Before you set off buying your first house there are plenty of questions you need to ask, to find out if you are ready to become a homeowner. Are you aware of the commitments involved in being a homeowner, and are you willing to make them? Are you getting on the property ladder for the right reasons? Buying your home is one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make, so it’s important you make the right decisions using our advice for first time buyers within this blog before you settle on your new property. Happy house hunting!
Advice for first time buyers
Top 10 questions to ask
1) Do I have enough money?
Buying a house is not only about finding the money to secure a property, there are plenty of additional costs. Before you start viewing properties, ask yourself if you can raise enough money to cover solicitor fees, stamp duty, maintenance, insurance and council tax. The most importance question however, is whether you will be able to get a mortgage or not.
2) What mortgage should I get?
There are different mortgages from variable rate to fixed, to tracker and cashback, so you need to know what will work out the best for you and your financial situation. I suggest asking questions such as ‘what are your rates?’, ‘is there a broker fee or product fee involved?’ and ‘what happens if I pay off my mortgage early’? A financial expert (someone who is regulated by the FSA – Financial Services Authority) can guide you.
3) What kind of home is right for me?
Small flat or maisonette; semi-detached or detached; period home or new-build? These different types of properties offer different types of living arrangements. For instance, new builds tend to have smaller rooms than period properties. A purpose-built flat might be situated above a shop or restaurant with cooking smells and noise being a nuisance. Detached houses are more expensive than semi-detached properties as they are more sought after, but is it worth the cost? These are some of the aspects that need to be considered before you decide what home is right for you.
4) What are my ‘needs‘ and ‘would like’s‘?
Draw up a list and note down your ‘needs’ and ‘would likes’. For example, the numbers of rooms, how important is the location (school, workplace, public transport), outside space, off-road parking, garden to you? Narrow your must haves down to three choices and this will make the search much easier.
5) How can an estate agent help me?
The decision process is far smoother if you have loads of good and helpful estate agent contacts. Go and visit them in their offices and get to know as many as you can – you need them on your side. Show them that you’re not wasting their time by communicating that you have a clear idea what kind of property you want. When going for viewings ask direct questions, such as if there have been any major works or extensions to the property. An agent won’t spontaneously point out any defects, he’s trying to make a sale, but he is obliged to answer direct questions. If an agent has given you false information, a claim can be made under the Property Misdescriptions Act of 1991. Only deal with agents who belong to The Ombudsman Scheme, National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or the Royal Instituion of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
6) What should I look out for at viewings?
It helps to have a ‘viewing tool kit’ in your bag. A compass, for instance, helps you find out what direction the property or garden faces. This way you can learn where the sun rises and sets, as this will affect the light coming through your windows. Other useful items are a note book, measure tape, camera and a torch. Check the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the water pressure, the state of the boiler, the placement of sockets and the shape of the windows. The latter are especially expensive to replace. To get an idea of the neighbourhood, look at the neighbouring houses and their exteriors. Are they refurbishing, do they have neat gardens etc.
7) What’s the condition of the property?
A house might look like it’s in mint condition at first glance, but at closer inspection it can be quite different. Have a look at the roof and guttering. Are there are any leaks and rust on metal gutters? Is the roof intact, or are there slates missing? The last thing you want to do is to replace the roof when you move in. Look for cracked mortar and any leaks on the chimney. Does the property smell musty? This might be because the property is plagued by dry rot. If these issues are not dealt with properly, they can be very costly renovations later on.
8 ) How can I add value to the property?
You might not want to change your proposed home immediately, but in the future it’s possible you will want to extend, convert or add extra rooms. Look at what your neighbours have done to their properties. You won’t be able to see if they have been digging down, but you will see extensions. If your neighbours have received planning permission, chances are that it will be much easier for you to get it too.
9) What’s the neighbourhood like?
I suggest you explore the neighbourhood to find out valuable things about your immediate surroundings. Walk 10 minutes in each direction of the property you are interested in buying and observe people, amenities (school, hospital, dry cleaner, convenience store) parks, street lights and public transport. How long are you willing to walk to get a pint of milk? This could be a deal breaker.
10) What have the neighbours paid for their properties?
Ask the estate agent to show you details and prices of similar properties that have sold recently in the area you are looking to buy. This will start to give you an idea whether the asking you are looking at is fair or ambitious. Also, enquire for how long the property has been on the market, this can give you ammunition to drive down the price if the vendor is desperate to sell. Its worth finding out whether there have been any offers made on the property.
Now it’s time to start making your first offer!