The Art of Compromise - A Skill Every First Time Buyer Needs To Acquire

The art of compromise is a skill a first-time buyer needs to acquire quickly. It’s unlikely you’ll get all three points of the triangle in your first home: budget, space and location. You will probably have to relent along the line and let something go. Some first-timers are lucky and do find the latest property for sale and to rent in a great location that still manages to fall within their budget, but I suspect they’re playing with more cash than the majority is likely to have.

The Art of Compromise - A Skill Every First Time Buyer Needs To Acquire

However, I think you should be able to get at least two out of three of the points in the triangle, while compromising on the third. For instance, you might find an airy flat with three spacious bedrooms for the amount of money you can borrow. The catch is it is in a dodgy neighbourhood that hasn’t quite heard the word ‘regeneration’ yet. The gamble is whether the area will improve in the near future, but you can generally spot certain signs that indicate that a place is up and coming. Some of these signs are:


  • New developments being built
  • A new transport link, or improvements to current links
  • The main shopping parade getting a facelift
  • The council repaving streets and pavements and installing new street furniture
  • Local residents planting and tidying verges and roundabouts
  • Graffiti being cleaned up and the removal of old furniture and mattresses in the streets by the council and residents
  • Gastro-pubs and other smart eateries opening up
  • Plenty of skips in the streets, indicating locals are doing up their homes

Meeting compromises is a game most first-time buyers will have to play, but don’t be disheartened. Even buyers with plenty of money don’t always get absolutely everything they want. Another common compromise for first-timers is venturing out a bit further. Many choose an area where they want to live and find they can’t afford to live there. By stepping over the boundary into the next neighbourhood, prices usually drop and you will get more space for your money, too. You will have a longer commute into work perhaps, but look at the bright side: you’ll be more likely to get a seat on the train, as you’re getting on board before many of the other commuters.

I would advise trying to get the best you can for your money. Certain things you can’t change, such as location, and I think location is key. You can always refurbish a run-down house in a good location, but it is less tempting ending up with a smart house in a bad location, which you can do nothing to alter.


Compromise with a partner, relative or friend

One of the biggest problems I come across is when dealing with couples, friends or relatives buying a house together that are unwilling to compromise. You need to really listen to what your co-buyer wants, and equally, your co-buyer needs to listen to you. Often, the more vocal of the two wins out, which means the other person ends up frustrated and unhappy.

It’s a good idea to get both parties to write down what they really want – a trick we use on Location, Location, Location – to make sure that some of the features are included from each wish list. For example, you might need a light and airy study space, because you work from home, while your partner, who is a dedicated gardener, is keen to have a decent-sized green patch where he can grow vegetables. Satisfying both of those desires as well as you can makes for harmonious living in your new home.


Education, education, education

I can’t emphasise enough how much research you should do before going out viewing property. You will be more informed and able to see through any sales blarney or hyperbole about the property and neighbourhood. Also, use my ‘three to one’ method. I think you should think about at least three different areas before you start property hunting. Then, you should eventually try to narrow this down to one area. This will make the entire process quicker, easier and more fun. Don’t forget, this is probably the biggest shopping trip of your life.

Some buyers, for whatever reason, insist on living in a three-bedroom flat or having a garden. If you fall into this category (and maybe it is for legitimate reasons to house a family or to grow vegetables to feed them, for instance), then you will have to go somewhere else to get this particular sort of property.

Really thinking about small details helps categorise property, too. As a motorcyclist, I am keen on side access to a property and somewhere to store my motorbike. If you do reduce the number of properties to a tiny proportion because of certain demands, remember that you will have to accept this and you can’t be too fussy about the few you see. You can’t then tell an agent or house finder that you don’t like the windows if they went to great lengths to get you everything else on your list.

Wearing my house-finding hat, I find that some buyers are property focused – ‘my home needs to be like this’ – so I will find what they want and then tell them where it is. Others are area focused – ‘it has to be in Hampshire’ – so I will show them what they can afford in that county. It is overly ambitious to say, ‘I want this and it must be in this place.’

It’s unlikely a first-time buyer will get both what they want and in the exact place they fancy. Meeting compromises will be part of the game for most – for example, ‘if you venture a bit further out, then I can guarantee you a seat on the train when you commute to work.’


First Time Buyer Wants Vs Needs Checklist

1. Work out your ‘home triangle’: budget, space and location

2. Kick off by looking at a few properties to get an idea of what’s out there

3. Draw up ‘would like’ and ‘need’ lists

4. Amend the lists as house-hunting proceeds

5. Work out how you might need to compromise (if buying with a partner, family member or friend, both of you should write down what you want)

6. Narrow your search to one area

If you can’t find anything within your budget in this area, extend your search further