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Where do I start?

Looking for a property to rent or buy can be daunting! There is so much to think about.

Here are some top tips from two of the property professionals who will be at HomeWard, the property fair at the John Radcliffe Hospital on Saturday 29 February, where you can meet them (and many others) to find out more about property, housing and accommodation options in Oxfordshire.

Estate and Letting Agents (pdf, 308 KB)

Renting a home

  1. Set your budget - don't forget you need a deposit and normally one month's rent up front.
  2. Research - ask colleagues and friends for their advice on good locations and look on all the online property portals to get a feel for prices and availability.
  3. View as many properties as you need - don't rush into something as it might be hard to break a tenancy.
  4. Get reputable professional assistance - always use an estate agent that is registered with the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA), an independent body that regulates standards in the lettings sector.
  5. If you do not understand, do not sign - always ask for a full explanation.
  6. Make sure you check the inventory - go through everything with the inventory clerk before you move in: photograph and agree everything that you think is defective or damaged. At the end of the tenancy, make sure that the property is in as good a state as when you moved in. If not, you could lose your deposit.
  7. Don't take it for granted that you can rent a room - renting a room in someone else's home is usually an informal arrangement based on mutual trust. However, most tenancies do not allow lodgers or for more people than are on the tenancy agreement to live in the property. Always check. If not, you could all be in trouble.
  8. If it looks too good to be true - it probably is, and you should seek impartial advice.

Oliver Hope, Director, Oxford based Penny & Sinclair estate agents, explains:

"For your protection and peace of mind, it is essential to rent through an ARLA registered agent. ARLA monitors the agents' professional standards and training and ensures that they updated and maintained. Penny & Sinclair is an independent and impartial estate agent with years of experience and local knowledge of buying, selling, letting and renting homes across the county."

Michelle Niziol of IMS in Bicester says:

"Whether you are looking to rent or buy, be realistic. Oxford is expensive, and you normally get more for your money outside the ring road. We specialise in helping people from overseas to find homes in and around Bicester. Without good professional help, it can be hard for non-nationals to get a tenancy or a mortgage, but we have had years of experience with this and helped scores of people to find the right property for them."

Before you buy

  1. Talk to an experienced independent mortgage broker with 'whole of market' access - you might be surprised what is possible once an expert has reviewed your finances and options.
  2. Go online - look on all the portals - RightMove, Zoopla, Gumtree, OnTheMarket - as not all agents will advertise on the same ones. Check prices, availability and see how fast the market is moving.
  3. Research locations - public transport, schools, gyms, clubs, access to friends, wifi speeds... only you know what is important to you for a happy home life. Also, talk to the locals and get to know the area before you relocate.
  4. Be prepared - you normally need a mortgage agreed or in place before a buyer will accept your offer on their property. If you are selling a property, it is best to have exchanged contracts before you offer on a new one.
  5. Viewings take time - see as much as you can in your price range before committing to an offer.
  6. Get the very best professional advice - most estate agents will recommend surveyors and solicitors who they know will be helpful, professional and efficient. Personal recommendations are also a good resource.
  7. Understand what you are signing - this is a huge commitment, so make sure you know exactly what is included in the sale, and what is not. Or, for example, if the property is leasehold, ask about ground rent and service charges as they might be more than you think.
  8. Get a proper survey - use an experienced RICS surveyor because, once you have exchanged contracts, any defects become your liability.
  9. Gut feelings are usually right - if it feels right, it probably is.

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