Buying a house is probably the single biggest investment you’ll make. Without a doubt, it’s a daunting prospect for first-time buyers. But it’s also exciting. You can start to think about what it’ll be like to walk through your own front door and create your own space. To make this dream a reality sooner rather than later, here are some top tips for starting your search:
Prioritise affordability. It can be tempting to look at properties you could buy if you won the lottery, but focus your time on what you can afford. Of course, there’s always some room for negotiating (generally not on new builds, though), but overly stretching yourself financially is a bad idea. Stick to a well-researched budget, and scope out areas you might have previously dismissed.
Secure a mortgage in principal. To know what you can afford to spend, you should get a mortgage offer from a bank or building society. The agreement in principal is a free document, and puts you in a better position when you start searching.
If you’re buying with someone else, make sure you agree on must-haves. It’s likely you’ll have to compromise when buying your first house – and yes, you should both be flexible. But knowing what you wouldn’t be willing to compromise on can speed up your property search. Within realistic expectations of your budget, decide early on if there’s anything you couldn’t live without, or a feature you’d be unhappy with. For instance, outside space or a second bathroom.
Know what to look out for. You can’t become a property expert overnight, but you can do your research to avoid unnecessary extra costs when you move in. Look for signs of damp, faulty guttering, weak toilet flushing and rotting window frames, as well as any missing roof tiles. You can ask the estate agent or owner when any renovations were completed, and how old the wiring, roof or boiler are. If the problems start to stack up, it could end up costing you a lot.