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Buying your first house

12th May 2022

By Ben Walker

What you should know before buying your first house

When looking to buy your first house, there are many different things worth considering. The first of these is whether buying is really the right move for you. In a lot of situations, it may be more sensible to rent until you have a clear idea of what you are looking for. But in this guide I will be showing the main advantages and disadvantages of buying a house, as well as what to look out for when looking around a house. It is always best to have advice from current homeowners, and in some cases a mortgage advisor can help you decide the best course of action. 

Advantages of buying a house

The first major advantage of buying a house is that, in the long run and provided you have a large deposit, it can be cheaper to buy than it is to rent. This is because mortgage repayments with a large deposit are generally cheaper than the rent you would pay for the same property. Additionally, when you pay your mortgage, you’re paying into a property you own, rather than paying for someone else’s mortgage.

As well as this, owning your own house provides a lot more stability compared to renting. If your landlord decided to sell the house, or increase the rent, this could result in you having to move, which is an expensive and time-consuming process.

When you buy a property, you can see it as a long term investment. As you start paying your mortgage, you own more of your property. This means that eventually, you could own the whole property mortgage free. This will give you security for the future, as you can either keep it and no longer make repayments, or you can borrow money against your property. However, if you borrow against your property, it is then at risk. Also, property prices could continue to rise, which means the house you bought 20 years ago could be worth double what you paid for it.

You are also able to set your own rules. With some rental properties, landlords have rules about what you can and can’t do. For example, in some rental properties, you aren’t allowed to have pets, or you cannot redecorate. When you own your own house the only rules that you have are your own.

Disadvantages of buying a house

The biggest problem with buying a house is the big up front cost. Gathering together a mortgage can be very difficult. This is made even worse by the fact that many people struggle to get approved for a mortgage if they can’t provide up to a 20% deposit. The bigger the deposit you can offer, the better your interest rates will be, and so the cheaper the process in the long run, but it’s not always possible. 

Additionally, if you have a change of circumstances, it isn’t easy to get out of or change your mortgage. This ends up with the mortgage being a substantial burden. So, if you are unable to pay your mortgage for some reason, you are at risk of losing your house. 

There are also extra costs associated with owning a house. These include, but aren’t limited to, insurance, maintenance, improvements, and all of the purchasing costs. The maintenance costs especially can be hard to predict. It could be as simple as a new coat of paint, or replacing the boiler which can cost a lot more.

What to check for before you buy a house

When you’re looking at a house you may buy, you might not know what to be looking for. Often, you would be able to see a virtual tour, either pre-recorded or live, but these don’t compare to seeing the property in real life. Below is a quick checklist to go through when you’re viewing a property.

Damp

Make sure you’re keeping your eye out for damp. The main signs of damp are a mouldy smell, watermarked ceilings or walls and flaky plaster. Sometimes it can be quite hard to spot, so get up close and personal. Make sure you check recently painted rooms more thoroughly, as this is a common tactic to hide damp.

The structure

Of course, you want to make sure that the building is structurally sound. When viewing the property, check for big cracks, but even hairline cracks could spell issues. Problem areas are places where extensions join the property, end-of-terrace walls or bay windows. These can start to lean away from the structure of the property which can be very expensive to fix. 

Storage space

This is often an undervalued asset. When you’re viewing a house, make sure you’re planning out where you’ll keep all of your items. For example, have somewhere to keep your vacuum, towels, spare linens, and any junk you may be bringing with you.

Which way is the house facing

This may sound pointless, but when buying in the UK a north facing house is going to struggle to get natural light through its front windows. South facing properties will have the sun on them most of the day. If you have space behind the property this is less important, but make sure you are happy with the positioning of the house.

Are the rooms actually big enough

There are a few tricks sellers may use to make the spaces seem bigger, so don’t be afraid to get a measuring tape out and check for yourself. You need to make sure you will have space for furniture and fittings you may want to bring. Also, make sure you will be able to actually get the furniture through the door!

What will be left by the seller

Sellers will often leave some furniture and fittings to make a property seem more attractive. You should check what will actually be left behind and what will be taken. If the seller is planning on removing the light fittings, that can make a lot more work for you somewhere down the line.

Check the external windows

External windows are a great way to check how well the property has been maintained. If you can push your finger into a rotten wood window frame, this could show the owner has taken less care, and they will need replacing. Also, make sure the double glazing is up to scratch. If there is condensation in the double glazing, this means they are faulty. It can be expensive to install new windows. New windows are normally installed by approved inspectors, so should have some certification with guarantees.

How old is the roof

Newer roofs have a life expectancy of 15-20 years, so make sure you won’t need to replace it any time soon. Replacing roofs is expensive. If there is a flat roof on the property, check what material was used to seal it. Membranes are better than asphalt and gravel, so have a good look for cracks, or unsealed edges and seams. 

Check the power points

Make sure there are enough power points for your needs, and that they are in good condition. Bad wiring can be very dangerous, and rewiring can be expensive. As more people get more gadgets, having enough plugs is even more important. It’s also worth checking the condition of the fuse box.

Check the plumbing

You should check the water pressure by running the taps and shower. Also ask if the pipes are insulated and what with. If they’re insulated with lead, you will have to get them replaced. You should check the radiators too, as well as the boiler and hot water tank.

Soundproofing

You don’t want to be able to hear your neighbours or drivers going past all day, so make sure you check the sound levels in and around the property.

The attic

Attics are a very useful part of houses. If they’re big enough, they can be used as extra storage, or even converted into another room. So make sure there is relatively easy access to the attic, as well as decent insulation. The extra insulation can make the property much more comfortable in winter, as well as saving you money.

The local area

You should check how far all the local amenities are from you. This can include shops, public transport, pubs, bars or even takeaways. However, you may not want to be close to pubs that get especially rowdy, or noisy roads or train tracks. There is also a chance you could be close to the local dump, or a loud flight path. Also, being too close to the local school could make it impossible for you to get in and out of your property at school run times.

When you’re checking the property, you have to make sure it feels like a place you could make your own. If you aren’t sure, then it probably isn’t the place for you. Make sure you get advice from friends and family, and it may not be a bad idea to ask someone to check the property with you. They could help you see a different side of every property, for good or bad.


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