Buying your first home? Not sure where to start? Worried about saying or doing the wrong thing? Here’s our advice for first time buyers…

Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can refer to it throughout your buying process!

1. What can you afford? Don’t approach estate agents or private sellers unless you know the property is within your budget. You’re wasting their time, and your own. You will need to have a mortgage arranged in principle before you view any property. Some estate agents will not allow you to physically view any of their properties unless you can confirm you have a mortgage arranged and they can see you have the deposit monies available. Therefore, speak to a mortgage broker – preferably an Independent Financial Advisor who can shop around for you.

2. Set a budget that you’re comfortable with, and have a second, higher, budget that you might stretch to if need be to get that ‘house of your dreams’. Agents and sellers are not happy when you agree to buy a property from them only to have ‘buyer’s remorse’ a few days later and back out of the deal. Estate agents have been known to ‘red list’ buyers who do this!

3. Write out a ‘Shopping List’. What you want and what you need are often different. Identify what’s important to you for the next few years, and put these at the top of your ‘shopping list’. You may want 3 bedrooms but do you really only need 2? Of is that 3rd bedroom going to be essential for working from home post Covid-19? If so, put that at the top of your list. Many first-time buyers tell me they ‘want a garden’, but the reality is often that they don’t have time to look after anything larger than a yard area with a few pots! If that could be the case, don’t view 20 properties with decent sized gardens at the top of your budget only to revise your thinking later. Stick to what you need.

4. Location, location, location – the three most important words in the property industry. You can do all sorts to a property – modernised, decorate, refit, extend – but you cannot move its location! Very few people are prepared to live ‘anywhere’; everyone wants to live ‘somewhere’. Identify where those ‘somewhere’ locations are and focus on them.

If you want estate agents to take you seriously (and who doesn’t?) they need to know the time they invest in helping you could be rewarded with a sale. On numerous occasions we’ve had people tell us they’ll live anywhere in north Leeds, yet when we’ve offered them viewings on half a dozen properties they’ve said they didn’t want to live in those areas of Leeds! A waste of the agent’s time which then undermines your credibility. Don’t forget, the agent probably has 100+ buyers on their books – if you want to stand out from the crowd you need to convince the agent of your credibility.

5. Before booking a physical viewing always check the full brochure, watch the video/virtual tour of the property and go and have a look at the outside of the property. There’s nothing more frustrating for an agent or seller to have a buyer turn up to view only to be told “Sorry, it’s not where I thought it was!”, “I don’t like the street”, or “It doesn’t face the right way”. Do your homework before booking a physical viewing and the agent and seller will take you seriously.

6. Give feedback. If you want the agent to help you, they need to know if they’re on the right track with the properties they are sending you. They may need to refine your requirements from time to time, as your needs or circumstances may change. Don’t avoid the agent’s call or email – they will think you’ve ‘gone cold’ and that you’re no longer serious about buying a property.

7. Don’t book too many viewings. Agents expect you will view a property for the first time, and then perhaps want a second viewing, possibly with a friend or relative for a second opinion. Be careful about demanding a third visit – in our industry the majority of buyers asking for a third viewing are looking for reasons ‘not to buy’ i.e. there’s doubt in your mind. This undermines your credibility, especially if you make a low offer after the third viewing (see next tip).

8. Don’t make a substantially low offer – unless you can justify it. The agent won’t be offended (they know all the tactics) but the seller most likely will be. If the seller thinks their property is worth the price being asked and you offer 10% or more below the asking price, they are likely to be upset. Many sellers then refuse to negotiate, even if you come back with a much better offer, fearing you’ll gazunder at the 11th hour! If you genuinely believe the property is over-priced and you have evidence of recent sales in the area to support your thinking, by all means put the case forward. The agent will be more than happy to share your logic with the seller.

9. Help your estate agent. Many buyers fear estate agents are ‘going to rip them off’. That isn’t usually the case (there’s always a few bad apples of course!). All estate agents (good and bad) want to sell the properties they have on offer. The majority are eager to help put together a deal that suits both you and the seller. Agents don’t want conflict any more than you do. Help them to help you. When they ask for information, give it freely. The more guarded you are the more distrust will be created. Don’t forget, you want the agent to approach the seller with a positive attitude about why you should succeed in buying the property, not having to say to the seller you wouldn’t divulge information or were uncooperative when the seller asks questions about your buying position and ability to proceed.

10. Do not lie. We’re sure you wouldn’t – intentionally. But many buyers only tell agents what they think the agent needs know. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but what details you leave out that cause problems later. You want the agent to be open and honest with you. This works both ways.

11. If a problem develops part way through your purchase, don’t delay in telling your agent. A sudden change in communication can ring alarm bells. Return every phone call and email promptly. This will maintain a good relationship with the agent and generate confidence. Keep your agent informed. If a problem develops, tell the agent and they’ll try to help as much as they can – they don’t want the sale to fall through any more than you do.

12. Ask questions. Once you’re buying a property your agent should be in touch every few days, or at least once a week. If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation.


A post by Director Michael Moore FNAEA, MARLA.