Michael Maloco from maloco+associates offers his advice on what you should look out for when buying your first property. 

Buying your first home can be an exciting time, but it can also be difficult to know what to look for in a property. Whether you’ve started viewing properties or not, here’s some advice about what you should you look out for and what is appropriate or advisable to discuss with the seller or the agent showing you the property.

Buying your first home

Read the Home Report

All second-hand properties must have a Home Report. We recommend downloading a copy ahead of your viewing. Have a good read and note areas which the surveyor has marked as a ‘2’ or a ‘3’. Most ‘2s’ will be fairly minor in nature and relatively cheap to fix. ‘3s’ are effectively a red light telling you to proceed no further without in depth research and estimates. Your solicitor will be able to help you with this.

Make sure it’s a good fit

First impressions count and, subject to the terms of the Home Report, going with your gut isn’t a bad place to start. Try to see past the window dressing, the fresh paint and the new cushions, and imagine yourself living there. Does it fit your needs in terms of the accommodation on offer and storage? What about transport links, local amenities and the neighbourhood in general?

Research the area

Buy the worst house in the best street by all means – you can add value. Never ever buy the best house in the worst street as you can seldom, if ever, add value and the neighbourhood could drag down your investment. If you don’t know the area, do some research and ask your solicitor.

Ask the seller questions

At the viewing, ask about the seller’s timescales, whether they have bought already and when they are looking to move. Try to glean as much information as you can (subtly) regarding their position and reasons for moving. This can help in negotiation. Try to avoid talking money at the viewing. Our advice is to leave that to your solicitor.

View the property again

Remember, it usually makes sense to view a property twice at least and it’s best, if possible, to do this at different times of the day or on different days. It might seem quiet at night when you first view it but what is it like in the middle of the day?

Making an offer

So, what do you do when you find, or think you might have found ‘the one’? Properties in Scotland tend to be advertised as ‘offers over’, ‘offers around’, ‘offers in the region of’ or ‘fixed price’.

Notes of interest

If you’re interested in making an offer on a property which falls into the first three of these categories, it’s best to have your solicitor ‘note interest’ on your behalf. Noting interest costs you nothing and commits you to nothing but, more often than not, will mean that you get an opportunity to offer at a closing date if there are multiple interested parties who would also like to make an offer. It’s a common misconception that noting interest guarantees the right to make an offer; it doesn’t. A seller isn’t obliged to set a closing date and can accept any offer at any time.

Closing dates

How much to offer at a closing date is as much an art as a science and dependent upon many things; not least of which is your budget and what the particular property means to you. Your solicitor will use their experience to help you arrive at the price you want to offer.

Fixed price properties

Fixed price properties effectively say, ‘offer me this price and it’s yours’! The first clean offer received – that is one not subject to a suspensive condition such as mortgage approval – will be successful. Of course, not all fixed price properties achieve their asking price and negotiation is still possible. Your solicitor will again be able to help in this regard.

Information on buying your first home

Looking to find out more information on buying your first home? Check out our helpful first time buyers guide for lots more information on the whole buying process. Alternatively, visit our Information Centre and speak to our of our Legal Experts for free!