Read the papers these days and you may believe that getting on the property ladder is almost impossible. After all, the average house price is NOW close to the £200,000 mark and, apparently, saving up for a deposit is well beyond most people’s budgets. Our options are either to scrimp for years and deny ourselves the luxuries in life or to ask mum and dad to cash in their savings or even “downsize” themselves to raise capital which they can hand over.
And it’s true; if you’ve got your heart set on starting out in a comfortable and reasonably modern three-bedroom semi with a garage and garden in a nice part of town or in the suburbs, then you probably will need to have some serious finance behind you, even if the Government’s Help To Buy initiative remains available for another 12 months.
But, if you’re a regular reader of the property press or if you keep a weather eye on the relevant hashtags on social media, you may sometimes spot a comment or two about how talk of a “housing crisis” is overblown and, if you’re prepared to do the legwork and be flexible about location, then it is still possible to find a reasonable home for £100k or maybe even less.
Some will give a derisory snort and suggest that anything for that sort of money is likely to come with its own raft of problems. But even a glance at our own property list – or those of any other agent – will demonstrate that there really are some cheaper homes around which aren’t riddled with damp or slap bang in the middle of a sink estate.
So, if you are a first-time buyer, you’ve looked at Rightmove & Zoopla, and you’ve come up with a list of half a dozen homes for £80k or under – and they ARE out there – here’s a list of 10 things we recommend you do next:
1/ Don’t rush. One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is to lead you to believe you’re one of dozens of possible buyers and, if you don’t agree a deal quickly, you’re going to miss out. Far better to move on than find out later that your first house is actually a home from hell.
2/ Do the leg work / research: It may be the property you’re looking at is cheaper than the average but there may be a reason for that too. There are some nifty tools on the Rightmove website that will let you know how much other homes in the same area have sold for. If you’re not from the patch yourself, a quick Google search may tell you a thing or two. It might be a good idea to find the website of the local paper and search the online archives for stories about the area you’re thinking of living in. If nearby addresses keep cropping up on the court pages, well …
3/ Don’t be brow beaten: Don’t let anyone pressure you or persuade you to do something that doesn’t feel right. If gut feeling says it’s not a good deal, walk away. Simple.
4/ Shop around: Make a list of what you want from your first home and keep looking until you find something that measures up. It’s unlikely to be the first one you see. In fact, you’re probably going to have to do quite a few viewings. Too many compromises are likely to mean regrets later.
5/ Ask those “stupid” questions: If you come across something that seems a bit odd, ask why. Don’t feel embarrassed. After all, you could be about to make the biggest investment in your life and you don’t want any surprises.
6/ Don’t forget phone signal and internet speeds: Both are increasingly-important selling points but plenty of people forget to ask or simply believe what they’re told. Check coverage maps if you can or even make a few calls to the suppliers.
7/ Do your sums: We’ve said it in previous blogs but it’s really not wise to over-stretch your finances. If the mortgage deal you’re considering is only just affordable now, image what it would be like if an interest rate rise was to push it up another £100 a month. Better to allow some leeway than to start out on a knife-edge.
8/ Smell the coffee: Does the house you’re looking at smell of freshly-baked bread or fresh-ground coffee? It’s a cliché these days but some vendors still believe it makes a difference. It’s not necessarily an indication of a duff property but at least you know the seller is prepared to try sensory smoke screens.
9/ Flooding: It may not have rained for weeks and there may not be a river or canal anywhere nearby but, often, the threat of flooding comes from faulty drains. Some are the responsibility of the council, some the local water company and some will fall to the owner of the property. Again, a check on the local paper’s archives may tell you what you need to know about the area…
10/ Enjoy the experience: If you get it right, then you might not be doing this again for some time so try to find time to enjoy buying your first home. It’s important not to get swept away and to keep a practical head on your shoulders but’s it still an exciting time so savour it if you can.