This is one of your biggest if not the biggest purchase in your life, so you really want to get it right. Therefore, it is essential that you think about this long term. You will have to come head-to-head with additional costs, property research, squeezing information out of the seller and much more. Keep reading this blog to find out all our tips for first-time home buyers.
Keep your eyes peeled because a great opportunity to purchase your perfect property might occur in places you never imagined it to. Gone are the days where you could only find your new home on a picture put up in an estates agent office window. Now there are plenty of websites that have property for sale. The most popular sites are:
They allow you to compare properties, living expenses and home descriptions as well as including local information and street maps. You can even set alerts if you have a specific location and property requirements and the app will inform you when an opportunity appears. To further improve your research, take time looking through property magazines or newspapers to see what sort of homes are available, and for how much so you can get a good understanding of the general market values.
All this being said, estate agents aren’t dead, so don’t cross them out from your research stage. You can subscribe to their email lists and specify what you are looking for to hear as soon as possible if your perfect property is on the market. Having a conversation with an estate agent can also provide you with valuable information about the chances you have of finding what you want with regards to your budget and other factors.
It’s good to visualise your perfect property. Ask yourself what exactly it is you are looking for, a semi-detached house, a flat? How many rooms do you want? How many bathrooms? Will you want a parking space, double glazed windows, or outside space etc.? You could divide your criteria into essentials and preferences.
It’s easy to repaint the colours of the walls but you can’t do much to change the total floor space in a flat. Think how feasible it would be to get rid of any displeasing features. They make the property less attractive on the day but it might be just a temporary issue. Try to strike compromises otherwise you’ll have a hard time finding your property.
Do The Math
You will have to do some serious calculations to figure out how much getting your home will cost you. We’re talking here about the mortgage fees, valuation and legal fees, stamp duty, moving costs, home repairs and furniture costs.
We strongly recommend you don’t take the maximum amount you are allowed to borrow. Your mortgage is going to be your biggest monthly expenditure, so make sure you don’t overstretch yourself. Calculate all of your other outgoings and ensure you allow a buffer for unexpected bills and additional saving. Once you know how much you can comfortably afford, you can then work out your mortgage repayments and how much you can realistically borrow. It’s a good idea to have this in place before you really go house hunting. Try this mortgage calculator to see the reality of the repayments. It’s best not to look at properties above your budget as this will only result in disappointment and set unrealistic expectations.
To give you a rough guide of the prices visit Rightmove, which provides a map with average prices.
Make sure you like the area around your property. Consider things like:
- your neighbours
- physical location
Visit the area at different times and see if you like the local pubs, the level of noise, playgrounds for your children among other things. Another thing to find out is the building plans for the area, you don’t want that lovely coastal view to be replaced with an apartment block.
Think about what you value in an area before buying the property, is it near your work place, schools, the hospital? Do you want it to be in a location with nearby pubs or entertainment?
Watch out for flood risks or subsidence in your potential property area. Flood risk has a significant impact on insurance premiums, a property’s value and your quality of life if you’re unlucky enough to be hit by water damage. Avoiding property purchases in flood zones can save you a lot of stress.
Before even putting down the deposit ask as many questions as possible. Some of them should relate to:
- your potential competition for the property
- installation reports
- information on lease
- renovation details
- what’s included in the sale
- parking places
- council tax band
Certain rival estate agents will overly criticise a property, especially when they previously had it on their books and failed to sell it, which means their comment has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Sometimes you can contact previous owners, who no longer have a vested interest in talking it up – this can be particularly informative if you suspect there might be problems with the property. It is also a good idea to take an experienced home buyer with you for support and advice and if you have any doubt about the condition of a property, always ensure you get a full structural survey carried out.
Photos are a great reference point especially when you are looking at multiple properties. They will help you spot things you might have missed previously. Really think about the space you’ll need. After a few years you might need more than you are initially looking for and it’s good to be prepared for this change.
If you are planning to renovate or make a few improvements to the property, plan where you could build into and how easy is it will be to manipulate the property layout and maximise space not only for longevity but to add value as well.
Make sure you check the property for all these aspects:
- mould and dampness
- cracks and other imperfections on the walls and ceiling
- open a few windows to see if they work well
- count power points
- turn taps on and off and flush the toilet to inspect the plumbing
- check the heating by switching the radiator on and having a look at the boiler
- ensure door locks work well
- check the rugs and carpets
Think about the ease of resale when you come to sell the property in the future. If you aren’t happy with the property, or if you outgrow the property and want to upgrade, after all you’re not planning on living there for ever. Make a list of all the potential problems future buyers might have with the property and evaluate carefully before you decide to buy.
Remember that certain “negative” aspects of the property might only be an opportunity for you. For example many people won’t want to live next to a school because of the noise levels, but if you’re not home during these hours this will not affect you and it will lower the price of the property. This might suit you but not others, and you have to account for that if you are planning to sell your home.
Beware of certain unethical methods estate agents might use, these include:
- testing the market with hyper-inflated prices to see if it will sell
- hide important drawbacks coming with the property
- are overly optimistic about building plans
- aren’t fully honest about the area
Researching Estate Agents
Choosing an estate agent is an important process as well as a tricky one. Some will offer you low fees or give an impressively high property value, but these can be warning signs. Pick an agent who is experienced in selling the sort of property you are looking for and don’t settle on just one. You can use comparison websites such as Which? Also, speak to friends, family members and neighbours to see if they can recommend an estate agent. Make sure you know in detail their commission rates or fixed fees.
Remember no one can tell you with full confidence what will happen to house prices. Just like with the stock market, property is an asset with an unpredictable value, but what is guaranteed is it’s a great investment. There are however multiple sources that suggest waiting for after Brexit to purchase your new home.
Take your time looking for your new home, don’t rush into anything, make sure you do your homework and stay true to your budget and requirements. The right property will be out there.