What to look for when buying a house

First-time buyer inspecting a house

When it comes to buying your first home, the journey can often be an exciting adventure fuelled by dreams of cosy fireplaces, friendly neighbourhoods and the promise of new memories. As a first-time buyer, the house-viewing stage holds endless possibilities, and each property has the potential to become your new home.

Buying a house is also likely to be one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever have to make! So, having a good idea of what to look out for when viewing potential properties can save you later down the line.

Lucky for you, we have created a helpful checklist which you can save for later or take with you to your next property viewing.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to look for when buying a house:

  • Check for cracks in walls, ceilings and windowsills
  • Look for signs of damage or leaks
  • Examine the doors and window frames
  • Enquire about neighbouring properties
  • Consider expansion opportunities (is there planning permission to extend?)

Now, this isn’t an extensive list, and we’ll discuss the finer details later in the blog, so keep reading and be prepared for your next house viewing.

We are Bliss Financial. We aim to make the home-buying journey easy for first-time buyers just stepping into the property market. Our friendly team of brokers will get to know you and your house purchase goals so we can put your mind at ease and help guide you through the process of buying your first home.

Get in touch today for a friendly chat, and let us help you on your journey to becoming a homeowner.

Should you be cautious when buying a house?

It is wise to be cautious as a first-time buyer. While it’s a big achievement, it’s also a big financial decision, and you could be putting a significant amount of your hard-earned savings into the deposit and other home-buying fees.

Approaching this new venture with caution helps ensure you can afford the upfront and ongoing costs of purchasing a new house. By being vigilant and checking the structural integrity and safety of the property, as well as the surrounding neighbourhood, you can be confident that your purchase will keep your quality of life and finances happy for the long term.

Remember, as easy as it is to fall in love with the first property you view, it’s important not to look at it with rose-tinted glasses. Buying a new house is a huge purchase, and if there are any details you can’t get on board with, trust your instincts – something better will come along.

Having a list of well-thought-out questions to ask the homeowner or estate agent, along with a plan for securing the purchase when you do find your dream home, will put you in the best position.

Key things to look out for when buying a house

Firstly, you should check that the property is within your budget. Speaking to a professional mortgage broker can help you work this out. At Bliss Financial, we make sure our customers understand exactly what they can afford and help them come prepared for house viewings.

While this doesn’t have to be the very first thing you do, having a good idea of your budget will save you time, as you can focus solely on viewing houses you know you can afford. Plus, with a mortgage in principle in place, you can confidently make an offer when you find the perfect home.

Once you have your budget worked out, you can begin viewing properties. This is the exciting part! However, it is important to consider all aspects of the new home you plan to buy. Doing your own research and having a list of questions to ask the estate agent will ensure you’re making the right decision.

Aside from viewing the house and doing your research, the best way to determine a property’s suitability in terms of structure and safety is to carry out a professional house survey. Depending on your budget, specific needs, and the type of property you wish to buy, you can get different types of surveys. These surveys typically range from a basic inspection that looks for any urgent repairs or issues to a comprehensive inspection that can detect hidden problems.

1) Structural integrity

Buying a house with major structural problems can end up becoming a money pit. This is why checking the structural soundness of the property you hope to buy is at the top of our house checklist.

While initial impressions are important, they do say you should never judge a book by its cover. The same goes for viewing a house. A home that looks stunning on the outside may have underlying issues that could be costly in the long run, while a house that may not look as appealing could have tons of potential and be a great investment with a little TLC.

Small hairline cracks don’t tend to cause any issues other than visual, while larger cracks above 5mm in width could indicate structural problems that will likely require building work.

Consider these points when deciding if the house is structurally sound:

  • Are there any cracks in the foundation (windowsills, walls and ceilings)?
  • Has the property ever had any significant building works or repairs?
  • Is the roof straight?
  • Is the double glazing intact?
  • Do windows and doors open smoothly?

2) Local area

Location is a crucial factor to consider when buying a house, and one that you might quickly skim past. As the old adage goes, you can always renovate a house, but you can’t change its location.

That said, be sure to walk around and explore the local neighbourhood, check the mobile phone coverage in the area, and ask the estate agent questions. We’ve all heard stories of difficult neighbours or terrible public transport – doing your research on the area can save you a lot of hassle down the line.

Here are a few questions to consider when viewing a house in a new area:

  • What is the commute time for work?
  • Are the schools decent?
  • Is it a noisy area?
  • Have there been any issues with the neighbours?

3) Energy efficiency

Determining the energy efficiency of the home you plan to buy can help you streamline your finances for years to come. If the house already has a high energy rating, then great. You’ll likely benefit from lower energy bills, a warmer home, and a lower carbon footprint.

Most property websites, like Zoopla, include an Energy Performance Certificate in their listings, detailing the property’s energy rating. New builds tend to have better energy ratings, while older properties can have lower ratings due to single-glazed windows, older boilers, and a lack of insulation.

Not only is it a good idea to check if the home is energy efficient, but you should also consider whether you can do anything to improve the current rating – this can even increase resale value!

Here are some questions to help you determine if the house is energy efficient:

  • Does the house have double-glazed window panes?
  • Are the light fittings energy efficient?
  • How old is the boiler?
  • Do you feel any drafts around windows or doors?

4) Safety

We all want to feel safe in our homes, whether that’s from fires, floods, outside disruption, or any other potential disturbances. The good news is there are plenty of ways to check a property’s safety, from doing your own research online to speaking to local neighbours.

Why not take a walk up to the property? Obviously, be respectful of anyone currently living there or nearby, but viewing the property’s exterior and the local area can really help you get a feel for your potential new home.

Consider these safety-related questions when viewing a house:

  • Does the property have any fire alarms, smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms?
  • Does the property have a sensible exit route in case of a fire?
  • What is the flood risk in the area?
  • What are the crime rates like in the area?
  • Is the street well-lit at night?

5) Size

Whether you’re looking to move into a new property alone, with a partner, or with your entire family and the dogs, space is a very important aspect to consider. You may not think it now, but houses can quickly fill up with furniture, clothes, and possibly even more children or pets.

When viewing a house, it’s good to consider your current lifestyle and your long-term goals. You might be planning to expand and have a family or need additional space for a home office one day.

Many property listings include a floor plan, which often details the total floor area and individual room dimensions. Consider whether the property you like has enough space; you can even compare it to your current home measurements.

When viewing a house, be sure to take lots of pictures and measure important rooms or distinctive spaces.

Here are some things to keep in mind when viewing a house in terms of space:

  • Is there enough storage space (built-in wardrobes, kitchen cabinets and cupboards)?
  • Could there be room to expand the property?
  • Does the size reflect the purchase price compared to nearby sales?
  • Can you mentally arrange your furniture in the rooms?
  • Does the property have the required parking space?

6) Damp

Nobody wants a home that is tainted with dampness. It can lead to unpleasant odours, structural issues and even health concerns.

Keeping an eye (and nose) out at the property viewing for signs of mould or dampness can save you from future problems. Signs can include leaks, stains on ceilings or walls, condensation, warping materials, and a musky smell.

Some older properties may have wooden doors or window frames. The texture of a wooden window frame or door, such as softness or warping, can also indicate damp-related issues.

Here are some questions that can help you identify any potential issues:

  • Have there been any previous issues with water damage or dampness?
  • Is the property well-ventilated (especially in bathrooms and kitchens)?
  • Can the seller explain the cause of any damp, stains or mould-related problems?
  • Are there any visible issues with wooden doors or external window frames?

Looking to buy your first property? Get property advice from Bliss Financial.

At Bliss Financial, we believe that moving home should be a happy and stress-free experience for first-time buyers. That’s why we pride ourselves on providing honest advice and friendly guidance every step of the way.

Whether you’re just looking to get an idea of your affordability before you begin your search or ready to take the next step and apply for a first-time buyer mortgage, our team will be more than happy to help.

Contact us today, and let’s start the process of finding your dream home!

If you’re a bit further along in your house-buying journey, check out our guide to moving into your first home.

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Amanda Marsden

Amanda is the founder and owner of Bliss Financial. She has been helping clients with their mortgage and insurance needs for over 15 years. Her passion is to fully explore the options open to them and ensures the process is easy with no stress. She also specialises in helping clients invest in buy to let property and landlords.

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We specifically selected Bliss as financial advisors for our mortgage, as we'd read great reviews from other first time buyers. Amanda was so welcoming and helpful, introducing us to the whole process. We actually went to her thinking we were fish out of water, and wanting to but not expecting to but for a few years, just wanting to get our heads around it. However everything felt easy, quick and well explained and we were accepted for a within approx 2 months of starting our search. Amanda has been amazing throughout the entire process - even personalising the way she presented documents to us to suit our styles (me, needing to talk everything out and my partner more graphs and charts!). Evening appointments were organised to work around our work schedules. She was in constant communication with all stakeholders, chasing things up for us and since moving, also supporting with insurances. I'd highly recommend Bliss, and specifically Amanda for any financial advisory services however particularly first time buyers, as no question feels like a silly question. For future purchases, selling, and any other financial services - we will definitely return to Bliss.
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We have recently used Amy at Bliss to help us get a mortgage. After having a stressful time at high street banks and other mortgage brokers, we contacted Amy for help. Amy was absolutely excellent and the work she does is outstanding. Amy went above and beyond and managed to find us a mortgage in a matter of days. Throughout the whole process Amy kept us up to date and managed the mortgage application seamlessly despite a stressful time with other companies. I would like to express my many thanks to Amy and the team at Bliss for being so excellent and thanks to them we now have the keys to our new home.
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First class customer service, highly recommend Bliss Financial Solutions LTD to anyone that values a professional, efficient and personal approach. Being first time buyer my partner and I had very limited knowledge around mortgages and all things connected. Amanda and her team went above and beyond to ensure we understood everything and provided advice when we had any questions with immediate response. Bliss financial limited we thank-you kindly for making the whole mortgage process so easy, you took all the strain off us especially need due to the birth of our daughter 3 weeks ago you made the mortgage process easy and hassle free. I will definitely be a customer for life and if there is anyway I can share your company’s profile on social media please let me know as I would love to recommend your service to others.Many thanks Melissa Hodgson, Andrew and Eloise - three very happy customers 😊
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We used Bliss to re morgage our property. Amy was absolutely fantastic, made everything feel really easy, she was clear in all her explanations, open and honest with setting expectations, and really knowledgeable. The whole process was really smooth. We also discussed life insurance which was something of a priority giving we had just had a little boy recently. Amazing service. Would highly recommend. We will definitely be using again for any future mortgage or insurance needs.
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Bliss Financials was a vital part of my journey to home ownership in the UK. They always gave personalized yet professional advice and were always accessible and responsive all through the process. They were very thorough, transparent and client centered; offered and discussed all the available options to enable me make an informed choice. I would totally and wholeheartedly recommend their services and I am very grateful to Amy who handled most of the process as well as Amanda and Sophie. Great team/firm!
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I would like to praise the excellent service of the Bliss Financial Solutions LTD.I have a brilliant experience with this company. I was buying a house for the first time and Bliss Financial advised me on every step of the process (mortgage, insurance), offering me suitable options that I could choose from. I always got great offers and still was in control.All members of the team (Amy, Sophie, Amanda) are brilliant, very professional, friendly and responsive.I am very grateful to Amy (my consultant) as she did help me very much throughout the process, nothing was a problem,I received responses straight away and she also prompted other parties to act swiftly (lender, insurance companies, solicitor, etc.).If I need mortgage or insurance in future, I will definitely ask Bliss Financial for help again.
Michal P.
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I am now on my second mortgage which was arranged using Bliss. What an outstanding service. From start to finish the Bliss team were great in answering queries that I had. They even pushed to get me an extension to my offer seeing me secure a great rate before the recent rises. This certainly helped me secure my dream home. I would recommend Bliss to anyone who is after a professional and personable mortgage advisor.
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Amanda worked extremely hard and was really efficient is securing a fixed deal for me at a time when rates were being removed across the board. I would recommend them to anyone.
Andrew M.
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Excellent from start to finish. Every decision and option were made clear to us about the implications and any questions we had were answered in a timely manner, making remortgaging easier than I imagined it would be. Thank you to Bliss Financial Solutions for excellent service and attention to personal details that really made us feel like our priorities were put first. We will use again at our next remortgage and would recommend to anyone.
Melissa B.
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Excellent company, fast and responsive and a professional outfitI appreciate Amy’s swift advice on a deal to secure a good rate 12hrs before the rate changed
Adam L.
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What a fantastic service. I contacted Amanda via a friend recommendation. She was friendly and helpful. She passed me to Amy who was my advisor for the whole process.As a first time buyer, I was like a rabbit in the headlights. But Amy reassured me and made the whole thing a breeze, with regular contact and updates along the way.Thank you to you all.Highly recommend 😁See you when it's time to remortgage 😉
Steven R.
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We have used Bliss/Amanda for a number of mortgages now and the service has always been second to none!We have had complicated financial situations that the Bliss team have used their extensive knowledge to support and ensure we receive the best product for us.We always recommend Bliss to all our friends and family!Thank you to Amanda, Amy and Sophie
Samantha B.
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The staff are amazing and very helpful throughout the whole process, the rates are very competitive and the after sales service is second to none, I would highly recommend Bliss Financial to anyone.MarkAspire Property Rentals
Mark L.
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Any Lyons found us an excellent mortgage deal and then helped us through a long complex legal process regarding the house. She was there for us all the way through keeping us informed and chasing up when there were delays, Thank you Amy and her team.
Ken W.
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Amy has been amazing from the start of our process as first time buyers until completion. We had a few delays along the way due to waiting on a new build but Any was there to guide us through every step of the way to help us rearrange another mortgage and kept us regularly updated on the process. I have already recommended her to friends and family and wouldn’t hesitate to use her again when we remortgage.
Melissa N.
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Really happy with the service from Amy and Bliss Financial Solutions - Amy made sure everything was as straight forward as possible, was super communicative and really easy to deal with. Would not hesitate to recommend them.
Rachael G.
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Amanda was very helpful. Gave advice over a number of options for my situation. Many other companies didn't even bother calling me back. Will definitely go back to Bliss again in the future.
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