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  1. Blog
  2. Property search tips: How to find your dream home
Home buying tips & advice
15 February 2022

Property search tips: How to find your dream home

Sam Edwards
Writer

Table of contents

  1. 1. Before you start looking for properties
  2. 2. When you start looking for properties
  3. 3. When you think you’ve found your dream home

Everyone has an idea of a property that’s perfect to them. But as with any long-term goal, your dream home isn’t something you can accomplish overnight. If you’re a first-time buyer, your hopes may be tempered by a small budget. Most people settle for smaller properties when they move into their first home, as they’re unable to afford anything larger. If you’re on the lookout for your second home however, your options might be broader.

No matter your circumstances, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about searching for your dream home. We’re going to take a look at some of the ways you can make your search worthwhile.

Before you start looking for properties

Before you even begin your property search, you need to take stock of a few things. Property hunting is never something you should just dive into.

1. Assess your budget

The first thing you should do is assess your finances. How much do you have to spend on your new home? If you’re a second or third home buyer, you might be able to use the equity on your existing home to help buy a new one. If you’re a first time home buyer however, there’s quite the mountain to climb.

Hire a financial advisor

One of the best ways to start saving for your dream property is to hire a financial advisor. Financial advisors are expensive, but well worth the money.

They take apart all your ingoings and outgoings and work out a saving strategy best-suited to your needs. They frame your home purchase against your other goals, and judge how much, and how long for, you’d need to save.

Most advisors charge by the hour, and their fees can range from £75 to £350.

Stretch your finances but don’t exceed current rent

If you need to save up for your dream home, it’s difficult to make your money go far. But saving for as long as possible will help you get the best home deal possible.

On the other hand, you need to make sure that your monthly mortgage repayments aren’t too high. Choosing an expensive property will make your deposit and monthly mortgage repayments costly. To prevent this, make sure your monthly repayments do not exceed the rent you’re comfortable paying.

2. Plan for the long term

While most people would jump at the opportunity of owning a house, having your own property is a big commitment. As your largest financial asset, your home will need to be kept in good shape. Plus, moving out is a mammoth task, and once you actually own a house, this will only get more difficult. That’s why you need to make your home choice count by planning for the long term.

How to make sure you choose the right home

To start with, make a list of the things that you like and dislike about your current living situation. How can your new home improve on your current one?

Once you have a list of features, you need to size them up against your future plans. Are you moving in with a partner? Do you want children? Features like extra bedrooms and garden space will take greater priority if you’re planning on raising a family.

Another important thing to consider is your lifestyle. Does your home suit your current and future lifestyle? Are you someone who has lots of dinner parties? If the answer’s yes, a larger kitchen would be ideal. Are you someone who enjoys Netflix and down-time? If yes, then a large living room would be a good feature to look out for.

When you start looking for properties

Now you’ve got your budget and long-term plans down, you’re ready to start searching for properties. Gone are the days when you found your home in an estate agent’s window.

There are a variety of property portal websites available, but there are three giants that almost every estate agent uses to advertise properties for sale. These are:

  1. Rightmove
  2. Zoopla
  3. OnTheMarket

There are other portals such as Boomin, but these are no way near the same size and scale as the three above. Browsing the properties available on these portals will give you a general idea of what’s available in the area.

3. Choose your location

Now you’ve got a good idea of what you want from your future home, the next step is deciding where you want to live.

Obviously, this is something you’ve probably already decided. But while you may know which city you want to move to, you might not know which areas are good to live in.

Newspapers are a great source of information on UK cities. Without much to gain, independent journalists can provide excellent guidance on the best places to live in the most popular cities. The Guardian’s ‘Let’s Move To’ series for example, explores areas in popular cities in great detail and provides solid advice from local residents.

Popular boroughs in cities will be more expensive by the time word gets out. With research however, you’ll know where the next best places are.

Check local house prices

To complement your research, it’s a good idea to check the local house prices of your favourite area. It might be tempting to use the prices on Rightmove as an indicator of the current climate - but asking prices aren’t a true indication of how much properties are selling for. While asking prices provide a ball-park, they’re an ideal figure, not the final selling price.

Our free House Prices Tool draws on past sold prices and local market data to provide a rough estimate of current house prices. Just enter the first line of the postcode and let the tool do the rest.

4. Chat to local estate agent

Estate agents are a great source of local knowledge and might be able to help you in your search for your dream home. With your details in their books, they can let you know if they find a property that meets your needs.

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Demonstrate that you’re are a serious buyer

Agents are often busy selling multiple properties at once. It will go in your favour if you let them know that you’re a serious buyer who is keen to move home in the near future.

Don’t forget: Agents represent the seller’s interests, not the buyer's. Their job is to ensure their client’s house gets sold at the best possible price. If you feel like an agent hasn't alerted you to properties, it’s likely because they were busy dealing with offers and clients.

5. Attend house viewings

While pictures and videos provide a rough preview, there’s nothing quite like seeing a property in the flesh (or bricks and mortar). Different camera lenses and lighting can be used to make properties look better than they do in real-life. Viewings will help narrow down your shortlist of properties to the few you’ll seriously consider.

Ask the agent questions

When attending house viewings, you should question the seller’s agent as much as possible. It’s useful to know things like why the homesellers are moving on, as well as whether the property’s seeing success on the market. We recommend asking:

  • How old is the property?
  • Why is the seller leaving?
  • How long has the property been on the market?
  • How long have the sellers lived there?

Estate agents are required to disclose ‘fair’ information to both buyers and sellers, so it’s always worth asking.

We cover all the best questions to ask agents during house viewings over in our blog.

Prepare to compromise

As you learn more about the different properties in your chosen area, your priorities are going to change. For instance, a larger house might be something you prioritise at first, but you might have to balance this with living closer to the city centre or having a downstairs toilet. This is completely normal - unless your budget is huge, you will never find a property that meets all of your desires. Compromising will help you work out what’s most important to you.

Focus on the fundamentals

Don’t get bogged down in the smaller details. Wallpaper, lampshades and carpets are things that can be changed very easily once you move in. Room shape and garden size however, cannot be changed as easily. Take stock of the things that matter and ignore the style and taste of the previous owner.

When you think you’ve found your dream home

You think you’ve found the property you’ve been looking for - but hold your horses! Before you put an offer in, there’s a few things you can do to ensure you’ve made the right choice.

6. Learn everything you can about the property

It goes without saying that you should ask a bunch of questions during your viewings. But there’s only so much you can learn from the seller’s agent.

View at different times of the day

If you think you’ve found the right house, you don’t want to rush into making an offer without first seeing it at different times of the day. You might feel confident from just one viewing, but it’s best to view the property at morning, noon and dusk on different days of the week.

Why does this matter? Well, if you’re going to be spending a good chunk of your life in the property, you should see how it feels living there. Some problems only materialise at certain times. Maybe the neighbour’s noisy dog barks all the way through Saturday mornings, or maybe the street becomes extremely dark and unsafe in the evening.

Alleviate any concerns through multiple viewings and you’ll know you’ve made the right choice.

7. Check out the neighbourhood

Hopefully you did some preliminary research into the area. Now is your chance to really get to know the neighbourhood. After a house viewing, why not go for a meal or a drink in one of the local restaurants? Explore the area and get a real feel for what it’s like to live there.

Make sure your property is close to some of the basics:

  • Parks and green spaces
  • Groceries, shops, supermarket
  • Good transport links
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Hospital or GP

If you’re a parent…

  • Is the property in a school catchment area?
  • Are there any leisure centres close by for extracurricular activities?

8. Ask these questions before you put in your offer

You’re very close to making an offer. All you need to do now is make an offer. The type of offer you make should hinge slightly on the answers you receive to these questions:

  • Has the homeseller received any offers yet?

If a property is gaining traction on the market, it’ll only be a matter of time before it is snapped up. Find out what the competition is.

  • Will the homeseller take the property off the market for a good offer?

You’ll want to get a good idea of what the homeseller wants from their sale. Are they prepared to wait it out or will they leap at the right offer?

  • What would they accept to take it off the market right now?

Every seller has their price and some might be willing to negotiate.

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