1 December 2023

How many houses should I view? 5 big questions from a first-time buyer, tackled by an expert

From figuring out your budget to deciding on a location, buying your first home is a hugely personal experience.

However, there are many elements that are universal to all first-time house-hunters, like wondering how many houses you ‘should’ view and what’s the best way to get a sense of a new area.

These are questions our reader Cian, who hopes to buy with his partner this year, has. Cian and his partner have been renting for just over a year, and really knuckled down with saving 18 months ago. They hope to apply for a mortgage in two months, and are looking to buy a three-bed semi-detached property near Dublin city centre, with a back garden as one of their ‘must-have’ features.

Before he starts his property search, Cian shared with us five questions he has about buying a property this year. We then passed these questions on to Tony Deane, estate agent and director of Moovingo, who shared his expert advice for those planning to buy in 2022. Here’s what he had to say…

#1: ‘Should I start my house search before getting mortgage approval, even though it’s a few months away?’

Getting mortgage approval can be a long and lengthy process, but should you start looking at properties while waiting for the go-ahead, asks Cian. According to Tony, buyers should start their search “as soon as possible” and use this time to “get up to speed with the market”. And don’t forget that for those planning to buy a new-build, the Help to Buy scheme can help you with your deposit.

“Then, when you are mortgage approved, you can assess a property in an area a lot quicker than if you hadn’t started looking before,” he says. “Definitely start looking online, at a minimum, and even go to a couple of viewings just to get a feel for it.” By doing this, you may learn more about what type of property you want and what features are most important to you. “You want to train your eye, essentially.”

#2: ‘How many houses should we view before narrowing down our shortlist?’

Like many first-time buyers, Cian wonders if there’s a suggested number of houses he and his partner should view before putting together their top few properties but, according to Tony, there’s no set amount to aim for.

“You want to see as many houses as possible,” he says. “It’s hard to say how many. The first three properties you see, you could love all three and work from there. But it might take 30 properties to find the sort of one that you really want.”

In the current market, “people are viewing properties for 15 minutes and then there’s a bid coming in straight afterwards,” he says. Or, in the case of a new-build, buyers are putting a deposit down.

But this is where your research will pay off, says Tony. “If you’ve viewed several properties and have done your homework to see exactly what is included in the property, what the BER is, you’ll have obviously spent a lot more time invested in it than the 15 minute viewing.” That way, if you really like the property, you’ll be able to put your deposit down or get an offer in “as quick as possible”.

#3: ‘We’d be open to buying a smaller home and extending in a few years. Is it possible to tell whether gaining planning permission in an area is easy or difficult?’

If you’re buying your first property and plan on staying there for a number of years, you might want to know – like Cian – if there’s the possibly to extend down the line.

One way to do this, says Tony, is to look at neighbouring houses. “Take a look and see if they have an extension or if there are Velux windows. If you can’t see, go on Google Maps and, in Dublin city anyway, you can see quite clearly what work people have had done.”

He also recommends looking at the relevant county council’s planning websites. “You can see previous applications that went in, you can see if they were granted or if there were rejected. You can also see if there were any conditions that the planners told them that they had to meet.”

If you want to undertake a smaller project, Tony highlights the option of adding an extension of 40 sq m to a new build or an older property without requiring planning permission, once you meet the criteria.

#4: ‘Sustainability is important to me and my partner. Considering the costs involved, are we better off buying a more energy efficient home or renovating ourselves using grants?’

With lower running costs and environmental benefits, energy efficiency has become one of the most important factors for house-hunters in recent years. But if you’re buying a new build, you needn’t worry about energy efficiency as all new properties are A-rated, says Tony.

For older properties, “there are grants out there to help with retrofitting, but the reality is you still need to pay for a lot of it yourself,” he says. “There’s a couple of things that need to be done to retrofit a house. There’s the roof, the walls, the doors and windows, the floors. Then you need to remove any draughts, and all electrics would need to be upgraded to new systems.”

#5. ‘We may end up viewing houses in new locations for us. How can we get the best sense of an area we’re not familiar with while house-hunting?’

While you might have a number of specific areas you’d like to live in in mind, oftentimes a property that ticks all of your boxes might come on your radar… but it’s in a different location. If this happens or if you want to discover a new area, Tony says the best thing you can do is “spend time there”.

“Go for lunch at the weekend, spend time people watching in a cafe or restaurant. You’ll learn a lot about an area. Especially with Covid, over the last a year or two a lot of areas have really improved in terms of things like new coffee shops. There are a lot more communities in areas you wouldn’t have expected.”

Tony also recommends going for a drive in the area when you’d expect to be travelling or commuting to and from work, and to chat to people in local businesses to see what they have to say. As part of your research, some developers – like Glenveagh Homes - offer virtual tours and CGIs of new-builds, meaning you can look at the property or the development as many times as you like, whenever you like.

Lastly, if you’ve spent months house-hunting and you’re feeling deflated, don’t be afraid to take a break, says Tony. “Otherwise you’re just going to find yourself looking at the same properties and second guessing yourself. Obviously everyone has different priorities and needs, but if you can and it’s not happening in the first two months, take a break for a little while and come back in.”

At Glenveagh Homes, our vision is that everyone should have the opportunity to access great-value, high-quality homes in flourishing communities across Ireland. We understand that buying a home is possibly the biggest decision you will ever make in your life – but we want to make it your easiest. Click here to find out more about Glenveagh developments.