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What’s the best way to beat the stress of moving home?

House being squeezed

Getting on the property ladder has always been a bit scary. We asked first-time buyers what they wish they’d known and heard of mistakes, late revelations and last-minute hitches that cost them a dream home.

No wonder previous Which? research has suggested that moving house is more stressful than having a child. To help make it a bit easier, we recently conducted a straw poll of the Which? office to find tips for beating home-moving stress.

This further highlighted the breadth of things that you need to consider.

What advice would you give people who are moving home?

One common piece of advice was to never view a property alone. Richard said:

‘I found it hugely beneficial to meet my surveyor at the property when he had finished there. He was able to show me around the property and point our things to look out for. Actually speaking with him there and being able to ask questions was useful.’

The difference between freehold and leasehold properties was another common theme. Lucinda told us:

‘I’d like more advice around owning a flat with a freehold. My solicitor said he couldn’t tell me whether to buy a badly run property or not! My building has been neglected by the freeholders for years and I’ve fallen in to the role of director of the freehold.’

Our energy expert Sylvia added:

‘On the day of the move, take electricity and gas meter readings at both your old and your new property and provide those to your energy supplier(s). This way you will avoid estimated bills and help speed up the transfer process.’

Meanwhile our recent interview with first-time buyer Chris revealed some of the worries of waiting for an offer to be accepted.

How do you avoid home-moving stress?

There’s no getting around it. Moving home is a long, complicated process. Hearing other people’s experiences has certainly helped me to feel more prepared though. And I’ll certainly have a printed copy of the Which? step-by-step guide to moving house clutched tight when it’s time to make that giant leap onto the property ladder.

What’s your best tip to beat home-moving stress? Do you have any tips, tricks or information that could smoothen out the home-moving process?


If you’re buying a new home from the developer, you won’t be able to negotiate on the price but it’s worth asking for various extras like fitted carpets and floor coverings, some garden preparation including turfing a lawn area, trellis topping on garden fences, extra paving – you probably won’t get more than one of these, though, as a “sweetener”.

If you’re buying a pre-owned home, don’t offer more than 90% of the asking price for starters. It sounds insulting to knock £30K off a £300K property but it’s not. You can always raise your offer but it’s harder to lower it. [This will depend on how tight the property market is in your chosen area – in London where flats can sell within moments of going on the market there’s virtually no room for manoeuvre and it’s speed rather than bid that gets the purchase].

On the first viewing of a propery it’s difficult to see past the immediate impressions and the agent might be steering you as well, so as soon as you have had your offer accepted [subject to contract] insist on making further viewings, if possible at different times of day. Draw up a checklist and try to get a good description of every room, note and check the fixtures and fittings that will remain [these will have to be declared on a form during the conveyancing so keep your notes to verify it], and consider the condition – including the smell – of carpets and decor to make sure any detriment is reflected in the price. Take your time – the sellers probably need you more than you need them.

Really get to the bottom of where the sellers are in their own move – their agents will try to paint a rosy picture and string you along. Find out where they’re going and check that sale on-line [it might still be on the market]; if they’re buying a new house, check what stage it’s at. Ask if all the money they will require is lined up already, and not dependent on something else [like the simultaneous sale of their mother-in-law’s bungalow, or a bonus, or a relative’s loan guarantee].

Try to look between the lines of the estate agent’s particulars and see what they’re not saying. Examine carefully the parts of the property that do not appear in the photographs.

Sellers try to get the full value back from their recent alterations, but, if you don’t like it, don’t compromise – either reflect the cost of changing it in your offer or walk away. Why spend thousands to remedy something fully priced-in?

On your second viewing take careful note of anything that looks wrong. In a modern or recently-refurbished property listen out for any creaking stair treads or flooring, look for doors or windows that don’t open or close easily, look around gutters and downpipes for any signs of overflowing at joints [and look down at ground level for any signs that water isn’t getting away] – these can all be indicators of serious problems. I think it’s well worth having your own survey if a property is over twenty-five years old or has had serious building work done.

Notice if there are many trailing leads and odd-job socket extensions in various places and whether plumbing is popping up in unlikely places. Run every tap and see how the water flows out of basins, showers and baths. If there’s a cooker hood, see where it vents to and that it isn’t just a show-piece. Ask when the boiler was last serviced and ask to see the service report. In the conveyancing process you will also need to see evidence of planning consent and building regulations approval for significant structural alterations and extensions, and signed-off certificates for electrical circuit alterations, but it’s worth asking about them at an early stage before the formalities begin.

Don’t let the owners palm-off old appliances and unwanted stuff or junk on you – make sure they empty sheds and garages and clear away any rubbish [including emptying fish ponds if you don’t want their carp]. Vacant possession means what it says unless you specifically agree otherwise in respect of certain things.

For moving, always get quotes from two or three firms and check what they will, and – more importantly – what they will not, do for you. Do this before exchanging contracts and ask your sellers if they have also booked their removers [due to the slow-down in the housing market, many companies have shed labour and vans or diversified to commercial work]. Ask for the completion date you want; you might have to accept a bit of give-and-take but, once agreed, make sure everybody sticks to it and has their removal lined up.

Bear in mind that the sellers’ agent will be liaising with all the other agents and legal people in the chain and putting some pressure on you. Get them to work on your behalf as well by asking them to chase the sellers, get additional information, check details, and report to you [or your agent] at frequent intervals. The first rule in house moving is : No Surprises [you’ll be lucky!]

I have worked managing blocks of flats and also running the frreholder companies and the number of times I have met leaseholders who have no idea how the concept works , or even te terms of their lease is astonishing. It was so bad I actuallyran evening classes for the Local authority.

I think a large part of this is due to the sale process — it is a process – is manned by people effectively judged on how quickly they deal with their side of the transaction. If you are buying a leasehold property try to speak to an existing owner about what is going on in the way of payments for work to the property. You certainly need to see the latest Accounts and minutes from previous meetings.

You should examine your lease for any unusual terms or details applicable solely to your flat. The chief one will be are the costs shared equally or perhaps you are responsible with a handful of others for the lift, or the roof etc etc. Any weird thing you can think off probably appears in a lease somewhere.

If you do not understand the terms of the lease or what the Account/Minutes really show then ask till you have a satisfactory answer. Believe me I have has ome leaseholders who move in and are shocked and dismayed when they face a demand for several thousands of pounds for scheduled or even emergency work.

The more bells and whistles a scheme offers – swimming pool, gym, porterage they all cost to run.
Also be aware that the architectural brilliant development may be a swine when it comes to maintenance and masses of scaffolding are required every five or seven years.

The cost a developer tells you will be the annual maintenance demand may well be supremely optimistic.

There are benefits in living in communal blocks but if you fail to make enquiries it could be an expensive mistake. Think distruct heating costs : )

Owen Wilkinson says:
2 July 2015

My tip on making moving house easier is to simply prepare as good as you can. That means you should pack all your items properly in hard sturdy boxes, label them and colour code them. Remember to prepare a first night box, redirect your mail and inform all institutions you work with about your move.
I also think it’s good for buyers to available free storage space. You may buy a house today, but that house might need repairs. So, where are you going to leave your furniture in the meantime? Moving house is really stressful. Moving house after you’ve bought a new home is even worse on the nerves in my opinion. After all, you’ve invested a large sum of money in your new home now you can’t go around buying random stuff. I personally feel terribly inadequate when I’m out of sufficient funds.

I’d also like to advice people to sell as much of their old items as possible. I’m talking about old cupboards you rarely use. The less you have to move the better. You can always buy a new item after you get back on your feet.

[Hi Owen, thanks for your post and offering advice to the visitors of this conversation. However, we’ve had to tweak some of the content so it aligns with our commenting guidelines. We don’t allow promotional content on the site. Thanks, mods]

In terms of viewing a house, my tip would be to take it slowly. When I sold a two-bed place to a couple I was amazed at how quickly they looked around it. They must have been inside for five to ten minutes at most – and asked only one question about the house and none about the area.

From our extensive experience of house hunting I can confirm that the initial assessment is made very rapidly after entering a property. Sometimes taking the full tour is just a courtesy exercise.

Sellers need to bear in mind that they never get a second chance to make a first impression.A house on the market has to look right, and feel right, instantly.

Before we even go to see a property we will have already scoped out an area already as far as possible by the net. Since 2000 say there has been an incredible amount of pre-visit work that can be done to get a feel for an area.

Local clubs in existence
Time to travel from property to work
Local school ratings
Search on town linked with terms such as crime, planning, controversy etc etc
Local authority planning applications
Streetview for parking problems [dependent on time of day] state of nearby properties
Land Registry derived sites for turnover of properties in the area, and the prices

Some questions or views can only be done at the scene:

Asking the vendor or the agent may be interesting for a personal slant but it is never going to be as exhaustive or as up-to-date as your own searches.

However some questions like are you in dispute with a neighbour can be phrased elegantly. They are required to reveal this as part of the selling process however ……..

And if you are lucky you will also be able to chat to nearby neighbours before you proceed too far.
This requires finesse because you relly do not want to put your potential neighbours backs up.

At our current property we managed to chat to the neighbours opposite over tea, and to speak by telephone to one set of imediate neighbours.

We also got a drains survey and an electrical survey paid for by the vendor as for technical reasons he did not want to budge on price so he kept his headline price but the adjustments occurred between the solicitors. It was important that we commissioned the surveys to obtain recourse against the specialist surveyors.

Having your own surveyor rather than simply your mortgage companies valuation survey is important if the property is any way different. Estate properties tend to be very similar and a local surveyor would be aware of any common defects. However quality of any additions could be very variable. Types of survey can be very confusing so try and make exactly sure what you are getting – if you are serious you require a full structural survey but these are very expensive.

Commonsense can assist when viewing as outlined in John Ward’s first post in the comments.

I would add that ideally we all stand firm on desired moving /completion dates however in the scheme of things if everyone in the chain does so then many chains will collapse. Be prepared to facilitate the chain happening if you can. Being rigid in your stance could make you feel strong but you will regret your stance if
a] the chain fails completely,
b] the chain is reformed and you are replaced by another buyer who is more committed

P.S. Our vendor left us with a large skip to clear the furniture – it is a Continental thing to include furniture ….. Anyway we needed another skip but sold the furniture that was quality for a few hundred pounds and gave away a rather nice leather suite to friends. Also a nice petrol lawnmower and garden tools. Hardly vacant posession but take the rough with the smooth. : )

Hi John, good point about first impressions. To be fair, the house I was selling was my Dad’s old place. And he was a bit better at DIY than me!