The festive period has become one of the busiest times of the year for house hunting. In the main, this is down to it being one of the few opportunities where families are together and partners both off work. In 2018, Rightmove reported an increase in page views of some 231% between Christmas Day and 2nd of January, with the peak day being December 30th, notably a Sunday in that year. With the likes of Zoopla expecting an 80% increase in interest this year it is expected that 2020 will also be busy.
However, the covid-19 pandemic continues to have a strong influence on the UK property market. With restrictions in place still, there is little chance of an actual viewing thanks to the basic rules of the ‘three tier system’ that is governing how we live at the moment. If you are going to look for a new home over the holiday period, we recommend you take note of the following 10 handy tips that might make things easier for you.
1: Sort Your Mortgage
The first thing to do is sort out your mortgage. At the beginning of the covid-19 crisis many lenders took deals off the market. Now, however, the interest in buying homes has increased thanks to the stamp duty holiday, and mortgages are a hot item. We advise you talk to possible lenders straight away as they will be keen to get you on board if you are a genuine buyer with the right credentials.
2: Do Your Research
Time is available during the Christmas period, and also at other times if you are working from home or currently furloughed, so use it wisely by researching the areas you are interested in online. Never before have we had such a wealth of information at our fingertips and it is there to help. Make a list of potential candidates and check their accessibility, facilities and amenities, and anything else you can find (including house prices of course).
3: Virtual House Tours
Many agents are offering virtual walk through tours of properties on their books. Ask about these and make use of them. They are not a deal-clincher, but they do give you a good idea of what a property looks like inside and out and the general layout. Take screen shots if possible, of rooms or features that interest you so you can refer back to them later.
4: Drive the Area
Once you know where you are looking take a drive around it. We recommend you do this a few times, entering from different routes, at varied times of the day. If you have a particular property in mind pay a visit at night. You need to get an idea of the neighborhood and there’s no better way than to check it out personally. It’s important that you vary the times; a lovely place in daylight can be a troubled area at night.
5: Take a Walk
What you can’t see from the road you’ll discover if you take a walk around the region. It’s worth spending some time having a good look around and noting if things are kept neat and tidy or otherwise. Look for obvious signs of neglect and check local parks and open spaces, visit the local shopping centre and so on. You’ll get a feel for the overall atmosphere of the location. Take photographs for future reference.
6: Stamp Duty Holiday
The government granted a ‘holiday’ from paying stamp duty on homes up to £500,000 in value in England and Northern Ireland. This can mean considerable savings (the average put forward is £4,500) on your purchase. However, the holiday is not indefinite. It is in place due to covid-19 restrictions and the effect they have on the housing market and is due to end on March 31st, 2021. This does not leave a lot of time to take advantage, but it is certainly an incentive to start looking right now.
7: Put Your Home up for Sale
It may sound obvious but in all the rush to look for a new home you may neglect the opportunity to put yours on the market. Agents are desperate for properties right now and will be able to offer you a good deal. They anticipate a market boom once visiting restrictions are lifted so it is worth getting your property out there now, as that way it will be first in the queue when things start to move quickly.
8: Use Online Agents
Rather than sticking to the traditional local estate agent, check out the likes of Rightmove which is an industry leader in terms of online house advertising. They are very strong on marketing and also have an app that will notify you as property becomes available in the locality or of the type you are looking for. It’s a sensible way of keeping up with what the market is doing and can be accessed on the move.
9: Make the Agent Work for You
Your agent is there to market and sell your house. It’s difficult right now with no visits allowed, but they can still use online tools, video presentations and online marketing to push your property. Make sure they are doing the work you may end up paying them to do, as you deserve value for money. This works the other way, where the agents should be notifying you of property that is available and suitable.
10: Follow the Rules
It’s hard at times but as things stand many areas of the UK are subject to stringent restrictions. While out and about checking areas and properties, please do all you can to stay within the local rules. Remember that you may pass between ‘tiers’ on your travels, so you will need to be aware of differences in localities.
Those are a few tips that we believe will help you in your search for a new home, and we hope that they give you an idea of where to start looking.