Buying Your First Home – What to Prioritise When Looking for Your Dream Home

a dark sage green kitchen with rug and island. There is a marble backsplash and lots of oak and wooden accessories

Buying your first home is a huge milestone and, while it’s an exciting event, it can also be quite overwhelming. Purchasing your first home is not only a significant life event but also a financial venture that can provide long-term stability, equity, and potential financial growth.

It’s a process that requires careful planning and consideration, but the rewards can be substantial. There are many factors to consider when purchasing your first home and it can be challenging to get all your boxes ticked. Many first-time buyers end up having to compromise on at least one or two aspects, depending on what’s available on the market.

Homeownership is a substantial commitment and typically represents the largest single investment most people will ever make. Balancing a budget with wants and needs can be a tough juggling act.

First-time buyers may also find themselves navigating unfamiliar territory when it comes to understanding mortgages, insurance, property taxes, and the overall home-buying process.

Moreover, with an abundance of options on the market and the emotional pull of imagining your life in each potential home, it can be challenging to remain objective and separate your emotional desires from practical needs.

If you’re wondering which factors you should prioritize when purchasing a home, our top tips will get you on the right path.

The Importance of Buying Your First Home

Purchasing your first home is a significant milestone for many reasons:

  • Financial Investment: Buying a home is often seen as a good long-term investment. Over time, your home may appreciate in value, offering a significant return when it’s time to sell.
  • Stability and Security: Owning your home provides a sense of stability and security. You can personalize your space and don’t have to worry about rent increases or being asked to move.
  • Building Equity: Each mortgage payment you make helps build equity in your home, which can serve as a financial resource in the future.
  • Potential for Rental Income: If you choose to move but keep your property, you could potentially earn rental income.
  • Tax Advantages: Homeowners often qualify for tax benefits that aren’t available to renters, such as the ability to deduct mortgage interest and property tax payments. Additionally, understanding the implications of VAT on property purchases can lead to significant financial advantages for buyers.

What to Prioritise When Buying Your First Home

boxes in a living room

Deciding which features are deal-breakers and which are merely preferences can be a demanding task, especially when faced with the reality of budget limitations or a competitive housing market.

For these reasons, it’s completely normal for first-time buyers to find the process of setting priorities quite challenging. It’s a journey that requires patience, thorough research, careful consideration, and sometimes a bit of compromise. 

1. Budget

a new build home with landscaped gardens

Your budget will likely be the number one factor that determines the home you can buy. With the average UK house price now £289,818, it’s important to establish a realistic budget before searching for your dream home.

You need to be certain that you can comfortably afford not only the purchase price, but also the ongoing costs like mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Otherwise, you could end up feeling rather disappointed if you find one that’s out of your reach.

By thoroughly evaluating your financial readiness, you’ll have a clear idea of what you can afford which helps to narrow down your search and prevent the disappointment of falling in love with properties that are outside of your budget.

Find out how much you could borrow and whether you’ll need to take some steps to boost your credit score before applying for a mortgage. It’s also wise to consider the size of your deposit as well as what you can afford to pay monthly.

Before you can seriously start purchasing a home, you’ll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This involves a lender checking your credit history and financial situation to determine how much they’re willing to lend you.

By evaluating your financial readiness yourself, you can go into this process with a clear understanding of your situation and what you can afford.

2. Location

a terraced street in Birmingham with cobbled roads

Another vital aspect when searching for the right first house is the location. Values vary hugely across the country and even in individual towns and cities. Locations that are considered the best places to live will attract many more buyers and feature hefty price tags.

Think about the kind of lifestyle you want, whether you need good transport links and if you’d rather be close to friends and family. If you have young children, you might also want to consider nearby schools to help you make your decision.

Even if you don’t plan on moving anytime soon, considering the future resale value of your home is wise. Trends in the neighborhood, city, or region can impact your home’s future value. Areas with robust job growth or planned infrastructure improvements could see property values rise in the future.

The location can also determine the level of noise and privacy you can expect. A home near a busy road or nightlife district may suffer from noise pollution, while a house in a rural area may offer more privacy.

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3. House size

a small apartment with dark interiors

To make sure a home is right for you, you’ll need to assess how much space you need and the number of bedrooms you’d ideally like. Usually, the bigger the home, the more you can expect to pay.

If you have a family or are considering this option in the future, you might want to factor this into your ideal home tick list. This could mean additional bedrooms for children or space for aging parents.

How you plan to use the home can also determine the size you need. For instance, if you love to cook, a large kitchen would be essential. If you work from home, you may need an extra room for an office. For those who enjoy hosting gatherings, a spacious living area or outdoor space may be key.

4. House condition

empty built in wardrobes in the bedroom

If you’re not so keen on renovation projects, then it’s wise to avoid homes that require a lot of work. While these can be marketed at a lower asking price, you’ll need to take into account the amount of capital that’s needed to do the renovations.

A house inspection is an integral part of the home-buying process, providing invaluable insights into the state of the property. The results of a home inspection can be used as a powerful negotiating tool. If the inspection reveals issues with the house, you can ask the seller to fix them or negotiate a lower price to cover the cost of repairs.

Certain red flags to look out for when buying your first home: 

  • Structural damage such as large cracks or uneven floors
  • Water damage stains on the ceilings or walls
  • The roof is sagging or has missing or damaged roof tiles
  • Flickering lights can indicate faulty electric systems
  • Water stains and the condition of pipework can indicate plumbing problems
  • General signs of neglect like peeling paint, broken fixtures, cracked tiles, or unkempt yards could suggest more significant underlying issues.
  • Signs of pests such as droppings, chewed wires, holes in walls or floors, or termite tubes can indicate an infestation which can cause severe damage over time.
  • If the house is too cold or hot, it might have insufficient insulation or problems with the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
  • It’s not just the house itself to consider. Take note of the condition of the nearby homes and the neighborhood in general. Are houses well-maintained? Are there many for-sale signs or businesses closing down? These could suggest problems with the location.

At the same time, try not to be put off by minor décor details such as the wrong color carpets or walls as these can be easily changed and offer the opportunity to put your own stamp on a place.

Fixer-uppers often come with a lower purchase price compared to similar, move-in-ready homes in the same area. This could enable you to buy in a neighborhood that you may not otherwise be able to afford.

5. Must-Have Features

an open plan living room with stone flooring
Purchasing your first home is probably one of the biggest things you’ll ever do!

Having a clear list of non-negotiables when buying your first home is essential for several reasons. These are the factors that you’re not willing to compromise on – they could be anything from the number of bedrooms, to the location, to specific features like a large kitchen or a backyard.

There are countless properties on the market at any given time, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the options. By defining your non-negotiables, you can quickly eliminate unsuitable properties and focus your search on homes that truly meet your needs.

While it’s crucial to know your non-negotiables when purchasing a home, flexibility is also an important aspect of the home-buying process.

Here’s some advice on being open to potential trade-offs:

  1. No property is likely to meet every single item on your wish list. So, identify the most critical elements that are deal-breakers for you and be flexible with the rest. You might find a home that doesn’t have that two-car garage you wanted, but it’s in your ideal neighborhood and within your budget.
  2. A house might not meet all your criteria right now, but it could have potential. Could a home office become an extra bedroom? Could the basement be finished to provide extra living space? Could a wall be knocked down to create an open floor plan?
  3. You might have your heart set on a specific neighborhood, but be open to considering others. You may find a home that meets more of your needs in a different area. However, make sure the area still meets your key requirements like safety, commute time, and quality of local schools.
  4. Don’t let cosmetic issues deter you. Things like paint color, carpeting, and light fixtures can be easily changed. Look beyond these to the home’s “bones” and layout, which are much harder (and more expensive) to alter.
  5. It’s easy to fall in love with a house that’s out of your budget. However, stretching your finances can lead to stress and financial instability. Be willing to compromise on some features to stay within a comfortable price range.
  6. Home buying is a process, and sometimes it can take longer than expected. Be patient and don’t rush into buying a house that doesn’t meet your needs or isn’t right for you.

Purchasing a home involves making a series of trade-offs, and it’s all about balancing your needs, wants, and budget. It can help to keep an open mind, focus on the factors that are most important to you, and be ready to make some compromises along the way.

an open plan living space with white gloss kitchen, wooden floors and bifold doors out onto the garden

Purchasing a home is a significant milestone and a long-term investment. It allows you to build equity and can offer more stability than renting. Once you’ve decided on the above factors, it should be easier to narrow down the search for your ideal first home.

By being prepared and understanding what to expect, you can navigate the process more smoothly and find a home that’s right for you.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a very small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These links help to pay the editorial costs of writing a blog. For more information, please read my full affiliate disclosure here.

I also use Artificial Intelligence Image generators to create some of my images. These are to show you examples of my ideas and inspiration when I cannot produce the real images myself.

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