What to look out for as a first-time buyer

Whether you have been planning your first home purchase for years or are leaping into action to take advantage of the recent stamp duty rate cut, the first-time-buyer process is often far from straightforward. In a 2019 HomeOwners Alliance survey, first-time buyer housing concerns such as getting on the property ladder, deposit saving and high house prices came top of all housing concerns.

So, how can you make the process easier and less stressful? To help, we have brought together the following top things every first-time buyer should look out for.

Your finances

Your first home purchase hinges on a wide range of financial factors. Ask yourself the following questions and you will have a good idea of what you can afford, and what you can do to improve your position to reach your first-home goals:

  • Do I have a comfortably sized deposit for the size of property I am looking to buy?
  • What size of monthly mortgage payment can I afford?
  • What is my credit score? What mortgages will it allow me to apply for?
  • What size deposit do I need for the mortgages I am applying for? 5%, 10%, 20% or more?

Armed with these answers, you can approach this significant purchase confidently.

The location

Most, if not all buyers will consider where they want to live, but location really is key when purchasing. You don’t want to buy a home and move in only to realise that the area you’ve moved to has serious issues such as bad neighbours, poor schools, terrible traffic, or a lack of local amenities.

The solution to this is simple: conduct plenty of research. Even if you feel familiar with the area you want to buy in, start by looking into average house prices, crime figures, transport links, broadband speeds and more using the free tool CheckMyStreet.

Even if you’re satisfied with what it says, be sure to visit the area on foot at various times of the day to get a good feel of what it will be like to live there and try and replicate your morning commute once or twice too.

The condition of the property

Once you have a shortlist of properties to view, it’s important to methodically inspect them for issues before you put down an offer. Ceiling stains near the outside walls of the home can be evidence of leakage problems, strange smells can be caused by damp and mould, and ageing boilers and built-in appliances may need expensively replacing. Search for cracks, decay, anything that doesn’t look right – these sorts of issues can prove expensive to rectify later down the line.

Ask the homeowner and estate agent whether the house has been inspected for asbestos too, and regardless of what they say, request an independent property surveyor search the property before you purchase. It’s an important step – you don’t want to end up having to approach an asbestos claims solicitors’ decades down the line – and the survey will likely illuminate any other issues with the property that you can use to inform your decision making or drive down the price.

You can never be too careful when buying your first property, and as with any large purchase, research and diligence are absolutely crucial. Follow the steps above and you should put yourself in a good place to buy with confidence.