Looking to buy property? Read this first

It is the most important investment you will ever make. Buying or selling a property will impact your lifestyle and your future financial health. It can easily be a process that buries you in paperwork and keeps you awake at night. But with support from a skilled and seasoned estate agent, it can also be one of the most thrilling experiences of your life. Here are the most important questions to ask when buying a home.

Am I a buyer?

row of houses with to let signs outside

Owning your own home is a dream shared by the overwhelming majority of UK citizens, but it isn’t necessarily the right choice for everyone. Yes, you will own an investment property that increases in value over time, and you won’t be lining a landlord’s pockets anymore, but unless you are absolutely certain that you can keep up the mortgage payments or cover the costs of repairs and maintenance, it may be better to stick to renting for now.

What kind of buyer am I?

Are you a first-time buyer, or a homeowner looking for a new home closer to work, in a more upmarket neighbourhood, or to make room for a growing family? Do you plan to live in your new property, or are you an aspiring landlord looking to capitalise on the thriving buy-to-let market? Once your estate agent understands what kind of buyer you are, they can help you find the property most suitable to your needs.

What is my budget?

Affordability is the most important factor to consider when buying a new home. How much can you realistically afford in mortgage payments every month? Do you have money set aside to cover expenses such conveyancing, surveys and stamp duty? What about the cost of ongoing maintenance? Be one hundred percent candid with your estate agent about what you can afford, so they can help you find the best value property in your price range.   

Do I have to have a deposit?

The answer to this question should almost always be a resounding yes. A sizeable deposit will help get you to the front of the buyers’ queue, make it easier to raise a mortgage, and reduce your monthly mortgage repayments. Plus you will have equity in your new home from the word go. Don’t have a deposit? Start saving now. If you are renting, renew your lease for another term, draw up a budget and stick to it.

Should I sell first?

If you are already a home owner and need the proceeds from your present home to purchase your next property, you have another tough decision to make. Selling before you buy means you can move quickly when you find the house of your dreams, but there’s the risk of losing out in a rising market. But buying and selling at the same time can have double the complexity and twice the amount of paperwork. This is where a competent estate agent and property management company will help you immensely in navigating these processes.

What is my house worth?

You don’t want to put off potential buyers, but you also don’t want to lose out on the value of the sale. A realistic property valuation of your property will help you set a reasonable asking price. Do your own research, then invite at least three estate agents to value your property. Ask to see a comparative analysis of homes in your area, and beware of estate agents who overvalue your property to secure your business.

Does my house appeal to buyers?

Time to spruce things up a little. Let your estate agent advise you on small changes that make a big difference. Skip renovating the kitchen from top to bottom, but do ensure that it is spotless and odour-free when viewers come through the door. Get rid of clutter, and freshen up the exterior to make a good first impression.

How do I get the best possible deal?

Get as many potential buyers viewing your house as possible. Estate agents with strong local knowledge and a good network of potential buyers are your best ally. Bear in mind that the best offer isn’t necessarily the highest one. The best buyers aren’t encumbered with having to sell elsewhere, and have ready access to finance.

Are my finances in order?

If you need a mortgage to finance your purchase, check that you meet the requirements to qualify for a loan. A deposit is helpful, but a clean credit record is essential. If you have recently defaulted on payments or if you have been living a little beyond your means, a mortgage provider will flag you as a high risk lender and is likely to reject your application. Give yourself time to clean up your act before entering the market.

Which property is the one for me?

Once you’ve settled on the size of the property you need and the most convenient or desirable location, there are more questions to answer: Do you want a house that is in turnkey condition, or a fixer-upper you can renovate to your taste? Do you prefer a new build, or the charm of a period home? If you’re buying with the intention of renting the property out, an estate agent can help you find an investment property with the highest possible yield.

What do I look out for during a viewing?

View in daylight, and view more than once. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed and don’t forget to check the exterior as well as the inside of the house. Keep an eye out for damp, take as many pictures as you like, and ask questions not only about the property, but also about things like crime in the area, traffic and neighbours.

Is the asking price fair?

A reliable, knowledgeable estate agent is your first port of call. Next, your mortgage provider can help you answer this question by conducting a basic property valuation based on size, location, age and condition. The additional cost of engaging an independent surveyor is well worth it as it will help uncover any major faults. If the value is judged to be lower than the asking price, and you’re still keen to buy, use it as leverage to negotiate a better deal.

Do I have to offer the asking price?

Frequently no. As a buyer you should consider the asking price as a guide, and take into account factors such as the length of time the property has been on the market, whether previous offers have been declined, and how motivated the seller is (have they bought elsewhere and are in a hurry to sell?). Your value as a buyer also counts. If you have a mortgage in place and no property to sell, your negotiation position is much stronger.

How do I get the best mortgage deal?

A property agent that provides an end-to-end service can support your mortgage application process by helping you access the most suitable mortgage providers and navigate the relative benefits of fixed versus variable rates. A clean credit record and proof that you can afford the repayments will help your application succeed, and a substantial deposit will put you in line for the most favourable rates.

Do I need a solicitor?

It’s a yes. Managing the legal process by yourself exposes you to considerable risk, so by all means engage a solicitor or conveyancer (they provide much the same service) to assist with legal requirements such as drawing up contracts, informing the land registry that they are in the process of transferring ownership, and transferring funds to relevant parties. Your estate agents will probably recommend a conveyancer, but do your own homework and request detailed quotes from at least three firms.

When can I move in?

Not so fast. By now your offer has been accepted, the seller has taken the property off the market, and you have your deposit and mortgage lined up. Next, the solicitors on both sides will ensure that money is transferred to the seller, and the deeds of the property to you.

Then it is finally time to settle up with the solicitor, pat yourself on the back for letting an outstanding team guide you through the process, collect the key and plan your housewarming party!

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve answered these questions you know a little more about your situation and have a better idea of how to manage the purchase of your new home. You also know that you aren’t doing it alone. Going through this process with an experienced and professional property management company like Strawberry Star Group can take a lot off your plate, and our end-to-end service means that we can take you through the entire process and help you every step of the way. Buying your new home may have seemed daunting before, but it has never been as easy as it is with us.