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My First Home Campaign with Local Heroes

I first moved to London in 2012 which was the same year I set up MenswearStyle. I moved with my then girlfriend from Leeds to a nice little 1 bed flat in Belsize Park. After 2 years of paying £1300 a month we started to think more about how much of a waste of money that was, and how it would be better spent paying off our own mortgage. We had no deposit, so we put together a rapid saving plan. We moved to a tiny bedsit where we could almost touch the oven from our bed, and after just a year we had enough saved up for a deposit on a 1 bed property in Pinner. We had gone from the celebrity packed zone 2 to a sleepy village feel in zone 5, but we were on the property ladder and that is all that mattered to us. Looking back there are certainly some pointers and tips I can give to any first time home buyer. Some things we got right and some things not so right, but we’re already at the stage where we’re looking for our bigger second home.

Check the doors and windows for draughts 

Our house had lovely wood sash windows, but they simply let in too much traffic noise and draft. There’s a fine line between adding character and practicality. After a year we had wood effect UPVC triple glazing windows fitted and the noise difference was unbelievable. We did the same with our front door which would stick and was stiff to close according to the season.

Take a look at the water tanks 

When we looked at our property, we saw that there was a brand-new electric water tank. Electricity heated the tank of water which would then serve our radiators and hot water when needed. Little did we know that this costs a lot of money and our electricity bills were so high that we first assumed there was a mistake. We had to apply for a gas connection and get a plumber to fit a combi boiler to solve this problem. 

Where will you park? 

Our house has limited street parking and we were familiar with this from our time living in Belsize Park. Then it was normal to have to park on another street. But now with 2 kids this isn’t ideal. Lugging travel cots, highchairs, boxes of toys and suitcases every time we go on a trip to visit family or on holiday quickly gets tedious. I dream of having my own driveway now. It’s funny how priorities change. 

Turn on some taps and check the water pressure 

You never think to turn on the shower when viewing a property. We never thought to flush the toilets and turn on taps to see what the water pressure was like. But you certainly should do all those things because low water pressure can be a bit of a headache. There have been times when I’ve been stood in the shower with shampoo in my eyes and the water suddenly reduces to a trickle. This has left me waiting up to 2-3 mins shivering waiting for it to go back to normal. After a bit of research we bled all our radiators and reset our boiler, and made sure to not use the showers when our washing machine is on.

Are the appliances in good working order? 

We bought our property with brand new integrated kitchen appliances but on day one we noticed that the hobs of the cooker worked but not the oven itself. After the seller sent around an electrician it turned out that the oven part hadn’t been wired up at all. Then three days later when we used the washing machine it harshly vibrated (almost jumping around) on fast spin. The seller sent someone again (I’m sure he was annoyed by us) and it turned out that the plugs which hold the drum of a washing machine secure in transit hadn’t been removed. Apparently, a rookie mistake. So, when you unlock the door to your house for the first time, I would suggest testing out all appliances within the first two days. 

Is the property big enough? 

Within 2 years of moving into our 1 bed house I was married and had a baby. Suddenly our 1 bed house was going to be too small and we would need another bedroom for the new arrival. Our house also only had a small yard space which at the time of buying we were thrilled with (we had no outside space when renting in Belsize Park) but suddenly now looking at it as a dad I wanted a larger garden with grass and a little play area. A small slate tiled yard just wasn’t going to cut it. The house was also located on a main road at a roundabout junction and this didn’t bother us, but once noisy trucks, motorbikes and sirens start waking up the baby it really started to annoy us. So, I would recommend to first time buyers that they have a good think about what they expect to happen within the next 5 years and keep this in mind when searching/viewing houses.  

Is the house in a school catchment area? 

Being in the catchment area of a good school didn’t even cross our minds when we bought our house. Once you have kids this becomes a number one priority because no one wants to send their precious child off to a school that has an Ofsted grade of ‘requires improvement’. Luckily for us we so happen to be within the catchment of an ‘Outstanding’ grade primary school and a newly built secondary school, which I’m sure will add a premium when it comes to selling in the future. So even if you don’t have any kids now, keep this in mind otherwise your options are to move to a new house, send your child to a poor performing school or pay for a private school.

Cost and time of solicitors/searches  

I had no idea buying a house would take so long once you’ve said “yes, we want it and will offer the asking price”. You need to pay a solicitor and pay for ‘searches’ and it costs quite a lot (so make sure you budget for it) and it takes weeks. I had assumed that because we had our ‘mortgage in principle’, the deposit ready, and there was no chain from the seller that it would take maybe a week or two. For some annoying reason, it takes approx. 6-8 weeks. So, make sure you don’t give noticed to end your rental too soon or you may end up paying for a short term let or a hotel until the keys are finally put into your hands. 

Buy freehold 

My final recommendation is to buy freehold. We now live in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house after converting it from a small 1 bed house. It is now worth much more than we expected, and this has now given us the opportunity to buy a second home. When you buy leasehold, you will need to ask permission of the freeholder to do any internal or external changes to your property, whereas with freehold, your only obstacle is getting the councils ‘approved’ stamp on your planning application.  

This post is in conjunction with Local Heroes but all thoughts are my own. Since its inception in 2016, Local Heroes has been committed to matching skilled and vetted local trades people to customers who need jobs completed in their home, quickly and easily. Focusing on providing an ultimate first-time buying guide with tradesperson-approved knowledge, Local Heroes have collated 77 First-Time Buyers Tips, aiming to collect all the information you need to know about moving within one handy place.

Craig Landale

Previously heading up digital marketing at a large UK menswear group, Craig steers the ship at Menswear Style and has a keen interest for sustainable brands, fashion startups and British manufacturing.

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