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Gone in 27 minutes: how long did it take you to decide to buy your home?

property for sale

A new survey says that most house-hunters only take 27 minutes to make a decision to buy a pad – a third less time than they would do choosing a sofa. How long did it take you to decide to buy your home?

Our property experts at Which? Mortgage Advisers recommend viewing a property on multiple occasions at different times of day before making an offer.

But according to a new survey by property website Zoopla, most house-hunters make a decision on buying a home within just 27 minutes of walking through the door.

That isn’t a long time to mull over a purchase likely to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Still, I can’t say I’m surprised by Zoopla’s findings.

My property viewing experience

When I was looking to buy a shared ownership property last year, I went to view a couple of one-bedroom flats, and was determined to practice what our experts preach by taking my time.

Armed with the free Which? property-viewing checklist downloaded on my smartphone, I tested all of the taps and gas hobs. I examined every wall for signs of damp and kept an eye out for faults potentially hidden by furniture.

Each time, the property’s owners told me I was the only person to bother being so thorough, but I was still done in less than half an hour.

I also had a nose around the local neighbourhood, but with so many residents having already declared their interest, I didn’t have the time to check what it was like at night.

On both occasions, I put in an offer, but both were sold to someone else. Who knows? Maybe it was for the best? Maybe the lucky buyers have since shelled out thousands to fix a problem I didn’t spot.

A seller’s market

Most estate agents can afford to pressure buyers into a decision, knowing that if one customer won’t make an offer, someone else will.

Which? Conversation editor Lauren admits that the speed of the market played a big role in the amount of time she spent viewing a property:

When I was house-hunting last year, I saw a property that had 28 offers on the table after less than 48 hours on the market.

“I was given about 10 minutes to view the property before being pushed by the estate agent to make an offer.’

Our mortgages and property expert Marie had a similarly speedy viewing experience when she bought her new-build flat last year:

“I only looked at new-build homes, so there’s less that actually needs checking, especially when it’s an off-plan property, which is what I bought.

‘All I saw was a show home. It’s going to be hard to spend a long time looking at these and you can’t check stuff works when it’s not there yet. I arranged a snagging survey, which would have picked up any faults before I moved in.’

Impulsive purchase

The speediness of these life-changing decisions could partly be down to the advent of online property adverts. The average house-hunter was found to have spent around 75 hours searching for properties, including visits to online portals and estate agents.

Nevertheless, we’d urge all homebuyers to at least complete all the checks featured in our property-viewing checklist, as well as investigate the surrounding neighbourhood.

How long did it take you to make a decision to buy a property? Is there anything else you’d spend six figures on so spontaneously?


The article is interesting in several ways; showing the over-heated London property market for one.

I think it is perhaps doing an injustice to buyers to simply quote Zoopla’s figures which may be only partially reported. Following Which?s link takes me to a newspaper rather than the source however:
” The average house hunter now spends a total of 75 hours over the course of 15 weeks in their search, and attends an average of eight viewings before they find “the one”, the survey found. Residents of Wales take the longest, with buyers searching for an average of 83 hours over 18 weeks, while the quickest property hunters are those in the East Midlands, who take 62 hours (over 12 weeks). ”

Funnily enough most people have spent their lives living in house and visiting other people’s homes so arguably people are far better versed in “house” and areas than they are in sofas, cars etc which the quoted Zoopla says we spend more time on.

” The average house hunter makes a decision on buying their new pad within just 27 minutes of walking through the door while almost a quarter (24 per cent) knew it was for them in 10 minutes or less. This compares to 88 minutes selecting the perfect sofa.”

The 28 minutes seems to ignore all the initial background research people put in to choosing a home – the area they want and can afford, the types of properties on offer, the prices, the facilities nearby such as schools and public transport, and so on. And having found something and then made the 28 minute decision to make an offer there follows weeks of time to confirm that initial choice – mortgage, survey, solicitors reports………. Does all this effort also go into buying a sofa?

When properties are in short supply and areas popular it is inevitable that people (hopefully having done the background work) will have to make a quick decision to proceed but, even then, so much depends upon the appeal of the buyer to the vendor – ability to complete quickly without complications for example. The temptation to short-cut the process doers need to be resisted otherwise it could prove to be a very costly mistake that might trap you in the wrong property for a long time.

Best to do the work, take your time and make a properly considered decision.

Whenever we’ve moved we’ve always done at least two different viewings, prior to my letting SWMBO negotiate the offer. But, as Patrick says, the house buying situation is different in other parts of the country. London, of course, has a significant issue, exacerbated by so many companies using the place as their HQ. Oddly, many of these same companies then proceed to pour petrol onto an already overheated market, by subsiding the fist purchase, paying more as a base salary and advancing housing allowances, all of which then simply adds to the problem. Perhaps some of these companies – such as charities – could move their head offices to more rural locations.

When we bought our current home it was after many months of looking at properties, deciding on a maximum price, refining our requirements over so many criteria, thinking about the best style and layout to suit our existing furniture, and considering different locations. Doing all that thoroughly means you can screen out hundreds of properties without looking at them and, for the remainder, you will know instinctively what is potentially suitable.

The agents were sending us details of new instructions so we were kept up to date with the market, prices, and supply & demand in different areas. We viewed quite a number, if only to see how they worked as living spaces. We were already aware of a lot of the homes coming on the market because we passed them frequently and could tell immediately whether or not they were likely runners. For any viewing we always arrived early in the area or village and had a good look round to see what the immediate environs were like. By the time we crossed the threshold we were fairly sure whether or not we could buy it. We never failed to go through with a booked viewing but with some we were in and out pretty quickly.

Something we soon learned was to work out which rooms were not shown in the estate agent’s photographs and pay particular attention to those because they were where the snags were. Also think about what is not mentioned in the text. Agents mustn’t conceal relevant information or details but they are not obliged to reveal everything in their sales brochure. Sometimes agents only allow fifteen minutes per viewing so it’s really not surprising if a decision is made in quick time. Most prospective buyers know that they can withdraw from a purchase without obligation and without penalty at any time up to exchange of contracts so making an offer and agreeing on a price is just one step in a process. In the end we settled on a house on a small new development; we had seen the plans and visited the ‘marketing suite’ at the beginning of our search but did not take it very seriously until they had actually started building the larger properties and we could get a better impression of the layout and quality of construction. That was several months later. We made our decision to buy very quickly after going inside the shell as by that time we had worked out exactly what we wanted to achieve. The house has a few drawbacks and some things that could have been arranged better but it also has some really excellent features and it is good to have everything brand new and unused; nothing is compromised by a previous owner’s taste or standard of DIY competence, and that proved to be a very important consideration after looking at lots of other properties.

So, as Malcolm says, and is often the case, the Intro does not tell the whole story and the decision to buy or not to buy takes days or weeks.

I bought a house just over a year ago. The accompanied viewing was for only 30 minutes because the estate agent’s rep had another appointment. They said that they could probably give me the key to do a more thorough inspection of the unoccupied property, but either the office manager or owner declined because the house was still partially furnished and contained personal effects. The agent was happy for me to do more accompanied viewings and their rep sat on the sofa looking at Facebook while me and a friend explored each room, the garage, loft and garden. We must have visited six times in all and were allowed 45 minutes after the first visit because the rep’s next viewing was nearby.

It was really useful to take a friend because we could look at different things, compare notes and decide what to check on the next visit.

I had looked at new homes being built in the area but what was on offer seemed very poor value for money.

I decided not to put an offer in on the property that I had 10 minutes to view. It was a lovely house, but 10 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time to make such a big decision. The estate agent also knew practically nothing about the property and didn’t even have the keys to let us into the garden. It was a consideration that we could put an offer in and then get another viewing to decide whether or not we wanted the property, but with 28 offers on the table I knew that it would be a tricky game to play. The area I bought in, although it’s not in London, it’s still a competitive area and so we had to be quick to offer on the properties that we liked. On the house we ended up buying we gave an offer after our first viewing, we were in there for about half an hour with my parents in tow too for some extra help.

When I bought my previous home – in the early 80s – I had been looking at the area for some months. My top priority was to buy a recently built property within walking distance of work and that would require little more than redecoration. I was driving around and saw a notice in the window. I rang the number on the notice and visited the following day. I did a thorough inspection at my second visit and put in an offer that was accepted. What made me act so quickly was that the lounge looked out on a large green area with trees, unlike the other nearby properties that I had considered, and no more expensive.

As Lauren says, you have to act quickly if there is competition.

I think I decided to buy my current place in about 10 minutes and didn’t even go back for a second viewing after my offer was accepted (which seems a little reckless now). I just knew it was ‘The One’ as soon as I saw it and was desperate to buy it. But yes, I had done extensive research and had seen around 30 properties prior to that. I’d also refined my criteria, even looking in a totally different area to where I started. I like to think I will take my time when I next move…

The people who bought our previous house never even saw it before they moved in! They lived on the Welsh coast about as far away from us as it was possible to be along the line of latitude, but they wanted to be closer to their children and grandchildren and knew the area quite well. Their daughter viewed the property once with the agent and we gave her permission to take photographs to show her parents who also sent a long list of questions through their solicitor. We only met the buyers when they turned up on completion day in a truck with their car on the back having had a minor prang with a motorway bridge on the journey across. Other than that they seemed happy.

I have discussed with three or four estate agents the question of whether taking photos by property viewers is advisable. I noticed in a house which we were viewing another couple were using their mobile phones to make a complete photographic record of every interior detail. When I queried it with the agent’s rep [because we had not even thought of doing that] she said that they had been given no instructions not to allow it. That seemed to me to be a weak response and thought that there ought to be a modicum of protocol, or at least etiquette, about it. At the outset of our sale we were against it until we had accepted an offer and had full details of the prospective buyer. That stance was advised and fully supported by our agent throughout the several viewings, but we decided to relax it in special circumstances [see above] although we still believe the norm should be no pictures before commitment. Other agents, though, think it is alright for people to take photos which they are free to forward to whoever they like [and after that there is no control on where they might go].

As a courtesy, I feel people viewing a property should always ask before they shoot, preferably the agent as the owner might not wish to appear disobliging, I feel it would be better, however, if there was a general understanding and that agents made the position clear to every person before viewing a property. It could be part of a code of practice. Some sellers might have no reservations about people taking pictures of the contents of their homes but I think the presumption should be against it without express permission. On many occasions the owners are not present during the viewings as they are at work or do not want to become involved until a deal is done. What do people think?

I asked each of the estate agent’s reps about taking photos and they were happy for me to do so, and the vendors had already moved out. I also asked if I could test the heating, poke about in the loft and so on.

I absolutely agree that there should be a code of practice.

Research before you buy has a huge part to play, quite obviously, but so does instinct, especially when it comes to not buying place in my experience. I have sometimes known the moment I set foot through a door that I was never going to buy the place. I might not be able to say exactly why, but I immediately thought, naah.

I have always entirely trusted that initial feeling of rejection, whereas if I thought, yes!, that was quickly followed by, now, hold your horses, calm down, think about this. So far so good.

Our current bungalow fell into that mould, Sophie. It was a typical 2 bed. 1living room prewar unmodernised building in a large garden, set well back from the road, and the sun streamed into it. Whilst in our initial viewing we did look critically at construction we were looking a few years ahead to how it would respond to extension.

I can identify with the feeling Sophie mentions. Having had a brief look at a fair number of houses, sometimes they just don’t seem right for no obvious reason. I noticed they were slow to sell, so maybe it’s not just me.

There are some more obvious ways of putting prospective purchasers off buying. One house that I visited had the main bedroom fitted out as a gymnasium with running machines, flashing coloured lights and a mirror ball. Another had a Reliant engine resplendent in red paint and chrome in the teenager’s bedroom.