Almost 40% of British homebuyers viewed fewer than five properties before buying their current home, new Which? research has found.
Nine per cent of buyers viewed only one property, while 7% viewed 20 or more, according to our January survey of more than 1,200 recent homebuyers.
Find out what’s happening where you live, discover property-viewing tips and hear from a first-time buyer who bought after a single viewing at an open day, below.
Buyers in Scotland viewing fewer properties
The research, conducted in January, found that property-viewing behaviour differed depending on where in the UK people were buying – and while many found their home after seeing just a handful of properties, this wasn’t the case across the board.
Approximately 82% viewed at least five properties, and in the West Midlands, 22% visited 15 or more homes.
In Scotland, on the other hand, 15% only viewed one property before making an offer. This could be partly due to the fact that sellers in Scotland have to provide a home report containing key information about the property, including a survey, up front.
Why should you view more than one property?
If you fall in love with the first property you look round, it can be tempting to make an offer without seeing anything else. However, there are advantages to viewing multiple properties.
Firstly, it allows you to build up a better sense of what you really want from a home. For example, if having outside space wasn’t on your list of must-haves but then you view a second property with a garden, you might realise that actually it’s an important part of your wishlist.
Similarly, if you’d originally ruled out places with fewer than three bedrooms but then you view a two-bed home with a loft that’s ripe for conversion, you might relax your criteria.
The other advantage of viewing multiple properties is that it helps you understand how much homes in your area are worth. Once you’ve seen a few places and compared their specifications and asking prices, you’ll be armed with much better information when it comes to making an offer.
- Find out more: viewing a property – Which? advice guide
Buying in a competitive area
Although the media is full of reports of a cooling housing market, some areas of the UK remain competitive for buyers. This can sometimes lead sellers to hold open days, where multiple buyers view the home at the same time.
In some places, the sealed bids or ‘best-and-final offers’ system – which requires potential buyers to submit offers by a set deadline, with the seller then comparing the offers and choosing which one to accept – is still being used, too.
Jen Dennis, a 33-year-old design director, is in the process of buying a property in Walthamstow, east London, which she viewed on an open day.
She says: ‘It was like there were clones of me and my husband everywhere – we were surrounded by people in exactly the same position, with decent jobs and deposits, at the same stage in their lives and falling in love with the same flat.
‘The volume of people made me feel very apprehensive.’
The bidding process
The estate agent then told the couple that the property would be going to sealed bids.
‘We didn’t know what that meant! Luckily we had a friend who was also a first-time buyer and had just been through the sealed bids process herself. She had bid above the asking price, which made us feel better about the high offer that we submitted,’ Jen says.
‘We took a walk on the Sunday to decide on everything, which was so important for us. It’s a process that makes you panic and so we spent a lot of time researching other properties on the street and being very logical about our offer.
‘In the end, we decided that although our offer was high, the flat was worth that much to us. The huge number felt like we were playing with fake money; it all felt quite surreal.’
As part of the bidding process the couple were asked to prove their deposit, provide a mortgage agreement in principle (AIP), and explain their current position and when they’d be able to move. Jen says, ‘I also included a letter telling them a bit about ourselves and how much we loved the property.’
This strategy combined with the couple’s organised approach obviously worked, as their offer was accepted and they are now waiting to exchange.
Find out more: how sealed bids work – and how to work out what to offer
If you’re house-hunting, here are a few things you should bear in mind:
- Check your budget: An online mortgage calculator will give you a rough idea of how much you can borrow but for an accurate guide, speak to an independent mortgage adviser. Doing this before starting viewings could avoid heartbreak further down the line if you can’t borrow as much as you thought.
- View the property you like more than once: Check it out at different times of day so you can see how the light and noise levels change. The same applies to the neighbourhood – find out what it’s like at busy commuting times and when the pubs close.
- Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions: This is likely to be the biggest investment of your life so don’t be shy. Ask the estate agent if you don’t want to make things awkward with the seller.
- Use all your senses: A property viewing isn’t all about what you can see. Take notice of smells, both good and bad – lots of air freshener might be there to mask the smell of damp – and listen carefully for traffic, neighbour and aircraft flightpath noise.
- Keep your emotions at bay: House-hunting can be deeply emotional but falling in love with a property can be dangerous, particularly before you’ve made an offer and had a survey.
Download our property-viewing checklist for a room-by-room list of things to look out for and ask when viewing houses. Or, if you’re considering buying a new-build, check out our guide to viewing a show home.