What to look for when buying a new family home

Buying a home for your new or growing family is a big milestone – here’s how to set yourself up to make all the right choices

A family of three smiling and laughing

Whether you’re a first-time buyer dreaming of a family home of your own or a home-owner ready to make the move to somewhere that better suits the needs of your growing family, buying a property is an exciting and important decision.

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But hang on a minute! We know that when you’ve a baby on the way or small kids rapidly growing into bigger ones, the need to find that new living space can feel pretty real but, before you start casing suitable areas and checking out schools, it’s worth taking some time first to organise some key financial and practical details. Yep, we know crunching numbers is not everyone’s idea of fun but doing it now will save you a lot of time, worry and money further down the line. It really does pay to do your prep.

So, before you start the search for your new home, we’ve drawn up a list of the details you need to nail down, so you can be sure your new home is affordable, practical and future-proofed for all your family needs…

1. The money check: here’s what to consider before deciding what kind of home you can afford

The pull of those property apps may be strong but before you start drawing up those family home viewing shortlists, you need to work out exactly what you can afford. That’s because it’s not just about the price of the property but all the additional costs that come with buying and moving.

You’ll need to sit and do some number-crunching together and you may discover, while doing it, that you and your partner have different views on how far you should stretch your finances. If that’s the case for you, at least you can talk it through now, before one or other of you gets your heart set on a particular property that the other thinks is probably out of your reach.

  • Deposit
    If you’re a first-time buyer, lenders will usually ask for a deposit of between 5% and 10% of the house price (if you’re already a home owner, the equity in your current home can be put forward to invest in your new home). Saving can be easier than you think, especially with these handy tips from the team at Barclays.
  • Mortgage
    Most people will need to take out a mortgage in order to buy a home. Taking out a mortgage can feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it for the first time, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Barclays has put together lots of helpful information online to make the process feel less scary.
  • Credit scores/checks
    If you’re looking to buy a house, it’s important to regularly check your credit score and make sure all the information held about you is up-to-date. It also gives you the chance to spot anything that might make you less attractive to lenders and then work to improve it. There are lots of websites where you can check your credit score for free, like Credit Karma and ClearScore.
  • Mortgage costs and broker fees
    When you take out a mortgage, you will typically have to pay an additional fee on top of this – usually around £500 to £2,000. In many cases, this fee can simply be added to your mortgage. If you choose to use the services of a mortgage broker to help you find the best deal, they will take commission from your mortgage provider – and some may also charge an additional fee of around £300 to £750.
  • Stamp duty
    If you’re in England or Northern Ireland, you’ll have to pay Stamp Duty on property over a certain value. This amount varies depending on whether you are a first-time buyer, own more than one property and how much you are paying for the house. For up-to-date costs, check the government’s website. Buyers in Scotland will need to pay a Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, and those in Wales will pay a Land Transaction Tax.
  • Valuations and surveys
    Your mortgage lender might want to arrange a valuation to check that the price of the property is realistic – many lenders, including Barclays, will do this for free. It’s a good idea to pay for a survey, where a professional can flag up any issues with the house that might end up costing you money. You can find a local, qualified surveyor through the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors* and can expect to pay anything from around £250 to £300 (for a basic condition report) to between £500 and £2,000 (for a more comprehensive survey – worthwhile if the house is particularly old).
  • Legal fees
    A solicitor or licensed conveyancer is essential when making such a huge purchase. They can help you navigate the buying process, check for any future planning issues that could affect you, register your property with the government and provide legal advice when needed. Get quotes from different firms before you commit but, on average, you should budget around £800 to £1,500 for this.
  • Estate agent fees
    If you’re selling your current home, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of using either a high-street estate agent or online service. This is typically a percentage of the sale (usually between 1% and 3%) or a flat fee.
  • Insurance
    You will need to have buildings insurance in place by the date you exchange contracts. This covers you for any damage to the structure of the building which could affect the value – most mortgage offers rely on you having this cover sorted. And then there’s also contents cover and life insurance to consider, all of which the team at Barclays can help with.
  • Removal costs
    A professional removal company will certainly take some of the stress out of moving, particularly if you’ve got little children to corral or you’re very pregnant and not up for heavy lifting. Different companies offer different services, ranging from loading and unloading, right down to packing your belongings for you. What you pay will reflect this, as well as how much – and how far – you have to move. Prices can range anywhere from around £400 to £1,500 or more.
  • Cleaning costs
    As the seller is not legally required to clean the house before they leave, you may want to get the place professionally cleaned before you move in – especially if you have a crawler or toddler in the family. Depending on the size and condition of the house this could cost anything from £100 to £350. If you are leaving a rented property, you will likely need to factor in the cost of an end of tenancy clean, too.
  • Ground rent, maintenance and service charges
    If you’re buying a leasehold property (usually a flat or apartment), you may need to pay either a monthly or yearly fee to the freeholder for ground rent, maintenance and service charges (covering things like the cleaning of communal areas and building staff).
  • Setting up utilities and broadband
    Contact different providers for quotes before you move to your new property (especially if you have a young family and the thought of no access to Hey Duggee brings you out in a cold sweat!). Shop around for the best deal, budget for any additional costs and organise to get connected as soon as you have a completion date.

Download our printable checklist to help you keep track of the key financial details when budgeting for your move

2. The property check: here’s what to consider when browsing and viewing homes to buy

A couple smiling

Once you’ve got an idea of what you can afford and how much buying and moving will cost, you can get stuck into the fun part – looking at what’s on the market at the moment. As you’re searching, it’s useful to have a few things in mind to make sure your new home will work for you and your family now, and as your children grow.

Bear in mind that you may not be able to find absolutely the perfect home in absolutely the perfect location for the money you can afford, so think carefully – and agree! – about what’s an absolute must and what’s just a nice-to-have that you would be willing to compromise on, if you have to. It’ll really help your property hunt if you’ve taken the time to work out together in advance what features of a home are the most important to your family.

  • Location and neighbourhood
    You’re not just buying a home, you’re buying into the area, so look for somewhere that offers what your family needs now and will also need further down the line. A tick-list of amenities (eg nearby supermarket, pharmacy, family-friendly cafe or leisure centre) that you’d like close-by is a handy starting point. You should also consider other key factors, such as the crime rate, any development plans and the general neighbourhood feel – is it set up for families?
  • Transport links and parking
    No-one wants to be lugging a car seat and shopping bags up the road, so if you drive, check out the parking options when searching for a new home. Don’t forget to look at how well-served the area is by public transport, how close it is to a motorway and how easily you’ll be able to travel to work or school.
  • School and nursery catchment areas
    Buying a house is a long-term investment, so it’s important to look ahead and check what the local schools are like. The experts at Barclays have some good advice on what to look for, including inspection reports and parents’ approval ratings. Also, if you have very small kids, make sure there are plenty of decent nursery and childcare options available nearby.
  • Low-traffic area
    Look for a low traffic neighbourhood, or a property well away from a busy main road, to reduce the impact of noise and air pollution. These, along with the worry of children playing near traffic, can be important concerns to address when house hunting as a family.
  • Outdoor space
    A garden is a real asset, especially as your children grow up and need the space to run around and play. Alternatively, being close to a park, playing fields or countryside walks provides the opportunity for plenty of fresh air, bike trips and family football kickabouts.
  • Features of the home that matter to you
    Make sure the property offers everything you absolutely need – and as many as possible of the things you’d really like. Key questions to ask might include: Are the bedrooms big enough and are there enough rooms to accommodate a growing family, if you plan to have more children? Are there plenty of plug sockets in each room? Is there decent mobile/wifi signal? Is there enough storage? Where can you hang your (mountains of) washing? Is there a bath rather than just a shower? Does the layout work for you as a family? You want your new home to make life as easy as possible for you all.

Download our printable checklist to help you keep track of your must-have features when looking for properties

How Barclays can help you find the right mortgage

If you’re looking to buy a family home, Barclays has lots of options to make the process straight forward for you.

  • Use its online mortgage calculator to work out how much you could borrow, as well as how much a mortgage would cost you each month.
  • You can also apply for an Agreement in principle (AiP), to get an idea of the amount Barclays could lend you
  • Book an appointment to speak to one of Barclays’ Money Mentors. They’ll talk to you about your income, any outstanding debts and the property you want to buy – there’s plenty of information on the Barclays website to help walk you through exactly what’s needed.
  • To give you extra peace of mind, once your mortgage application has been submitted, you can follow it every step of the way using Barclays’ Track It to see how it’s progressing. One less thing to worry about!

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* Barclays is not responsible for, nor does it endorse in any way, such 3rd-party websites or their content. If you decide to access any of the 3rd-party websites, you do so entirely at your own risk

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