Our 10 top tips to buying a house


When you’re thinking of buying a property, it’s all about preparation. It is potentially the biggest financial commitment you will ever make, so taking the time to prep is a no-brainer.

We’ve made every effort to ensure this guide’s accuracy, yet it doesn’t constitute legal advice tailored to your circumstances. If you act on it, you do so at your own risk.


#1 House buying tip: Work out what you can borrow

Before you even start looking for your dream home, there are necessary things you need to do. Most importantly, you must calculate exactly how much you can borrow.

You want to get your mortgage ‘in principle’ so that you can start looking armed with a realistic budget.  You can check what mortgage you can get using this calculator by Money Saving Expert.

It’s worth checking if you’re eligible for a government scheme such as Help to Buy, a scheme that helps increase the choice of mortgages for people with 5% to put down. But remember, borrowers pay a premium at this level.

Also if you’re a first-time buyer aged 18 to 39, you could get up to £32,000 from the government by opening a Lifetime ISA, an option that launched in April 2017. You can read more here on theMoney Saving Expert website.


#2 House buying tip: Don’t forget to add up the fees

Did you know there can be up to 12 fees to include in your budget? Conveyancing fees, land registry fees, stamp duty, a mortgage fee, a homebuyer survey, valuation fees, removal costs, indemnity insurance…. The list goes on!

Check out this really helpful article from the Times Money Mentor to read more about the individual costs and what you can expect to pay.

Once armed with how much you can borrow and how much it’s actually going to cost to buy, you can start the house hunt!

#3 House buying tip: Build relationships with your local estate agents

Start with meeting your local agent in person: It’ll give you a chance to swap contact details and ask for their advice. (They usually like sharing what they know, and you should tap into this!) It also means you’ll have a specific point of contact whom you can call for regular updates.

Remember to get a mortgage in principle beforehand – this shows them that you’re serious.

#4 House buying tip: Get obsessed with Rightmove and Zoopla

You can get pretty far with a good search on Rightmove. The site works with more agents than any other property website, so it’s the best place to start.

Make sure you also use their instant alert for favourite searches. This means you’ll get notified when a new property that meets your criteria is listed, saving you valuable legwork.

Also, remember to tap into Zoopla and check their Sold House Prices section. It’s a great tool to learn how much properties on a particular street have sold for and to get a sense of what’s happening in an area.

#5 House buying tip: Do some serious walking

You’ll want to discover the areas you like – but do this whilst channelling a bit of pioneer spirit! It doesn’t have to be a picture-perfect postcard, and it’s also worth exploring places outside your geographic comfort zone. It’s likely that if you lead, others will follow.

At the same time, be thinking about what amenities the local area can provide. As Lorna Reed from the Bonnington Square estate agency explains, “You could find the perfect house, but if it’s far away from a pub, a shop, a high street or transport links then you could find yourself feeling isolated despite being really happy with the home.”

So be sure to check out where you can run to buy milk or grab a coffee. These relatively small things will make a huge difference.

(And get walking armed with an app! Rightmove offers a free iPhone or Android app that uses GPS to pinpoint homes for sale near your current location.)


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Once you’ve got a sense of the area you love, it’s time to get strategic!

#6 House buying tip: Be super chatty

Talking to people in the neighbourhood is a great way to understand the area and learn what’s what. Spring is a great time, as people tend to be out in their gardens so it’s a lot easier to strike up a conversation.


#7 House buying tip: Become a serious researcher

When you’ve zoned in on an area you like, you can start doing some in-depth desktop research. Check:

  • What’s being built in the area –  You can do this by visiting the planning section of your local authority’s website. You don’t want to buy a house because of a wonderful view of the river, only to later discover that a block of flats will be built right there!
  • Council tax band – You can check this by searching the property on the Government website tax band search.
  • Schools
  • Transport links
  • Flood risk. Flood risk has a significant impact on insurance premiums and a property’s value. Go to Gov.uk (England and Wales) or the Environment Protection Agency (Scotland) to request reports on whether and why an area is at risk.

#8 House buying tip: Channel your inner estate agent

Consider resale potential. The planning portal again is a great way to learn what’s possible in terms of extending the property. If other people have done a loft extension, then it’s likely possible for you too.

Remember, if you’re buying with a renovation in mind, get an architect to review the plan to make suggestions or to check what is possible with planning permission.

#9 House buying tip: Be your own ambassador

Leaflet an area that you like. You may just strike lucky and end up privately buying the house you love!

#10 House buying tip: Don your detective hat

As Albert Hill from The Modern House explains, “Every building has a history of sorts, and it’s great to feel you’re part of a long line of exciting and interesting things to have happened in the space”.

Start by seeing if the property is listed by searching the list on the Historic England website. It’s nice to have a listed building, but remember that renovations will be more restrictive and more costly.

Also check whether it’s in a conservation area. If it is, read up on the history of the neighbourhood by going to your local authority website.

Again it’s worth bearing in mind that conservation areas can have restrictions, such as what windows you can use.

Phew! It sounds like a lot, right? But when all is said and done, your hard work is going to pay off. And remember, it’s always worth listening to your gut.

PS. If you would like an independent review of a property you are thinking of buying or want to check the design potential, our HOME consultations offer tailored advice for your project ideas, budgets and in planning the best next steps!

We have created a FREE Renovation Budget Guide that unpacks all the figures of a project – from building costs and professional fees to those extra expenses that no-one tells you about. This will put your construction budget in the context of the whole project’s costs and make sure you’re considering all those added extras from the outset.

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