| Good to know|
Visit before you buy
The importance of visiting the property, and visiting it again, can't be stressed strongly enough, when you are making a decision as huge as buying a home. This is the time for sharp eyes and a cool head... especially if you've really fallen in love with the place!
Carry out an initial selection by phone, starting with the properties that most interest you. Ask for details (floor area, orientation, etc.) and eliminate those that don't fulfil your criteria.
When you move onto the next stage and visit the property, take someone with a sharp eye or a handyman with you, who'll be able to spot any little defects that you might miss. And make sure you don't forget your house-hunter's toolkit: a tape measure, an electric torch and a compass. Armed with a compass, you'll immediately know the exact orientation of the property, which may vary from the claims of the advert.
Check the general condition of the property. Are there cracks or signs of damp on the walls or ceilings? How old is the heating system and wiring? (New legislation comes into force on 1 July 2007, which obliges the vendor of a dwelling to have the wiring checked and make any necessary improvements.) Do the size of the rooms and their layout make for an ergonomic living space? Remember that walls and partitions can be knocked down in a flash... in your imagination, but in reality it's much more costly and complicated.
If you're interested in a property, measure it yourself - you'll rarely get the same figures. And don't be put off by the impatience of those with you - the vendor, estate agent, etc. In order to be able to compare properties (size, price per m2...), it's important that you measure them all in the same way. In Belgium, the floor area is the number of m2 built on a single level while the built area represents the number of m2 on all levels of the property, including lofts, basements and garages. Finally, the living area refers to the number of m2 considered habitable. Note that these areas are calculated from the centre of one external wall to the other, including the space occupied by partitions and internal walls.