Top Tips For Buying a New Home

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 20th November 2023

Buying a home is a huge moment in your life, especially if you’re buying your first home. It’s likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make.

top-tips-for-buying-a-new-home

Throughout the journey, you’ll adopt the roles of negotiator, financial planner, detective and many more. Sometimes it can seem like the list of things you need to do is endless and there’s no end in sight.

But, armed with our expert top tips you’ll be confident that you have done everything in your power to get the sale over the line, which in turn will minimise your stress and allow you to focus on the fun parts!

This guide includes everything we wish we’d known when we bought our first house, including:

  • Working out your costs like a financial planner

  • Securing an agreement in principle to show you’re a serious buyer

  • How to get an expert conveyancer

  • Being responsive throughout the process

  • Managing your expectations when things aren’t happening

Know your budget 

Having a budget and sticking to it is a crucial part of buying a home. Using a mortgage deposit calculator will enable you to work out how much you can afford to put down as an initial payment. A small increase in deposit can make a big difference to your costs after you move in.

You will usually borrow a multiple of your total house income. 

Example:

If your household income is £50,000 and your planned deposit is 20% you will be able to borrow between £125,000 - £175,000 according to Money Saving Expert’s mortgage calculator

This would mean a monthly payment over £830 over a 25 year mortgage.

A word of warning - this is just an example. The amount you will be able to borrow will vary from lender to lender, so shop around. The amount you can borrow will also depend heavily on your credit limit. 

Remember, if you’re self-employed, it’s much trickier to secure a mortgage. But, there are specialist lenders who cater to the self-employed and freelancers.

Work out the costs 

There is more to buying a house than deposit costs. You’ll have many other costs to cover, some of which can spiral, so you’ll need to have a safety net.

Other costs to consider include:

  • Stamp duty 

  • Surveys – conveyancing costs

  • Removals 

  • Estate agent fees

  • Energy performance certificate

First time buyers will often need to buy furniture and fixtures and fittings depending on what they already have in their rented home and what can be agreed with the sellers.

Get an agreement in principle

An agreement in principle (AIP) is when a bank indicates that they’d be willing to lend you the money for a mortgage. Certain criteria must be fulfilled for an AIP to be converted into a mortgage offer.

The lender will go through your application details, check your credit history and assess your affordability – whether you’ll be able to afford the month-to-month mortgage costs.

Securing an AIP before putting in an offer can prove useful. It will give you the best indication of what you can afford to borrow. This is important as it can guide your house hunt and ensure you stay grounded. 

For sellers it’s a good step too. AIP shows sellers that you’re a serious buyer and that you can afford to buy their property; this demonstrates that you’re less likely to pull out of a deal and any offer you put in will be considered a genuine attempt to buy the property.

Find an expert conveyancer 

Only use a professional conveyancing solicitor. They will be experts in the legal technicalities of buying a home and will manage the complex paperwork for you. Conveyancing solicitors come into the equation after you have made an offer and it’s been accepted.

A conveyancing solicitor will ask the necessary questions needed when buying a home - this is called property enquiries. These questions will delve into whether the seller has the legal right to sell the home; what planning permissions are possible; water; drainage; environmental searches; and much more.

Scope out the local area

By researching the local property market, you can see how much similar houses in the area have sold for.

This will give you an idea of how much to offer. Of course, an average area price or the price that another similar property went for won’t give you a perfect match for how much you should offer for the property you’re considering, however it will give you a price bracket from which you can base your offer.

Start by searching for similar houses in the area on property portals such as Zoopla or Rightmove. A valuation from a local estate agent will also give you an idea on how much to offer as they will let you know what they believe the house is worth in the current housing market.

A survey can help detect issues with the house, whether structural or cosmetic. These will obviously cost money to repair, so factor these costs into the amount you’re comfortable offering.

Another way of getting to know the local area is visiting it. If you make a day out of any viewings, you’ll understand if the area suits your needs.

Do your research too: look into planning permissions for things like new facilities, services and shops that are being planned for the area. This can help you decide between competing areas and make a not so attractive area that much more appealing. This could save you money over going for the house in the more traditionally popular area.

Make your interest known

Sellers don’t want to deal with people that might waste their time. It is important to position yourself as a serious buyer.

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Mention your AIP - If you have an AIP, make sure to mention this. The seller will then know you can afford the house and that you should have no issues securing a mortgage.

  • Ask the seller to take the property off the market – they may not agree to, but if they agree to deal with you individually, you’ll have a better chance of securing the property and avoid another buyer swooping in.

  • Form a relationship with the sellers – get to know the buyers to the extent they are comfortable with. This way you can get information about other potential buyers, learn more about the local area and impress on them how much you love their property. Let them know you would take care of the property, and show them how much you would love to call their house home.

Be responsive 

As much as you don’t want to lose sleep over buying a home, you will be at an advantage if you are responsive. Make yourself available by phone and email, by regularly checking the preferred contact forms of the other parties you will ensure you’re ready to respond to questions, provide documents and act before other potential buyers.

If you’ve put an offer in, stay by your phone or computer. Don’t go off the beaten track where you might not get the reception you need. This could mean that another buyer may pip you to the post and get the house if it is popular!

If you’ve had an offer accepted, talk to your solicitor so you can understand every small detail of the contract before signing it. This could save you a headache, time and money.

Get your A team lined up

No, we’re not talking about cigar-toting, gold chain-wearing crime fighters, we’re talking the legends that are the property professionals. With the support of property professionals, you’ll have the expert assistance and guidance you need to reach that magic moment of crossing the threshold of your new home.

Who should be on your A Team?

  • Solicitors

  • Surveyors 

  • Estate agents

  • Moving companies

Research these experts online. Read reviews from other homebuyers and ask for quotes. It’s important to shop around and get the best support and deal for your money.

Manage your expectations 

You will have high expectations of course, you’re dreaming of moving into a new home! But, keep your feet on the ground and don’t get ahead of yourself. Know that things can go wrong, and try not to get your hopes too high, however difficult that sounds.

On the flip side, you should expect the best from the support you have enlisted. If your solicitor is not living up to your expectations, feel free to contact another person at their firm. It’s worth escalating matters if your solicitor is not performing. 

Also, don’t be scared to chase your solicitor if they’re not getting back you. Yes, they might be busy, but you’re paying them a fee for their help and a good solicitor will be willing to help if you ask for it.

Do your due diligence

By taking the care to ‘read the small print’ you can discover any risks present in your house purchase.

Before making an offer:

  • Research the local housing market 

  • Assess price vs value

  • Confirm the property boundaries – and know which fence is yours

  • Make sure your survey doesn’t reveal any risks or extra costs

  • Check key services are connected (gas, electric, phones, internet) 

Get a free case assessment today with us

If you need any help with buying a house and the conveyancing process, get a free case assessment and no obligation quote today to see how we can help.

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