Last time I bought a house, I was working to a deadline. A very tight, needing a perfect house in 8 weeks kind of deadline. Which meant we had to view, choose and then make an offer on the place we would call home for many years, all in just one weekend to have any chance of actually completing on time.
And to top it off, the places we were viewing were all in a location we had never been to before. We literally just picked a place on the map and went for it.
So… how do you do speed dating… for a house?
I’m not sure there’s an official set strategy to find the perfect house, but this is what we did, and it worked:
1. Make a list of house must haves, and would likes. This helps highlight the potential areas for compromise.
Our list for example was:
Must be within 15 minutes of the central line
Must be a house
Must be of brick construction
Must have three bedrooms minimum
Must have space to park a car
and would like:
A reasonable garden
A downstairs toilet
Minimum refurbishment required
A bath with decent water pressure and a combi boiler
2. Armed with the above list, speak to every local estate agent and get some viewings of properties that roughly fit the bill booked in.
We ended up with 14 properties to view, and not all of them completely fitted our criteria but we decided to look at all of them anyway.
3. Research the local area generally to get an idea of where services and amenities are. We scouted out local schools, parks, childrens’ centres, transport links, shops… and the nearest takeaways!
4. Have a ‘head’ list to take with you when looking at houses in a short time frame. It’s important that a house feels like home, but equally it’s important to check that there is nothing likely to throw a spanner in the extremely time constrained works.
We arrived at each viewing a few minutes early, and had a look at the exterior of the property – the roof, guttters, adjoining properties…
and then inside, we checked that the heating worked, that the windowframes were damp and crack free, that the kitchen cupoards all worked, that the water pressure was good, that the switches all worked, that there were no cracks concealed by curtains or pictures…
Having a written checklist we could refer to for each property helped us to make a head and heart decision quickly.
We saw several houses that had looked good on paper, but didn’t meet our requirements. And then finally, we ended up at the house we hadn’t thought we’d like. It’s on a main road, it looked smaller, it cost a little more… but we walked into it and it just felt right. I found myself figuring out where I’d place my furniture, seeing myself sitting curled up on a sofa by the big living room windows, or imagining making a family meal in the kitchen. It had bricks. It had three bedrooms (although converted from the original two). It had a dedicated parking space, and it was minutes from the tube, the shops, the school, the park… it has no downstairs toilet but you can’t have everything.
So we were led by our hearts… and then we did the checklist and that was all good too. On to step 5…
5. Find a good solicitor. For example, Chiswick Property & Conveyancing Law, who have lots of great advice on finding your dream home, and then acquiring it with the minimum fuss possible. I made sure that we used a local solicitor so that I could sit in their office on a daily basis and check on progress – generally speaking that would be considered excessive, but you know, we had an 8 week deadline so… in any case, a local solicitor you can keep track of easily is definitely a good idea.
6. Go back and visit again, firmly in the head camp.
Check EVERY LITTLE THING. Get to know all the niggles. Say hello to the neighbours.
And then, hopefully a few weeks later, move in!
Seven years on, we are still living happily in the same house. Soon we will start thinking about moving somewhere else. Hopefully we will have more than 8 weeks to do it in! But we will follow the same pattern, to find our new #perfecthousedate.