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10 Things I Wish I Knew When Buying My First Home

  1. 10 August 2017
  2. By Andi Michael

Here at reallymoving, we know the process of buying a home can be a stressful one, so we asked five recent first time buyers what they wished they knew when they started the process.


It’s meant to be a milestone, and for today’s young first time buyers, a massive achievement. You saved up for a deposit, and you’re ready to make the move from renting to owning, but really, that’s just the beginning.

On mortgage advisors

‘I would say getting a mortgage advisor is worth the money.’ 

‘Use a mortgage advisor, especially if your circumstances are in any way ‘unusual’, plus they explain the whole process to you.’ 

‘Reputable mortgage brokers are worth the money, even if your situation is straightforward.’

What we say: Having someone to make sure the process is easily explained, and that you’re getting the right deal for you is important. If you’re picking a mortgage for the first time, it’s a big commitment, and there are so many different options. You want to make sure someone has your best interests in mind.

On ensuring the quality of the property

‘Ask about the boiler/electrics/gas, and for verification, as these can impact on your offer if they’re not very good.’

‘Checking the gas, as I just moved in and my boiler is broken! Also remember that just because the boiler is serviced, doesn’t mean it meets new regulations. Moving in without hot water is not fun.’

‘Learn the signs of potential damp early on because they indicate what's going on beneath the surface in the nuts-and-bolts of a house.’

‘Get a survey. Even if it’s pretty new. Just do it. When everything comes together right at the end, you’ll start panicking about the little things, and having a survey will help.’

What we say: Ensuring you get a survey will give you all the information you need about your future property. Knowing whether the boiler, gas and electrics work, as well as being helpful for when you move in, can affect the offer you make on the property. If things aren’t up to scratch, you can legitimately lower your offer. But as this buyer has mentioned – just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s up to code or fits standard regulations. Things like damp or structural issues may affect whether you want to make an offer at all. Often ignoring these issues can mean significant time and money spent down the line.

 A qualified surveyor will be able to check this for you, along with possible building issues that could make a difference to your new home.

On knowing the area and building

‘We hung outside the building one morning, talking to neighbours, asking if the management company for the building took care of things.’

‘We knew people in the area, and visited regularly.’

What we say: Deciding to move to a new area can be difficult – make sure you visit it at different times of day. That idyllic, peaceful town you visited in the day might have a rowdy pub or an active nightlife. Getting a sense of who is in the area, what the traffic is like at different times, and being able to imagine yourself living there is important. Consider what is important to you, and walk around to find those amenities. 

Talking to neighbours is a good idea, if people are willing to talk to you. If you are moving into a flat, getting a sense of whether the communal areas are cleaned and well kept, and who else is living in the building is always a good thing. If the neighbours say the management company don’t keep up their end of the bargain, that may make a difference to whether you want to invest.

On asking stupid questions

‘Expect the whole process to feel incomprehensible, and don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions, or push back if things aren’t being explained.’

‘Check figures and make sure you’re not being overcharged for things. We had mistaken invoices and fees, and having to go back and forth about these later was annoying.’

‘Shared ownership is confusing, so make sure you ask as many questions as possible.’

‘The number one most important thing – get a solicitor you trust. Have a long chat with them and ask any silly questions you need to. If they’re not happy to deal with those questions, they’re not the ones for you.’

What we say: Buying can be a difficult process, especially when you’ve never done it before. There are so many options, and this will likely be the biggest purchase you have ever made. Don’t worry about feeling inexperienced, and make sure you ask all the questions you need to feel in control. If areas are glossed over, make sure you find someone willing to explain them to you. Do your research, read articles from specialists, ask people who have been through it, and if something isn’t going the way you expect, check on it. Consider carefully when choosing solicitors, and make sure you feel comfortable.

Make sure you know how much you’re expecting to pay for different services, and that everything is in writing. Do not sign things without checking the small print, and always double check costings and bills. Additional costs can really add up, so make sure you’re not being charged more than you should be.

Shared ownership is all about percentages, payments and contracts – it can be an incredibly helpful way to get on the ladder without paying out a huge deposit, but you need to know what you’re expected to pay each month, and for how long, and if you have the option of buying up more of your percentage at any point.

On Money

‘However much money you think you’ll need, you’ll always end up needing more. Like a fifth of your deposit more. And that’s before you get to moving costs.’

‘Always have a back up plan and always be prepared to pull out. Remember that the £3k -£4k you might lose is nothing compared to being shackled to a bad property. It’ll hurt now, but you’ll be thankful later.

What we say: Buying a home is an expensive business, and there are likely to be hidden costs. Calculate as much as you can in advance, pricing up different services you might need, like surveys, solicitors and mortgage lenders. Consider how much stuff you have when moving, and how much that might cost. 

It might feel like once you have saved for your deposit, your work is done, but continue saving at the same rate whilst you are going through the buying process – the more you have saved, the easier it will be to give the go ahead for works to be done. Have a plan and a budget and always know where your money is going.

On Moving

‘Pick a day, be strict with yourself, and move on that day.  Start packing weeks in advance, and always overestimate the amount of packing you'll need to do.’

‘Pick your moving company carefully, so you’re not waiting around for hours, wondering if they will show up.’

What we say: At reallymoving, we don’t think moving has to be, or should be, stressful. The antidote to moving day stress is twofold – pick a reputable company with lots of great reviews, who you can trust to get the job done, and make sure you’re fully prepared in advance. As this first time buyer mentions, overestimating the amount of work to do is always a safer option, as some items that have been in your home for so long they almost become invisible. Breaking down furniture and packing up small items will always take longer than expected. Start ahead of schedule to limit the stress. Be sure to label your items and plan for moving day.

General tips

‘Get all the keys and make a spare set ASAP.’

‘If you get the option for a free mortgage broker, take it!’

‘The Royal Mail do a forwarding post scheme where you pay them £60 to have all your mail sent to your new house for 6 months, which can save a lot of trouble further down the line.’ 

‘Council tax is easy to switch in most cases, don't put off looking at it for a second, it's a real priority.’
‘Find out what schemes the government have in place to help you improve your house (like insulation, etc).’

‘As soon as you're in your new home, pick one room and make it as zen as possible as soon as possible. Everything will be chaos, and you'll want to have that one room where everything is in order so you can sit and relax in it quickly.’

‘Keep an encrypted USB stick with you at all times, with all the paperwork you need. You’ll suddenly get calls demanding copies of things, or things will have been forgotten or lost. This will let you be in control, and gives you a paper trail.’

What we say: There are some great tips here that you often only realise when you’re in the moment and thinking ‘If only I’d done this…’ From the first night in your new home, surrounded by boxes, to ensuring you get the best deals on bills and future improvements, there’s lots to consider.

Make sure to take advantage of these first time buyers’ experiences. 

If you have any tips for first time buyers, please add them below in the comments box.

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