Finding Number 3

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

When you're a first time buyer, looking for a home can be terrifying. Where do you want to move to? Why stare an estate agent's window when everything is on Rightmove? How does house viewing work? It all looks a bit complicated when you're not used to it.

Location, location, it's all the location
We originally looked close to our families, in Hertfordshire and south Essex, where trains are frequent and the service semi-decent. Sadly both areas suffer from the South East Effect, house prices have shot up and are out of range of most people, including us!

So we had to go further down the train lines. I didn't want to live in an enormous town, so that ruled out Chelmsford, and although we looked around Witham I found I just didn't like it. Braintree was a good compromise, and we even viewed a house there, but the train station is only on a branch line, so in the end we reluctantly crossed it off the list. We loved Kelvedon and Feering, but houses were again out of our price range. But moving down the line brought us to Colchester, which was also too big for me, and from there we discovered Wivenhoe.

We also made a list of things we needed (train station, off street parking) and things we didn't (a big garden, more than three bedrooms) so we knew where we would both compromise. Lots of first time buyers are in their early thirties now, there's no point in buying a one bedroom flat if you're planning on starting a family in a year's time!

Once we knew what we wanted in a property and where we wanted to move to, we started the search seriously!

Rightmove, Zoopla or direct to agents?
The two main house buying search engines are Rightmove and Zoopla. Of the two I'd say Rightmove is more well known, there are certainly a lot more houses listed on it, but I found both of them quite easy to use, and I found Zoopla's "Advanced Search" tools to be better than Rightmove. The other bonus to Zoopla being a little less popular is that you have fewer estate agents stuffing search results with inappropriate properties, such as putting a terraced house as "semi detached", which happens on Rightmove and drives me up the wall!

If you sign up for both sites then you can set up email alerts for specific areas. When a property comes up in your preferred area, with specific cost settings, you'll get an email straight to your inbox. This means you don't have to load the website up every evening to see if anything new has cropped up. The price settings are really good as you then don't get spammed with properties that are well out of your price range. Just a few clicks and it's ready to go!

Although a lot of listings tend to go online quiet quickly, it's worth signing up for estate agents too, both the larger chains and the small independents. We mainly just wanted to get ourselves known as looking for a property, so we weren't automatically dismissed as timewasters should we phoned for a viewing. We also at one point got a phone call from one of the larger agencies inviting us to view a house that wasn't on Rightmove yet. This was probably an attempt to get us in to a bidding war, they had multiple appointments throughout the day, but it didn't really matter as after viewing we turned it down. But it does show that not every property makes it online, so signing up to a few agencies can help.

In the end we bought a property that we found through Rightmove, without ever meeting the agents!

We had to book viewings at weekends as neither of us wanted to use up annual leave for property
Hopefully your vendors will cut the grass before
your viewing!
viewing. We went to a few open days, quite a few of which were for properties that were empty. Open days are meant to get many people through the door was possible, and hopefully engineer interest from multiple parties. We placed an offer on one house after an open day, the asking price was £220k and we offered £200k, but we were quickly outbid and were informed that our maximum of £205k wouldn't be enough either, so we dropped it.

Due to the types of property we were looking at (in need of a bit of work) we found that we rarely met the owners, and were dealt with purely by estate agents. But if you're a first time buyer looking for a flat, buying off someone who used to be a first timer, then meeting the vendor is more likely. You may even prefer it, you can ask extra questions that the agent wouldn't be able to answer, such as whether they get along with the neighbours.

Whether you're being shown around by the agent or the owner, the first viewing is always a bit odd. You're stepping in to someone's home, trying to picture it with your choice of furniture, and mentally judging their wallpaper-carpet combo. So if you like a place and you're thinking of putting in an offer, ask for a second viewing! A second look, perhaps at a slightly different time of day (is the road outside quieter in the mornings than the afternoon?) or with different weather (does it look just as nice when it's pouring with rain?) can seal the deal in your head. I went for a second viewing with my Mum and Jon's parents, taking along other people can help you spot problems you hadn't noticed!

We found most agents were able to accommodate weekend viewings, and again the only one that was a problem was the one we ended up buying! Ask if you take a few shots as you around, to help refresh your memory later. After the viewing go for a drive around, see what shops are near, and get a feel for the local area. Although the agent may chase you for feedback within a few hours, you may find you prefer to sleep on it before making an offer.

After 6 months of searching we were sick of house hunting and ready to give up. I hope your search goes quicker!

No comments:

Post a Comment