House buyers count the cost of quick viewings

by Alexander Beard, on Oct 6, 2014 2:35:01 PM

People looking to buy a house in a highly competitive market are spending less time on property viewings and potentially missing out on signs of maintenance issues that could cause them financial pain down the line, according to new research from Aviva. Home buyers in the past year spent on average just over half an hour in total looking round a property before making what is likely to be the biggest purchase decision of their lives.

The research suggests that the fierce property market is forcing buyers to make snap decisions with one in four (24%) making just one visit to a property before deciding to purchase it. It also seems that every year, as many as 40,000 people buy properties without viewing them at all (3.75% of respondents said they did not visit the property they bought). According to the HM Revenue and Customs UK Property Transactions Count – May 2014, 1,139,930 homes were bought in the calendar year to May.

Not devoting enough time to inspecting a property can have an impact further down the line. Unnoticed maintenance and structural issues can result in high repair costs or even scupper a house purchase altogether. The survey of 4,000 homeowners showed that buyers are forced to spend £1,094 more than they had expected on essential repairs once they move in to their property, with the average total bill coming in at £3,490.

Among the most common unanticipated problems found by buyers, are:

- Plumbing issues including drain blockages (12% of homebuyers)
- Damp (12%)
- Cracks in walls or ceilings (11%)

Heather Smith, Marketing Director at Aviva, said:

“Renewed competition and rising prices have combined to make many buyers more pressurised to snap up a property quickly. Our research showed that buyers in the past year devoted under 10 seconds to looking round a property for every £1,000 they spent purchasing it. We believe it’s important to arm yourself with the right information.”

Aviva’s research showed that nearly one in three (31%) home buyers did not make any specific checks for issues or problems when viewing their future home. The least common checks performed by buyers are for blocked guttering, invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, and defective chimney stacks and pots.

“Your future home could be showing symptoms of potential maintenance or structural issues that could cause you trouble down the line,” continued Heather Smith. “Most of these are fixable, you just need to know the signs to look out for and you do need to prepare financially. Defective chimneys and Japanese knotweed in particular can be really nasty, with costs to fix running into four or even five figures”.

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There will be a fee for mortgage advice. The precise amount will depend on your circumstances but we estimate that it will be £1000.”