Buying your first home is exciting. It’s a sign of independence and an important milestone in your journey into adulthood. There were 365,000 first-time buyers in the UK in 2018—making it an 11-year high.

At the same time, the process can feel daunting and overwhelming. After all, it’s a serious decision—you’re making the largest financial commitment of your life to date.

You probably have a bunch of questions. What should you look for in a property? What are the pitfalls? What questions should you ask? What professionals do you need to speak to?

To help you navigate the choppy waters of first-time home buying, here’s a quick guide about what you should look for and ask about when you go house hunting.


Properties are not cheap. According to Office of National Statistics, the average house price was £228,000 in June 2018.

To work out your price bracket, calculate the following:

  • Your monthly salary and outgoings (food, bills, going out).
  • Your deposit amount—you need at least 5% of the home’s value to secure a mortgage.
  • The length of your mortgage—the average is 25-years.
  • The interest rate—this will depend on the size of your deposit. The more you put down upfront, the better the interest rate you can get.

Arrange a meeting with a mortgage adviser and they’ll work out exactly how much you can borrow and what your repayments will look like.

Whatever your budget, it doesn’t mean you should ignore all properties that might fall slightly over or under this figure. Depending on how much competition there is for the property—prices can go up or down, quite significantly.

Choose a location

Before you decide where you want to live, there are a few factors to consider. Ask yourself what are your priorities? Would you prefer to live in a city centre apartment where you don’t have to commute to work? Or is space more important to you even if you then have a longer journey into the office? Or, if you have young children or you’re planning to start a family, you might be more interested in local schools rather than the nightlife.

Here a quick neighbourhood check-list:

  • Transport links
  • Local amenities
  • Parking options
  • Local restaurants/Nightlife
  • Nurseries & Schools
  • Check out the local ‘what’s on’ guides to find out what’s happening.
  • Join the local online neighbourhood forums to find out what residents are saying about the area.
  • Check out local police data about crime levels.
  • If you can, visit the area yourself and spend a day hanging out.

What to look for in a house?

Before you start house-hunting, decide what features you want in your new home. For example, a garden or a fireplace. Or maybe you want to flex you DIY skills and get a property that needs doing-up? It’s a good idea to agree beforehand what are your non-negotiables as this will help you focus your search.

Here’s a list of key things to find out about a prospective property.

  • The Floorplan—you can compare the size of the rooms and see the layout of the entire property. For instance, the house might be a great size, but the bathroom is located next to the kitchen, which might not suit you.
  • How old is the property? For instance, a Victorian property might look more attractive than a uniform new build, but it might be more susceptible to issues like damp or have poor insulation.
  • How old is the boiler? A new boiler can cost you at least a few thousand pounds to install. If it does need replacing, factor the cost into your offer.
  • Storage options—you think you’ve found the perfect home and you move in only to find there’s no space for your hoover or ironing board.
  • Energy efficiency rating – a poor energy rating means higher running costs and expensive bills.
  • Windows — are they double glazing? If not, be aware they’ll be less energy efficient, less secure and new windows cost lots of money.

Is it leasehold or freehold?

Most flats are leasehold, which means that the land they are built on belongs to someone else. So, when you buy a leasehold property you own it for only a fixed term (usually around 99-125 years) and you must pay ground rent to the owner of the land.

Now, the problem with leasehold properties is: first you need at least 50-years left on the lease to keep your mortgage lender happy and secondly properties with low leases are harder to sell.

In contrast, when you buy a freehold property you outright own both the property and the land it’s built on.

Need help selling?

If you’re already a homeowner but want to sell your property quickly but you’re worried about the length of the lease or the condition of your house, you can sell it to house buyers instead. Companies like House Buy Fast, offer a ‘we buy any house service,’ which manages the entire process on your behalf.