A fresh look at home-buying

First-time buyer? Or deciding on your next move? Property expert Kate Faulkner says climbing the property ladder isn’t always a journey from A to B – you might go around the alphabet a bit. But whatever your goals, an open mind – and a bit of creative thinking – can help you unlock them. Here’s her tips to help you widen your view and find your next home.

Kate Faulkner is one of the UK’s leading property experts and the founder of propertychecklists.co.uk.

Cast a wider net

Outside your range? Or within reach? If you focus your search on a popular area, you might find that high demand means high prices. Expand your search by even a few streets and you might see prices start to drop.

Keep an open mind about things like being near a busy road, too. It might not be as loud as buyers fear – and traffic might dropoff after rush hour. Try visiting at different times of day to help decide.

Town or country? You might find great deals in rural areas, sometimes within an hour of the city. You could use a commute to catch up on life admin or even figure out your next career move. Don’t forget to think about commute costs though. Talk to your employer – you might be able to arrange working from home a few days a week, or adjust working hours to avoid peak travel times.

Spend a few days in the area to see if the lifestyle suits you. If a commute isn’t practical, you should also research the local job market, or explore the possibility of full-time remote working.

Too small? Or just big enough? A property that seems too small might actually have potential if you get creative. Look at the whole space, from floor to wall to ceiling. Could a loft bed open up extra floor space, for example? Browse online for innovative storage solutions too – there are some inspiring solutions out there.

Looking for new ways to save? You can use all this flexible thinking while you save for a deposit. You could move to a cheaper area for a while, or live with more flatmates.

And while lots of people stay with their parents while they save, if that’s not for you HomeShare is an interesting alternative. This scheme matches people who’d like a bit of support at home with people happy to help in return for affordable accommodation.

Make it more affordable

Find a helping hand. The Scottish Government has several schemes to help you buy a home and there are more options than you might think. For example, with shared ownership you could buy part of your home, pay an occupancy charge to a housing association on the rest, and buy a bigger stake later on.

Your family might be able to help too. They could act as guarantor for a loan, or gift you money for a deposit or to start a Help to Buy ISA. If they can’t help financially, they could still be a valuable source of advice and support.

Go it alone? Or join forces? Joint ownership doesn’t have to be with a partner. You could buy with a friend or sibling, if you’re comfortable sharing a mortgage (and home) with them. Have an open conversation about goals and what happens if circumstances change – for example, if one of you gets married.

Prefer to own alone, but still live with a flatmate? With the Rent a Room scheme, you could take on a lodger and earn up to £7,500 tax-free.

Major fault, or minor repair? Wall cracks may scare some buyers off, but it’s often no cause for concern – though you should always get an expert to investigate. In some circumstances you might even be able to find grants for repairs.

A plan makes it happen

Have you thought of everything? Make sure you have a clear view of all the costs of buying, moving and living in a new home. Think beyond the property price, stamp duty, surveys and legal costs. Factor in relocation costs: removals, redecorating, furniture (especially if you’re moving out of a furnished rented flat) and changes to bills.

For example, how much will the council tax be? And how energy efficient is it? New builds, for example, could cost less to heat.

And finally… top tips

What matters most is getting that ‘home’ feeling when you walk through the front door. Here’s two final tips to help make it happen:

  • Talk to the experts -your bank, estate agents, or experienced friends. They can offer advice in areas you may not have even considered.
  • Remember, a great home needn’t be ‘perfect’. It might take several moves to build up buying power and get where you want to be.

Buying a home in Scotland?

Take a look at our simple steps for buying a house in Scotland.