Buying a home is one of the most significant and monumental moments you’ll experience in your lifetime, as well as one of the biggest financial costs. Due to the sheer amount of emotion and new, often complex processes involved, it can also become one of the most stressful.
Here we’ve rounded up a list of things you should definitely consider when buying your first property that will help you feel more prepared and at ease for when you begin the first step on your own property ladder!
- Find the Right Mortgage Lender
The majority of first time buyers will need to take out a mortgage to cover a large percentage of the initial cost of the property. However, with such a copious amount of lenders out there, it’s often best to take your time and visit multiple in order to secure the right agent for you. Ensure that your financial history is a match with their best offer.
Even though it may be tempting to find a lender in the shortest amount of time, it’s better to take your time as there are a variety of different mortgage areas that can be negotiated. For example, different lenders will have differing interest rates that will be charged onto your loan.
You’d be surprised by how much money can be saved on the life of your loan if you can secure a lender that is 0.5 – 1% less than everyone else.
Also keep in mind that there are other costs in addition to paying for the property, which can be easily forgotten so be sure to go through your final lender costs and fees with a careful eye.
Popular property searching portals have made the process of searching for a home as easy as loading up the internet, entering a location and filtering to your tastes. Whilst this convenience takes some of the legwork out of the process, its simplicity is causing a new problem for homebuyers: The problem of research.
In an online listing, it’s very easy for both the home and surrounding area to present as something separate from their realities and often your first physical viewing will not present any major problems with any new potential neighbours, or external noises like traffic or train lines as your attention will be stolen entirely by looking around the house.
However, purchasing a property without doing due diligence of where it’s situated could lead to huge, irreversible problems along the line. Always ensure to spend as much time in the area as possible before committing to buy, especially if you are moving some distance and are entirely unfamiliar with it. Look for schools, gyms, green areas, leisure areas and assess the access times to places like supermarkets, or emergency centres. If you will be commuting in and out of your new town or city, weigh up things like train fares, petrol costs or toll fees and drive the commute at times that you would usually to get an idea of how long it would take to get to and from work.
If possible, call by at varying days of the week and at differing times to help build a more realistic picture of the street and city or town where your new property is situated.
- Ask Questions
Asking any type, and indeed, all types of questions about buying a home is one of the smartest and safest long-term things you can do for yourself. From lenders to estate agents, anyone you work with to buy your property should want you to feel assured, informed and knowledgeable, so test this process early, and if yours doesn’t seem keen to answer questions or provide knowledgeable answers – go back to the drawing board and shop around.
Whilst it may be uncomfortable at first to be looking around someone’s property and then beginning to ask probing questions, that’s exactly what you should do – even if your new home is a new build with no previous occupants. If your home is a new build, direct those questions toward either your estate agent or the sales guide that will accompany you around the property. Ask structural questions, and check for flood plains or any kind of pollution.
Before attending viewings, always think up a list of questions that you’d like to ask. Test out or ask after things such as window fittings, doors and lights, as well as water pressures and any damp. If possible, look behind too well placed furniture and upholstery that could be concealing defects.
If your property has had owners, ask questions about the sellers too. Asking how long they’ve lived at the property and their motivation for moving can give you key insights into the area, just as it can if their property has been listed for a while.
- Check for Leasehold or Freehold
Properties fall into two categories: Leasehold and freehold. Depending on which of these your property falls under depends on whether there are limitations as to what you can do with your new home, and could also come with extra hidden fees.
If your property is a leasehold, you will have the right to live in the property for a number of years specified clearly on your lease agreement, but you will not own the land the property is situated on. This means if you wished to make significant changes to the alteration of the property or its grounds, you would need to seek the permission of the freeholder – that is the person who owns the land. Additionally, any leaseholders will pay ground rent and any other service charges.
If you will be purchasing a freehold property, that makes you both the sole owner of the property and its surrounding land, which means you can make as many alterations as you wish providing they are in conjunction with council or city planning regulations. You will not pay ground rent, service charges or permission fees but instead you will solely responsible for the maintenance of the building unless you enlist the help of a property management company.
It’s vital to clarify the differences between these property types to avoid falling into unexpected costs or significant restrictions later down the line.
- Look to the Future
Whilst the future is not something many first-time house owners will think about after immediately purchasing their new house, or even whilst looking, it is something to consider. Ideally, everyone would buy their house and be able to stay in it for many, many decades, making a wealth of memories such as welcoming children and grandchildren.
However, although there are occasions where that does and will happen, it’s not for the majority. A large number of people will move up to two or three times in their lifetime, which means that planning for future salability is something to consider when purchasing a house and moving into the area.
Assess things like the development or the neighborhood. If your property is a new build, will the area it’s in become too saturated, which could put off potential buyers? Additionally, look around the neighborhood. Are local shops and community areas falling into disrepair? In the town centre, are there more empty shops than not? All of these things will impact not only the money you first pay for the house, but any potential profit that you could gain from any renovations, alterations or improvements you undertake through the years. For example, you may not want to spend large quantities of money on a new orangery if it is unlikely that you will get that money either back or with a profit in a later sale.
To aid you in your research, check sites like RightMove or Zoopla which will have the sale prices of your property through the years. If it’s been steadily increasing, and the surrounding area looks in good condition, you’re probably onto a safe bet to either equal or profit from your sale. If the price has stagnated, or even decreased, and the area around the property looks to need some refreshment too, be aware that you could be taking a risk should you need to sell in any immediate futures, and make financial decisions with that information taken into consideration.