How best to search for a home

Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Stipendium has compiled a guide on what to expect when it comes to finding the right property to buy, as well as running through some of the most common mistakes house hunters make when searching for their perfect home.

Initial preparation - finance first

Before doing anything, it’s vital to precisely calculate what budget you’re working with. This means figuring out how much you have for a deposit, how much you can borrow and how much you are going to be able to afford for the monthly repayments you’ll be required to make.

On top of this, it’s important to budget for other costs like house moving, conveyancing fees, stamp duty, and furniture for the new home.

Wants and needs

With your budget in place, it’s time to separate your wants from your needs. Start by making a list of everything you want in a new home - garden, garage, number of bedrooms, location, and so on. From this, extract the things you actually need. You might want a fourth room, but you only need three, for example.

Doing this will make it easier to identify potential properties and will also reduce the risk of you getting in over your head with a home that is out of your price range and unnecessary to your requirements. The help of an experienced estate agent can make this process much easier.

Get on the market

If you’re funding your purchase with the sale of an existing property, it’s definitely a good idea to get your house on the market as soon as you can, and well before you start searching for your own. This will help avoid delays later down the line.

Begin the search

There are a number of ways to search and it’s best to do all of them at once. Under your own steam, you can utilise all of the popular property portals while also speaking to estate agents in the area you are hoping to buy.

When speaking to them, be as specific as you can about your needs and wants, timeframe, and budget. It’s also important to consider the local neighbourhood, from the road itself to the surrounding area. Can you see yourself being happy living in this community?

Location, location and life stages

While your initial view of an area is the primary indicator of whether or not you’ll want to live there, it’s also vital to consider what may be important to you going forward.

For example, those with plans to start a family further down the line may not be considering school catchment areas when it comes to their current purchase, but this could be a vital factor in a year or two, so it’s well worth thinking about when looking to buy.

You may find a nice property to downsize to later in life, but if that town is earmarked for considerable regeneration, it may not provide the peace and quiet you value once this regeneration begins and more buyers are attracted to the area. Future regeneration may also be positive, allowing you to buy at a lower price point in an area that’s due to benefit, with the value of your property also likely to rise as the years go by.

Buying a property is often a long-term commitment and so it’s as important to think about where you will be in five years, as it is to think about where you currently are and what it is you value the most.

Viewings and follow-ups

Viewings are all about you. Not the agent. Not the seller. This is potentially your new home so you need to make sure you’re looking at it carefully and thoroughly. Take notes, including on how you feel, not just what you see. Always turn up on time, and be polite to the seller. If you end up in a competition with another buyer, it can often come down to which buyer the seller prefers.

Finally, always try to look around the property with a vision - what could you do with it? How will it look once your furniture is inside? Or if this wall was knocked down and that one painted in a brighter colour?

If you fall in love with a home on your first viewing, go back for a second time, preferably at a different time of day. Make this visit much more thorough - turn on the taps, check the oven works, flick on all the lights, and so on. If the seller is present during the viewing, DO NOT be tempted to make an offer on the spot.

8 common house hunting mistakes

1: Not taking time to honestly calculator the budget

2: Missing out on the vital step of getting a mortgage agreement in principle

3: Not shopping around and therefore missing potentially ideal homes

4: Lacking vision and thus allowing unimportant issues to disguise potential

5: Overlooking important flaws

6: Forgetting to consider the surrounding area

7: Either rushing an offer or dragging feet - both are equally bad

8: Getting desperate and making rash decisions

Christina Melling, CEO of Stipendium, commented: “For some people, the search for a new home is the most exciting part. All of that preparation, from budgeting to mortgage approvals, is finally paying off and now you actually get to explore real-world options. For others, this is when it all starts to feel very real and, therefore, overwhelming. This is a huge decision you’re making and not one that can be made lightly. But, if you’ve prepared well and you’ve budgeted accurately, by prioritising your needs and keeping fingers crossed for your wants, it can be a more relaxed experience.

"Remember, this is your search, nobody else’s. Use these simple steps as your guide and you won’t go far wrong in finding the right home for you. But this is just one step of the buying process, there’s plenty more to come before you can move in. That’s why our concise 12-step programme is such a valuable tool, turning something daunting into something very manageable.”

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