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Checklist for first-time buyers

by Iain Mason

Published on 2nd October 2023

If you’re buying your first property, there’s so much to think about, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and bowled over by the first property you see.

But, without trying to curb anyone’s enthusiasm, it’s important to take a measured approach at a property viewing, and know what questions to ask of the estate agent and what telltale signs to look out for.

That way, you can get a good understanding of a place, and whether it truly meets your criteria. Then – if you’re happy – you can proceed to putting in an offer. By asking a few questions and doing the groundwork, you can be sure you’re getting a home that suits you and your circumstances.

Remember that it’s essential to take your time during the viewing process and not rush into a decision. Consider creating a checklist and taking notes during each viewing to help you compare different properties effectively.


Where is the property based? Is it important for you to be near work, or schools, or the shops? Do you want to be near the gym, or have access to public transport? Or would you rather a more remote location? There’s no point falling in love with a house if it’s not in the right place.


    It’s essential to know how much you can spend on your home – after all, it’s almost certainly the most expensive thing you have ever bought. So, be sure you know what you can afford, once you have taken into account the deposit you have available and your mortgage offer. Then, look for homes within your price range.

    At the viewing:

    This is when it is important to take an objective view of the property, ask a few questions, and do a little investigation.

    For example:

    • Ask how old the boiler is, and when it was last serviced
    • Turn on the taps and make sure water is coming out. We know of one first-time buyer who had an expensive plumbing bill when she moved in, because of problems with the water supply
    • Look out for any signs of pests or infestation
    • Look out for signs of damp, as this can be problematic, particularly in older properties
    • Carefully inspect the overall condition of the house. There’s a big difference between needing a lick of paint and clearly having mould on the walls.
    • Make sure the windows all open (and close afterwards) and, if they require keys, that these are all present
    • Turn all the lights off and on, to make sure they work
    • Find out what appliances there are (such as an oven or integrated dishwasher) and ask how old they are. Also, check which of these will be remaining and which the homeowner plans to take.

    Layout and space:

    The estate agent’s floor plan is very useful here, as well as what you observe at the viewing. Does the property give you the space and the number of rooms you need? If you have a drumkit, is there space for it? If you need disabled access, are the doors wide enough? Also, is there enough storage for your requirements or, if not, space to build cupboards and shelving?

    Step outside:

    Don’t forget to look around the garden and also look at the views from all the windows. Are you happy with what you see? Remember to ask whose responsibility it is to maintain the boundaries, such as walls, fencing or hedges.

    Why is the property for sale?

    This is an important question to ask, as what you find out may help inform your decision. For example, if the sale is due to a divorce, and both parties are buying on separately, this may well involve two chains, which are likely to be longer than one chain.

    Everybody needs good neighbours:

    Ask what the neighbours are like. Are they easy to get on with? Are they noisy? Do they have young children? All this will help give you an idea of what living in the property will be like. You could even chat to the neighbours themselves, or other people living in the area, to get their views of the area.

    Future plans:

    Many first-time buyers move within a few years; in fact, statistics show 60 per cent move on within five years. But that means 40 per cent are there for longer. How long do you plan to live in your first home? If you are going to be there for a few years, you should consider what space you’ll need, not just now but in the future. A studio flat for a couple may not suit if you are planning to start a family.

    Time your visits:

    Make sure you visit the street the property is in at different times and on different days. What may seem to be a sleepy road on a Sunday afternoon could be a noisy thoroughfare during rush hour.

    What is the area like?

    This is important when you are considering future resale value. If the property is in an up and coming area, you’re more likely to see it go up in value. You should investigate what the property market trend is for the area. The best place to start is to ask estate agents.

    Make and offer

    Once you have viewed a property, whether that be once or several times, and you are ready to make an offer you will need to speak to the estate agents. Remember, if you feel the purchase price is a little high then make an offer. The seller has the option to accept or decline, and you may then want to go on to negotiate.

    Engage professionals:

    As much as you can gather information yourself, it is important to use the services of professionals, who will be able to uncover any hidden issues.

    We advise our clients to commission a full survey before they buy a property, as this will throw up any issues. Should any arise, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pull out of a sale, but you do need to know what you are buying; a case of buyer beware!

    Use experienced conveyancing lawyers, like the team here at Optimum Professional Services, who will undertake all the necessary searches, paperwork and negotiations on your behalf and ensure the purchase of your first home goes as smoothly as possible.

    If you would like to talk to our specialist conveyancing team, please get in touch. We help first-time buyers who are house-hunting, with all the legal advice they need to smoothly complete their purchase.

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