I'm ready to start looking for a property
Now that you're ready to find your first home it's important to make a list of your priorities. Start by thinking about the size of the property you need and where you ideally want to live. Don't forget to think about things like transport links and, if you have children, how close you are to a school. Once you've written these down, list them in terms of importance.
When thinking about locations, decide what factors are important to you. Do you want to be near work? How long would your commute be? Do you have easy access to public transport? How close are you to family and friends? Do your research on the area you're considering. Visit at different times of the day, visit the local shops and talk to some of the neighbours to get a good feel for the place.
What kind of property do you need? Detached or semi-detached? House or flat? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? These are just a few things you'll need to decide on before going to view properties. It will also help you narrow down your choices and save you time during your search.
If you want to move in straightaway, you'll need to find a property in a reasonable enough condition that you can live in it without needing any significant work. If you're willing to spend a bit of time (and money) revamping a property, this might provide you with more options.
Remember, be flexible and patient
Don't expect to find your dream house straightaway. Be patient and take the time to find a house that's right for you and your needs. It's also important to be flexible. You might have a list of requirements in your head, but you have to be realistic as to whether you'll find them all in one place.
How do I find properties?
Search on a property website such as zoopla.co.uk or rightmove.co.uk. You can usually set up property alerts to make sure you hear about the latest properties to hit the market.
Visit or call more than one local estate agent to discuss what you're looking for and get on their mailing lists.
Look at property ads in local newspapers and magazines to see what's available and what the house prices are like for the area.
How to deal with estate agents?
Speak to them face-to-face
Not only will you be able to discuss what you want in more detail, but you'll also have a chance to put a face to a name. This may work to your advantage if you decide to put an offer in later on.
Don't waste time
You should already have a list of your priorities for the property, so make sure you aren't looking at houses out of scope for your budget. You'll waste time and the estate agent won't take your intention to buy seriously.
Keep talking to them
Make sure you're kept up to date with new properties on the market. Having regular dialogue with the estate agent will become even more important if you decide to make an offer.
I'm ready to view a property
Viewing a house can be exciting but it's important not to get carried away. Here are some important things to consider before you go to your first viewing:
Go with a friend, parent or partner
Two pairs of eyes are better than one and they might pick up on things you miss. Having someone with you also means the estate agent is less likely to take over the viewing and you'll be able to discuss things between yourselves.
Take your time
Buying a house is a huge decision and one that you want to get right. To stop you from feeling rushed, tell the estate agent beforehand how much time you'll be spending at the property.
Set your emotions aside
When viewing a property it's important to leave your emotions at the door. For the first viewing, you're looking to inspect the property. Remember, you don't own it yet, so try not to let your heart rule your head. See the property for what it really is and then there'll be fewer shocks to face later down the line.
Don't rush your decision
Buying a house is a huge commitment, so take the time to carefully consider your options.
You should already have a list of things you need from your first home, but here are a few questions you should be asking while you view:
Are there any signs of damp?
If the house has damp there might be watermarks on the walls or ceilings. There may also be a mouldy type smell. Some sellers will repaint walls to cover up any damp patches so keep an eye out for fresh-looking paint.
Is the house structurally sound?
Can you spot any cracks? How do the windows look? Does the roof look particularly old and weathered? These are all important and potentially costly items you need to consider. If you decide to make an offer on the house, a survey will need to be carried out, but it's best to try and estimate the likelihood of any damage before then.
Can you fit everything in?
Storage is usually a main consideration for buyers. New builds don't always come with a lot of storage space, so it's important to look at what's available to you now and what you could potentially add. Think about your clothes, your kitchen space and where you'd store items you want to keep, but don't necessarily want on show.
Are there enough plug sockets?
It might not seem a big issue now, but adding more in after you've moved is an added cost and hassle for you. Taking a look at the fuse box can also give you a good idea of the condition of the wiring.
What direction does it face?
Are you overlooked? When the sun's out, you'll want to make the most of it. It can be difficult to tell sometimes whether a house or garden is facing north or south, so ask the estate agent.
What works and what doesn't?
Turn taps on and off. Switch the lights on. Open and close the windows. All of these may seem like small things but they'll allow you to check what condition the house is in as a whole.
Remember you should always view the property more than once and preferably at different times of the day. You might pick up on things second time round that you missed the first time. A second viewing also gives you the opportunity to see the house in a different light, and find out more about the neighbours.
Understanding if you can get a mortgage on the property
Your mortgage lender will also have a lending policy outlining the types of property they won't lend on. Check with your lender if you're unsure as to whether the property you're looking at is suitable for a mortgage.
I'm ready to make an offer
So you've found a home you love. You need to be 100% sure this is the right place and you can afford it.
Before you make an offer, here are a few things to consider:
Decide in advance to what degree you're willing or able to negotiate.
It might be a good idea to compare other similar properties in the area to help you determine a suitable offer for the property.
Will you need to spend any money fixing the property?
You should consider this when making your offer - you don't want to offer more than the property is worth.
Are there any fixtures and fittings you would like included in the sale?
If so, make sure your offer is conditional on these being included.
What is the maximum you can realistically afford?
Do not make an offer over your limit. You need to consider how much a lender has told you they'll lend.
Know how much deposit you need for the mortgage you want.
Most people will typically need a deposit of 10% of the property value; however some first time buyer mortgages require as little as 5%.
Please note that if you’re thinking about buying a property in Scotland, you need to be aware that they’re governed by separate property laws to England and Wales. To find out more about buying property in Scotland, you can visit the Which? website.
How to make an offer
Once you're sure you can afford the property, have the deposit required and are happy with the price being presented you're ready to make an offer.
Making an offer
All it takes is a phone call to the seller's estate agent. Remember, you can always raise your offer but don't bid over your limit. You might also want to put your offer in writing, perhaps following up the phone call with an email. This can reduce any confusion later on.
Estate agents have to pass on every offer they receive to the seller. If the seller is interested, they might start to negotiate with you. When entering negotiations, keep your budget in mind and be careful not to get carried away with the process. The Home Owners Alliance has more tips on negotiating for a house.
If the house meets all your expectations and you're in a competitive market, it might be worth entering an offer at the asking price. However, leave yourself some room to manoeuvre so you don't rule yourself out if the first offer isn't accepted.
There are some telltale signs on whether an offer below the asking price might be accepted. For example: if a house has been on the market a long time, if the seller wants a quick sale, if you're a less-risky buyer without a chain or if you're the only person interested in the property.
As a first time buyer, you're in a good position as you may potentially finish the sale quicker than others who are still waiting for their own house to be sold. You might also want to think about making a lower offer if there are repairs or improvements that need to be carried out on the property. Getting quotes or estimates to see how much these things will cost will help you come to a figure.
If your offer is accepted, although you're not legally bound to buy the property (except if buying in Scotland), you'll soon be ready to instruct a conveyancer and apply for a mortgage, which means you'll start incurring costs.
Finding a mortgage
Next: Read our guide on Finding a mortgage.