There have been so many changes to the property market within the last few years, that for first time buyers coming into the market right now, it’s like a whirlwind. Knowing the right places to look; the appropriate checks to ensure you do; and the changes in mortgage rates and house prices; it’s almost like you need a degree to understand everything involved in the process of buying a house.
So here’s a quick guide to the most important things you should check out before going ahead with a house purchase as a first time buyer:
1. Check exactly how much you can borrow:Often, first time buyers are so excited at the prospect of owning their own home that they get carried away looking for their dream house – but forget to see what is actually realistically within their budget. Speaking to a qualified mortgage broker will help to give you a perspective over what you can really afford to borrow, and as a result, which properties are within your price range. Alternatively, you can use our 'how much can I borrow' mortgage calculator.
Take a look at the newspaper stories about the local area you’re thinking of for an idea on what kind of issues it has as a potential living area. You can find things out online too – maybe even on a Facebook page about the community, which will help you build a picture of the things that effect the people in that area, what’s important to them and any developments.
2. Read the news in that area:
Ask your local police station, or do a search online to find out statistics about the crime rate in your chosen area. You will probably get an idea of how many crimes have been committed recently, and then possibly a breakdown about whether they were burglaries, car thefts, attacks, and so on. Hopefully it might will reveal that there haven’t been that many at all.
3. Crime reports:
Carry out a search of the nearby places to visit and things to do – there are lots of apps on Smartphones which can automatically search for nearby activities using GPS and feed back to you. Then you will know any local places of interest, and popular things to do that might spark a particular hobby or interest you have too – and if you have kids, you might find out that there are local play groups, parks or play centres nearby, which could be a factor in your decision.
4. What there is to do nearby:
This is often a good idea, as usually when we visit by day there are lots of people about and the road your chosen property is on is obviously well-lit and can have a different feel to it than by night. If you visit at night time, it will give you an opportunity to see how safe you feel, whether there is street lighting, and whether there are any risk factors, such as gangs that hang about nearby – or even just parking issues when the neighbours are all home from work.
5. Try visiting by night:
Sometimes when we get swept up in how perfect a house is, we underestimate the effects of contributing factors in our day-to-day life such as the daily commute and how they will affect our everyday lives. By carrying this out while you’re still in the throes of passion for your new venture, it might give you the stark wake-up you need when you realise it’s actually too far away – or runs through a road that is prone to congestion. Or, it could actually be a pleasant surprise that might just swing it for you if you’re torn between a couple of properties.
6. Do a trial run of your commute
Viewing a property is essential, as it will give you an idea of whether the building is structurally sound, or if there are likely to be any repairs or maintenance needed. You should allow enough time to view the property thoroughly and have a clear list in your head of things you want to check, such as which way the property faces, the amount of available storage space, and the quality of the roof and walls.
7. Make the most of a viewing
Could a recent coat of paint be masking signs of damp? Is the plumbing up to scratch? Is the property adequately insulated? These are important points to check and could prevent problems further down the line. If you do like a property, arrange another viewing for a different time of day, and take someone with you who might notice things you don’t.
8. Get as much information as you canIt’s always a good idea to try and speak to the sellers openly about your ideas and ask as many questions as you can too. This is your chance to find out whether those plans you have for the kitchen will be possible – or whether there are any problems you should know about; and ask about the history of the house, for example.
If you’ve already made up your mind and you know this is it, then try your hardest to keep up a poker face. You know you want it, but the sellers don’t have to know how much you’ve fallen in love with it – show them your interest, but play it cool and cautious, and that way you have a better chance of keeping the upper hand in negotiations – especially if you do find out there are any problem areas.
9. Perfect your poker face
A common misconception by first time buyers is that the price they agree to pay for their new home is the overall cost. Then they get a nasty surprise when Stamp Duty or the legal fees crop up. So it’s always sensible to factor in the conveyancing costs at the beginning. So it’s always sensible to factor in these costs at the beginning. However, not just that, but also any additional costs in terms of things breaking down or needing repairs once you move in – it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and have just blown everything on this dream house that is now in need of fixes you don’t have the money for. Budget just in case! See our guide on the cost of buying a house for more information.
10. Don’t forget to budget for additional costs
It is a good idea to make a checklist of all these points to take with you when you go for a viewing, so that you don’t forget anything. Try to carry out these checks for each house, and you will be armed with a sensible and more realistic evaluation of the bigger picture, rather than your heart ruling your head. It’s good to get a gut instinct – but you also need to be financially and factually prepared about what lies ahead too.