This month, we will have lived in our flat for six years. I find this absolutely astonishing and I honestly don’t know where that time has gone. It feels like yesterday that we got the keys and moved all our worldly belongings in, super happy to have made it onto the property ladder at all. But the process of being a first-time buyer was quite a scary one and there were so many aspects of the home-buying process that we didn’t fully understand.
Viewing a property for the first time is hugely exciting, but it is also quite overwhelming. I was looking around assessing the suitability for our growing family ( I was about six months pregnant at this time) and imagining how we could transform the space in the long-term to make it work for us. Other than that I had no idea what else I should have been checking for. There was a constant fear that we might miss something and sadly, there were some issues that we didn’t spot and we have had to spend a fair amount of money getting them fixed.
So today, I’d like to share with you five tips for first-time buyers that I wish I had known when we were buying our first home. These tips are taken from The Ultimate First Time Buyer’s Guide which is a super handy resource for anyone about to embark on a house purchase. It has been put together by Local Heroes, an organisation set up by British Gas in 2016 to match skilled and vetted local tradespeople to customers who need jobs doing in their homes.
Having realised how difficult it can be to find someone reliable and trustworthy to do skilled jobs in your home, Local Heroes has created a network of over 7,000 local companies across the UK, covering almost every job in your home from plumbing to plastering and decorating to electrics. All of the tradespeople on the Local Heroes platform have been fully vetted to make sure they’re up to the job and their work is guaranteed by Local Heroes, so you can be sure that it’s of top quality.
So onto our five tips for first-time buyers…
The first tip from this guide is from the plumbing section, and it advises you to take a look at the water tanks. This is something that we did actually do when we came to view our flat. Not because we thought it would be a good idea to check their condition but because we knew we wanted to do a loft conversion one day to gain some extra space. When we looked we realised that the water tank for the downstairs flat is also housed in our loft. So that was really good to know before we signed on the dotted line as this will clearly have major implications for our planned loft conversion.
While you are up in the loft inspecting the water tanks, you should take this opportunity to check the state of the roof and the amount of insulation. We very stupidly didn’t do this and assumed from a quick glance at the outside of the roof that all was ok. But all was not ok and we have had just under six years of battles with the roof that has caused a fair amount of damage to our home. Every time the wind got up, we lost roof tiles and rain came pouring into the loft, which then damaged the ceiling in the girls’ bedroom. We’ve wasted a fair amount of money on redecorating just because we didn’t spot this issue early on.
This is one of the most important tips for first-time buyers. Do a room inspection by spending enough time in each room to see if there are any cold spots, especially rooms with two outside walls. Again, this is something we didn’t really do. There were no obvious problems to raise alarm bells so we assumed that everything was ok. We viewed the property in the middle of summer as well so there were no signs of damp to worry us.
But in hindsight, what we should have done is to feel the walls for damp patches that we couldn’t see. To do this, simply place your palm against the wall to see if it feels cold or clammy. If we’d have done this we would have noticed that there is a very distinct cold spot in the corner of the girls’ bedroom where the two outside walls meet. And it is also this corner that suffers from a damp problem. We’ve had paint that turns to powder and paint that simply flakes off so again we’ve spent a fair amount of time and money redecorating this room over six years.
This ties in nicely with tip three above. Don’t underestimate the cost of fixing a damp problem. Not only have we had to fork out to redecorate this room three times in six years but we’ve also spent a fair amount of money on trying to work out exactly what is causing the issue. We had all the guttering on that side of the house replaced, just in case it was leaking and causing damp inside. We have also added lots of new insulation to the loft to try to eliminate the possibility of a cold bridge. All in all, it’s been a pretty costly affair so far.
The final tip that I wish I had known is to make sure that there is adequate ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom. This was yet another big mistake that we made. When we moved in there were extractor fans that were vented out in both rooms but they were very old and not particularly effective. We left it until we renovated both rooms to replace them and in hindsight, we should have done this much sooner.
Given that the girls’ bedroom is opposite the kitchen and next to the bathroom any warm damp air automatically gets attracted to the cold spot in the corner of their bedroom making the damp problem even worse. It’s much better now that we have replaced the extractor fans though. We opted for one in the kitchen that comes on automatically when humidity levels get too high and it has really helped. We also got a new cooker hood and made sure we vented that out as well.
As a final bonus tip, I just thought I’d share with you how hard we have found it to actually get skilled tradesman to come round at all to help us with our jobs. We had to call so many people before we successfully booked someone in. In the end, all of the tradesmen we have worked with have come recommended by other tradesmen. We were trying to get a roofer for well over a year with no luck. Then we had the exterior of our home painted and the painter said he could recommend someone. He put in a call and a week later our roof was fixed. We could have saved ourselves so much time and energy had we have known about Local Heroes when we first moved in.
So those are my top five tips for first-time buyers. I’d love to know if you have any tips to share based on your experience. Or if you are yet to buy your first home take a look at the Local Heroes Guide and pop a comment below to let me know if any of their tips surprised you at all.