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Housing market unlocked: Five questions homebuyers should ask

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

England’s property market is now open for business with viewings, valuations and house moves all permitted. But should you go ahead with a home purchase?

An estimated 373,000 property sales were put on hold during the lockdown and coronavirus crisis, according to Zoopla.

Given the scale of the health pandemic, house price predications for 2020 have varied immensely with Knight Frank expecting a 3% drop while the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) suggests a 13% fall.

For those who are mid-purchase and are unsure of their next steps in light of the housing market seemingly back on track, Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said there are five questions to ask yourself.

She said: “Buying a property is immensely stressful at the best of times, so having the whole process frozen part of the way through has been excruciating. Even now the housing market has re-opened in England, there’s plenty of fresh agony to come.

“One of the most worrying questions for the hundreds of thousands of people who are mid-purchase, is what’s going to happen to house prices, and whether that means they should go ahead as planned, pull out, or renegotiate.

“There’s a broad expectation that prices will fall this year. But nobody really knows how far, how fast, or for how long. It makes it nigh-on impossible to be certain of the best approach.

“However, there are five questions you can ask yourself, so you can be sure that whatever the outcome, you made the right decision for your own circumstances.”

  1. Have I over-stretched myself?

In a rising market it’s always tempting to push your budget to the limit – and sometimes beyond. If you felt under pressure to offer more than you could really afford, or if your circumstances have changed as a result of the crisis, the purchase may not make sense anymore.

  1. Would I rather live somewhere else?

Every house purchase is a compromise, but if you made compromises you’ll struggle to live with because you couldn’t afford what you wanted, a falling market could push more attractive properties into your price range.

  1. What’s the cost of pulling out?

If you’ve already exchanged contracts, losses could be substantial. The seller has the right to keep your deposit, and there could be penalties on top. Before you exchange, there could still be significant costs. If you’ve done searches and paid surveyors and lawyers, you could lose thousands of pounds.

Even at the early stages, if you’re a first-time buyer, this could end up costing you thousands of pounds more in rent if you go back to the drawing board. Before you make any decisions, calculate what you stand to lose.

  1. Am I planning to be in the property for a while?

It’s only natural to worry about falling prices – and the risk that you’ll pay over the odds.

However, this matters far more if it’s somewhere you’ll be selling in a couple of years, so you end up with less than you started with – and even risk falling into negative equity. If you intend to live there for a reasonable period, price drops won’t really matter. There’s every chance prices will have recovered when you come to sell.

  1. Am I prepared to risk losing this property if I negotiate?

If you really want to buy the property, but you’d like a price reduction to protect you from future price falls, you can contact the seller through the estate agent and open negotiations. You may well get a reduction of some kind, because it’s a buyers’ market at the moment.

However, any time you try to negotiate, you need to be prepared for them to refuse and take their chances back on the market. If this is the home of your dreams, you need to be certain you’re prepared to risk this.