Saturday, 25 September 2021

How not to be tripped over in the autumn rush to buy

The busiest time of the year in property is upon us — the summer holidays are

The busiest time of the year in property is upon us — the summer holidays are over, the children are back at school and the older ones have started college. All factors that trigger the fabled ’autumn rush’ as house-hunters go in search of somewhere to move into in time to carve the Christmas turkey. LUCY BOON has some hard-won lessons to keep in mind this September

1. Catchment gets full marks

HOUSE prices get bumped up by good local schools, whether state or independent. Fact.

As a couple of local examples, Romans recently let this house in Henley’s St Andrew’s Road (pictured top) on its first viewing — "demonstrating the popularity of this area for school catchment," said Romans letting manager Charlotte Mellor.

She added: "Many of the tenants I talk to have school catchment at the top of their agenda. Ensuring their children have the best chance of getting into their chosen school often means they need to narrow down their search to specific roads.

"The popularity of these schools can result in a premium being added to the property price — as reported in the Daily Telegraph last year, house prices in the postcodes of the best-performing, non-fee-paying schools are around 28 per cent higher than their surrounding area."

In the case of this house in St Mark’s Road — one road over from St Andrew’s — the agents note that viewings are frequently booked by families with children who are considering school catchment areas.

However, Peter Hawley, sales manager at Romans, sounded a note of caution when he said: "Even if you’re right in the middle of a school catchment area there is no guarantee that your children will be accepted into the school, so we always recommend you talk to the school prior to making an offer to double check their application processes."

Henley’s private primary schools include Rupert House and St Mary’s. Henley state primary schools include Badgemore, Trinity, Sacred Heart and Valley Road, plus the secondary school of Gillotts.

Ofsted’s verdict on the latter: "Teaching is good and sometimes outstanding where teachers match their planning closely to students’ capabilities."

Talking of secondary schools, Lucian Cook, director of residential research at Savills, says: "Prices in the postcode sector of the best-performing, non-selective state schools are on average 28 per cent higher than for the region in which they sit."

For more details visit community/schools_index_ database.php

2. Teach by example

PARENTS and grandparents are increasingly being called on financially to help "the kids" buy their first home.

This could take the form of a cash injection, guaranteeing a buyer’s loan, or equity release.

Some experts say that first-time buyers now need to save for an average of nine years to get their deposit together, compared with just a year’s worth of savings back in the Nineties.

3. Multiple choice

IT’S easy to fall in love with a property and forget to be practical. So when you’re going to view a house, try toâ?¦

• View the property several times. See it two to three times, at different times of day, to find out how the traffic and surrounding noises change. Use the Sun Seeker app on your mobile phone to check where light will fall at different times of the day.

• Take photos. It’s very easy to forget key features of a property, especially if you’re viewing a few at the same time. Ask permission, and take some photos which you can then go over in your own time.

• Explore. Spend at least half an hour walking around the general area to see how close the things that matter to you are — shops, schools, etc.

• Look at the structure. Walk around the outside of the house to check the exterior. Back inside, check for damp and hairline cracks. If you find anything, ask questions to find out what the cause is and whether it will be fixed.

• Follow your nose. Watch out for unusual smells. Damp can give off a musty smell even if you don’t see physical signs.

• Check taps and light switches. Water pressure is something not everybody thinks about. Also, try opening and closing doors and windows to make sure everything’s in order.

• Move furniture around. Not only a good idea to expose potential cover-ups including hiding floor problems with furniture or rugs, but also to help plan where your furniture will fit. During the second or third viewing, it’s often a good idea to take some measurements to make sure your sofa will fit the space, for example.

• Confirm what land comes with the property. If there’s any uncertainty over who owns a garden or parking space, find out the answer and get it confirmed in writing.

• Get a proper house survey. When buying, people may think they’ve had a proper survey when actually they’ve just had a mortgage valuation. Only a proper survey will uncover any hidden issues.

Class dismissed!

For a list of all estate agents in the Henley area, go to and click on Property.

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