Finding a home - First time buyer

How do I find my perfect home in 2024?

4 min read

From setting your priorities to evaluating properties, get top tips to navigate challenges and find a home that’s right for you and your loved ones.

  • Abigail Bolton Senior Digital Website and Content Marketing Executive
    Abigail Bolton

    SEO Specialist and Senior Copywriter

    Published February 23rd 2024

happy family sat together in their rented apartment looking online to find their perfect home

From exploring different neighbourhoods to evaluating properties, the homebuying journey can be equal parts exciting and stressful. This guide will help you navigate challenges and feel more confident about finding a home that’s right for you.

Set a realistic budget

To set your budget you’ll first need to assess your financial situation. This involves considering your income, expenses and savings. Keep in mind that your mortgage won’t be your only expense. You’ll also need to consider other homeownership factors and ongoing costs, such as utility bills, council tax, repair expenses and maintenance costs.

Explore affordable home ownership schemes

Set your priorities and start your research

When it comes to how to find your perfect home, that’s something only you can answer. But our recent survey* found out what 1,500 home buyers looked for. Different regions had different priorities. Unsurprisingly, commuting Londoners value good transport links, while buyers in Leeds hanker after a bigger garden.

Time to make a list. What are the non-negotiables vs. nice-to-haves with regards to property features and location?

Think about your top key features and amenities

Here are some of the main factors that Brits consider when searching for a new home:

  • 58% of respondents would prefer a house with a private, south-facing garden, and an office space

  • 46% value storage space in a property

  • A driveway was an important feature to 45%

  • 32% appreciate the room layout and value an en-suite

  • A large eat-in kitchen, walk-in wardrobe and loft conversion were sought after by 30% of respondents

  • 28% look out for original features

Explore different areas

Once you’ve decided the property features and location-based factors that are important to you, such as schools, house prices or commute times, you can narrow down your research.

On the look-out for the next up-and-coming area? Seek signs like decent transport links, independent shops and new estate agencies.

Once you’re done with your online research, you can organise viewings of properties that match your criteria.

View our guide on the best places to live in the UK.

Research property value trends

Get a sense of the area’s development history to find out more about the potential of the neighbourhood and decide if it’s worth investing in a property. You can find out local house prices and useful data using online tools like Zoopla and Mouseprice.

Check for future developments

Learning more about future developments and planned changes in the local area, could also be smart move, as these could affect property value. For example, the construction of transportation links, shopping centres or schools could increase the value of your property. The government’s planning portal is a good place to start your research.

Take a walk around the area

Walk the area at various times of the day to see how you feel in terms of traffic and security. Experience your neighbourhood on foot to check proximity to shops and parks. It’s a good chance to discover small businesses, green spaces and get a sense of the local atmosphere. Google Maps can help you discover pubs and cafés, but also get a sense of the traffic in the area. You can also check England Noise and Air Quality Viewer to find road and railway noise level maps.

Reach out to residents

During your walk, don’t hesitate to talk to people who live in the area, asking questions and discovering insights about lifestyle and amenities in their community. Finding online community social media groups and checking the Office for National Statistics page could also help you get a better sense of community.

Transport links

Make sure commuting times from your office, school or favourite places and people aren’t too long.

Research neighbourhood crime rates

Safety is a key factor you need to consider when buying a property. Check the online crime-mapping service of the Metropolitan police to find crime levels and statistics for your area of interest.

Review schools and amenities

If you have a family or are planning to do so, check for local schools in your neighbourhood. Use online tools, like Government School Finders and The Good Schools Guide to find information about primary, secondary and special needs schools in the area of interest and compare their performance. Considering proximality to amenities, such as hospitals could also be a good idea when exploring a new neighbourhood.

Evaluate properties online, before you view

You don’t want to waste yours or the seller’s time, so study the home’s online listing against your must-have list, before you book a viewing. From checking the layout to thinking about the property’s resale value.

Check the property’s history

Speak to a real estate agent to get insights about a property’s history and past sales and find out how long it’s been on the market or how many viewings or offers it’s had. For example, the longer a property is on the market, chances are there’s more room for negotiation.

Make an informed decision

With all that information under your belt, book in viewings for the homes that seem to meet all of your needs.

View and inspect properties in person

When you start viewing properties, take a good look around and ask questions to gather as much information as you can, considering your must-haves list again. Understand why the owner is selling the house and ask how long the property has been for sale or whether any sales have fallen through. This could help you discover any red flags, like structural issues.

Try and discern whether you’ll need to make minor repairs, such as applying a fresh coat of paint, or more extensive renovations, like replacing the windows or installing a new shower.

Ten questions to ask at a property viewing

Arrange a home buyer’s survey

Decided to make an offer? You’ll also need to arrange a home buyers survey, which is an inspection that provides detail on the overall condition of the property you want to purchase.

Get a home buyers survey quote.

Before you buy, you also need to familiarise yourself with the legal process and understand the terms of the sale as well as legal costs and fees. Here we clearly break down the costs for you, so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Assess the property’s energy performance

Viewing a property’s energy performance certificate (EPC) will give you information on the property’s energy efficiency and help you decide what improvements might be necessary. Thinking about the home’s orientation and how it influences energy consumption might also be helpful.

Find out more about how to improve the energy efficiency of a home.

* Survey was completed in April 2021.

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