Investing in a property is a significant financial decision that requires careful consideration and due diligence. If you are buying a resale property, a thorough examination of the property is essential to ensure you’re making a wise investment choice. Below we’ll explore the key property checks you can conduct before buying a property in the UK, offering insights into each aspect to help you make an informed decision.
1. Structural Inspection: Assessing the Foundation
Before finalizing your purchase, enlist the services of a qualified building inspector. They will thoroughly evaluate the property’s structural integrity, identifying any cracks, subsidence, or signs of dampness that could indicate underlying structural issues.
2. Legal Due Diligence: Ensuring a Clear Title
Verify the property’s legal status by conducting a title search. This helps ensure there are no outstanding disputes or encumbrances that could affect ownership. A solicitor or conveyancer can assist in navigating the legal aspects of the purchase.
3. Property Valuation: Understanding Market Value
Obtain a professional valuation to accurately determine the property’s market value. Property investment companies and agents often offer free or low-cost property valuations as a part of their services. They have local market knowledge and access to recent sales data to provide you with an estimate of your property’s value. Keep in mind that their valuations might be more of an estimation than a formal valuation.
For a more accurate and detailed property valuation, consider hiring a qualified chartered surveyor. Chartered surveyors are professionals who specialize in property valuation and assessment. They can provide a comprehensive valuation report that takes into account various factors affecting the property’s value.
4. Land Registry Search: Defining Boundaries
Review the property’s title deeds at the Land Registry to clarify ownership and boundaries. This step ensures there are no discrepancies that could lead to disputes down the line.
5. Planning and Zoning Regulations: Staying Compliant
Research local planning and zoning regulations to ensure the property adheres to its intended use and is not subject to any development restrictions. This information safeguards your investment from potential legal hurdles.
6. Environmental Assessment: Identifying Risks
In the UK, an environmental assessment for a property is typically referred to as a Contaminated Land Assessment or Site Investigation. This assessment aims to identify potential contamination risks on a property and assess the potential impact on the environment and human health.
Consider whether the property’s history or location warrants an environmental assessment. Factors that might trigger the need for an assessment include previous industrial use, potential chemical spills, proximity to potentially contaminated sites, or other environmental risks.
Engage the services of an environmental consultant or specialist who is experienced in conducting contaminated land assessments. Look for consultants who are accredited by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) or the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
7. Building and Planning Permissions: Verifying Compliance
Verifying building and planning permissions in the UK involves assessing whether any modifications or changes made to a property have received the required planning approvals and comply with local regulations. This process entails obtaining the planning history from the local authority, reviewing planning documents and decision notices, checking for attached conditions, confirming building regulations approval, utilizing local authority websites, consulting with professionals like solicitors, and examining property title deeds and restrictions to ensure legal compliance before purchasing or undertaking property modifications..
8. Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): Gauging Efficiency
The EPC rating is a measure of how energy efficient a property is. It is calculated based on the property’s energy use and emissions. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the property is. To learn more about this read our latest blog (10 Tips to Improve Your EPC Rating in the UK).
Review the property’s EPC to understand its energy efficiency and potential running costs. This is a mandatory requirement when selling or renting a property.
The required EPC in the UK is an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E or above. This applies to all properties being let or sold in England and Wales. The UK government will increase the minimum EPC rating for rental properties from E to C, starting with new rental agreements in 2025 and existing rental agreements in 2028. This follows a consultation in December 2020.
If a property has an EPC rating of F or G, it cannot be legally let. The landlord must either improve the property to an EPC rating of E or above, or make all the improvements that can be made up to a cost of £3,500.
An EPC is valid for 10 years. If you are selling or letting a property that has an EPC that is more than 10 years old, you will need to get a new one.
9. Utilities and Services: Ensuring Functionality
Confirm that all utilities are properly connected and functioning. Additionally, verify that there are no outstanding utility bills that could become your responsibility upon purchase.
10. Roof and Gutters: Preventing Water Damage
Inspect the roof for damage, leaks, or missing tiles. Adequate drainage is also crucial, so examine gutters and downspouts to prevent water-related issues.
11. Pest and Infestation Inspection: Avoiding Nasty Surprises
To find out if there might be pests in your new property, start with a thorough visual inspection both inside and outside, looking for signs like droppings, nests, chewed materials, or cracks and gaps that could serve as entry points. Check wooden structures and furniture for wood-boring insect damage, and inspect plumbing and drains for leaks and moisture issues that attract pests. Examine the garden and exterior for outdoor pests and assess windows and doors for proper seals.
Inquire with the property owner or neighbours about past pest issues, and examine preventive measures have been adhered to like cleanliness and proper food storage. While these steps can provide initial insights, it’s also advisable to hire a professional pest inspector for a comprehensive evaluation to ensure a pest-free property.
12. Electrical and Plumbing Systems: Ensuring Safety
Assess the property’s electrical and plumbing systems for safety and compliance with regulations. Outdated systems might require costly upgrades. Check by visually inspecting outlets, switches, and visible wiring for any signs of damage or exposed wires. Test each outlet to ensure they are working properly. Examine the circuit breaker or fuse box for any tripped breakers or blown fuses.
For plumbing, inspect faucets, sinks, and toilets for leaks or dripping water. Turn on taps and showers to check water pressure and temperature consistency. Look under sinks for signs of water damage or mould. While these visual checks provide initial insights, you may also opt to hire a qualified electrician and plumber to conduct thorough inspections to ensure compliance with safety standards and to address any potential issues before finalizing the property purchase.
13. Damp and Mould: Detecting Water Issues
Check for signs of dampness, water leaks, or mould, which can indicate underlying structural problems or poor maintenance.
14. Neighbourhood and Amenities: Gauging Liveability
Evaluate the local amenities, transportation links, schools, and medical facilities to determine the property’s attractiveness to potential tenants or buyers.
15. Rental Potential or Market Value: Aligning with Goals
Research the property’s rental potential or market value based on current market conditions and location. This ensures your investment aligns with your financial objectives.
16. Neighbourhood Safety: Prioritizing Security
In the UK, ensuring neighbourhood safety and prioritizing security involves researching local crime rates through online police databases or community watch websites. Engage with neighbours or visit the area at various times of day to assess the overall safety and ambiance. Check for the presence of street lighting and well-maintained public spaces, which can contribute to a secure environment. Consult with local police or neighbourhood watch groups to gather insights into any safety concerns or initiatives.
17. Future Development Plans: Anticipating Changes
Investigate any planned infrastructure projects or developments nearby that could affect property values or tenant desirability.
18.Surrounding Area: Day and Night Assessment
Visit the property at different times of day to assess noise levels, traffic patterns, and general liveability factors.
19. Homeowners Association (HOA) Regulations: Considering Restrictions
If the property is part of an HOA, review regulations, fees, and restrictions that might affect your ownership experience.
20. Seek Professional Advice: Guidance Matters
Consult professionals including property investment experts like IP Global and management & lettings companies like Complete to guide you through the due diligence process.
Thorough property checks are a fundamental step in ensuring a successful property investment in the UK. By diligently assessing the property’s structural condition, legal status, valuation, and compliance with regulations, you’ll be better equipped to make a confident and informed decision. Remember that each aspect plays a crucial role in safeguarding your investment and maximizing its potential for growth and profitability.