The most common home-buying mistakes, and how to avoid them

Buying a new property is never an easy process. It’s one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make. There are countless hoops to jump through and legalities to adhere to, so it’s not surprising that people can make mistakes in the process.

We’ve rounded up the most common home-buying mistakes so that you know what to look out for, and what to dodge, so you can (hopefully) have a pain-free property purchase.

Viewing mistakes

Not noticing problems when viewing the property

Looking around properties is more than just seeing if you like the building and deciding if you want to redecorate. You also need to identify any potential problems. Look out for signs of trouble that could be costly to get fixed once you move in, including:

  • Damp
  • Faulty electrics
  • Faulty guttering
  • Rotten wood

Make sure you closely examine the property. Purchasing a house is a big commitment, so look around it more than once, you may spot something you didn’t notice the first time. 1 in 10 people wish they had visited the property more before making an offer. Research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that on average homebuyers spent £5,750 on unforeseen repairs when they moved into their new home. If you would like a professional’s opinion, you can pay to have a survey carried out to highlight any potential issues (see lender valuation and survey section below for more information).

Not viewing the property at different times of the day

Viewing a property at different times of the day can literally let you see it in a different light. The neighbourhood will have a very different feel at the weekend compared to a weeknight. For example, you may think you’ve found your perfect home, but then come back to the property on a Saturday morning to find that the noise of the rowdy youth football team practising on the pitch down the road carries right through to your window and shatters your dreams of ever having a Saturday lie in.

Not exploring the surrounding areas

As well as viewing the property itself, you should always take a look around the surrounding areas. The house may be nice, but do you like the area? Remember Phil and Kirsty’s advice: location, location, location are the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a property. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is it close enough to amenities like the supermarket?
  • Is it close to transport links to make it easy to get to work?
  • Is it in the right school catchment area?
  • What are the local restaurants and leisure facilities like?

These things sound obvious, but they’re easy to overlook when you are so focused on finding your ideal property, you can forget to look past the front door.

Not checking if the property is in a flood zone

You should make sure the property isn’t in a flood zone. Not only will it drive up your home insurance costs, but it may also make it difficult to get a mortgage. Not to mention the stress that comes with owning a property that you need to flood-proof. Even if you don’t experience any flooding while you live at the property, when you then come to sell the property on, other buyers may be put off. There is a website called Check My Flood Risk that you can use to see any history of flooding in your local area.

Money mistakes

Not getting a mortgage in principle

When you start looking at a property to purchase, it is advisable to visit a lender and get a mortgage in principle. Not only will it give you an accurate indication of how much you can afford to borrow, but it will also make you a more attractive buyer, as you can prove to the seller that the bank has pre-approved your loan. However, you should bear in mind that an agreement in principle is not a guarantee. Once your offer is accepted, you still have to formally apply for the loan.

Confusing the lender valuation for a full survey

When you take out a mortgage, the lender will view the property to carry out a valuation survey. This is a requirement for all lenders to ensure that the amount they are lending you matches the valuation of the house. This information is for the lender, not the purchaser, so any problems that they find they are not at liberty to flag to you. While you can look for signs of damp and other damage yourself, it can be useful to have the property checked over by a professional. It is not essential, but can be useful, particularly with older properties as surveys can identify problems such as subsidence and severe damp which could affect the overall value of the property.

Paying rent and your mortgage at the same time

If you’re moving from rented accommodation into a purchased property, make sure that you give enough notice to your landlord so that you don’t end up paying rent on your old residence as you start paying the mortgage on your new property – or it could get really expensive!

Underestimating the costs of moving house

Moving house is a costly business. Research revealed that 70% of first-time buyers underestimate the overall costs of getting onto the property ladder. Additional costs that people often forget include: mortgage arrangement fees, Stamp Duty, removal costs, and ground rent (if purchasing a flat or leasehold property). Check out our blog on how to save money when buying a house to ensure you don’t forget to add these essential costs into your budget. Don’t forget, first-time buyers purchasing a property for under £300,000 are now exempt from paying Stamp Duty.

Missing out mistakes

Not acting fast enough

The property market moves quickly, so it’s easy to let your dream home slip through your fingers if you don’t get your act together. The average time it takes for a property to sell in the UK is just under six weeks, although this varies from region to region with London properties selling in under one month but the North East taking up to ten weeks. Sometimes it is worth hanging back and haggling over the asking price, but beware of going in too low and then being outbid and losing the property.

Not protecting yourself from gazumping

Just because your offer is accepted doesn’t mean it’s time to pop the champagne just yet. The property is not officially yours until the exchange. During this period, you could be gazumped, which is when another person puts in a higher offer and the seller accepts it over your previously agreed offer. Not only does this mean you lose the property, but if your conveyancer has already begun searches and your lender has already taken steps to secure your mortgage, you could lose thousands of pounds in arrangement fees as well. While you can never fully protect yourself from gazumping, you can protect your pocket by taking out Home Buyer’s Insurance.

Don’t be caught out when looking for your new house. Give your house a thorough inspection during the viewing process, and if you want a second opinion, get a surveyor in to double check. Also remember to do your research beforehand to work out your budget, secure a mortgage in principle, and consider Home Buyer’s Insurance just in case things fall through at the last hurdle. You can read more about Homelyfe’s Home Buyer’s Insurance here.


Sign up to our newsletter

Receive the latest Homelyfe updates