How to find the perfect home

Last updated: April 2024 | 3 min read

Locating and buying a dream home, that fits your requirements perfectly can be a challenge. Amidst the plethora of available homes and their characteristics, you might find yourself uncertain about what to prioritise. Discover practical tips on budgeting, location scouting, and navigating the housing market.

The home-buying process entails weighing factors such as price, fees, location, community ambiance, etc.

Some of the concerns at the top of your mind might be around the costs of buying a house, the role of a buying agent, and discerning how to decide where to live in the UK.

Important questions to ask yourself

While deciding what kind of a house will be your dream home, it's beneficial to distinguish between what you need and what you'd love to have. This distinction can make the buying process smoother when faced with decisions about trade-offs and budget constraints.

Consider these questions:

1. What is your vision for your dream home?

The first step in the home-buying journey is visualising what ideally you'd like. Make a list of must-haves to refine your search. What comes to your mind when you try to visualise your ideal home, both in terms of exterior features as well as interiors and other details? What are your thoughts about green spaces or storage spaces?

2. What size, style, and special features are you looking for?

Establishing exact details of what you desire, can ensure that your new home aligns with your needs, for example, preference for bay windows, air conditioning, or a garage.

3. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?

For families bedrooms top the priority list. If you're planning on expanding your family, it's worth considering additional rooms. Meanwhile, bathrooms can be a deciding factor for many buyers. For instance, homes with multiple bathrooms can reduce morning rush-hour conflicts.

4. Does a garden or home office make the list?

Our changing lifestyles, shaped by the current work-from-home wave, have placed emphasis on home offices. With many working remotely, a dedicated space to focus is an asset. For those of you who have kids wanting outdoor space, gardens become a focal point.

5. Do you have a financial plan in place?

Buyers often start their house-hunting journey without a clear idea of how much they can afford. You must set a realistic budget. Doing this at the outset can save you both time and disappointment. When determining this figure, take into account all the paperwork costs involved in the home-buying process.

Beyond the purchase price, consider things like stamp duty, survey costs, and conveyancing fees. This will give you a better picture of what you can realistically pay for a new home. It's always a good practice to set aside a contingency fund for unexpected expenses as well.

6. Do you fully understand taxes and home improvement costs?

Property taxes in the UK can vary based on your region and the valuation band of your chosen property. Check the local council's website for information on tax bands.

If your chosen property needs renovations, you'll want to get an estimate.

Energy-efficient appliances, for example, might be an initial cost, but they save money in the long run. So, if the house you're eyeing lacks these, factor in the cost to add them.

7. Do you have a mortgage pre-approval?

When you decide to buy a house, securing a mortgage pre-approval is beneficial. It informs sellers that you're a serious contender. Moreover, knowing your mortgage approval limit will steer your house hunting in the right direction.

Lenders consider various key factors, including your income, credit score, and current debts, before pre-approving a loan. Being prepared with this information expedites the process.

Location is more than just a postcode

Here are some tips on what you need to keep in mind and why:

1. How does the neighbourhood feel?

When you think about your perfect home, consider the surrounding area.

Spend time walking around prospective neighbourhoods. Observe the vibe during different times of the day. Check out local shops, parks, and public transport links.

Even if you've found a house that ticks all your boxes, a neighbourhood that doesn't align with your lifestyle might lead to regrets later.

It's worth noting that properties in popular neighbourhoods often come at a premium.

2. How do nearby schools rank?

For families or those planning to start one, the quality of nearby schools is a significant consideration.

The UK's school district rankings are accessible online and offer insights into academic performance and other amenities offered.

The presence of good schools can also positively impact the future resale value of your home.

3. What is the proximity to work, amenities, and family?

The daily commute can eat into your quality of life, so consider the distance between the new home and your workplace.

Evaluate how close you are to essential amenities like hospitals, grocery stores, leisure facilities, and other key features.

If staying near family is a priority, factor that in too.

These considerations can heavily influence your satisfaction with your chosen location and ensure that your new home truly feels perfect.

Online resources have revolutionised how we approach house hunting. Websites dedicated to property listings provide extensive information, photos, and virtual tours of available houses. Things to keep in mind are:

  • Favour platforms that offer detailed property descriptions, user reviews, and local area insights.

  • Keep an eye out for sites with dedicated sections for home buyers, as these often provide practical advice tailored to those in the buying process.

  • Check the recently sold properties to understand the local market. Recent sales can serve as a barometer for the local market's health. By reviewing recently sold properties, you gain insight into prevailing prices in your chosen area.

  • Observing how long houses stay on the market and the disparity between asking and selling prices can give you a competitive edge.

  • Filter your search according to your price range. Define your price range to eliminate houses beyond your budget.

  • The beauty of online searches lies in the granular filters available. Start with a broad scope and gradually hone in on specifics. Drill down to select desired features: for example, if a garden is non-negotiable or if you're adamant about a certain number of bedrooms. Remember, while it's tempting to focus solely on aesthetic elements, factors like energy efficiency or the age of a property's boiler might influence future costs.

This research can arm you with the information you need to make an informed offer when you find the perfect property.

A good real estate agent: your best ally

  • Professional expertise: estate agents bring more to the table than just property listings. Their expertise encompasses a deep understanding of the local market, negotiation skills, and an intricate knowledge of the buying process. A seasoned agent assists in streamlining your search, often introducing properties that perfectly match your criteria.

  • Finger on the market pulse: they understand market trends and property ladder nuances. Tapping into the wealth of knowledge that estate agents possess can be invaluable. They keep abreast of market trends.

  • Knowledge of best timings: From interpreting shifts in market dynamics to suggesting optimal times for making offers, their insights can prove indispensable.

  • Pocket listings: They often have exclusive access to properties before they hit the public listings, offering you a broader range of options. These off-market houses are also called pocket listings, which are not advertised publicly.

Remember, when engaging with both the house and the estate agent, transparency is key. Communicate your requirements, budget, and any deal-breakers. This ensures they can best support your journey in purchasing the ideal home.

Why home inspection is so important

Spotting flaws and future home improvement needs is a task for professionals. Engaging a professional ensures you're well informed about the house's state before finalising your home purchase.

A thorough home inspection identifies potential issues in a property.

Real estate transactions can benefit from a detailed look into a house's structural and functional aspects.

Not all defects are immediately visible. From faulty wiring lurking behind walls to a slowly leaking roof, these hidden problems might surprise new homeowners if not detected early.

How a home inspector can save you money in the long run

Engaging with a home inspector often leads to substantial savings for homebuyers. By detecting issues early, buyers gain an edge during negotiations.

Sellers might reduce the property's price or even fix the discovered flaws before the sale. Beyond negotiations, the early detection of potential problems means avoiding costly repairs down the line.

Imagine discovering a structural issue months after buying a home. The cost to rectify such problems can be steep. An initial inspection, though an added cost, often pays for itself by averting these financial pitfalls.

Stay adaptable: the art of trade-offs

Sometimes, achieving an ideal house in your preferred location, within your budget, feels like an uphill task. Here's where adaptability steps in. Start by listing your non-negotiables – these are aspects of a house you aren't willing to compromise on. This list might include the number of bedrooms, proximity to work, or other things tied closely to your lifestyle.

Then, recognise areas where flexibility is possible. Perhaps a house ticks all the right boxes but falls short on a garden.

In such instances, think about the bigger picture and decide if this is a trade-off you can live with.

Remember, every house will have its quirks, but understanding what you can and cannot compromise on makes the process of buying a home smoother. By prioritising what matters most, you can find a property that aligns with both your dreams and practicalities.

Seal the deal: steps in the home buying process

Sealing the deal in the buying process involves several steps:

  • Once you've identified the ideal property, propose a price considering your budget and the property's market value.

  • A pre-approved mortgage might give you a competitive edge.

  • Following an accepted offer, initiate the legal property transfer known as conveyancing, typically managed by solicitors.

  • After thorough checks, contracts are exchanged, solidifying both parties' commitment.

  • After this, you can deposit an upfront payment.

  • This is followed by completing all paperwork and payments, making the property officially yours.

For UK buyers, remember the added Stamp Duty Land Tax on properties above certain values and be cautious with leasehold properties where you might own the dwelling but not the land. Every step in this journey, brief as it may be, is pivotal to finding your home.

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