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Nine questions to ask an estate agent before you offer on a home

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Buying a property is often the biggest financial commitment in a person’s life and yet many homebuyers will spend longer test driving a new car or buying a TV.

According to new research, Britons are snapping up homes often after just one viewing and sometimes after spending 30 minutes or less in a property.

Roughly two in five home hunters who purchased a property in the last six months, did so after just one viewing, according to research by virtual property viewings platform, U-See Homes.

With house prices surging, reports of buyers queuing for viewings and bidding wars home hunters will be feeling under pressure

With house prices surging, reports of buyers queuing for viewings and bidding wars home hunters will be feeling under pressure

A further 43 per cent required two viewings before deciding it was the right home for them, with just 12 per cent of homebuyers returning for a third viewing.

Of those surveyed, more than half claim they took 30 minutes or less when viewing a property, with 41 per cent claiming they needed no longer than an hour.

‘We know that homes are going under offer incredibly quickly in current market conditions, and we’re now starting to see a shortage of stock entering the market to satisfy the overwhelming buyer demand spurred by the stamp duty holiday,’ said Simon Dempsey, head of marketing at U-See Homes.

‘Homebuyers themselves are also acting at pace, with the vast majority taking just one or two viewings before making an offer and rarely spending more than an hour or two in the process.’

But home hunters are not necessarily buying the first thing they see, with less than one in five purchasing the first property they viewed.

When it comes to finding the right one, two in five home buyers claim they viewed five or more other properties before they found the one.

‘The majority are viewing a number of properties before they discover their perfect home and while viewing times are brief, they can certainly start to add up when travelling from one house to the next,’ added Dempsey.

How can buyers make every viewing count?

The property market is going through somewhat of a boom, with reports of people queuing for viewings, bidding wars and the biggest sales pipeline ever seen. 

Buyers will therefore be feeling under added pressure to decide quickly – making every minute of a viewing that bit more important.

But despite this, buyers can often be guilty of failing to ask important questions during viewings.

Some refrain from asking certain questions because they don’t want to show their hand and scupper future negotiations, whilst others are so excited that they forget to ask anything at all.

There is no such things as a stupid question: Asking the estate agent questions can help you understand more about the seller's mindset and whether they might be flexible on price

There is no such things as a stupid question: Asking the estate agent questions can help you understand more about the seller’s mindset and whether they might be flexible on price

But asking the right questions on a viewing can be crucial in helping to determine the seller’s motivation, whether you face competition for the property, and whether there might be wiggle room in the price.

Most viewings take place in the company of an estate agent, who it must be remembered works on behalf of the seller. It’s their job to encourage you to make an offer on their client’s property.

‘Ask direct questions that are difficult to duck, and confirm anything you are told in an email so there is a record of what you believe you were told,’ says Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent. 

‘Never be afraid to ask anything that matters to you – you’ll be amazed what answers you will get.’

What questions should you ask?

1) When did it come to market?

Property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla often reveal this, but if the property has been re-listed it may be difficult to tell.

‘You should want to find out how long it has sat around not selling,’ says Pryor.

‘Some websites include a listing date, but agents are cunning and sometimes juggle this by taking the property off the market and putting it back on.

‘You want to know if it’s in the first flush of youth or an old dog that has been passed over with a seller who is looking to take a dive on the price to move on.’

2) Why are they selling?

Buyers should try to establish what has brought about the sale, according to Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of the buying agency Garrington Property Finders.

‘Is it being sold because of a divorce and are the people desperate to move on?

‘Is the vendor selling up because they have accepted another job elsewhere? Are they in a hurry to get kids into a new school for the new term?

‘Information like this can give the buyer quite a degree of power as it might help indicate how flexible the seller might be on price and importantly, how committed they are to the selling process.’

3) Has the seller found somewhere to go?

If a seller has not found a property to move to, a buyer may not want to sit around waiting for them.

This might become an issue, if the buyer is under time pressure on their own property sale, or if they are moving home for work purposes.

‘Find out what the seller is looking for and what the chances are of them finding something,’ says Pryor.

‘If you offer them a delayed completion, would they then be prepared to exchange contracts?

‘At least, that way, you know you have the property.’

4) Has there been a previous survey?

Being able to look at a prior survey could save you both time and money. 

The price of a building survey typically ranges from £500 to £2000 depending on the size of the home, according to the Homeowners Alliance.

Henry Pryor’s six ‘easy to forget’ questions to ask during a viewing:

1. Has anyone had a survey of the property?

2. Is there anything that a building survey will throw up that you want to tell me about before I commission one?

3. What would you client sell with the property? White goods, carpets, curtains, Labrador?

4. Can you show me the internet speed now using an app like SpeedTest?

5. Have there been any issues with noise or neighbours?

6. Has the property ever flooded? 

‘Press the estate agent over whether there have been any previous surveys of the property,’ says Hopper.

‘Consumer protection regulations mean the agent and the seller are legally obliged to provide you with information which could have a material impact on your purchase.

‘This also serves to avoid mid-transaction surprises later on, when you get your own survey done and have spent significant sums of money.’

5) Have you had any offers?

Other viewings taking place at the property is one sign of interest, but offers are the real test when it comes to revealing competition.

A buyer’s greatest fear is often whether an estate agent might be fibbing about other offers. 

Further questioning can help a buyer determine whether such offers are to be believed or taken seriously.

‘Their answer will tell you if anyone else fancies it,’ says Pryor. ‘If no one has offered, then why not? And if there have been offers, why weren’t they accepted?

‘Agents will often say Oh we had an asking price offer, but it wasn’t accepted” and when you probe, it turns out it was because the buyer has a house to sell or needed a winning lottery ticket!’

6) Is the asking price yours or the seller’s?

‘Find out who set the price,’ says Pryor. ‘Was it the agent; keen to get instructed, or the seller, high on news of rampant house prices?’

‘If it was the seller then maybe the agent will be helpful and admit what they advised.’

7) Will the seller take the property off the market if I make a good offer?

Here you are testing whether the seller is willing to take the property off the market for the right offer, or whether they are hell-bent on having multiple viewings before accepting anything.

‘If they are prepared to take it off the market then it pays to put your best foot forward,’ says Hopper.

‘If on the other hand, they have a desire to do dozens of viewings, then it pays to keep your powder dry.

‘You don’t want to end up being used as a stalking horse to whip up competition.’

8) What would they accept to take it off the market today?

Sometimes, it’s best to put the ball back in the seller’s court and see how they respond.

‘If there is competition for the property, the sellers may not be willing to accept any offer on a given day – all you’ll be doing is setting a bar for other buyers to jump over,’ says Pryor.

‘But if they will do a deal – perhaps so they can make an offer on a property they wish to buy – then find out what that number is they require.’

9) Are there factors apart from price that are important to the seller?

There is a tendency to think that everything rests on price, but this isn’t necessarily always the case, according to Hopper.

‘Don’t ask the estate agent “What do I need to bid to be in with a shout?”‘ says Hopper.

‘Try asking “What is your seller looking for from a buyer and what aspects of an offer will be most important to them?”‘

‘It’s definitely not just about money, it’s about the dependability of the buyer and, right now, flexibility on move dates also ranks highly.

‘Sellers are nervous about getting pushed out of their home into rented accommodation by a demanding buyer and many of them need time to find somewhere suitable to move on to.

‘I have seen countless situations where the highest bid hasn’t carried the day.’

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Leinster’s accuracy proves key as they see off Munster in demolition derby

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Leinster 35 Munster 25

A breathtaking and, it has to be said, physically punishing game, which ebbed and flowed from first to last, ended with Leinster getting more than they needed and Munster coming up short of their targets. Well, to a point.

Munster went into the last game requiring at least two match points for a home quarter-final and a bonus point for the additional carrot of a potential home semi-final.

In the end, they came up with zero, which was perhaps preferable in that it earned them an away quarter-final against Ulster rather than against the Bulls. Even so, the winners of that Irish derby in a fortnight will be away in the semi-finals against the Stormers or Edinburgh.

In the other half of the draw Leinster will host Glasgow in the quarter-finals, and the winners of that tie will have home advantage in the semi-finals.

The mix of requirements made for a thrilling game. Leinster were ultimately the more accurate and pacier side, epitomised by the jet-heeled Jordan Larmour, who made everyone else look like they were being towed and his counterattacking and running led to two of Leinster’s four tries. It was a timely reminder of his abilities, and might well earn him a place on the bench in the Champions Cup final against La Rochelle, who themselves welcomed back Will Skelton off the bench against Stade Francais on Saturday.

Munster’s game didn’t lack for ambition at all, and their similar mix featured classy performances by Thomas Ahern, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue and Conor Murray. But they weren’t as accurate or quite as pacey.

This hungry Leinster mix of young and experienced were not in a remotely charitable mood, and shot out of the traps. Harry Byrne’s perfect kick-off was reclaimed by the recalled Ryan Baird and inside 80 seconds Leinster had scored without Munster touching the ball.

Generating trademark quick ball, with Baird making one big carry and Scott Penny a couple, before Ciarán Frawley used an advantage to crosskick perfectly for Penny to gather and use his footwork to step Joey Carbery and finish in the corner.

Harry Byrne didn’t land the difficult conversion, but added a penalty before offloads by Kendellen and Ahern and a couple of nicely weighted grubbers to the edges by Murray and Carbery earned an attacking lineout. The first scrap followed too. Yep, derby on.

Attacking wide and through phases, Munster used an advantage when Carbery pulled the ball back as Keith Earls worked across from his wing and flung a peach of a left-hander for O’Donoghue to take Cormac Foley’s tackle and finish well in the corner.

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin on his way to scoring a try despite Keynan Knox and Mike Haley of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin on his way to scoring a try despite Keynan Knox and Mike Haley of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Next, after Frawley’s spillage, the recalled Andrew Conway chased Murray’s perfectly weighted kick to prevent Larmour gathering, Niall Scannell’s gallop earning another attacking lineout.

Again Munster engineered another free play, and after a strong carry by Kendellen from Murray’s pass behind his back, Mike Haley was sharply on hand to pick up and dive over under the posts.

The force was with Munster, all the more so after Conway cleanly reclaimed another box kick by Murray. But when Kendellen kicked through Larmour beat the flanker’s follow-up tackle and left a trail of four more forwards in his wake before being tackled by Murray. From the recycle, Jamie Osborne stepped and Frawley took a superb line on to his short pass for a clean break and had Foley in support. The 22-year-old showed the quickness from his formative years as a centre with St Gerard’s to complete his first Leinster try on his home debut, and some try too.

The game’s first scrums provided an almost welcome breather. Frawley, after his two sumptuous try assists, had to depart for one of several failed HIAs in the game, and didn’t return.

The lively Earls then countered with Haley, Carbery and Kendellen before Rob Russell’s deliberate knock-on prevented the ball reaching three unmarked players and earning him a yellow card. But Baird spoiled the Munster lineout to protect his side’s 15-12 lead until the interval.

But on the resumption Munster struck. Haley chased his own kick, preventing Osborne from gathering cleanly and Murray was sharply on to the loose ball to skip away from Foley’s tackle and score.

Harry Byrne brought it back to a one-point game after Foley’s high tackle on Josh Murphy, and although Munster were clearly now mindful of the chance for a fourth try when going to the corner, before accepting a tap over penalty to push them four points ahead.

Typical of this match, back came Leinster. First Foley executed a 50:22 and despite just changing their frontrow the maul was gathering speed when it collapsed and Frank Murphy adjudged it a penalty try and sinbinned Niall Scannell.

After Max Deegan’s covering tackle on the ever dangerous Chris Farrell into touch, a lovely launch play and a flatish pass by Foley for Joe McCarthy’s carry over the gainline, was the prelude to Leinster reloading right and another slaloming run by Larmour. An offload by McCarty and fine pass by Deegan created the space for Rory O’Loughlin to use a two-on-two and a mismatch with the covering Kenyan Knox to score.

Suddenly it was 32-22 to Leinster.

A spellbinding spell of offloading featuring Murray, Ahern, O’Donoghue and Kendellen ended with Earls finishing off O’Donoghue’s offload, but Murphy adjudged it forward. Instead, Munster had to opt for another Carbery penalty to complete the first task of getting to within one score before chasing a fourth try.

They became over exuberant and conceded penalties, and although Adam Byrne was brilliantly denied by Carbery and Haley, Harry Byrne’s penalty put them 10 ahead, and more relevantly left Munster without anything from the game and looking at a quarter-final away to Ulster.

They had eight minutes or so to do it. They conjured one punishing phased attack, Carbery’s one-handed pick-up and Murray deliberately knocking on with a penalty advantage and then quickly were two of the highlights, but when Carbery prematurely went wide with a looped pass to Jack Daly he was tackled into touch by Osborne.

And that was effectively that.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 2 mins: Penny try 5-0; 9: Byrne pen 8-0; 12: O’Donoghue try 8-5; 17: Haley try, Carbery con 8-12; 23: Foley try, Byrne con 15-12; (half-time 15-12); 41: Murray try, Carbery con 15-19; 46: Byrne pen 18-19; 49: mins Carbery pen 18-22; 51: penalty try 25-22; 54: O’Loughlin try, Byrne con 32-22; 61: Carbery pen 32-25; 71: Byrne pen 35-25.

LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Rob Russell, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Rory O’Loughlin; Harry Byrne, Cormac Foley; Ed Byrne (capt), Seán Cronin, Thomas Clarkson; Joe McCarthy, Josh Murphy; Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Replacements: Adam Byrne for Frawley (27 mins), John McKee for Cronin, Peter Dooley for Byrne, Cian Healy for Clarkson (all 49), Devin Toner for J Murphy (55), Ben Murphy for Foley (58), Alex Soroka for McCarthy (66), David Hawkshaw for H Byrne (76).

Sinbinned: Russell (37-47 mins).

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Thomas Ahern; Fineen Wycherley, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue (capt).

Replacements: Jason Jenkins for Kleyn (49 mins), Keynan Knox for Ryan (54), Jeremy Loughman for J Wycherley, Rory Scannell for Goggin (both 55), Diarmuid Barron for Kendellen (58-61), for Scannell (61), Jack Daly for Ahern, Ben Healy for Carbery (both 64), N Scannell for Kendellen (65), Ahern for Daly, Patrick Patterson for Murray (both 76).

Sinbinned: N Scannell (51-61 mins).

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU).

URC quarter-finals (Fri, Jun 3rd & Sat, Jun 4th)
1 Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
2 DHL Stormers v Edinburgh
3 Ulster v Munster
4 Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks
 
Semi-finals (Fri, June 10th and Sat Jun 11th)
Leinster or Glasgow v Bulls or Sharks
Stormers or Edinburgh v Ulster or Munster.
 
Shield winners 2021/22:
Irish Shield:
Leinster
South African Shield: DHL Stormers
Welsh Shield: Ospreys
Scottish & Italian Shield: Edinburgh
 

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Aparto debuts in Spain

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Aparto has unveiled its first student residence in Spain to open in September 2022. Aparto Barcelona Pallars, owned by Commerz Real, is located in the 22@, the city’s innovation district, and accommodates 743 beds covering 26,000m². The cutting-edge facilities at aparto Barcelona Pallars include an external circa 45-metre length infinity pool, a 900 square metre rooftop terrace, 2,500m² of gardens including the Butterfly Garden (named because of the type of plants that attract butterflies), the Smell Garden (due to the mixture of aromatic plants), 1,400m² of amenity space including a gym with a weight, cardio, and yoga studios, two cinema rooms, leisure areas, and a bar offering both food and drink services.

 

In addition, a central feature of aparto’s offering is its first-class experience with a focus on the arts including an initiative in which street artists will design some of the paintings on the building, and a mental health programme available to all students all year around, strengthened by aparto employees receiving mental health training to identify anyone who may need help. 

 

aparto Barcelona Pallars has been designed by the Catalonian architecture studio Battle i Roig, a pioneer in landscape architecture, interweaving structures with natural spaces like gardens. Upon construction completion, the building will receive the LEED Gold and WELL Platinum Certifications for sustainability. 

 

aparto offers students a unique safe study experience and flexible model offering medium and long-term stays, from a few months to a full year, with all-inclusive rates including cleaning, Wi-Fi connection, linen services, and some additional features related to sports and wellness sessions, cocktail and cooking classes, and a series of entertainment evenings including movie nights, sports matches and tournaments. Aparto’s focus is to create places where students feel at home living within a strong community.

  

Tom Rix, director of operations at aparto, UK, commented: “With Aparto Barcelona Pallars, Hines is introducing first-class student housing in Spain. Pallars mirrors what today’s students want in terms of facilities, amenities, community engagement, and wellbeing programmes. We have already successfully demonstrated that this innovative model is in high demand in Italy, Ireland, and the UK and we anticipate the same success here in Spain and can’t wait to welcome students to Barcelona.”

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Crossrail house price boom: Reading, Maidenhead and Slough set to become property hotspots

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Crossrail may be billions of pounds over budget and three-and-a-half years late but it’s finally ready to roll.

This extraordinary feat of engineering is due to be put into service on Tuesday, when it will adopt its correct title of the Elizabeth Line. 

The Queen made a surprise visit to Paddington station this week and officially opened the line.

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

Linking Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east with Heathrow and Reading to the west of the capital, it will bind together existing commuter railways, accelerating cross-city travel and relieving overcrowding on the London Underground — particularly the often hellish Central Line.

Commuters’ journey times will be slashed; Reading to London Liverpool Street, for example, will take under an hour.

When fully operational it will increase London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, making it the largest single expansion of the city’s transport network in more than 70 years.

There are still a few glitches to be ironed out. Initially passengers travelling from Reading in the west to Abbey Wood and beyond will have to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street mainline stations. 

Also Bond Street is three months behind schedule. Trains will not call there until later in the year. Yet these delays pale into insignificance when you consider how the Elizabeth Line will transform rail travel in the capital.

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

The new station at Paddington, for example, is the size of three Wembley football pitches, with natural light as far as the platform entry from a nearly 400ft-long glass canopy.

More than £1 billion has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks. Spacious tunnels will lead to airy 600 ft platforms, with glass screens at the edge of the tracks, making it impossible to fall under a train. 

Step-free access from street to train will make the service accessible to wheelchairs. 

The nine-car, air-conditioned trains will have colourful bench seats and open interiors with full-width walk-through connections between cars. It will be a world away from today’s cramped, cluttered carriages.

Few engineering projects change the way we live but The Elizabeth Line promises to do just that. People are already flocking to the new stations.

Research from Savills last year found that, over the past five years, homes within 0.6 mile of about half of the stations on the line have increased in price by 25 per cent or more.

It follows that when the sleek and airy new trains come into service, delivering people to their workplaces in double quick time, we can expect a migration to the west of London.

Here are the hotspots:

Reading revival

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Not so long ago Reading was best known for its brewery and its biscuit factory — not any more. 

International companies, including Amazon UK, Virgin Media and KPMG have moved there and with reasonably priced homes, compared to London, the town is already popular with commuters.

‘I recently dealt with a young woman who sold her 750 sq ft flat in London for £600,000 and bought a 1,750 ft duplex in Reading for £650,000,’ says James Hathaway, of Winkworth estate agents.

The town has lots of green space, riverside walks, the Grade II-listed Thames Lido and great shopping, notably in Broad Street and the Oracle centre. The average price of a home sold in Reading was £384,000 last year.

Compare that to the £512,000 average price in, say, East London and you will see why an exodus from the capital is forecast when the Elizabeth Line makes commuting a doddle.

Maidenhead marches on

This Berkshire town is keen to attract the City bankers who had previously been put off living there by having to trek across the capital’s underground system to get to work.

‘The Elizabeth Line changes all that and buyer enquiries have already started booming,’ says Dawn Carritt at Jackson-Stops estate agents.

‘The prospect of living near the river in Maidenhead or in nearby villages such as Sonning and Bray is appealing.’

Maidenhead (with Theresa May as its MP) is on the cusp of a revival. Its 1960s shopping centre is to be transformed into The Nicholson Quarter, a swish mixed-use centre.

The area by the river is being developed and trendy cocktail bars and restaurants such as Coppa Club are thriving — a sure sign of a town on the up.

Slough expansion

Ricky Gervais did Slough no favours when he set The Office there. Yet the town has a lot going for it. It is well located for travel, nestling between the M4 and the M40 and within easy reach of the M25 and Heathrow airport.

First-time buyer portal Share to Buy claims that Slough has been one of the UK’s top ten property hotspots over the past decade with a 73 per cent increase in house prices. 

The Berkeley Group is redeveloping the former Horlicks factory and site to create 1,300 homes.

A small flat sells for £150,000 and a three-bed terrace house for £350,000. The centre is being improved and with the coming of the Elizabeth Line, things can only get better.

On the market… the hotspots 

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