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I was the ripe old age of 38 before I bought my first house. I’d put it off for a long time, partly because I didn’t think I could afford it, (I was right on that one for quite some time), but also through fear.
Growing up we mainly lived in rented houses, and so I’d never really had any experience of how owning a home worked. ‘Call the landlord’ was all I knew as a response to any kind of house related problem, and the focus was always on not staining the carpets or doing anything that might mean not getting your deposit back, rather than actually thinking about designing and creating a space that you wanted to live in.
When I thought of owning my own home, I just thought ‘trouble’. How would I know what to do? What if something went wrong? Could I just put a satsuma in front of any problems, like I did with that car, and hope they went away?
It turns out that owning your own home is far less scary than I thought, that you can get insurance to cover you for lots of different emergencies, and that things feel easier if you can find yourself a decent ‘no job too big or too small’ type maintenance person. (I have a lovely chap in the next street who has so far fixed my leaky roof AND put up a blind for me.)
Although I’ve been relatively lucky so far with my house, touch wood, (apart from the leaky roof), I would probably have benefited from a little more planning when it came to choosing my first home. I basically just came in and thought ‘this seems fine’ and made an offer. I didn’t know what I should be checking, I just saw that there were coloured LED lights around the bottom of the kitchen units and I got over-excited.
What I could DEFINITELY have done with was ‘The Ultimate First Time Buyer’s Guide’, put together by Local Heroes. It’s a massive list of 77 different things you can check in your future home to help give you a better understanding of its condition and any potential problems. It covers plumbing, heating, electrics, locks and doors as well as all kinds of decorative things you might consider and odd jobs that you might not think to check.
Local Heroes is a service backed by British Gas that helps you find local tradespeople you can trust. They check that tradespeople are qualified for the job they’re doing, have positive customer recommendation and have insurance.
It’s seriously a brilliant guide and if you’re a first time home buyer and are serious about making an offer you could do worse than take it along on a viewing and just work through each of the relevant points in turn. (Lots of them are very quick, and some are things to do straight after you move in, so don’t worry about your viewing lasting for hours.)
To give you an idea of what’s included, I’ve picked out five that caught my eye that I could have done with checking. That makes it sound like I did all of the rest but honestly, I think I probably consciously did about three of them, and one of those was ‘think about where you will put your TV’, so not exactly top notch adulting.
You can do better I’m sure.
Is there enough ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom?
My house failed on both of these. Although they’d put in a brand new kitchen and bathroom in order to sell it, ventilation wasn’t high on the agenda apparently. I had to have an extractor hood fan thing fitted in the kitchen over the cooker, which took a lot of effort as our walls are super thick. (Not on my part I hasten to add.) In the bathroom we just have to open the window, which isn’t ideal but there we go.
Find the stop cock
I don’t actually think I could tell you were this is even now. I mean I’m sure I could find it if I had a quick look about, but if there was some kind of watery emergency you don’t want to be opening all the cupboards before you can switch the water off.
Do you have all the keys?
I found this one really interesting as it would never have occurred to me to even ask this, and yet there could very well be keys floating about to your new home that you don’t know about and you don’t want just anyone being able to let themselves in do you? We actually changed the locks for a smart lock, so we’re safe, but it’s worth thinking about.
Check doors and windows for sticking and jamming
Although double glazing might look likes it’s in good condition, make sure you double check that everything opens and closes easily. I didn’t do this and now I’m stuck with a bathroom window that is a bit wonky and is a massive faff to get open or shut. Not ideal when your bathroom doesn’t have an extractor fan…
Check the mobile phone signal
I really wish I’d done this because ours is POOR. My phone works okay on Wifi call, but that isn’t 100% reliable and if it decides to switch itself off mid-call then I’m stuck. I’ve made many a call at the bottom of the garden or in the middle of the road. You can get an idea of this online but the easiest thing is just to get out your phone and check the signal in different places inside and outside the house.
Those are just five of the tips from the guide, so you can see how helpful and practical it is. Check out the other 72 tips here.
If you’re a homeowner, what advice would you give to first time buyers?