The UK property market is currently riding a wave of potential buyers who need a change of scenery post lockdown, with house prices booming to a 10-year high and the average house price up 12% in a year to £286k*.  However, the looming threat of the cost-of-living crisis, deepened by the spike in inflation and rising interest rates, is creating a sense of urgency in the market, with some homeowners keen to sell up and take advantage of these elevated prices and buyers keen not to miss out on their dream home.

The personal finance comparison experts at Quotezone.co.uk are urging homebuyers not to get swept up in the excitement, do their homework and make sure their purchase is a secure investment.

Property viewings especially, can be an awkward affair, particularly if the homeowner is the one showing the property, but it’s essential that homebuyers use the first-hand experience to the fullest and uncover any risks.

For example, a recent study found that an invasive and resilient weed, like Japanese knotweed – as well as other invasive species – costs the UK economy £41 million a year* by damaging buildings and risking their structural integrity. Before homebuyers get too far into the house buying process, Quotezone.co.uk urges them to be on the lookout for potential risks;

Tips For Property Viewing

1 – Look for signs of woodworm – such as fresh, existing holes and tunnels in wood, normally   in the roof space

2 – Look up pictures of Japanese Knotweed and where it likes to grow beforehand

3 – Take pictures of any noticeable cracks inside and out

4 – Always go back for a second viewing and at a different time of day, to highlight any other potential risks, preferably with company

5 – Check local ordinance survey maps for risk of flooding

6 – Use online tools that highlight crime, neighbourhood watch schemes and alarms in the area, such as this one from Quotezone.co.uk

7 – Chat to local neighbours about the area and see if they have any insights

8 – Worth spending some time in the local area, separate to the viewing – can be helpful to do this with company, in the evening, to see if you notice any significant changes from daytime

9 – Write down a list of questions beforehand and take them with you, the excitement of the viewing often means key elements aren’t discussed

10 – And of course, invest in the best homebuyers report you can afford to weed out any serious issues such as damp and subsidence

One of the biggest concerns for homebuyers could be around crime rates, especially if they have a young family. ONS data analysed by Quotezone.co.uk revealed that residential burglaries across England and Wales fell by as much as 30% as a result of lockdowns during the pandemic. However, these numbers could likely return to ‘normal’ pre-pandemic levels, as people are spending less time at home and are only starting to get to grips once more with safety measures.

New data from Quotezone.co.uk, which is based on a sample size of more than 150,000 home insurance policies, shows that the number of burglary alarms installed in households across the UK has fallen by almost 10% over the last year.

Adding to these concerns is the lack of neighbourhood watch schemes throughout the UK, which are intended to prevent crime. Despite a growing sense of community throughout multiple lockdowns, the data finds that 68% of neighbourhoods do not currently have a neighbourhood watch in operation.

Quotezone.co.uk has created an interactive online tool here so home buyers can check what areas are the safest in terms of burglar alarms and active neighbourhood watch schemes, by simply typing in their postcode.  The aim is to help communities be more aware of the situation in their neighbourhood so they can take steps to improve precautions.

Greg Wilson, Founder of personal finance comparison site Quotezone.co.uk comments: “Competition in the housing market is becoming fierce and while it’s easy to be blinded by the positives, it’s important to know what to look out for before rushing into a purchase.

“By doing their research and knowing what to be on the lookout for, buyers can make the stressful process of buying their forever or indeed first home, a lot more straight-forward, and help prevent potential issues with mortgage approvals and homebuyer surveys, by being able to spot issues with their new house from the outset.

“It’s also important for buyers to think about life after the purchase. As restrictions get lifted, it’s likely that crime will rocket to pre-pandemic levels. Buyers should consider purchasing homes in areas that are safer and better prepared in terms of burglar alarms and active neighbourhood watch schemes.  Something our new online tool can help with.”

There is no legal requirement to purchase home insurance but most lenders insist homebuyers have it to protect their investment.  It can be tricky to tell how soon to take out the policy given that the process of buying a house can be lengthy and ever changing, however, most lenders require it in place before the exchange – the day when you officially take ownership of the house – this is also sensible as it covers moving day, normally a high-risk day for accidental damage.