10 common mistakes made by first time buyers

First-time buyers and serial house shoppers share their advice

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go askew, especially when they’re moving house. You’re juggling estate agents, removal companies, solicitors, not to mention packing up your own home and worldly goods, while leaving just enough stuff unpacked so you can function. You’re spinning a lot of plates, but if one drops your whole move could shatter.

Quidco Discover speaks to first-time buyers and serial house shoppers about how it can go wrong and how to put it right.

1. Buy a new build with a short lease

If a leasehold property has fewer than 80 years left on the lease, the price of extending it skyrockets because you also pay 50% of the ‘marriage value’ (the value a lease extension adds to your property) in addition to the lease price. Try out this lease extension calculator to experience the horrors of an extension at 79-years. For example, a £890,000 two-bed flat in Buckinghamshire with £250 annual ground rent, will cost a whopping £35,000 to add 90-years to the lease, plus legal fees, valuation fees and stamp duty. Yikes.

2. Muddle up the surveys

Your lender will commission a Lender’s Valuation to validate the price of the property and identify any significant issues diminishing its worth. It’s not as detailed as a HomeBuyer Report (and the lender is not obliged to share it with you), uncovering unwelcome problems such as damp, plus essential maintenance, a market valuation and rebuild cost. Always commission your own survey rather than relying on the Lender’s Valuation.

3. Ignore the HomeBuyers survey

“We didn’t get a HomeBuyer Report,” says first-time buyer, Daniel Kiely. “ I reasoned that if I have buildings insurance, what’s the point? If the walls fall down, there are so many disclaimers excusing the surveyor of any responsibility, I can’t sue anyone anyway.” For your own safety and peace of mind, a HomeBuyer Report will officially identify surface-level problems. Plus, it leaves you room to negotiate. Crumbling window frames? The seller might knock off a bit to balance the difference.

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4. Don’t bother with the full structural survey

If you’re buying a Victorian terrace with traditional flooring and high ceilings, the full structural survey gives you an in-depth analysis specifically designed to tackle properties that are more than 50-years old. It’s invasive, more so than the HomeBuyer Report, and flags up the problems under the floorboards, in the cellar and rotting away in the attic. Again, any problems found by the surveyor affords you the wiggle room to negotiate on price.

5. Never question the results of the survey

Always read the survey and question any strange findings, advises homeowner Christian Green. “We were one of the first families to buy a new build house on the grounds of an old hospital in 1999. We got the basic survey – a ‘condition report’ – that revealed the roof contained asbestos! White asbestos was officially banned in 1999, and the hospital was built in the 1850s when black and blue asbestos was still widely in use. Even with that in mind, we couldn’t believe that a new build would contain asbestos at all, so we paid for a structural survey and quizzed the developers. There was no asbestos. We made our surveys available to new buyers, and we’ve lived here for 16-years without issue.”

6. Make friends, and alienate people

You’re about to enter a whole new world of negotiations between estate agents, solicitors, buyers and sellers, above and below you in a chain. Take comments and the ‘blame game’ with a pinch of salt. Stay aloof, calm but firm and try to chase strategically.

7. Overlook the fine print

Who knows what benefits you could be missing! If your new home isn’t properly insulated, you could get £700 of free loft and cavity wall insulation from the government. But as well as the hidden perks, there could also be hidden charges, particularly when it comes to instructing a solicitor. Keep an eagle eye out for, stamp duty forms, land registration fees, money transfer fees, drainage and environmental searches, plus ID verifications.

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8. Forget buildings insurance

Get buildings insurance quotes before you exchange to assess if it’s affordable on top of your monthly mortgage repayments. If you live in a flood zone, for example, the insurance quote could be sky high or completely unattainable. Your survey will usually indicate if there is a flood risk, and if you investigate the local area and speak to the neighbours, you’ll quickly uncover the red flags that’ll push insurance costs up.

9. Shop without a budget

Go and see a mortgage adviser before arranging viewings. What you ‘ideally’ want from a home might be wildly out of budget and inconvenience estate agents you’ll rely on down the line. Don’t forget to take into consideration the additional fees, plus insurance on top of your approved in principal mortgage. Rightmove’s tool estimates stamp duty, legal fees and other fees.

10. Save for rent overlaps

“When we bought our first house I was four-weeks pregnant. When we finally moved, I was 37-weeks!” Gemma Hilton explains that life can get in the way of a house move, and deadlines are often fluid: “We’d also (grudgingly) moved in with my parents-in-law for two months. The tenancy on our rented accommodation came to an end and landlords wanted 6-months commitment, minimum!” Be aware that you might need to pay rent and a mortgage for a little while, if there’s an overlap.

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