There comes a time when having the freedom to up sticks and move around starts to lose its shine. You begrudge lining someone else’s pockets with rent. You begin to long for something other than beige walls; you dream of having the licence to get hammer-happy put up as many picture hooks as you choose. You start to squirrel away more and more of your Friday Night Out fund for sensible reasons and then, lo and behold, one day you find you have a savings account named ‘Deposit’ and enough in it to begin the House Hunt. You want to own cushions. Life is good.
But how do you begin to tackle the mountainous task of finding your new home? Well, pack your best plimsolls and fetch your guide rope: here are a few important lessons for the house hunt.
1. Need versus want: know the difference. Fairly self-explanatory; assess your needs as a priority – three bedrooms would be nice, but two is what you need. A conservatory is a possible future goal, but for now, you can make nice with the neighbours in the front room. A vegetable patch might be an absolute must, pronto, but tea on the lawn can wait until house number two.
2. Take a camera to every viewing: Sometimes you can walk into a house and just know. Most of the time, you can’t. You need to mull it over, compare and contrast and, above all, make an informed decision. Your memory is often coloured by sentiment, so don’t buy a house off the back of it.
3. Make a wish list: This is not the same as knowing your needs. Your wish list should comprise what you want to get out of your home. Do you want a project to fix up and make your own, addling oodles and bunches of character as you go? Or are you seeking a sleek, modern and low maintenance property to better suit your busy lifestyle?
4. Get a second opinion: Fresh eyes will see past your rose-tinted view and speak as they find. Very valuable for rescuing you on occasion, but be prepared to justify your own inclinations to buy a home. You’ll either be more certain than ever, or your conviction will wane under scrutiny.
5. Don’t jump in feet first: Get to know the area, get to love it and get inspired by the idea of creating a life in it. From rolling hills and quaint country villages to city landscapes and suburbs in between, the options are there for exploring. Invest some time in getting to know your surroundings before setting up camp and settling down.
6. Pounds and pennies: Don’t be tempted to take on more than you can afford. If you’re moving out of the city to save or cut costs, bear in mind your outgoings when calculating how much you can afford to pay for a mortgage. The Victorian Mansion may have to wait until you’re higher up the property ladder…
7. Think with your head, as well as your heart: By all means, fall in love with an area, with a community or even with a particular house. But don’t let desperation to make your move lead you into buying the wrong home. The housing market can move quickly, but panic-buying a disaster house, wildly out of your budget and with a laundry list of flaws will only lead to trouble.