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Essentials for your first property: What to buy and when

Buying your first property is an experience like no other. You’ve found the right place, made your offer, and crossed your fingers that your bid will be accepted. Finally the keys are in your hand! Now what?

Well, unless you are taking most of the furniture and belongings from your rented home, you will need to fully kit out your new property with all the essentials a home needs to function properly.

But where to start? First of all, don’t worry. We have created this guide which explains everything you will need for a first property, and we’ve even created handy lists for each room so that you can print them off and bring them to your local homeware store to make sure you don't forget anything.

And if you’re feeling short of cash, we’ve also got top tips on how to furnish your new place cheaply, and how to make the most of what you’ve already got without stretching your budget to its limit!

What do I need for my new property?

What you need for your new property really depends on the kind of place you have bought. New and unfurnished apartments, newly built houses, and second-hand homes will each have their specific needs in terms of furnishing.

What do I need if I’ve bought a second-hand property?

If you’ve bought a second-hand house or apartment, the most important thing to consider is what the previous owners have left behind. It’s quite common for white goods, such as a washing machine, refrigerator and freezer, and even a dishwasher, to have been included with the sale and, if these have been left in the home, it will save you a tidy sum of money. You'll know this in advance, however, as the previous owner should have filled this out on the fixtures and fixings documents.

If your new home has a garden it’s worth remembering that, while the previous occupiers will sometimes leave a garden shed behind, they may take expensive garden maintenance tools with them. The basic tools for maintenance are a lawnmower, if applicable, a shovel, a rake, a trowel for weeding, gardening gloves, and gardening refuse sacks. These can all be bought at your local garden centre, which you can find on the Yellow Pages website, or in your local DIY superstore, such as B&Q or Homebase. Further to that point, it’s always a good idea to ask the previous owners what kind of maintenance the garden requires and what kind of tools you will need for the job.

Another important tip to remember when buying a home or apartment is to get the services checked. Although this is not something you need to ‘buy’ as such, it is extremely important to get basics such as the boiler, the electrics, the central heating, and the windows checked by a professional for your own or your family’s safety. You may also want to install or transfer ownership of telephone numbers and get your own internet connection and satellite or cable TV subscription.

But it’s not always a one-way street. Sometimes you may even have the opposite problem of furnishing a house – the previous owners might have left you with tons of ugly furniture or used utensils that you don’t want.

In this case, the simplest thing to do is either telephone a local second-hand furniture outlet, or nearby charity shop, and inquire if they want any of the belongings that you have been left with in your home. They may even pick it up from your house for free.

Alternatively, hire a skip and clear out the furnishings you don’t want to keep.

What do I need if I’ve just bought a newly built house or apartment?

Usually, newly built houses and apartments come with certain things as standard specifications. This will have been agreed with the builder at the time of signing the contract, and your new house or apartment should usually look like the show house or architectural plans that you were shown.

The most common specifications include things like integrated white goods in the kitchen, such as a dishwasher, refrigerator and deep freeze, as well as a washing machine or dryer, showers, sinks, baths and tiling in the bathroom and en-suite bathroom, and light fittings and flooring throughout the house.

Before you buy anything for a new home, however, always double check what your new property comes with as standard. Then you can decide what you can leave out when buying your first property essentials.

What if I am furnishing my new property from scratch?

No matter whether you have bought a five bedroom mansion or a snug studio apartment, there are certain basics that any new home needs. These range from bigger furnishings like carpets, curtains, beds, sofas, and tables, to smaller but equally important items such as knives, forks, plates and glasses.

Print these checklists off and bring them with you when you are at the homeware store. You can tick the boxes alongside each item as you shop for each room, meaning you can be certain that you are not leaving anything important out!


Imagine you are having your first party. Everyone thinks your new home is fantastic until you go to open a bottle of wine – and discover you don’t own a bottle opener!

Don’t worry – with this kitchen inventory you will have every thing you need for every occasion in the kitchen.

Basic Furniture

  • Kitchen table
  • Chairs
  • Rubbish bin
  • Clock
  • Kettle
  • Toaster
  • Microwave
  • Bread bin
  • Blender
  • Paper towel holder

Cooking in the kitchen

  • Can opener
  • Baking tray
  • Chopping board
  • Set of knives
  • Ladle
  • Measuring jug
  • Mixing bowls
  • Oven gloves and tea towels
  • A selection of pots and pans including a frying pan, a small pot and a colander
  • An egg turner or spatula
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Bottle opener
  • Wooden spoon
  • Condiment holders such as salt and pepper shakers, olive oil set, or a spice rack

Eating and drinking

  • Placemats
  • A selection of serving dishes
  • A selection of bowls, including a large salad bowl, a fruit bowl and soup bowls
  • A selection of forks, knives, dessert spoons, soup spoons and tea spoons
  • A selection of glasses, including drinking glasses and wine glasses
  • A selection of cups and mugs
  • A selection of plates, including a set of dinner plates, side plates and a large serving plate

Keeping the kitchen clean

  • Cleaning cloths such as wiping clothes, sponges and scrubbers
  • General cleaning materials such as washing up liquid, floor and window cleaning detergent, kitchen and bathroom cleaning sprays and general disinfectant
  • Sweeping brush
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Mop and bucket
  • Vacuum cleaner

Living room

  • A couch
  • A coffee table
  • Bookshelves
  • Curtains, including curtain rod and curtains OR Blinds, including brackets at top of window
  • Lamp, or floor lamp
  • TV, including something to put it on such as a TV stand or small table
  • CD storage
  • DVD / VHS storage
  • Optional paintings, photo frames, prints, plants, cushions, candles, ornaments to decorate


While a bed may be the most obvious thing you need in your bedroom, it is the other things you put in the room that will make this room most homely:
  • Bed(!)
  • Mattress
  • Bedside table
  • Bedside lamp
  • Wardrobe
  • Chest of drawers
  • Optional blanket box
  • Bed sheets – tip – make sure to check what size your mattress is before forking out!
  • Duvet
  • Duvet cover and pillowcases
  • Pillows
  • Optional throw or cushions for your bed
  • Alarm clock
  • Hangers for your clothes
  • Mirror – tip – a full length mirror is extra handy!


Regardless of whether you have bought a newly built or second hand property, bathrooms usually come tiled or with an existing floor and are already fitted with a toilet, shower and/or bathtub, and a sink.

The rest on this list, however, will ensure you have everything you need first thing in the morning and last thing at night!

  • Shower Curtain, including shower rings to hang it from

Towels, including bath towels, hand towels and face cloth:

  • Towel rack
  • Bathroom mat
  • Toilet brush
  • Plunger
  • Toilet roll holder, and toilet roll
  • Soap dish
  • Optional weighing scales

Miscellaneous must haves

Every home should have a first aid kit, which we’ve detailed below, as well as safety, DIY and laundry equipment. Here are the basic miscellaneous essentials for your first property:

  • Plasters and bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Thermometer
  • Small scissors and tweezers
  • Over-the-counter painkillers
Safety first
  • Smoke alarm
  • Carbon monoxide alarm – find out more about this here
  • Property alarm
  • Torch
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Fire blanket
DIY and hardware

Even if you’re not a DIY buff, there are certain things that will make life easier should a simple problem arise in your new property. Here is a list of the most common.

  • Step ladder
  • Plug Extension lead
  • Spare light bulbs
  • Batteries
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Drill
  • Pliers
  • Selection of screwdrivers
  • Selection of screws
  • Washing machine, with optional dryer facility
  • Clotheshorse for indoor drying
  • Iron
  • Ironing board and cover
  • Laundry basket

How can I furnish my new property more cheaply?

It may seem like a daunting list when you realise just how much a new property needs to become a fully functioning home, particularly as you may have just spent all your money buying the home in the first place! Here are several tips to keep your costs down while still making the most of your new place:

  • Shop at second hand furniture shops - These shops will have lots of bargains and it also means your furniture will have real character! There are charity shops that specialise in furniture, and the bonus of sourcing your pieces from here is that you are helping the charity at the same time.
  • Shop at auctions - Auctions are great places for picking up unusual furniture and other items which can become the focal point of your room.
  • Keep an eye out for unwanted ads - Try websites such as Gumtree and eBay for unwanted or second-hand items. They sometimes even have bargain designer goods, but always check you are buying from a reputable seller.
  • Look for sales in furniture shops, curtain shops, carpet shops and homeware stores like IKEA.
  • Ask friends or family for spare items that they don’t need.

I have the basics but how can I make it look more appealing?

If you have spent your cash on essentials such as an iron and a toilet brush holder but your budget can’t stretch to more exciting items such as paintings or designer homeware, here are some more simple tips to make the most of what you have:

  • Scented and coloured candles are a thrifty way of making a room look more cosy and intimate
  • Flowers can brighten up a room without costing a bunch! In particular, Gypsophilia is a delicate white flower and a small bunch costs just £1.99 from most flower shops.
  • Cushions and throws can cheer up an old or dingy piece of furniture.
  • Posters and prints can make a fantastic alternative to expensive paintings or artwork. Most markets will sell posters of famous celebrities, musicians or bands, and even movie stills. This can help you stamp your personal taste on the property for less than a fiver!
  • If you’re interested in photography then you could blow up a favourite photo to a much larger size and hang it as a decorative piece.
  • Up-lighting lamps. If your room is particularly small, then an up-lighting floor or table lamp will give the illusion of more height. These are available cheaply in most homeware shops.
  • Mirrors make space look bigger, so place them around your home to increase the expanse of your property. They can also be purchased relatively cheaply from second hand furniture shops.
  • A new paint job can totally transform a dull room and need not be expensive.

While you may only need the bare essentials to get by in your new home there’s nothing that beats the feeling of having your first property fully kitted out with all the things that make it a proper home.

It may seem like quite a list but it can be completed reasonably cheaply, especially if you have friends and family prepared to pass on items they no longer need or use. This, and of course an eye for a bargain, will make the move in to your first home as painless as possible.