Dwell Well > Lifestyle with Annie Button > First-Time Buyers: Are You Fully Prepared To Go House Hunting?

First-Time Buyers: Are You Fully Prepared To Go House Hunting?

The purchase of your very first home is a milestone life event that should be carefully considered from all angles. Saving up for a deposit and being able to raise a mortgage are key financial prerequisites, of course, but you also need to make sure that the property you choose ticks all your boxes and represents a good investment. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some essential questions you should be asking and satisfactory answers you should be able to give before you proceed to sign on the dotted line.

1. Can you afford the property?

Let’s start with the financial basics. Before you do anything else, you must have a clear idea of your budget. Go through your monthly income and outgoings to work out how much you could reasonably repay every month. Don’t forget to factor in a safety buffer for emergency situations such as illness or unemployment that could have a substantial impact on your household finances.

Based on your calculations and the deposit sum you are able to put down, you and your mortgage broker can work out how much you will be able to borrow. A deposit of more than 5% of the purchase will give you access to a wider range of cheaper mortgages. Find the best deal and secure a mortgage agreement in principle before you go house hunting, so you are primed and ready to proceed as soon as the right property comes along.

2. Is the property in good condition?

Falling in love with a property that could be your first real home is tempting – but use your head, not your heart to evaluate your potential investment. Assuming you have no building expertise yourself, don’t think for a moment that you might be able to tell what’s a ‘good’ and what’s a ‘bad’ property. Many building defects and issues are simply not recognisable to an untrained eye.

What’s more, don’t make the mistake of relying on your lender’s mortgage valuation report. This will not provide any details on the condition of the building, nor warn you of any problems that could turn out costly to fix. An independent property survey carried out by a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, on the other hand, is worth paying a few hundred pounds for. These home surveys deliver a professional investigation of your prospective new home, with a report that will highlight potentially serious issues such as damp, timber decay, subsidence, roof defects and more, along with expert advice on how to proceed.

3. Does the property suit your needs?

While your budget will largely determine the size of the property you can afford, make sure that whatever you buy actually suits the requirements of those living there, whether you’re buying for yourself, with a partner or with a young family. The number of bedrooms is a good starting point but also consider light and space. South and west-facing rooms get more natural daylight than north or east-facing properties, while nearby trees of buildings can also compromise the light. Bear in mind that rooms that have a pleasant outlook are not only brighter and more airy but can also increase the resale value of the property.

Lack of storage can be a huge bugbear, particularly in new build homes. Recent data has shown that although new homes today are the smallest they’ve been in 100 years, there are many other considerable benefits to be gained from buying a new build. Make sure that your chosen property offers enough space to hide away all those bits and bobs that don’t need to be on show. From coats and shoes to toys and bikes, luggage, DIY equipment and Christmas decorations, there must be ample storage space.

4. Leasehold vs freehold

There are two main types of property ownership in England and Wales. Houses are typically sold on a freehold basis, meaning you own the building and the land it stands on. Flats and maisonettes, on the other hand, are usually sold on a leasehold basis. This means the freeholder owns the building and the leaseholder owns the right to occupy the building for the length of the lease. As a leaseholder, you’ll have to pay an annual service charge towards the upkeep of the building and communal areas, and there may be ground rent to pay too.

Make sure you scrutinise the lease and your obligations and responsibilities as a leasehold owner. The recent leasehold scandal has highlighted just how easy it is for inexperienced buyers to commit to a lease contract containing financially onerous clauses without realising what they’re letting themselves in for.

5. Location, location, location

No doubt you will have a strong opinion on where your first home should be. Location is obviously important because it’s where you will be living for the foreseeable future. Not only will you need to be able to get to and from work, school, nursery etc with the minimum of inconvenience, you will also want to have the right local amenities in your neighbourhood. From shops and restaurants to green spaces and recreational facilities, the location must work for you and your lifestyle.

Location is also an important factor when you come to sell the property on. Your home’s resale value will be boosted if it is situated in a low crime area, is in the catchment area for good schools, has parking facilities and is generally considered to be a nice place to live.

6.Is the area undergoing development?

Finally, it’s a good idea to find out about planned developments in the locality. Are there any proposals for major residential housing developments in the vicinity? Are new road layouts planned or any long-term construction projects in the pipeline? Any of the above can have a dramatic impact on the desirability of the area and the value of residential properties in it.

Of course, regeneration and development don’t have to be bad news. On the contrary, the promise of better transport links, for example, could significantly improve the appeal of the area in the longer term. Look out for neighbourhood regeneration schemes that aim to enhance the local area, both for residents and businesses. Invest wisely in an up-and-coming area and you will benefit from better amenities while you live there and healthy capital growth when you’re ready to move on.

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