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House-hunting Tips for First Time Buyers

by Kate Phelan
21st Jul 2015

A renovation project in Hackney by Foreign Bear Studio.

Buying a house for the first time can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve compiled a fool-proof list of helpful tips for beginner buyers…

1. START WITH THE BORING STUFF. Designing a realistic and carefully considered budget may not be many people’s idea of rocking Saturday afternoon, but it is more fun when you know it might be the most important first step towards getting the house of your dreams. Knowing exactly what you can and can’t afford is vital. If you’re planning to build or renovate, consulting a quantity surveyor is strongly advised, as is having a solid contingency built in as a percentage of your budget (usually 5-10% of the build cost).

Foreign Bear Studio - Fassett Square Project on
This ground floor flat in Hackney, renovated by Foreign Bear Studio, included an outbuilding that was converted to create bedroom and bathroom spaces, linked to the original flat by a glazed corridor.

2. SEE THE POTENTIAL. If you’re up for the challenge, “fixer uppers” can be a clever investment (with a sensible?budget and?added elbow grease), especially when it comes to period properties.?Whether it’s an accompanying outbuilding with potential to transform into a cool and compact guesthouse, or restoring a working fireplace in a defunct chimney breast,?there can be real joy in bringing a run down property back to life, personalising it along the way as well as adding value.

3. LOOK INTO?PLANS FOR THE SURROUNDING AREA. Many?up and coming locations with only ok amenities at present will have updates in the pipeline. It may be worth sacrificing by living through a year or so of a less than ideal commute from a suburb that can look forward to?expanded services?transport links, or an area with few shopping options that will soon be home to a weekend’market. Check with local councils for info.

Foreign Bear Studio - Fassett Square Project on
Light maximising double-doors in the living area of the same property.

4. FOLLOW THE LIGHT.?Light is hugely important and can make or break a property – always be on the look-out for ways to add more. If a property is an absolute dud in terms of natural sunlight, it’s best to move on and keeping looking for the rays.

5. INVESTIGATE?(WITHOUT BEING A CREEP). I?like trusting people in general, but politeness has to sort of go out the window when it comes to putting your life savings into a potential forever home. It’s up to the buyer to ask the right questions of the estate agent to make sure they have a full and accurate picture before buying, and the unfortunate truth is they still might not disclose the warts and all. It may sound morbid, but a quick google of “flooding” in the area in question can be more informative than your more wily estate agent, or chat to friendly local people to get the real lowdown.

Foreign Bear Studio - Fassett Square Project on
The workspace, complete with trestle table from How in Pimlico and leather armchair from Retrouvius.

6. TAKE NOTES. The nerdier you can be about this process, the better. Take notes at each viewing so you can make pros and cons lists, and take photos so you can compare properties later.

7. MAKE IT THE HOUSE YOU LOVE. We’ve all bought clothes before that are beautiful on the rack and all wrong on our bodies. It’s the same with houses – you might love the idea?of a place, but if it doesn’t suit your needs in terms of day to day living and function then it’s not right for you. Think practically about how you want to use the space and go from there.