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
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
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.’