Top tips for first-time home buyers

Buying your first home is exciting, but it can also seem a daunting process – sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start.

Michael Henry, sales manager at Cluttons’ Islington branch, gives some of his top tips for first-time property buyers.


Arrange to speak in person with a mortgage broker or mortgage advisor at a major bank. Online decisions in principle from major banks are ‘OK’ but, a mortgage broker will be able to give you a full view of the mortgage market, seek out the best packages for your needs and crucially, carry out a full financial analysis to give you a much clearer indication of what you can actually borrow. This will not only narrow down your search criteria, but it will also save any disappointment in the long term.


A good conveyancing solicitor is invaluable. Speak with your estate agent to find out who they would recommend and seek multiple quotes from the beginning. Whilst cheap online services can be very appealing you are making what might be the biggest single purchase of your life which brings a lot of stress with it. So, forking out a little extra to bring on board a recommended, local, high street solicitor who knows the area and can dedicate more time to giving a high level of customer service will help save any additional stress and strain. There are also certain disbursements/costs and are not immediately apparent, in addition to your solicitors professional fee, so you will need to be able to budget for these and prepare for any additional costs.

The Property Search

View, view and view. If you do not have a clear idea of what exactly you are looking for, then view as many properties as possible. You will find out very quickly what you do not like, and this will help narrow down the available properties much more quickly. The old trope of “Location, location, location” still applies. You need to be conscious of any potential onward sale and being a little pragmatic in your decision of what property to go for, could save further time down the line i.e. the more boxes the property ticks in terms of transport, outside space and overall size etc. then the larger your potential market will be when it comes to the time you move on to bigger and better things.

Estate Agents

Understand that the estate agent does not work for you, they work for the vendor of the property in question and have to protect their interests. Many, however, understand that without a buyer, their client does not have a sale, so they will do what they can to answer any concerns or queries you might have. Furthermore, it is always worth striking a bond with a good agent so you are front of mind when they have an appropriate instruction – a good agent really can make the difference. At point of viewing, here are some key questions about every property that an estate agent should answer for you:

  • What is the tenure i.e. Leasehold, Share of Freehold (apartments) or Freehold (houses)?
  • If leasehold, what is the lease length remaining on the property?
  • What are the service charges and ground rent that need to be paid annually?
  • What is included in the service charge? i.e. A reserve fund for major works, porters or concierges etc.?
  • If you are buying an apartment in a building, ask if there are any major works planned by the freeholder?
  • Will there be an onward chain with this property? A long chain can slow up the sale process and will mean it is more likely to fall through.

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James Hyman

Partner, head of residential agency

Head office

T +44 (0) 20 7407 3669
James Hyman, head of residential agency, Cluttons

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