As significant purchases go, it doesn’t get much bigger than buying a new home. Whether you’re a first time buyer, a family on the move, a downsizer, an upsizer, a seasoned regular or a once-in-a-lifetimer, the process is as exciting as it is daunting.
Whether you’re dreaming of a high-spec eco home full of the latest innovation, a period property full of character, or a renovation project full of potential, the buying process remains the same, and it pays to have a team of experts in your corner to guide you through it.
Continuing our series of features about how to sell, buy and rent a property, we’ve got all you need to know about buying a home from one of the best in the business. Lars Gooch is operations director at Keatons, the east London estate agent that’s been helping buyers and sellers find their next dream home for nearly 25 years. Lars has been in the property industry for over 25 years and has been pivotal in developing Keatons’ expertise and trustworthy reputation that means buyers and sellers keep coming back to them.
Here, he shares his insider advice on how to smoothly sail through the process of buying your next dream home.
The Insider: I want to buy a new home, where should I begin?
Lars Gooch: Decide on where you want to live then research that area. Things to consider are property types, prices, schools (if relevant), transport options and commute, and distance from family and friends. The ideal place to do this is on the best local estate agents websites and Rightmove. The best local agents will be those with a strong high street presence, have boards on properties throughout the area (walk/cycle the streets, it’s the best way to familiarise yourself with an area anyway), are active in the local community, are welcoming and friendly when you visit their office, and have lots of properties on the portals.
Then decide what type of property you ideally want to buy. What are your ‘must haves’, what are your ‘red lines’ in an ideal world, bearing in mind you may need to compromise on some of these down the line. Then check the agents’ websites and the portals to see what prices these types of properties are.
TI: I’ve found a few places I like the look of, what next?
LG: If the properties are in your estimated price range and look perfect from the images and videos (do watch the videos/walk-through tours to get a better feel of the space), then you need to check your affordability – how much can you borrow? Best advice is to speak to an independent mortgage adviser – you may have a word-of-mouth recommendation for a local one, or go to one of the well-respected larger broker firms. Alternatively, ask the local estate agent for recommendations.
Make sure the broker is indeed independent, so has full choice of market in terms of lenders, and determine if they charge a fee (some do, some don’t). It’s also worth speaking to your existing bank to see how they can help you, but they may not have the best market rates. We’ve got more info on the different types of mortgages here.
TI: What else do I need to consider when it comes to being able to afford a property?
LG: You’ll need to work out what deposit you can raise in time. For most first-time buyer (FTB) mortgages, lenders like to see a 5-10% deposit as security to be able to offer you the best mortgage interest rates.
Then also factor in the costs of buying a property – including the valuation/survey fees, legal fees, stamp duty (more details on that here, removal costs, any possible immediate home repairs and any new furnishings.
TI: How can I make sure I’m hearing about the best properties before anyone else?
LG: Register with all the best (most active agents) in the area, either in person at their office, or on the phone or digitally. Tell them your search criteria and how motivated you are to find somewhere, and if you’re already speaking to a mortgage broker and have a mortgage in principle (MIP). Build a friendly and proactive rapport with them – most agents are very friendly and professional and are looking to identify those buyers who are keen to move and have done their research. By engaging with them, you’ll become one of the buyers on their database that they call first when a new instruction comes on.
TI: I’ve found ‘the one’, but how do I know for sure?
LG: Many buyers say that they just knew instinctively – like falling in love – that the property was right for them having simply walked in the door. So when you find a property you like, ask the agent lots of questions: How many viewings has it had; how long has it been on the market (can verify this on the portals); how long is the lease (if relevant); are there any neighbour or local concerns to be aware of; why is the vendor selling; have they carried out any recent works, such as rewiring, and if so, is there any certification; what’s included in the sale; are there any parking restrictions to be aware of; and what is the property’s council tax band.
If you think you’ve found the one, it’s worth viewing the property two to three times and at different times of the day, and to check the area in the evening as well as the daytime. Here’s our checklist of ten things to look for when buying a home.
TI: I’m ready to commit to a property – what should I do?
LG: Make a commitment by submitting a formal offer and put it both verbally and in writing to the agent. Explain your reasons for wanting to buy this particular property, how you are going to finance the purchase, what your position is (first time buyer etc), ideally how quickly you would like the sale to complete by, and any other conditions you think are important.
If you really love the property and you think it’s going to be hard to find a similar one then you should consider offering the asking price, or at least close to it, to make sure you secure it before someone else does. If you think this type of property will come along again or you think the property needs work and, based on that, the asking price is a bit high, then make an offer (in writing) and see how the seller responds. An estate agent is legally obliged to submit all offers to a seller regardless of what they personally think of its chances being accepted.
For more details on the process of buying a home – known as conveyancing – read our guide here, and there’s more information on the independent advice website, Homeowners Alliance.
Link to other blogs in series:
#1 All you need to know about selling your home
#2 All you need to know about buying your next home
#3 Landlords – all you need to know about renting your property
#4 Renters – all you need to know about renting your home
#5 All you need to know about how to choose an estate agent