home Office statistics. (http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/soti.html).
7. Find out if there are any plans for development near or around the property. All planning applications are of public record and you can find out if there are any submissions from the Local Authority planning dept. Many local authorities have their Statutory Decision Register available on their website or you can ask about decisions over the phone or in person at the local authority offices. Alternatively visit the Planning Portal's National Planning Application Register, at www.planningportal.gov.uk
8. Knock on neighbours’ doors and say ‘Hello’. This way you’ll get to see what they are like for yourself and you might be able to talk to them about the area and what it is like to live there. Dare I say, that your vendors may paint a rosier picture than what it is really like in order to help with the sale. You may also be able to get them to tell you about any neighbourhood disputes.
9. Be aware of, and understand about any restrictions there might be on any plans you have to alter the property. Is the property listed or located in a Conservation Area? The legal pack or your solicitor should be able to advise you of this. Also if there are any special covenants or rights associated with the property.
10. Finally check out how close the property is to main roads, schools, supermarkets, transport links, clubs, bars and restaurants etc. On the one hand, you may need to access these services and you’ll need to know how far you might have to travel and on the other hand you may feel that being too close to certain community facilities is a downside due to increased traffic, parking and possible noise.