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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a House

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a House
July 1, 2021

Buying a property is a huge commitment that can prove a challenge for even the most hardened house buyer. Problems with finance, mountains of forms, deadlines and difficult decisions should all be expected. 

At Simon Blyth, we have helped thousands of buyers to secure the right property at the best price. 

Here are some of the common mistakes buyers make when buying a house – and how you can avoid them.

Not getting an agreement in principle

Viewing a property and making an offer without a mortgage agreement in principle (AIP) is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when buying a house.

A mortgage in principle, is an agreement from a lender that demonstrates you can access finance. Also called a decision in principle or a promise to lend, it’s a form from your lender that shows how much you can realistically borrow. Whether you’re buying a home for the first time or are a seasoned home buyer, you’ll still need an AIP.

You may want to go big on your budget, but mortgage lenders are increasingly cautious. A mortgage in principle will give you a maximum pre-approved borrowing limit. It also demonstrates to the estate agent managing bookings that you are serious about a purchase and crucially that the property you’re looking at is in your price range.

In most cases, estate agents will request to see a copy of your mortgage in principle before you’re able to view a property. In some cases, you may need to demonstrate that your property is advertised for sale.

Failing to check credit scores

Mortgage lenders will check every aspect of your credit history before granting a mortgage, so you’ll need to ensure it’s squeaky clean to give yourself the best chance. Missed payments, large outstanding balances and incorrect addresses can all reduce your chances of securing finance. 

It’s easy and free to check your credit score online. You can review records of past payments and previous addresses. While lenders won’t use your credit score when deciding whether to offer you a mortgage (they all have in-house scoring systems), it will give you a good indication of your current chances of accessing finance.

If you’re interested in maximising your chances of getting a mortgage, read our 10 top tips here

Not being on the electoral roll

Before applying for a mortgage, make sure you’re on the electoral roll. The electoral roll provides lenders with proof of your name and address. It’s one of the first things a lender will check. 

Registering for the electoral roll is free and takes a few minutes. Read the Government guide on registering for the electoral roll.

You have to reconfirm your presence on the electoral roll every year, so before applying for a mortgage, be sure to check.

Rushing viewings

A property viewing is your chance to inspect every aspect of your new home – and you should take it. Rushing viewings is a common mistake many buyers make. Take your time while house hunting and ask questions. 

Buying a property is likely to be the most significant investment we ever make. In a competitive and fast-moving market, there can be pressure to make a decision quickly, but you must be confident you’re doing the right thing. 

Your estate agent should be able to answer most questions you might have and can act as an intermediary, relaying questions between you and the seller. 

Thankfully, if there are significant structural issues, these are likely to be picked up by your survey, giving you a chance to review your offer. However, it’s not guaranteed, so pay attention.

Not checking outside

The ongoing cladding scandal has highlighted how important it is to understand what’s outside the property and inside it. When buying a new property, inspect the outside. 

Pay close attention to the condition of walls, the roof, chimney and guttering. You don’t need to be a structural surveyor to spot the telltale signs of damage and decay. Look for cracks and breaks in the brickwork that may suggest movement or subsidence, and ask questions of your estate agent.

If you’re purchasing a leasehold property such as a flat, be sure you know what’s covered by the landlord and what’s going to cost extra. In most leasehold properties, you will be expected to pay a service charge which will cover regular and scheduled repairs. Gather as much information as you can before making a purchase.

Selecting the wrong solicitor

Most mortgage lenders have a pre-approved panel of solicitors they’re prepared to work with (instruct). If you select a solicitor who isn’t on their panel, you can run into trouble. In fact, in some cases, you may have to pay an additional solicitor approved by the lender to work on your behalf.

The rule is, check your lender’s approved list before appointing a solicitor.

Leasehold/Freehold issues

Understanding the difference between a leasehold and a freehold is crucial when purchasing a property. A freehold means you are the owner of both the property and the land. As a leaseholder, you’re buying the right to live in a property for a set period.

Short leases and hefty service charges are two common issues that affect buyers, so be sure to do your background checks.

While your solicitor should be on top of details, you should take steps to investigate the length of the lease and secure information on service charges before buying.

Not checking out the area

The house might be perfect, but do you know the area? One of the common mistakes when buying a home is not checking out the local area.

You’re limited when you can visit a property, but you can check out the area whenever you want. Buyers should spend some time checking out the area. Visit early in the morning to see if it’s a rat run or congested with rush hour traffic. A visit in the evening can tell you if an area is noisy or quiet.

Being pressured into a decision

The property market is fast-moving, and house prices are increasing rapidly, which can cause pressure to purchase, but think before putting in an offer. Even if you’ve found your dream home, consider whether you can afford the monthly repayments, moving costs and other fees, such as stamp duty.

A fast-moving housing market can easily catch out a first-time buyer, so beware.

Underestimating additional costs

The purchase price of the property is just one of the costs you’ll need to cover. Don’t forget you’ll also need to pay stamp duty, legal fees, conveyancing fees, surveys, moving costs and more before you step foot in your perfect property. You’ll also need to budget for buildings insurance and any additional work you plan to do. You may also need to purchase new furniture, fixtures, and fittings (particularly if your stingy sellers have removed radiators and bagged the bulbs for themselves).

Buyers can often push themselves to the limit of their budget, leaving little left over for anything else. This can mean you start living in your new property, deep in debt.

Need a little help?

At Simon Blyth, we’ve helped hundreds of house hunters meet the property of their dreams. We offer independent and impartial advice on all our listed properties. We’ll answer all questions we can and will never pressure you into a purchase. Contact us today to discuss your property search requirements.