Disclosure: this post is in collaboration with Featherstone Leigh Battersea, a London based estate agents. All opinions and words are my own.
I’ve moved house four times now, hopefully this is our last move. I have a couple of friends who are moving at the moment and it’s prompted me to write a home buyer’s checklist. Buying is a whole different ball game to renting, and what you can afford to rent can be very different to what you can afford to buy. It can be so disheartening when you’re paying over the odds to rent somewhere, yet if you were to buy, you could be paying less in your monthly payments, but the house and location may not be what you’re used to. Even if you can afford to pay a higher monthly fee, you may not get the mortgage approved. There is talk that mortgages should be approved based on a certain number of years proven rent paid, but I think it’s a long way off.
What can you afford?
Firstly, work out what you can afford. You need to factor in not only the mortgage repayment, but any other financial commitments such as credit card and loan repayments, utilities, council tax (check the banding of your chosen property), and lifestyle costs like petrol, food, living costs. These are all things the mortgage companies look at when you submit your application. Once you have a mortgage agreed in principal, then it’s the fun part of looking at houses.
Shop around for a mortgage
There are so many providers now, and all promise different things. Are they charging a fee? Will this be payable upfront? What is the interest rate and will this change? It can seem like a foreign language at first, but choose a financial advisor who you trust, and is independent to the lenders, so they won’t be biased. Banks offer this service for free, so your own bank may be a good starting point. A lot of estate agents have their own in house mortgage advisers and will ask you to go through your finances with them if you want to put an offer in. Keep all your documents handy, along with ID, bank statements from the last 3 months and your monthly incomings and outgoings. You’ll need payslips or accounts from the last 6 months.
Looking at properties
Once you’ve got the go ahead, take a look at what you can get for your money. You may have to make some compromises with location, style and size of property and whether it needs any major work. There is very rarely a perfect property, unless you have a big budget! I would say never to compromise on location, as the good locations always hold or increase their value. If you’re buying a house in pristine condition and it looks the best on the street that might be good for now, but in future there isn’t much value you can add and it may even go down in price, leaving you in negative equity. If it’s a forever home, and you can’t see yourself moving for a number of years, that can be the exception. You never know what’s going to happen though. If the house needs a lot of work or renovation, factor this in to your affordability budget. We have a house that has a perfect style and location, but needs a lot of work and we don’t have the funds to do what we want, BUT we’re in it for the long term, so while the children are small it’s fine for us. There’s no hard and fast rules.
Try not to be led by your heart, which is so easy to say but not so easy to put into practice. Our homes are so personal to us and there are lots of factors that influence our decisions. Simple things can pull at our heart strings, and time pressures like relocating, a new job or the children starting school can have an affect. Here are some top tips when looking at a property:
- Visit the property more than once before going ahead with a purchase
- The school run, rush hour and the weather can all have an effect on the property
- Take a tape measure
- Take photographs (with permission), so that you can look again with a more rational head on
- Take a friend or relative that you trust on a viewing, so they can look with a critical eye. If you know a builder or surveyor, take them with you and ask questions
- Find out why the owners are moving, is it a specific issue?
- Look at flood pathways
- Were there any historical events like subsidence, coal mines?
- What are the nearest schools? Look at the OFSTED reports
- Ask to look behind furniture and inside lofts and cupboards
- Look out for freshly painted areas that could be hiding damp or mould
- Look at the roof, are the tiles in good condition?
- Check the drains and guttering
- Check the doors all sit well when closed
- Are any of the floors uneven
- Ask about appliances and what they are leaving in the property
- Ask about council tax banding
- Check the broadband and WIFI coverage
- Check the Energy Perfomance Certificate
- Ask how old the boiler is and check it’s working and where the thermostat is
- If they have double glazing, check if it’s still within guarentee and if they have it
- The same for any extensions or loft conversions, check they have the building regulations
- Check the transport links
- Is there parking restrictions?
- Is the road privately maintained
- Are there any access issues, e.g. shared access
Of course, when you walk into a property and it just isn’t right, you don’t need to go through all these questions, but when you’re getting excited and you get that feeling that this is the one, drag out the checklist and go through it.
Making an offer
Depending on where you are in the world, the offer process is different. In the UK we offer near the asking price or if we’re really keen, the asking price. You can offer whatever you like, but if it’s too low they won’t accept it. The estate agents will guide you, and whatever you offer, they’ll take it to the homeowner and get back to you.
If you’re buying a house, or considering it, I hope this helps – let me know how you get on!