Buying your first property is an exciting time but, as with anything new and unfamiliar, the process can seem a little daunting. From sorting the finances to knowing what to look for in a property, there’s a big list of things to do.
Our list of top tips is a good place to start if you’re a first time buyer.
1. How much can you afford?
Before you do anything, it’s important to understand what you can commit to financially.
To purchase, you’ll need a deposit, generally starting at 5% of the property price. The more deposit you have available, the lower the rate on your mortgage will be.
You also need to think about the other costs involved with buying a property, such as conveyancing fees, surveys and general moving costs such as van hire.
You may also want to do some works to your property as soon as possible. Be aware of what you can live with and what you’ll need to be prepared to sort out quickly.
Stamp Duty is another cost you may need to factor in. However, if this is the first property you, and anyone you are buying with, has purchase or part owned, the first £300,000 will be exempt, up to the value of 500,000.
A big consideration overall when it comes to buying a property with a mortgage is affordability. Most lenders will assess various elements of your finances such as credit score, salary, additional income and outgoings to work out how likely it is that you can manage repayments. They may also ‘stress-test’ you to find out if you could still afford the repayments if the interest rate increased.
2. Find out whether you’re eligible for help
If you’re not quite there, financially, there may be help available to get you on the property ladder.
The Government offers a whole host of schemes to help first-time buyers such as Shared Ownership and Help to Buy. You may also be able to arrange a gifted deposit, if your family are in a position to help you financially.
3. Get your mortgage agreed in principal
One you’ve been offered a loan from a bank or building society, get an agreement in principle. This document is free and demonstrates to sellers and estate agents that you’re a serious contender.
4. Start researching
With a clear idea of what you can afford, it’s time to begin the search for homes which meet your criteria.
Consider location, your lifestyle and requirements. Are you wanting to be in the catchment area for schools? Would you prefer to be in the hustle of a big city or rather take things a little easier out in the country side. Transport links, amenities and proximity to work are all factors to take into consideration.
Considering the property, have a good think about what you want. Size, number of bedrooms, garden or no garden. Everyone wants something different from their home.
Whilst some of these things may change over time or be a compromise with a partner, there are some things that might be a deal breaker.
5. Get friendly with estate agents.
Estate agents have a wealth of knowledge about their local area. From the hidden gems to the up and coming areas. Make good use of their expertise and you might be able to gain some valuable insight during your search.
Let them know you’re a first time buyer. Those without property to sell have the advantage of being more flexible.
6. Property viewings – the devil’s in the detail
Property viewings reveal a lot that online listings simply can’t. Noisy neighbours and busy traffic are things you wont find on the estate agent’s website.
Take a good look at key problem areas as you go round the property. The smell of damp, cracks in walls and leaky guttering are all things to note. Ask about repairs, major works and the age of the boiler to give you more insight about the condition of the property and any likely future problems.
7. Take note
It might seem a little over the top, but it’s a good idea to keep a note of all the properties you end up viewing and your thoughts on each. It doesn’t take long to become confused if you visit a few which have similar layouts.
Make a note of the pros and cons of each with a photo for easy reference to save confusing later on when making decisions.
8. What are they asking?
Once you’ve found a property you want to make an offer on it’s worth checking out the prices of houses recently sold in the area to give you a good idea of whether your potential property is comparable.
Keep in mind though that this comparison isn’t like for like as it doesn’t consider things such as the condition of the property, available parking, views or other differentiating factors.
9. Have a haggle
It’s always worth negotiating on the price. First-time buyers without property to sell are attractive to sellers who want to move quickly.