How To: Find A Home You'll Want to Buy

 Image from laurenconrad.com

Image from laurenconrad.com

At the time of writing, Lewis and I are still in the throes of househunting here in Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city with plenty of prospects – and the problem with that is that many people want to live here besides us. So househunting so far has been a bit of a battle, and despite my first thoughts, trickier than it was when we bought in London. But if you’re thinking about embarking on the road to mortgage mania, I’ve compiled a list of my top tips from everything we’ve learned from our two forays into flat-finding…

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

I can’t stress this part enough! Finding a home you want to buy and settle down in for a few years is no joke, and you have to be prepared – and in major cities like Edinburgh, London, Bristol etc., where the market is booming, you have to be prepared to be fast. So before you get overexcited and book in a dozen viewings, make sure you set aside some time to make some solid decisions.

Where do you want to live? What kind of flat (or house) do you want to live in? What are similar properties going for in the area? What amenities are nearby? What’s the council tax/crime rate/transport services like? These are all things that are important and need careful consideration, so take your time to find out the answers.

MAKE A LIST OF YOUR PRIORITIES

When you’re viewing houses, it can be far too easy to get swept up in somebody’s taste or furniture, and make an offer without seriously considering what you actually need from a place to live. So before you start booking viewings, make a list of your absolute priorities and things that you really need from your new home. This might be two bedrooms, central heating/double glazing, top floor, ground floor, the exact street or area you need to be on… whatever it is, it’s personal to you and your needs. I think it’s really important to establish what you need from a home and what is considered an essential, but at the same time…

BE PREPARED TO COMPROMISE

Unfortunately, it’s pretty rare that you’ll be able to purchase the flat of your dreams, decorated exactly to your tastes, with everything that you need, on the street you’ve always longed to live on. Compromise is an essential factor in flat-hunting sadly, and the sooner you get your head around what you’re willing to compromise on, the easier the process of finding your future home will be.

So for some, location is a non-negotiable, and they’d be willing to accept a property that needs more renovation to be able to live on the perfect street. For others, DIY is a no-go and they will sacrifice a better quality street to live in a flat that doesn’t need a jot of work doing to it.

For us, location is more important than the quality of the flat – we work at opposite ends of the city and need to be somewhere in the middle, that still allows an easy commute for the both of us. For our second property purchase, we’re happier to do more renovations than we were last time around, and if a flat needs a new kitchen or bathroom, we’re happy to do that if it means living in exactly the right spot.

Be warned though, if you’re buying in a popular location, you might well need to be prepared to compromise on more than one thing…

GET OUT AND SEE PROPERTIES

With so many online estate agents now, it’s so easy to house hunt from the comfort of your sofa – but that’s no comparison to actually getting out and viewing properties in the flesh. Estate agency photography is deceiving – rooms can be hugely stretched or made to look much smaller than they really are, and of course you can’t get a feel for the street or the general location when you’re just peering at pictures online.

Set aside time for properties that spark your interest – if you look at something and think it’s nice but aren’t sure, make a viewing. The only ones you shouldn’t bother with are ones that don’t meet your list, are in the wrong area or you just definitely don’t like, as they’ll be a waste of everyone’s time.

DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY WITH PINTEREST

Pinterest is the perfect tool for your planning your new home, gathering inspiration and finding the pieces that will pull everything together. But, repeat after me: Pinterest is for when you’ve found and secured your future home.

Spending all your spare time pinning will only lead to disappointment, as you’ll inevitably be viewing flats that are nothing like the spaces on your ‘Dream Home’ moodboards. There’s nothing quite like building up a flat in your head to be this wonderful space full of light, chic wall colours and stylish furniture – only to get there and realise it’ll need thousands spent on it before it looks anything like the one you’ve just saved to your moodboard.

Use it as inspiration, in a positive way – so if for example, you’ve been pinning Victorian flats with big windows, beautiful floorboards and ornate fireplaces, keep that image in your head when you’re viewing properties. Many will have the skeleton of the places you’ve been dreaming of, and if you can see what can be done with the rooms and the potential that they have, it might help you to decide if you want to make an offer on a place – if it can be renovated and made into the dream home you’ve been thinking of.

GET THE VIEWINGS RIGHT

Wherever you can, try to get viewings on your own, and if you can, try to get them with the homeowner. Group viewings are in place to spark competition and start a bidding war; just think about how competitive you’d be feeling if you saw another couple looking excited about the flat you’ve just fallen in love with.

Viewings with the homeowner are far more helpful in my experience, they know everything there is to know about the property and can give you real insight into what it would be like to live there. All too often, we’ve viewed properties with only the estate agents, who know nothing about the flat beyond the particulars and can’t give you any extra information.

Make sure you ask the right questions, whoever you’re viewing with – anything that’s stood out to you from the brochure, any questions about the area, the neighbours, even how much the council tax is. What I would say is to be careful to not appear too keen; if you seem madly overexcited then you’re risking the sellers playing games and denying your first offer to try and get more money. Sounds cynical, but in a lot of cases this is unfortunately common. So play it cool and get your poker face under control!

GET ORGANISED

As I’ve mentioned, once you have stepped through the threshold of somewhere you love, you’ll need to be prepared to move fast in order to secure it. So this means making (more) big decisions before you embark on your viewings – work out your deposit (which will usually need to be 10% of the purchase price), get to the bank, and find out how much you’ll need to borrow and how much they will loan you. Get a mortgage in principle agreed – go to a mortgage advisor if you need to, to get advice and help on the best lenders for your situation. Whatever you need to do, get it done, as the more prepared you are, the more attractive your offer will be to the sellers of your future home.

And finally…

TAKE LOSS ON THE CHIN

House hunting is hard. It’s all about making huge decisions in very quick time frames, and being totally certain based on comparatively little information. And sadly, particularly when you find something beautiful, or in a desirable location, other people might love it too – and sometimes, you might just lose out. It’s happened to us all, and it really is horrible; to fall in love with a place, to imagine yourself living there, and then have the rug pulled out from under your feet.

But it does happen, and the key is to not give up. Look at it like the dream home will be the one that you get the keys to – there may be losses and heartbreak on the way, but it will all be worth it on moving day when you’ve got the space to yourself and the keys in your hands. Keep looking, take loss on the chin and get back out there – we’re all in this one together…!