Top tips for buying a new home

Moving house is one of the most stressful things we’ll do in our lives. It can be a long journey from finding the home of your dreams to moving day. Our top house-buying tips should help make the process a little easier.

Make a Wishlist

Have a list of fundamental needs to stick to. It’s easy to be seduced by one feature of a house and momentarily forgetting the reason you’re moving in the first place.

Understand the costs involved

Be sure to take account of the following:

  • Solicitors’ fees
  • Stamp Duty on properties over £125,000 (more about this later)
  • Mortgage arrangement fees or financial advisor fees
  • Removal fees
  • Surveys
  • Land search fees
  • Fixture and furniture costs if you’re a first-time buyer.

You can use a mortgage calculator to get an idea of your monthly repayments, but it’s always a good idea to speak to an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) or a mortgage advisor before you start house-hunting.

Knowing exactly what you can offer on a home could not only save disappointment later on in securing your mortgage, but will give you a good negotiation benchmark. Buying with a friend can be an option, but do your homework and swot up on your tenancy options.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has more information. Stamp Duty is a tax on the purchase price of the property. Use this calculator tool to find out how much you’ll need to pay. There may be exceptions for certain areas, and duty prices can change. You can find out more at

New vs old

That Georgian townhouse might offer more space and lovely features but may need significant work. Damp or electrical surveys are recommended on older properties. A new build home can offer you some great benefits:

A ten year NHBC warranty, energy efficiency and no onward chain. It’s often possible to get Help to Buy or New Buy funding on new homes (which allow you to buy with as little as 5% deposit), and negotiate on fixtures and fittings.

Read the small print

To be sure of what you’re buying, pay attention to the information provided by the vendor to your solicitor or conveyancer. A property information form will declare boundary lines, shared access arrangements and even any neighbourly disputes. The list of fixtures and fittings will tell you exactly what’s included with your purchase.

The Energy Performance Certificate will give you an idea of how costly the home could be to run, while Electrical safety certificates should also be provided.

Understand the legal side

Solicitors or conveyancers will instruct Land Registry Searches on your behalf, as well as drawing up contracts once they’re satisfied with all the required paperwork and checked search results. A survey is carried out to ensure the property is worth what you are paying for it, and is required by the mortgage lender before they’ll issue a mortgage offer. The lender will usually instruct a surveyor on your behalf.

Don’t break the chain

Depending on how many people are in the chain, the process to get to exchange of contracts can take several weeks, so be patient.

If you want to check on progress, call your solicitor as they will usually be better placed than the estate agent to answer your questions.

Be a savvy seller

If you also have a home to sell, this can hold up the chain. If you’ve had several viewings but no offers, don’t be afraid to ask your estate agent for honest feedback on why they feel it’s not selling.

If you think the agent has lost momentum, you’re perfectly at liberty to change agents or to go on the market with more than one agent.

When you’re viewing potential properties, ask these questions:

1. How long has the house been on the market?

If the house has been on the market for three months or more, then you need to find out why. Is there a problem with it that you haven’t discovered but has put off more savvy buyers? Tip: A property that has sat on the market for a while may also mean the owners are open to offers below the asking price.

2. How much interest has there been in the property?

How many people have viewed the house? Estate agents won’t tell you the actual amount of offers made but they will tell you how many viewings there have been. This will give you a good idea of how fast you need to move.

3. Why is the owner selling the property?

Is the property near to a noisy road? Are there problems with the neighbours? Ask how long the owner has lived there – as a quick move is another sure sign of issues. Tip: Sellers are legally obliged to divulge any disputes with neighbours.

4. What’s the area like?

A house can be renovated but it can’t be moved, so it’s important to do your research. If the schools are bad, the crime rate is high or you’re too far from public transport, then you might need to think again. When viewing the property, ask the seller about the area if they’re present. Tip: Many towns will have a Facebook page, so this is a good place to get a feel for what people are talking about.

5. Have there been any major renovations done or extensions built recently?

Ask to see planning permission for any recent upgrades. If proper permission wasn’t obtained for an extension, then you could have to tear it down.

6. How’s the water pressure?

It may seem trivial but imagine waking up on the first morning in your new home to discover that the shower is a trickle. Tip: Check the taps and shower yourself as you’re looking around.

7. Is the property leasehold or freehold?

If the property is leasehold, how long is left on the lease? A short lease reduces the value of a property so you’ll need to extend when you come to resell. Is it possible to buy the freehold or a share of the freehold? How much is the service charge? Are there any issues with the management company?

8. Which way does the property face?

If you have a garden or terrace, you’ll want to make sure it gets the sun. Also consider whether you like to wake up with the light streaming through the windows of your bedroom or you prefer sunny summer BBQs in the late afternoon.

9. When do the current owners need to move by?

When are the sellers planning to move? Being in a chain can create complications for buyers as any delays or complications for the sellers will have a knock-on effect for you. The ideal situation is that the property is chain-free but, if not, knowing the sellers are organised and keen to move quickly can bode well for a quick and uncomplicated sale.

10. Has the property been painted or redecorated recently?

A fresh coat of paint could mean the sellers are covering cracks or damp. Lift rugs to make sure they’re not hiding anything unsightly. Keep your nose trained for the musty smell of damp.

11. Are you ready to move?

The real key to a stress-free move is organisation. If you have the budget, some removal firms will pack and unpack for you, saving a lot of work. If you’re packing yourself, make checklists – and don’t wait until the moving date to discover you need to clear out the loft. Label boxes as you go for easy unpacking at the other end. Hoard newspapers and bubble wrap in advance for packing and collect boxes from the local supermarket.

On move day you’ll need to be out by lunchtime (usually completion takes place mid to late morning), so be organised, and don’t forget to take final readings on the gas and electricity meters before you go.

If you’re moving to a new house you’ll need to arrange for buildings insurance to be in place for the completion date.

If you want to know how this will affect your current MORE THAN home insurance. Get in touch with us and we can help answer any questions you may have.

Find out more tips in our top tips for moving house


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