I want to get on the property ladder and have viewed 40 homes, but can't make my mind up!

Having been saving up for a while, I decided this year to start looking to buy my first home. 

Up until this point, I have been renting with friends for a number of years and have moved from property to property.

But now I find myself trying to find somewhere to buy, I can’t make my mind up – I feel like a rabbit in the headlights. 

I feel in part overwhelmed by the prospect of putting all my savings towards a deposit on a home at a time when house prices are falling and mortgage rates have risen rapidly. 

Sage advice: We asked three experts to advise our reader on how to beat their decision paralysis

Sage advice: We asked three experts to advise our reader on how to beat their decision paralysis

But I am also overwhelmed by having to pick a home that I will live in for the next five to 10 years.

I know the area I want to be in and type of property I want, but just haven’t seen anything yet that is quite right. There has been no love at first sight.

I have been to see about 40 properties so far, admittedly knowing that most wouldn’t end up being quite right. 

I’m probably being too picky, but there is only a limited number of homes coming on the market – and most have no appeal. Prices don’t appear to be falling. Sellers appear to be holding out and only a handful of the best homes are selling.

Do you have any tips to help me get over my decision paralysis? For example, is there some form of a buying checklist?

I have also heard that I should be building relationships with agents as the best homes all sell before they hit Rightmove or Zoopla. Is this true even in a market such as this? And how should I go about doing it?

Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: Decision paralysis is when you lack the ability to decide on something out of fear of making the wrong choice.

I’m afraid it’s part life’s rich tapestry whether you like it or not – it’s a problem that impacts everyone – albeit some more than others.

We live in a world where it can feel like there is an infinite amount of the same thing – but all in slightly different shapes, sizes and guises – whether that be types of bread in a supermarket, jeans in a clothes shop, or TVs in a department store.

It’s the same thing for property – except it’s also likely to be the biggest financial decision of your life, which rather adds to the pressure.

The good news is that you know the area you want to buy in – probably rather well after 40 odd viewings. 

The bad news is; there isn’t a manual to help you make that all important final decision.

Some buy with their head and others buy with their heart. You sound like you may fall into the latter camp.

That said, you are clearly concerned by falling house prices. 

The latest Halifax and Nationwide house price index show values have fallen the last year by the sharpest since 2009. 

Most experts agree prices will slide further from here on, but ultimately trying to time the market is pure guesswork – and some local markets behave differently.

We asked three experts for their advice: Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent, Charlie Lamdin, founder of property website BestAgent and Matt Thompson, head of sales at London estate agency Chestertons.

Advice from the buying agent?

Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent and property expert says they should stay put and continue renting

Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent and property expert says they should stay put and continue renting

Henry Pryor replies: Oh dear, you do seem to be struggling, don’t you.

Strange though it may seem my advice to you is ‘stay put.’ Don’t move, you aren’t ready and I expect that you will find yourself full of remorse if you do.

Finding the right house is like finding the right partner. It may happen instantly or it can take a lifetime. Some never do.

Like a partner you will have to compromise. What you want probably doesn’t exist and if it did you probably couldn’t afford it. 

You say you are very happy renting and many people are. I’ve been an estate agent for forty years and I rent. 

There’s no shame in it and many mortgage holders today would envy your freedom.

If you’ve looked at 40 properties in one place you are getting dangerously close to irritating the local estate agents who will think you’re just a tyre-kicker. 

Rather than help you to see off-market properties they are more likely to avoid alerting you to things. 

An estate agent doesn’t want to be a tour guide, they want to sell their clients properties.

My advice is to make up your mind whether you really do want to buy a house in what most people agree is a falling market when interest rates are high and stock of homes for sale is down by 25 per cent.

Check what home ownership might give you that renting and saving doesn’t.

Only buy something that you could live in for at least five years otherwise continue renting.

Be much more selective about what you go and see if you decide to continue your search. Remember, estate agents aren’t tour guides there to help you find a home. They are paid to sell you one of the ones they are instructed on.

Finally, buying a home is serious and can be expensive. The word ‘mortgage’ comes from the french word for death. It was a loan until death. It isn’t for everyone and renting is not a second class choice.

Advice from the homemoving expert?

Charlie Lamdin, founder of BestAgent, believes they should keep viewing potential homes, again and again, relentlessly

Charlie Lamdin, founder of BestAgent, believes they should keep viewing potential homes, again and again, relentlessly

Charlie Lamdin replies: If there’s any doubt, then there’s no doubt. That’s the number one rule. 

You should only commit to proceeding with the purchase of a home if the thought of it fills you with excitement, and it represents a big step forward in all areas of your life, not just financially. It’s too big a decision to get wrong.

Don’t wait to time the market, just be out viewing potential homes, again and again, relentlessly. Make offers on homes you are sure you’d love to live in, but avoid bidding wars as a first time buyer.

Every viewing will teach you something whether it’s a front line insight to your market from the agent, or a feel for what’s selling and what’s not. 

In a falling market, you should view homes that have asking prices outside your budget. Agents are quieter now, and more willing to show you homes they were too busy to show you a year ago.

If and when you find a home that really feels that bit more special than the others you’ve viewed, and you find yourself wanting to offer, remember the following.

First. Sleep on it.

Second. Only make your offer by email, not phone or in person. This avoids you being ‘closed’ at a higher price than you’re comfortable with by trained professional negotiators. They can’t intimidate you into a higher price by email.

Third. It’s better to offer your maximum comfortable price and not get the home, than to overpay and be burdened with a financial commitment that becomes a millstone around your neck, as has happened to so many people now caught out by rising mortgage payments.

There are no shortcuts to this process. But you can hugely improve your chances of having your offer accepted if you have a mortgage in principle, a conveyancer, proof of deposit funds and a commitment to buy your search pack immediately if the seller accepts your offer. 

This demonstrates higher commitment, that you’re not afraid to embark on the process and that you’re more likely to exchange contracts sooner.

Motivated sellers are seeking certainty of sale over maximum price. This creates a great opportunity for well prepared first time buyers, because you’re chain free.

Happy home hunting.

Advice from an estate agent? 

Matt Thompson, head of sales at London estate agency Chestertons, suggests extending their search radius ever so slightly

Matt Thompson, head of sales at London estate agency Chestertons, suggests extending their search radius ever so slightly

Matt Thompson replies: Buying your first home can be a daunting undertaking and you are right to be doing it at your own pace, especially if you are in no particular rush to move. 

It is good to hear that you have already narrowed down the location you wish to buy in, although it does sound like this area doesn’t offer you a lot of choice which can make your search for the ‘perfect property’ more difficult. 

To widen your pool of potential properties, it might be worth extending your search radius ever so slightly as you might be more likely to find the right home within your budget.

It also sounds like you are uncertain about current market conditions and have further questions about the property market. 

As I can’t detect from your questions where you are looking to buy, I’m unable to offer you tailored advice and I would recommend finding and setting up a meeting with trusted estate agents in your area to give you a breakdown of the market and fully understand what you are looking for.

Last but not least, your agent is likely to be in ongoing contact with local homeowners and is therefore one of the first to know about any new properties being put up for sale. 

It’s therefore advisable to stay in regular touch with your chosen estate agent.

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