It can be pretty daunting buying your first house and for many people it will be one of the biggest purchases in your life. Not only is there financial pressure, but it takes considerable time to research the market, know where to buy and understanding the home buying process.

In this post, I’d love to share 8 lessons for first home buyers.

Ready to jump in? Here we go…


1. Start saving now

This is pretty obvious, but the sooner you start saving the deposit, the easier it will be. Create a budget and start saving, even if it’s only $20 or $50 per week, you’ll be in a better position when you are ready to buy.

Look at areas where you can cut back on luxury items or if there are two of you, save one salary and live off the other.

Do some research and work out where you want to buy, how much it’s going to cost and what your weekly loan repayments might be. Ideally you want to save a 20% deposit, you can buy a house with a 10% deposit but you will need to pay mortgage insurance. Also check out if you are eligible for any financial assistance or eligible for one of the First Home Buyer Grants, as this could help contribute to your deposit.

Have a look at our list of ways to get into your first house faster.


2. Build a back-up fund

You need to understand the extra costs that will appear in your monthly budget. Not only will you have your loan repayment amounts, but you will have utility bills, home repairs and council rates – these will make an impact to your budget.

Make sure you are prepared by having a back-up fund that can be used in emergencies. You might start saving for this months or even years before you decide to buy a home. But it will be there when you need it and save you a lot of stress!


3. Take your time

It’s a big decision buying home and there are many factors to consider. Take time researching the market, the suburb that you would like to live in and surrounding suburbs. Think about what type of house you want, how many bedrooms and if you want a house you can potentially renovate or not.


4. Get a building report

Unless you are a builder, it’s important to get a building report as part of the due diligence process. A building report could cost $500 – $600, but it’s better than being stuck with a lemon.


5. Things to watch out for with building age

Pre 1940

These houses often need to be re-plied, re-roofed and some insurance companies require rewiring. This could set you back anywhere between $25 – $35k.


Often houses of this era have weird and cramped layouts, a bit like a rabbit warren. It can be expensive to modernise them and open up the spaces.


Homes during this period were made from great products, except for one – Asbestos. Asbestos is safe if you don’t touch it, but if you are thinking about renovation, including replacing vinyl, it’s best to get it tested.

Not many of these houses were insulated – it wasn’t until 1979 that insulation in new buildings became compulsory. So these houses will be colder and if you intend to rent the house out, the house will require insulation as it will be compulsory for rentals from 2019.

1985 – 2003

Houses built during this period are notorious for being leaky buildings. has a really good checklist of things to look out for with leaky homes.

2003 onwards

New building codes were released in 2003, which fixed many of the previous years issues.

Buying in Christchurch

If you’re looking at buying in Christchurch, houses built before March 2011 need to be checked if they’ve had EQC claims. And that the claims have been repaired to a satisfactory level.


6. Get someone else’s opinion

When you are looking for a home to love in, you’ll find the perfect match and fall in love with it. This is great, but you might overlook things that may require attention.

That’s why it’s always best to bring a family member or friend to view the house. They won’t be emotionally attached to it and will see the house for what it is. They will spot different things and any potential problems.


7. Wait a while before you go furniture shopping

It’s an exciting time when you move into your new home, and one of the first things you will be tempted to do is kit it out with new furniture. But buying a new home will bring a new set of expenses such as utility bills etc. So before you rush off to the furniture shop, you need to take some time figuring out your new budget and what you need for your new home.

Taking time will also let you shop around and take advantage of upcoming sales. Maybe there are some items you can get second hand on Trade Me. Just remember that you have plenty of time, so no need to rush.


8. Things you can change, and things you can’t

When you buy your first home, there are always things that you want to change, such as painting the horrible purple room, getting rid of the 70’s pattern carpet or warming up the house with insulation and a heat pump.

There are also things you would like to change but can’t due to cost. However, the number one thing you can’t change is location. So when you are searching for a house, don’t just look at the house, you need to research the neighbourhood. Does it have what you need? Is it a place you would like to live?



Buying a house, whether it’s your 1st or your 10th, requires research and time. By understanding things to consider, it will make the whole process at lot easier.

I hope you find some of these lessons useful and would love to hear if you have any tips of your own?

Please feel free to share in the comments – I’d love to learn from you and join the conversation!

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About Nicola Valentine

Nicola is the CEO & Founder of Lendr (making buying homes & investing in property easy). She has a strong background in technology, property investment and business. She's changing the way people buy & manage property through data insight and making the right property decisions.


budgeting, First Home Buyers, grants, Tips


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