This is possibly the most important thing to keep in mind when buying (or even selling), yet also often the hardest. Keep in mind that you are entering a business market, and try to keep emotion out of it. You may have fallen in love with a property at first sight but don't reveal this to the seller, who can easily use this to their advantage when it comes to making an offer and what they'll accept. Emotion can also cloud your judgement and lead you to lose sight of your real requirements and budget, resulting, ultimately, in frustration and disappointment. A beautiful kitchen is of little benefit if the living room is really too small for all the family.
Involve the experts
It's hard to come across someone these days that doesn't consider themselves an expert in buying property. Uncle Bob might have been through the same process but the market will certainly have changed since he last bought! Again, it's also easy to hear what you want to hear at this point and listen to friends and family but it's important that you get in touch with the experts, seek advice and listen to them - it is their job after all.
Lack of budgeting
In the buying and selling of residential property we sadly see, time and time again, clients who've not done their sums ahead of time. Whether they have overpaid, got involved in a shared equity scheme that does not work well for them in a falling market, underestimated the cost of repairs or over-upgraded/extended at great expense without achieving an equivalent uplift in value, this lack of financial planning can result in real financial and emotional pain.
In our department we frequently deal with properties that have been altered and or extended, usually at quite a cost, and sometimes the owners have tried to take a shortcut and save money by not seeking proper advice. Sadly when they come to sell this can have a significant effect on the ultimate sale price and cause delays and unnecessary stress. If you are considering any alteration to your property, properly establish what consents you require. This can include a Building Warrant, Planning Consent and/or Listed Planning Consent, and you should also consider whether your title actually grants you the rights for the development you are planning - for example in a flat, an attic you wish to extend your property into may actually be in shared ownership.
While we're on the subject of alterations, upgrading and extensions, know your limitations. Watching TV programmes on the subject makes it look easy, but an amateur can easily end up in trouble when it comes to home improvements. It's also important to remember that even if you are competent in all trades, some items do require to be signed off by appropriately qualified tradespeople i.e. gas and electrical installations.
The wrong house
We frequently encounter people who are considering a move largely because they bought the wrong property.
This usually comes about from impulse buying (a risk if you don't have a proper wish-list or really devote some thought to your requirements) or from failing to think far enough into the future and consider the potential pitfalls of a seemingly-ideal property. Don't just think about the here and now when you're planning your wish-list - consider what the future might hold, otherwise your dream home could turn into a nightmare.
The reasons for buying a property can be very varied but be sure in your own mind what you are doing. If you're buying a home then you should focus on your wish-list of needs, including the number of rooms and the local facilities - try not to think of it as an investment.
If you're buying as an investment however, your wish-list might be very different, and the best place to buy isn't necessarily where you yourself might want to live. Your criteria should be yield (monthly income in relation to capital outlay), capital growth, or a bit of both - these should be the primary influence on your purchasing decision.