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Great 'What I wish I’d known before I bought my first home' Hunt



  • hoothoot
    hoothoot Posts: 64 Forumite
    Just wanted to add, really do TEST EVERYTHING! check taps turn off properly, check the cupboard next to the sink isn't damp (and that the sink isn't leaky!), ask the vendor to turn the heating on, check the radiators for leaky rust bits, check the front door hasn't any signs of trying to be broken into etc... x
    *paid off 19.3% of debt, as of 8/3/2010*
  • 1. Do not buy a bigger house in a poor area. I did and regret it now.
    2. Don't be frightened to knock on your perspective neighbours doors to get a measure of them. I didn't and now I live with dodgy neighbours with people coming and going at all hours and listening to their ferrel kids through the paper thin walls and I am stuck in a house I hate till I can save a decent deposit to take me to a desert island (or something detached!!)
    3. Don't rely on your survey to tell you everything, it could tell me some houses in my road were council, but mentioned nothing about my ferrel neighbours being council.
    4. Don't rely on estimates for bills. When I started looking and had a financial advisor crunch the outgoings each month, she lied!
    5. Try and buy the best entertainment system you can to allevite above problems :-)
  • If you are buying a leasehold flat, make sure you check the length of the lease before you put your offer in, as it needs to be beyond your lifetime (my solicitor suggested 70+ years is best). If the flat is on a short lease (less than 50 years) you may find you have problems.

    5 years ago I started to look for my first flat. The first flat I put an offer on and started to go through the buying process with, my solicitor found out only had a lease of 49 years on it. 'Not a problem' said my solicitor, 'I'll just ring the management company get them to extend the lease, itmight cost around £200'. When she rang them, they were really shady and the upshot was they would charge £15k to increase the lease!!! After a bit of internet investigating, I found there was little I could do to argue this, as the law around this seems very very complicated (or it did at the time). By this stage I had spent £1k on surveys etc. I was reluctant to pull out but as the solictor warned, there could have been a chance that I would have been left with a falt I could'nt sell as no one would have been able to get a mortgage. Neither I nor my friends or family knew any of this when I started looking.
    So if you are looking to buy a leasehold flat, be warned - check the lease before you have any surveys or part with any money
  • gorky5
    gorky5 Posts: 7 Forumite
    edited 27 January 2010 at 5:54PM
    Don't necessarily go with a mortgage that a broker recommends. I contacted a very high-profile brokerage firm and they came back with a hopelessly poor product (though one which doubtlessly carried a high commission for the broker). In the end I found the best deal via the FSA website, which impartially lists products available for your area. YMMV.

    I'd reiterate the point that you should absolutely go and see the property at different times of day, and even (if possible) in different seasons. We bought our first place next to a house with two feral kids. In winter, when we viewed and moved in, the kids weren't around, but by the summer they were running riot with their vile friends. Drug dealers were hanging around within months and the kids' heroin-addicted mother came out of prison (though it's unlikely we could have found out about that). Luckily we managed to sell to an equally naïve first-time buyer - but don't be naïve yourself.

    The 'location location location' cliche is absolutely true. Go for a long walk around the area, particularly if you have a dog - you'll end up traipsing the streets plenty anyway. People from the town/city should be able to tell you about the reputation of an area, but don't believe it when people say somewhere is 'up and coming' - that's an optimistic way to say it's a dive. Go to the pub. Check out the parks.

    How good are you at DIY? No, really, how good? Because if you don't like getting your hands dirty you'll need to budget for when things inevitably break. Unexpected expenses are tough, but they have a knack of arriving when you least want them. Fine if your friends/relatives work in the right trades, but otherwise it's a question of paying or rolling up your sleeves. And I'm terrible at even wiring a plug.

    Don't buy too much furniture unless you're certain you'll exchange contracts. If the sale falls through you may end up with a sofa and nowhere to put it. Alternatively, if your budget is tight use Freecycle to furnish your first place. If you buy a load of cheapish stuff you'll probably want to replace it before long, so why spend too much? Get a decent sofa, bed, table and chairs without paying for them, and once you've got a good idea of how you want to decorate etc you can replace them one by one with stuff that fits well.

    For buying and moving in you'll need more money than you expect. This goes for selling your first house, as I recently did, unless you have plenty of equity built up. It's a very expensive process with all the fees involved, and even with the best planning you may overlook something.

    Don't trust an estate agent any more than you would trust a used car salesman. They're on commission, and the only thing they want is to shift stock from their books and pocket the cash. Many of them don't know anything about the property or the area, so it's best to be as skeptical as possible. That said, you can normally get the measure of which ones are genuinely knowledgeable and helpful and which ones are just giving you the spiel.
  • 1. Go to "propertysnake" website and see how long the house has been on the market. If it has been hanging about, there may well be an issue.
    2. Go to "nethouseprices" website and see what the house last sold for (and equivalent houses in the area). If you find discrepencies, try to establish why.
    3. Cars in the area, have a look at the cars in the area, are they clean/new/maintained. Should give you an impression of the area.
    4. Walk to the local shops, are they the type of shops you would go into?
    5. Look in the loft, (I never did this) and regret not recognising the poor state of wood work in the house.
    6. If there is any work to be done in the house, invite a local builder (preferably one who is recommended) to view the property with you, they can often be useful in understanding costs and timescales.
    7. Understand that loads of upfront costs are ontop of a house price, these include solicitors, land registry, engrosment fee, tax, moving costs, white goods, furniture, insurance, mortgage payment. Possibly budget £5k for these bits (better to have more than less)
    8. If at all possible talk to neighors, mill arround if needed to engage in a chat. Your neighbors will be as interested in you as you will be in them. (Hopefully)
    9. Go to "upmystreet" website and see stats on the local area, crime figures, education, council tax.
    10. Stay over in a local B&B and get a real feel for the area.
  • Primrose
    Primrose Posts: 10,620 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary I've been Money Tipped!
    Open every window.
    Flush every toilet.
    Check that newly papered wall isn't covering a layer of green mould.
    Check how many, and the location of power points in each room.
    Don't rely on the mortgage building survey. Get your own.
    Check home to work commuting times during a rush hour. The journey could be twice as long as when you arrive on a Saturday for a viewing.
    Buy in the most desirable residential area you can afford. You'll probably suffer less anti-social behaviour.
    Never buy a house near a pub. Every week-end night you could be disturbed from noisy cars and banging doors from their car park.
    Don't buy too close to a school. Every morning & evening you'll be plagued with traffic dropping off kids, and parked cars from teachers & affluent kids who can't find car parking space on school premises.
    If you think you have a nice open space opposite, bear in mind that a property developer could build 20 houses or flats on it at any time. Nice open views are not necessarily permanent.
    Check any restrictive covernants - keeping poultry, no parking ofcaravans/business lorries on driveways , etc and how they are enforced.
  • MrGumby
    MrGumby Posts: 174 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    edited 27 January 2010 at 6:35PM
    Primrose wrote: »
    Don't rely on the mortgage building survey
    Please don't call it a survey. It isn't a survey! Half the problem is that people call it a survey and think they're getting something they're not. So let's stick to correct terminology and cut out the confusion.

    What you pay the mortgage company for is a valuation. The valuer might not even go in the house but simply drive by (if that) and compare with nearby houses whose values are known. All the mortgagor wants to do is make sure it will be able to sell and get its money back in the event of a repossession.

    You can opt to pay extra and get what is commonly called a Homebuyer's Report. I wouldn't bother. It will tell you little or nothing that you can't deduce for yourself by checking the house thoroughly as suggested by others here.

    A survey, or full structural survey, will be carried out by a surveyor who should have the skills to detect problems that lay people will miss. The surveyor will notice that things are out of square, that tree roots are growing into the drains, that roof timbers are rotten, that there are signs of subsidence, etc. The surveyor will have specialised instruments such as damp meters to help in the survey.

    It is generally well worth paying for a full structural survey, even on a brand new house, and there's a good chance of recovering the cost by getting the purchase price reduced to cover the cost of repairs.
  • be careful buying a house with anaglypta or woodchip wallpaper - it invariably means the walls underneath are in a right state, and when you pull off the wallpaper, half the plaster will come off too!!!!
  • I used to work in a conveyancing department and know the issue that people have with solicitors when it comes to purchasing a home. My one piece of advice is not to go with the cheapest. They do work in bulk and will be unlikely to give you a decent level of service or chase things for you. My advice would be to go with someone that comes recommended by family or friends.

    Secondly chase your solicitor. They often won't have picked up the file as often as you think. If you chase don't worry about bugging the solicitor. Trust me, we need to be bugged.

    Ask them whether they have done the searches and what the results are. A good solicitor should contact you when the searches are in to discuss the results, whether they be good or bad.

    Remember you are paying for their services and they are working for you. Don't worry about annoying them as most clients are fairly annoying!

    On a personal note, always check the heating and the shower and hot water. You want to make sure that the water pressure and temperature are decent.
  • ixwood
    ixwood Posts: 2,550 Forumite
    edited 27 January 2010 at 10:02PM
    Great thread.

    Here's mine:-

    Location, Location, Location. A rough house in a nice area is much more desirable than nice house in a rough area. It's all about potential. A lot of people aren't going to want to live in a rough area, no matter what the house is like. And of course, you probably don't want to live in a rough area either. You can't move the houses location, so buy somewhere you want to live.

    Avoid flats, sorry I mean luxury apartments. This is a personal opinion, and obviously easier said than done in the very expensive area, but I'd always go a house. There's a lot of very solid terraces out there that are infinitely more desirable than a flat. We learnt in the 60's that flats and sky living aren't in fact the answer to all our problems and the way forward, but really the slums of the future.

    Expect your circumstances to change. There's no point buying a flat if there's a chance you'll have kids or want to grow your own food in the near future.

    Always consider the total paid back, or the interest costs and not the monthly payment when calculating finances. This seems to catch a lot of people out.

    Never ever consider a mortgage over more than 25 years. People taking 35 year mortgages out for starter properties is just crazy. Aim for less if you can. The longer the period, the more interest you pay.

    Stay away from Shared Ownership and the many other similar schemes. The properties are invariable overpriced, hard to sell and mortgage and expensive to buy equity.

    Stay away from new builds. Modern light weight housing is normally pretty cramped, cheaply built and not made to last. It's all shine and no substance. The estimated life span of some modern places is only 75 years. If you do want a newish house, then always buy nearly new, or newish. Developers always add their markup, knowing their shiny looking houses, phoney deals, advertising, part ex deals and "lifestyled" show homes will make the sales for them.

    Never ever trust anyone. The estate agent isn't your friend offering you their best advice. They're salesmen. They want a cut of your money and that is their sole interest. Likewise, the mortgage broker. And the developer. And..

    Don't fall for the show house. It's usually built to a higher standard than the rest of the houses. And it'll be full of deliberately small and misleading furniture to make it seem un rabbit hutch like as possible. Take a tape measure, or try the bed out for size and watch the horror on their faces.
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