Where to spend and where to save when buying a house

Where to spend and where to save when buying a house

Last updated: 05/04/2022

For most people, buying a house is the biggest expense they’ll ever face. As well as the cost of the property itself, there are many other costs involved with buying and moving into a new home. 

So how do you make sure you’re not overspending or buying things that are unnecessary? 

Here’s our guide to some of the things you can save on or even cut completely, and those that are essential, when moving home.

Estate agents: big savings potential

If you’re already on the housing ladder, and are selling a house to buy a new one, then one of the biggest costs you face is estate agent fees. 

They provide a valuable service; advertising your home, showing potential buyers round, and negotiating the best price possible.

But, there is no law that says you must use an estate agent. To save money, you could try and cut the middlemen out altogether. By doing this, you would lose the advantage of being able to list your home on the main property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla – as they only accept listings from agents - but you could instead advertise on community websites and social media.

Or you could opt for an online estate agency, as a compromise. These are typically cheaper than traditional estate agents, and provide a stripped back service; for example, depending on the service you choose, they’ll list your home on sites like Rightmove, but you’ll need to conduct viewings. 

Search efficiently: save time and money

This one is more about saving time, rather than money. But when scrolling through sites like Rightmove and deciding which houses to go and see, be highly selective. It sounds obvious. But in reality, it’s so easy to go to the trouble of seeing a house, only to cross it off your list for a problem you could have spotted online. Perhaps one of the rooms is blatantly too small or it’s next to a major road and you have a small child or a pet who would be in danger.

If a property doesn’t tick those essential boxes, then don’t bother visiting! Be efficient, and save yourself some time and petrol money.

House survey: worth paying for

House surveys are expensive, starting at around £400 and rising to £1500, depending on the type of survey. However, they are certainly a necessity. 

Think of one as an investment. They may spot a problem that would cost you thousands of pounds to fix. So paying for a good survey could put you in a position to renegotiate the sale price and save you money on repairs further down the line. Or you could walk away from a purchase altogether. Either way, they can be well worth the money spent.

So, as much as they involve a big upfront cost, it’s probably best to consider a home survey as a way of saving money in the long run.

Conveyancing: a cost to bear

Conveyancing is the legal transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer, and is usually done either by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer.

It doesn’t come cheap – fees are typically between £850-£1500 according to the Homeowners Alliance - and can feel like a long and drawn-out process. 

So could you do it yourself? Unfortunately, if you’re using a mortgage lender to buy your house then the answer is probably no. However, if you’re a cash buyer, comfortable with legal jargon and open to a lot of potentially complicated paperwork, then you could give DIY conveyancing a go.

But in most situations, conveyancing is one of those costs you’ll have to live with.

Boxes and packaging: save money and waste

Boxes are surprisingly expensive! Especially when you need dozens and dozens (always more than you think) of the sturdy and large variety to move all of your worldly belongings. 
The same goes for the other packaging materials you might need.

So, long before you agree a completion day for a new house, put the word out among friends and family that you’re on a box scrounge. Better still, check on community sites like Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, Gumtree or local giveaway websites, to see if any recent movers have a load going spare. Sometimes it’s even worth asking a local shop or supermarket if they have any going spare from their deliveries.

You can return the favour after you’ve moved; having someone pick up your old boxes saves you a trip to the skip. 

Besides, as well as saving money, reusing boxes until they’re no longer fit for purpose and then recycling them, is far better for the environment. 

Removal company: consider your options

If you’re moving from a three-bed house, with small children in tow, then you might have little choice but to pay for the services of a removal company. If there’s any chance you could get away with renting a large van (a Luton van is usually the largest you can drive on a standard driving licence, but be sure to check beforehand) then give it a go. 

You could potentially save hundreds, or even over a thousand pounds, by doing it yourself - after all, in 2022, the average removal company costs are £1,181, according to Compare My Move.

Painting and decorating: beware hidden costs

When you view a house, full of the existing owners’ belongings, the walls and carpets may look in good condition. You may assume you can get away without the money and hassle of painting the walls or replacing carpets.

But when you turn up on your first day, after the previous owner’s furniture has been removed, it can look rather different; you may find all sorts of marks and scuffs where furniture or pictures have been.

This is particularly true if there are lots of pictures on the walls; as well as random hooks and marks, they may leave picture frame ‘shadows’ on the wall. 

So bear in mind when budgeting that you may have to re-paint or replace carpets even if you weren’t planning on a big renovation.

Being prepared is the best way to avoid hidden costs and overpaying when you’re moving house, so just be mindful of the extra areas you may need to spend and make sure your budget covers all bases.

Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey:

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Finding >

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Moving >

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