Hints and tips for first time buyers
If you are buying your first house you’ll be preparing one of the longest ‘to-do’ lists of your life. While it’s impossible to tell you everything you need to know, as every purchase is different, we thought it might be useful to provide some hints, tips and links to sites that can help you turn a chaotic life event into something you can control.
Looking for a home
If this is the first time you’ve looked for a home, you might want to know some of the questions you should ask or the details to keep an eye on. It’s easy to fall in love with a property, but on closer inspection you could find problems that are not instantly visible. Here are a few points to consider to make sure you leave nothing to chance as you look round the property:
- Ask why the property is for sale and whether the seller is keen to move quickly. Find out how much interest there has been in the property and how many viewings it has already had. This will help you to plan your negotiation.
- Have you visited the property and the area at different times of the day? It may look idyllic on a Sunday afternoon, but is there a pub nearby with a noisy disco at around 10pm? You should also see what it is like during rush hour: is your street a cut-through for commuters?
- Talk to some of the residents on the street or in the apartment block to see what they think about the area – this will also help you see what your new neighbours are like.
- Find out about the locality - you’ll have thought about your route to work, but what is it like in the rush hour? What are the schools like and which catchment area do you fall into if you have a family? Is the property a listed building or in a conservation area? This may affect your ability to extend or renovate your new home.
- Look at each room closely. If you have already purchased furniture, will it fit or will you need to buy more? Are you happy with the decoration or will you want to make alterations?
- Ask for proof of any recent gas and electrical inspections.
- Look behind curtains and furniture for signs of damp.
- Has there been any work done on the property recently? If so, ask your solicitor to obtain the relevant building regulations certificates.
- If you are looking at a flat, ask the current owner and the other residents how the block is maintained. Find out about council tax, utility, service charges and ground rent.
- What is the surrounding area like? Is there any land that could be built on later, altering your view?
- Where is the boiler? How old is it and when was it last serviced? A failed boiler can be expensive to replace.
- Is there enough space for your possessions? A house may always look free of clutter when you visit, but people sometimes put their things in storage to make it look more desirable. Is there access to a loft, and how useful will it be?
- Are you overlooked by other properties?
- Does your mobile phone have reception inside the property?
- How fast is the internet connection?
The Consumers’ Association ‘Which?’ has an excellent checklist:
Making an offer
Before you enter into an offer make sure you know your budget and your limit. If the seller refuses to budge, you need to think carefully about whether the property really is worth breaking your budget. If you exceed your highest expected offer then you will have to make trade-offs further down the line.
Make sure you do your homework on the area’s property prices. While prices from previous sales can give an idea, it's better to see what the competition is like now.
Once you have found a place you want to call home, it is important to consider the level of your first offer. As a first time buyer, with no chain behind you, you’re in the strongest position you’ll ever be in to purchase a property. Make sure that both the vendor and the agent know this. If the current owner is in a hurry to sell, or if the house has been on the market for a while, then a lower offer may be acceptable. Sellers in no hurry are more likely to hold out for a higher price.
Once you make an offer, make it clear that it's subject to contract and a satisfactory survey.
The Land Registry lets you check the previous price of houses:
Solicitors and Conveyancing
Conveyancing is the legal term for the process of transferring the ownership of property or land from one person to another. A solicitor, or conveyancer, will handle all the legalities involved in the sale on your behalf. This will include examining the draft contract and raising enquiries with the seller’s solicitor.
Getting quotes for the things you need
Moving can be expensive and it makes sense to get the most competitive possible quotes for each stage. If you haven’t done your homework there can be hidden costs, and our guide to the cost of moving can be helpful.
Reallymoving.com is a website that provides instant quotes for home-moving services such as Conveyancing, Surveys, Removals, and Energy Performance Certificates.
Review your finances
Moving house is likely to mean that you’ll also be reviewing your finances. You may also be looking to set up new services such as gas, electric, entertainment, phone and broadband for your new place. There are lots of money advice websites around, and they will be able to recommend the best deals.
When you move, you’re not automatically registered to vote at your new address, and if you're not on the electoral roll it can affect your credit rating. Register on the gov.uk site.
Furnishing your home
If you’ve just moved into your new home you might decide that there are a few pieces of furniture missing or that there are a few pieces that you’d like to replace. However, your finances could be a little stretched and you might not be in a position to buy. Thankfully, there are lots of websites which advertise free items from people having a clear-out. Two well-known ones are Freecycle and Freegle – you’ll be able to see if there are people nearby with items that you could use to furnish your new home.
We hope that you find these ideas useful and thought provoking. Our examples are all for illustrative purposes only, so please do not consider them as advice or recommendations to be relied on.