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  • Deal Finding

    Property bargains - using images for clues

    As they say, a picture paints a thousand words!

    I thought it might be helpful to see what landlords can learn from property pictures on the portals, that might indicate there is a bargain to be had.

    From the marketing text, we already know that "No onward chain", "Perfect BTL investment", and "Cash only purchase" are clues.

    However, pictures, although more subtle in their indicators may indicate that a vendor is motivated and wanting to sell quickly.

    1.  Empty/unfurnished property

    An empty property may be a probate case or repossession, and therefore the vendor may be motivated.  It can also be someone who has already moved to another property, so will be keen to sell.

    Empty properties often have a written clue that there is no onward chain.

    Also watch out for tape across the toilet saying "Do not use", as this is an indicator of a repossession.

    2.  Listings by multiple estate agents

    Someone who is motivated to sell often instructs more than one estate agent to market the property.

    3.  Evidence that a refurb is needed

    Pictures can show that a property may be in need of a refurb and may be of limited appeal to owner/occupiers.  Old-fashioned decor and dated kitchens and bathrooms with coloured units (avocado / pink) are good indicators that a property requires modernisation.

    4.  Stair-lift or old fashioned decor may indicate a probate sale 

    Another sign of this is a bathroom that has been converted to a shower with a seat in it.

    5.  Missing photographs

    Most agents include photographs of all rooms.  If some are missing, it suggests that there may be an issue with those rooms.

    6.  Properties to take advantage of unexhausted permitted development rights

    These might include properties with large back gardens (back extension), and/or a large area at the side (side extension).

    Many home improvements do not require planning permission because they fall under PD rights.  It means that you don't have the hassle and time delays of going for, and waiting for, planning permission.

    Improvements that can be made under PD:

    • You can extend a detached property by up to 8m at the rear if it is a single storey. 3m if it is a double storey.
    • A single Storey extension can be up to 4 m high to the ridge and eaves, but not higher than the existing building.
    • PD extensions cannot go in front of the build line at the front of the property.
    • It must be of the same or similar material to the rest of the building.
    • 2m extensions should not be closer than 7m away from the rear boundary.
    • Side extensions can be up to half the width of the building, single storey and no more than 4m in height.
    • Build a porch 3m2 or less.
    • Convert and occupy the loft space
    • Install solar panels and satellite dishes.
    • Put in roof lights and dormer windows (not facing the highway.
    • An extension cannot cover more than half of the garden.
    • The property footprint (including outbuildings) can be no more than 50% larger than the property footprint in 1948.

    What other things do you think can be discerned from marketing photographs?

    If you are looking for property deals, remember that you can always subscribe to Property Tribes RepoList, the U.K.'s largest real-time database of refurbishment, auction, repossession, and "cash buyer only" properties.

    Subscribe to RepoList NOW!

    Just £9.99 per month!

    *Thanks to Anthony from RepoList for his input into this feature*.

    Related content:

    Top 10 Property Tribes resources to learn how to find property deals 

    10 tips for spotting property deals others might have missed.

    Search "Cash buyer only" properties with RepoList

    Rightmove vs. Zoopla - getting the most out of the portals for property research

    5 ways to assess an investment property without leaving your house

    26 signs an area is in decline

    Unlikely signs an area is ripe for property investment. 

    How do you find bargain properties? 

    What the portals won't tell you - Intangible aspects of property searches


    It's worth keeping an eye out for 'skeilings' in the bedrooms i.e. the ceiling angles down towards the outside walls as this often suggests the loft space may not have sufficient height to convert.


    Just an anonymous opinion on the Internet.

    Great Post Vanessa!

    I would also add

    1. Use Google Earth to get a satelite/birdseye view of the property - how does your plot sit with the neighbours (i.e. garden shape/size which can be an issue with property's on the 'curve' end of cul-de-sacs, or even just to see if any of your neighbours have built loft conversions already!), sometimes, dependent on the quality and date of the image, you can also get a view of the roof and the state of it

    2. Google Street view (just to see what the street is like, particularly what is opposite your property -i.e. the entrance to a large industrial estate/a nightclub/rehab centre) - the amount of times I have nearly got caught out with this...street view has saved me so many wasted journeys!

    3. if you are using Rightmove/Zoopla etc, also enter the postcode into the "for rent" and "sold house prices" sections to see if the same property is/has been listed before.  Sometimes agents advertise properties with photos from when it was first refurbished (5 years ago!), and not what it looks like since there have been 4 seperate sets of tenants.  Also, looking at the sold house price pictures gives you an indication of how much refurbishment the current owner has done (if any)


    Great topic Vanessa

    Your point 3 illustrates another clue to look out for. Are there skeilings in the bedrooms e.g. the ceiling slopes down at the edges of the room. This suggests there may not be sufficient height in the loft above for easy conversion.

    I find floor plans invaluable. They are great for spotting potential to add value through reconfiguration e.g. where is the bathroom located, where are the windows.

    Moreover, they often reveal hidden issues e.g. claimed extra bedrooms that are impractical

    This is a prime example: e.g. https://www.zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details...krryxHR.97

    It looks great in the photos and is well below typical market value for the area - but, the layout reveals the problem.

    Likwise, to add to Cjdesigns comment, Street view is a good way of spotting if it is above commercial


    Just an anonymous opinion on the Internet.

    Very interesting example, thank you KTL!!

    I would not want to have to walk through the kitchen to get to the bedroom - a very awkward lay out indeed.

    Another thing I should mention is a downstairs bathroom.  These are not popular with people, although in some parts of the U.K. they are accepted.

    It is always interesting to see if a bathroom can be moved up-stairs, but then there might be the loss of a bedroom.

    Lovely puzzles to try and find a solution to! Smile


    I wonder if the pig came with the property?

    This was another of my favourites:


    Can't stop laughing - that pig!!! Big Grin 


    That's a bit unkind. He's only practising on his guitar.