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Starting your property search: how to find your dream home

Here we give you our top tips on what to do, what not to do and how to keep your head when it comes to starting your property search.

Starting your property search: how to find your dream home

Want to find your dream home but not sure where to start?

Here we give you our top tips on what to do, what not to do and how to keep your head when it comes to starting your property search.

Where to look for properties on the market

There are lots of options when it comes to looking for the right property for you. You might want to start in the comfort of your own home. Try going online, looking up the websites of estate agents in your area, or accessing Rightmove or Zoopla which cover the whole of the market. Or if you’re not planning to move far, try a local newspaper.

You could even drive around the area you’re interested in, to spot for sale boards, show homes on development sites, or upcoming auctions that are advertised.

Before you start viewing properties

Many estate agents will ask that you have an Approval in Principle before they will allow you to arrange viewings. This is to save them wasted time and effort on buyers who are not yet in a position to buy. Contact us and we can help you to arrange your AIP.

Before you get out there and start to look at some potential places, it’s a good idea to write yourself a list. On it you should include all the ‘need to haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ that you want from your dream home. These might include an open-plan kitchen/diner, a downstairs toilet, off-road parking or a garden that’s not overlooked. 

Finding and viewing properties can quickly become overwhelming so having a list can not only help you weigh up a property on paper to decide whether you should book a viewing. It can also help when it comes to comparing and compromising between properties.

Once those viewings are booked and you’re ready to head off, make sure you take some paper along and your smartphone so you can make notes and take some pictures to help you remember. It might also be helpful to arrange for a friend or family member to come along. Sometimes an unbiased second opinion can count for a lot.

At the viewing: what should you look out for?

It can be easier said than done, particularly if you fall in love with a property at first sight. But try to approach your viewing methodically, this checklist will help you with what you should be looking out for or asking the estate agent about.

While many of these things may not be showstoppers it’s useful to know, as part of the decision-making process, whether it’s likely you’ll need to spend money to update or improve the property.

What’s the local area like?

  • As you arrive at the house you’re viewing, take a wander around and start to find out a bit about the area around the property. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How busy/noisy is it?
  • How long would it take you to commute to work and how much would it cost?
  • Where’s the nearest bus stop/station/airport? How long will it take to get to the places you often travel to?
  • Where are the nearest shops? Pub? Playground? Nursery? School? Think about the things that are, or may become, important to you.
  • How easy is it to park? Is this likely to change in the daytime/evening?
  • If you have the opportunity, consider coming back to see what the area is like at a different time of day. First thing in the morning perhaps, or during the evening.

Check out the outside of the property

  • What are your first impressions? Does the property have kerb appeal?
  • What is the parking situation? Would you struggle when guests came to visit?
  • If there is a garden or courtyard at the property, work out which way it is facing and when it would get the sun. Is it overlooked by other properties?
  • Look out for security features such as alarms, gates, floodlights, CCTV cameras, double glazing etc. This may seem like a positive, but if security seems excessive ask why.
  • Are there any obvious cracks in the walls or render?
  • Does the guttering look like it’s in good condition and well-maintained?

And finally take a wander around the inside

  • Does the interior give you the space you need? And is there enough storage?
  • Is there potential for remodelling/extension later? (It may be interesting to look at other, similar, houses in the street to see what they have done)
  • What heating system is in place? And how old is it?
  • Is there any mould or damp to be aware of?
  • What is the property’s energy rating? This can impact the cost of running as well as any wish you may have to potentially rent out the property in the future.
  • What council tax band is it in? How much will it cost?

At this stage, there is no real need to look for potential structural issues. These should be picked up in a survey later on.

What are the next steps?

Once you’ve compared all your options and found a house you’re excited about, you’re ready to make an offer.

For information on purchasing a property as a first-time buyer or securing the best deal for your first-time buyer mortgage, get in touch with our friendly team.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

By Michael Aldridge