Getting that first step on the property ladder is a dream of so many. It’s a massive purchase that first time buyers will be anxious to get right. Without previous experience of buying and selling however, it can seem like a daunting prospect.
There are SO many factors to bear in mind.
From budgets to location, potential to extend, return on investment and of course finding somewhere that you can live comfortably and happily. To help you navigate this all-important purchase, we take a look at some of the most important questions to ask when buying your first home.
Budget and Costs.
When arranging mortgages and assessing your own budget – make sure you’ve understood the true cost of buying a home. Costs will vary considerably depending on the area you live in, the price of your home and the complexity of the move.
There are several “hidden” costs that first-time buyers may not be aware of. Here are some of the key questions to ask, to ensure you’ve got a firm grasp of the finances:
- Do I have to pay a mortgage arrangement fee (which can be anywhere up to £2,000), and can I afford the monthly repayments?
- Do I have to pay a valuation fee? This is the amount lenders charge to assess the property you’ll be purchasing, costing anywhere between £150 to £1,500.
- What are the legal fees involved? You’ll have to employ a solicitor to help with the purchase, so make sure you’ve discussed their services and charges first. Fees range from £800 to £1,500+, depending on the complexity of the purchase.
- How much will Stamp Duty be? First time buyers usually pay zero stamp duty on the first £300,000 of a home costing up to £500,000 – but if you’re at all unsure, it’s best to check.
- How much is a structural survey likely to cost? Surveyors usually charge around £400-800, and it’s a part of the purchase you don’t want to skip.
- Do I need to hire a removal company? In 2021, the average removal quote (for a three-bed house, travelling up to 50 miles) came in at just over £1,000.
In addition to these costs.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a “fixer-upper” – will you have enough budget for renovations? Even if it’s just a few lightbulbs and a lick of paint, these costs quickly add up. If there are major works planned, seek out quotations from several reputable builders.
Once you’ve fully understood your budget – you are ready to start viewing properties! When viewing homes for the first time, look at the details as well as the overall space. Don’t just think about how the property works now, but also whether there’s potential to extend, adapt or add value.
- Is there any damp? Can you see any flaky plastering, watermarked ceilings or sense a mouldy smell? Be wary of recent large-scale repairs, as these could be hiding issues.
- Is the building structurally sound? Small cracks are common, but also take a look at the condition of the roof and windows for any obvious problems.
- Are the rooms big enough, and is there enough storage space? Think about what suits you now, as well as what you might need in five years’ time.
- Is there any opportunity to extend? As well as into the garden, is there any loft space (attic conversions are a fantastic way to add value) or a basement that might offer potential?
- Which direction does the house face? Don’t be shy about bringing a compass along (most smart phones have one these days!). If you’re looking at eventual improvements, the sun’s direction will make all the difference to door and window placement.
- Don’t forget details such as power points and plumbing. Do the taps work, are there enough power points and does the fuse box look safely wired?
- Finally, what can the estate agent tell you? Remember that estate agents are there to facilitate the sale. You might ask why the current vendors are moving, if there have been any other offers on the property, or what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale.
Location, Location, Location.
So, you’ve found your dream house, it’s structurally sound and in budget. Make sure you’ve also assessed the location. Living in a good area is not only important for property prices (and eventual return on investment), but also your quality of life. If you’re not happy where you’re living, no amount of renovations or home improvements will change this!
- What’s the area like? Do you know the town, city district or village well? Think about whether it will work for your future plans as well as your needs right now.
- What do you value? Are there bars and restaurants nearby, can you walk to the shops for essentials, or how close are public transport links for commuting to work?
- Try to visit the street at different times of the day – are there any issues such as loud music and traffic that you might not have spotted first time?
- Is the property in a good school catchment area?
- What is parking like on the street? Are permits available for visitors?
- Most importantly – do you feel comfortable in the area, and can you picture yourself living there? Take a walk down neighbouring streets and even get a coffee in a café nearby. Gut feelings are important when property hunting, so listen to your instincts.
When buying your first home, there are many questions to consider. From whether there’s potential to extend and add value, to the location of the property and costs involved – there are plenty of factors to bear in mind.
Don’t be scared to view several properties to get a firm idea of what’s available for your budget. With these key questions in mind, you’ll be sure to purchase a great first home.
Thinking of extending your new home?
If you have recently moved into a new property and you are looking to invest in a loft conversion or house extension, then we can help!
EV Architects is a multidisciplinary architectural practice that provides a full range of architectural, design and build services. Visit our loft conversions and single and double house extension pages to find out more, or call us on 020 8531 4441 and have a no-obligation chat with a friendly member of our team today!