Looking for your dream home can be intimidating. Some of us have a crystal clear vision of what our new mi-casa should look like. Others only have vague preferences…
Whichever category you belong in, having an organized approach to your search will help you tremendously. You can save time and money if you are smart about your browsing.
Check out our guide below. It has everything you need to know about your house search journey – from browsing the property pages to viewing houses.
The First Steps: Browsing The Property Pages
So you decided to step onto the property ladder… what now? You can randomly start browsing the property pages or you can do the house search the smart way.
If you choose the second option – which we suggest – you have some exciting planning ahead of you. Step one is to be clear about your loves and hates and thinking about your budget rationally.
Calculating Your Budget
We can’t talk about your house buying wish list without a reality check first. You need to have a rough idea of your potential budget.
Several factors will impact what you can afford when searching for a house. These include:
- Your monthly income – your monthly salary, any side job you might have, and income from your investments → Impacts the mortgage offer
- Cash you have on hand – your savings, investments you want to spend on your house, and gifts → Impacts the deposit you can foot, the mortgage offer, and how you cover additional expenses (e.g. legal fees, moving costs)
- Any outstanding debts you have – credit card debt, your student loan, car payments, etc. → Impacts your mortgage offer
- Your monthly expenses → Impact your mortgage offer
- Credit score – use one of the free online tools to check it → Impacts your mortgage offer
Based on these criteria, you can use one of the online tools to calculate your budget. Don’t forget about the additional costs of buying a house. Check our guide about these extra expenses.
What To Look For When Buying A House
After you are somewhat clear about what house you can afford, you need to start thinking about what you look for in a property. If your mind suddenly turned blank after reading this, don’t worry. We listed the most important criteria for you below.
The first thing you need to consider is your preferred location. And by that, we don’t just mean a specific county or town. You need to ask yourself what are the particular locations that are important to you.
Maybe you are tired of the hour-long commute to your work each day and want to move closer to your office. Maybe you don’t mind the long drive but want to be close to your parents.
You can also think in terms of your current life stage. If you are thinking about starting a family soon, the suburbs might be better. Others crave the vivid and lively vibes of a bigger city.
Once you go through the important location factors in your head, you can identify neighborhoods that could work for you.
Type Of House
Let’s start with the basics. Do you want a new build or a house that has already been lived in? Both have advantages and disadvantages. You just need to be clear about what works best for you.
We will say this: there is a lot more governmental help available for first-time buyers if you choose to look at newly built properties. Moreover, if you choose a non-new build, you do need to factor in potential repairs and maintenance costs into your budget.
Next, you need to consider the actual type of the house. From a flat through a detached house or a bungalow… the options are vast. You do need to be conscious of your budget though when going for a particular type.
Number Of Bedrooms & Bathrooms
The number of bedrooms and bathrooms are also going to be major factors for the price of the house. These depend mostly on the life stage you are in. If you are already thinking family, then you would want more bedrooms and possibly more than one bathroom.
We will say though, that it is perfectly fine to have a more short-term mindset. The home you are buying doesn’t necessarily have to be your forever home. You might want to first look at smaller properties and later upscale once you know better where you want to settle down.
Any Other Personal Preferences
The features above are going to give you a great start. You can begin to see the prices you can expect based on these criteria and evaluate what wiggle room you have with your budget.
There are loads more to consider though. The list of things you can look at when searching for a house is endless.
We did create a list for you that might help narrow down your search further:
- Kitchen – Style (e.g. American), size, condition of the appliances, etc.
- Living room – Size, location in the house, etc.
- Working area
- Storage areas – Wardrobe, attic, basement, etc.
- Outdoor area – Garden, patio, etc.
- Garage – Number of parking spaces, additional storage, maybe a gym? etc.
- Heating And Cooling Systems
- Price of the utilities
- Washer and dryer
- Smart home features
- Number of windows
Crafting Your Priority List
Once your budget and your preference list ready, you need to take a hard look at them. You might not be able to fit everything on your list into your budget. You need to compromise…
Print out your preference list and circle the ones that you simply just can’t live without. Those are your must-haves – the things that if a house doesn’t have, it would simply not qualify even for your maybe list.
Be strict though, you cannot just simply add everything to this list… Remember, the goal is to maximize your budget the smart way.
Automate Your Reminders
Great, now you have everything ready to start browsing. You want to do this the right way though. Buying a house can be quite competitive. We’re not saying you are basic but chances are, a lot of people will be looking for similar houses as you are.
You want to input your must-have list as search criteria onto several property pages and save these searches. This way you can get email alerts once a new property has been added that checks off your preferences.
Viewing Your Potential New Home
Viewing the house you have your eyes set on can be very fun. Walking through space, sometimes you can just picture your life there.
However, you can’t get sidetracked completely. There are some necessary actions you need to complete first. Enquiring about certain characteristics of the house for example can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Questions To Ask When Viewing A House
Most of the items on your preference list can be validated through the property listings. However, there are some other questions that you can only ask at the viewing. And these questions can be just as impactful on your purchase decision as meeting the criteria on your wishlist.
What questions do you need to ask to make a smart decision? We got the list for you.
Why Is The Owner Selling?
There are numerous reasons to sell a place. Sometimes life happens, other times there is a hidden reason behind selling the place – e.g. loud neighbors. Now the real estate agent might not know all the whys. However, if he does and the answer is shady, you will be able to tell from his response and body language.
Has The House Repeatedly Changed Hands?
Now you’d want to ask this question for the same reasons as the previous one. It tells a lot about the house if the owners keep changing. You should treat this as a red flag.
How Long Have The Owners Lived There?
As mentioned earlier, life does happen. Sometimes you need to move somewhere else quickly whether it be because of a new job or familial obligations. You do want to ask this question though. Pay attention again to how the estate agent delivers his answer.
How Long Has The Property Been On The Market?
This is useful information to have. It tells you how much wiggle room you have price-wise. If the property has been for sale for quite some time, you can drive a harder bargain and negotiate more.
How Many Offers Have They Had?
This question will also guide your negotiation tactic. It also influences the speed with which you need to make your decision. More offers, mean you need to act fast. Estate agents do know this, however, so pay attention. Judge whether their intentions are good and don’t get played.
What Is Included In The Sale Exactly?
Sometimes you can’t negotiate on price. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t sweeten the deal. The owners might throw in a couple of extra pieces of furniture or an appliance allowance. You just need to ask the right questions.
How Much Is The Council Tax? How Much Will Your Utility Bills Be?
Best to know your day-to-day expenses early on. Even if the property itself is cheap, life gets pretty expensive with high bills. You need to consider the living costs of the neighborhood and the house.
Has The Property Been Renovated?
For non-new builds, this is a must question. It will tell you how much work you will need to do shortly to keep the property in a good condition.
What Does The Estate Agent Know About The Neighbors?
Again, look for red flags. If the neighboring building is an Airbnb, you can expect louder neighbors. You can still choose to buy the house but having all the information at your disposal will help you make a smart decision.
What Is The Area Like?
Estate agents probably have more than one property they market in their area. That is why they can be a wealth of information when it comes to the location.
How Many Times Should You View The Property
We suggest viewing the property at least 3 times. Now, we know, circumstances are different for each purchase. Sometimes you just need to act fast because there are so many offers…
But you do need to make an informed decision about such a big purchase. Ideally, you’d start your investigation even before the viewing. Visit the neighborhood first to see what it is like. Can you picture yourself living there? If you have the address already, you should also take a first look at the outside of the house.
On the viewing itself, concentrate on your gut feeling while also remaining rational. Ask the questions we listed above and take pictures. If it is love at first sight, you might consider making an offer straight away. Though we do advise you to schedule a second viewing.
The next time you view the house, bring a family member or friend who has some experience and knowledge about buying a house. They will have a more objective perspective and can ask smarter questions you wouldn’t have thought of. A good idea would be to view the property on a different day (weekday or weekend) so that you get a sense of how the neighborhood is at different times.
The final viewing we such is only for non-new builds. We encourage you to hire a property surveyor to inspect the house.
Arranging A Property Survey For Snagging
Even if your mortgage provider conducts a survey, it is still a good idea to hire your surveyor. They can uncover potential problems that you might otherwise miss.
Even if there are no major red flags, they can highlight specific parts of the property that will need instant love from you after moving in. You can then add these repair costs to your budget and plan your expenses accordingly.
The cost of a surveyor is usually starting from £600 and can go up to £1,500+. It all depends on the type of property and the depth of the inspection you wish to get done.
You need to be smart about looking for your new home. It can be tempting to get sign up to all of the property pages straight away, but that will just lead to wasting your time. Take some days to reflect on what you are looking for in a house and calculate your approximate budget. Once you have these figured out, the browsing will be smooth sailing.
Also, make sure to max out your viewing. Ask clever questions like the ones we listed above. Sniff around in the neighborhood and ask people how they like living there. Afterward, try and schedule more than one viewing. Ideally, you’d want to see your potential new home in various days and periods.