Being a first-time home buyer is one of the most exciting milestones of adult life, but with so many things to consider, it can also be one of the most stressful. That’s why we’ve put together this checklist to help first-time home buyers make the most of the time they spend viewing houses.
As Kirsty and Phil would put it, buying a house is all about ‘location, location, location’. Before you go viewing properties and getting attached to one in particular, it’s important to get a good sense of the local area.
- Amenities – whether it’s a good school for the kids, a gym for you or a nice walk for the dog, you’ll want to know that the area has the amenities you’ll need for everyday life.
- House prices – to help you make a more informed purchase, it can be useful to know how much similar properties have been sold for, as well as getting a general sense of trends in house prices, using sites such as Zoopla.
- Flood risk – check to make sure the area isn’t likely to flood in the future on the Government’s flood warning website.
- Noise – visit the property at different times of day to assess the noise levels from neighbours and any local businesses. That nearby pub may look quaint by day, but it could spell late-night noise; that quiet road might be heaving in rush hour.
The house and garden
View the house at least twice before making the decision to put in an offer. While the first visit will be more about getting a feel for the house and whether you could make it your home, the second visit is your chance to go into the practical details.
- General condition – assess whether you’d need to do any work to the house after moving in; these will be costs to factor in. Will the carpets or windows need replacing, for example, or could the house do with a new coat of paint? Does it need a new kitchen or bathroom, or generally updating throughout?
- Space – it sounds obvious, but will your furniture fit? Will you have enough room to grow if you want to start a family? Is there enough storage space?
- Problems – is there any sign of issues such as damp (which has a distinctive musty smell, and can leave ripples, watermarks or mould on the walls)? Are there any cracks in the walls? Be wary of fresh paint, which could be disguising hairline cracks, and take a look under rugs to check for damaged carpet and other issues.
- Water pressure – turn on the taps and shower to check the water pressure; low pressure could indicate a problem that could be costly to fix.
- Outside space – confirm the property boundaries and what exactly would belong to you, such as garage or garden space. If there are any public rights of way on the property, you’ll need to know about them.
- Council tax band – how much will you have to pay in council tax each month?
- Energy efficiency rating – less energy efficient houses don’t hold in heat so well, meaning they cost more to keep warm. Keep in mind, if you buy an older home, you might also need specialist home insurance for example to cover a thatched roof or other non-standard construction.
Finally, you probably won’t be able to pick up every potential problem, and that’s why it’s important – if you’re serious about buying – to get a house survey to give the property a thorough check for issues that could lead to big bills further down the line. Only you will be able to tell whether you can make this house your home, but approaching each viewing keeping this checklist firmly in mind will help you make the decision with your head as well as your heart. Before you know it, you will be a first-time home owner!