Instant Improver

8 things nobody tells you when buying a house

There are two things in life that ain't easy: a) pimping, and b) buying a house.

This much we know, and as the price of a home continues to soar, prospective first-time buyers are forced to wait longer than ever to get a foot on the property ladder, even fully grown men with proper jobs often have no idea how to go about it. How do you make an offer? What hidden charges are there? Should you haggle? 

Assuming you were too frightened to ask, we asked TV property expert Phil Spencer to tell you all these things and more.

Phil Spencer has teamed up with British Gas to unlock the secrets of turning a new house into a home as part of its #NoPlaceLikeHome campaign. Britishgas.co.uk

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house

    YOU CAN NEGOTIATE BY YOURSELF

    "The best way to make an offer is by talking to the estate agent in person and then quickly following it up in writing. Only in Scotland do you need to go through a solicitor for negotiations, and I’d say actually about 98 per cent of people in the UK negotiate deals on their own. As long as you remember the estate agent is paid to look after the person selling the property and not the person buying it, you can handle negotiations yourself.

    "While you won’t need your solicitor during negotiations, as you'll be making a lot of important decisions at the same time I’d suggest getting one sorted before you've found the house and agreed an offer."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 1

    DON’T GET A CHEAP SOLICITOR

    When you get the offer agreed, that’s the time you need to engage the solicitor who will deal with the legal side of things. In terms of costs, more deals are lost unnecessarily through solicitors who aren’t quite on top of their game. Cheap ones can sometimes get extremely busy and you become one of many on a conveyor belt. As buying a house tends to be the most important deal you’ll ever do, investing in a decent solicitor is advisable. 

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 2

    PLAY IT COOL

    "Negotiations start far earlier than most people give them credit for. When you go around on a viewing, and you’re talking to the owners or the agent, negotiations have already begun. 

    "Don’t tell an estate agent you’ve absolutely fallen in love with the house and it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. That’s definitely not a good way to start saving thousands off the price. Instead, ask questions that are relevant to your decision and just be straight with them. If you like it, tell them that, but also that you’ll have a think about it overnight, will talk to your other half and come back to them."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 3

    DON’T FIB TO THE BANK WHEN YOU APPLY FOR A MORTGAGE

    "The most common mistake of home buying is as simple as not filling in all of the information that the bank has asked for when applying for a mortgage. Be honest. And get it done quickly. The quicker the bank can make a decision, the better it is for everyone involved. You can even plan this in advance. 

    "Find out from your likely mortgage company even before you’ve found the house what information they’re likely to need and prepare things like your bank statements, income statements, tax returns and employer’s reference in advance."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 4

    IT’S AN ASKING PRICE, NOT A VALUATION – YOU CAN HAGGLE

    "It’s also a perfectly valid question to the agent (not the vendor) to ask them to justify the price, how they’ve reached that figure and what it’s based on. Remember, it’s an asking price and not a valuation. The price may be fair, but it’s up to you to do your own research to decide whether you think it is."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 5

    Building surveys are optional

    "If you’re worried about the structure of a house, then you’ll need to spend more money on the survey. A survey will report on whether a house is structurally sound and it’s in your interest as a buyer to opt for one in order to protect your investment.

    "But remember, surveyors don’t have bionic eyes. Look around the property yourself. While there are technical aspects, you can also see if the windows are leaking or it smells of damp, and these are things you can flag."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 6

    WATCH OUT FOR THE HIDDEN COSTS

    "When you’re casting around deciding which solicitor to use after having an offer accepted, the main costs that a lot of clients are surprised by are the separate fees for the various things that need to be done. While your solicitor will handle all of these for you, you’ll need to pay for various documents, the land registry and transfer of money electronically. There’s also the stamp tax on the house which can cost a lot.

    "Also, remember VAT on surveying, valuation, solicitors, and any removals. VAT is 20 per cent, so these can be quite big numbers. There’s quite a lot of associated costs that suddenly become 20 per cent more that you’d originally estimated, and that can really skew people’s sums. All these little things can chip away."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 7

    OWNERS CAN CHANGE THEIR MINDS AT ANY TIME - AND YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT

    "Up until the point of an exchange of contracts, anyone can change their mind. My advice there is, the shorter the period of time between making an offer and exchanging contracts, the better. The longer that time delay is, the greater the likelihood that someone will have a wobble, and that the whole chain can collapse."

  • 8 things nobody tells you when buying a house 8

    AND WHEN FINALLY BOUGHT, REMEMBER TO CHECK THE BASICS

    "Have the radiators been bled so that they’re working efficiently? Have you checked whether there are any draughts that need sealing? Did you ascertain whether the boiler has had a recent service, while you were busy negotiating? If not, you should think about getting it checked out. It’s also worth checking with your energy supplier whether your new house is eligible for free insulation or a free smart meter, to ensure its as energy efficient as possible."

    Phil Spencer has teamed up with British Gas to unlock the secrets of turning a new house into a home as part of its #NoPlaceLikeHome campaign. Britishgas.co.uk.