7 Mistakes to Avoid if You’re a First-Time Buyer
Buying your first home is exciting, scary and emotional – usually all at the same time. What makes the experience different from any other house purchase is that you have no prior experience on which to base your expectations and can easily trip up on mistakes that a second-time buyer would know to avoid.
If you’re preparing to take your first step on the property ladder, here are seven common problems to know about before you even start viewing.
- Viewing houses with your heart, not your head
Yes, you should absolutely love your first home. However, don’t get so caught up in a charming interior or ideal location that you don’t pause to think about more important factors, like budget and lifestyle.
If you fall for a period property, will you have enough time and money to handle its upkeep? Maybe you like the look of a high-quality new-build, but what will the development be like when it’s finished?
It’s essential to know what your “non-negotiables” are in terms of the property itself, its location and, most importantly, your budget. Remember to plan your finances and “must-have” criteria before you start looking at home, not the other way around.
- Using every last penny for a deposit
Investing a healthy sum into the deposit will help you to secure a higher mortgage and a better property. However, many first-time buyers make the mistake of not leaving themselves any spare cash for extra costs. Don’t forget about:
- Your application fees
- Survey costs
- Stamp Duty (if applicable)
- The CHAPS fee
- Moving expenses
- Ground rent
- Repairs when you move in
- Maintenance costs
Just make sure that you’ve got enough left in the bank to cover these costs and give you a bit of contingency money.
- Not getting involved during viewings
Would you buy a car without test driving it? A house is no different. If you’re serious about the property, don’t be shy to test things like taps, light switches and windows as you view it. Any little niggles or faults will become your problem when you move in. You can find lots of lists online to help you inspect each property properly.
- Being put off by bad décor
Tacky wallpaper, worn-out carpets and an unappealing shower unit are all cosmetic problems and can be ripped out when you move in. It’s going to be a lot harder (and more expensive) to deal with structural issues like damp or timber decay – see the paragraph below about getting a survey!
Lots of buyers will be just as put-off by poor interior décor, which means that if you’re happy to take on a property that needs a bit of superficial work, you might be able to snag an excellent deal.
- Failing to get a survey
When you’re trying to save money at every step, it’s easy for a property survey to seem like an unnecessary additional cost. Skipping the survey altogether is generally a bad idea though, as the right survey will warn you of any potentially expensive or severe defects hidden in the property before you agree to buy it.
Whether you arrange a Condition Report to assure you that your new-build is in perfect condition or invest in a full Building Survey (more details here) to uncover problems in an older home, knowledge is power. If you know about an issue before you exchange contracts, it allows you to renegotiate the price, ask the sellers to deal with repairs or walk away from a property that will be too much work.
- Not saying hello to the neighbours
The quickest way to find out the truth about a property or local area is to ask the people that live there. Your estate agent might not want to tell you about ongoing land disputes or an anti-social business nearby, but the people you’re potentially moving next-door to have no reason to hide what’s going on locally.
- Planning too far into the future
Buying a house is a long-term investment, but don’t get too caught up in the life you want to be leading in ten years – it’s highly unlikely that your first home will be your “forever” home.
For example, stretching your budget to accommodate more bedrooms than you will conceivably need, or searching for a huge garden when you work too much to enjoy or look after it. When deciding what you want in a home, think about how it might impact your current social life, commute and hobbies. Make the choice about what suits you now, as well as what might support you for the next couple of years.