Buying your first property is an exciting milestone in your life, but it can also be a daunting prospect. With so many things to consider, it can seem complicated and overwhelming. The good news is there are steps you can take to make the process a much more manageable one. Here’s our step-by-step guide for first-time buyers.
1) Work out your budget
There are many costs that go with buying a property beyond just the price of the property itself. Your budget also needs to include things like survey costs, solicitors or conveyancer fees, moving costs, building insurance, leasehold charges (if applicable) and stamp duty. You may also want to consider a budget for initial furnishing and decoration, depending on the property you are buying, and if applicable, need to factor in any regular monthly payments such as car leasing, childcare costs etc. You can use our mortgage calculator to work exactly what your budget could be.
2) Secure your deposit
Now you know your budget, you need to know whether you have enough to put down a deposit. As a general rule, deposits are usually 10% of the cost of the property, so if it costs £125,000 the deposit will be £12,500. This can vary depending on the current market and the lender. Some lenders offer products with just a 5% deposit and there is currently a small window where no deposit at all is being offered (subject to criteria), so it is always worth keeping up to date with what is currently on offer.
3) Figure out what you’re looking for
It’s time to think of what exactly it is you want from your property and, realistically, what you could get. What are your precise requirements? How many bedrooms do you need – how much of a price drop would you get if you forwent that spare guest bedroom? Does it need to be within walking distance of a school, or a bus stop? Do you need a parking space? What area would you get the best value for money? Research the housing market, see what else is on offer near you, and even widen your search area to find any hidden gems. If you don’t know the area you’re moving to, get in touch with a local estate agent who can advise on where best to look.
4) Get advice about a mortgage
It’s best to get advice on mortgages as soon as possible to start the application process. Most estate agents won’t entertain viewings unless you have completed this step and have a Decision in Principle to hand. It is understandable to find this stage intimidating but we’re here to make it as easy as possible for you. We offer many different schemes to first time buyers, like our Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme, 95% mortgages and Guarantor Mortgages. When it comes to the actual meeting with your mortgage broker, give yourself a few hours, so you have plenty of time to cover everything. Here you will be given your ‘Decision in Principle’ (also known as Agreement in Principle or Mortgage promise), which is confirmation of how much a mortgage lender is willing to lend you.
5) Go into viewings prepared
Even if you’re still not entirely sure what you’re looking for in your home and are waiting to be inspired, you’re still able to go into each viewing fully prepared. Go with a checklist of universal things to look out for (type of flooring, the energy performance certificate rating, age of the boiler, state of the windows) and a list of questions to ask the owner or agent to gain better insight (How long has the house been on the market? Why is the owner selling? How long has the owner lived here? What’s included in the price? Are there sellers in a chain? How much are the bills?). This way you will have a basis of information to compare and contrast all your viewings and be able to see which one comes out on top (taking lots of photos will also give you visual aids for comparison too).
6) Making your offer
When you’re absolutely certain you’ve found the property for you, there are things to consider before agreeing a price. Some factors may make you a more attractive prospect to sellers, so always make them aware that you’re a first-time buyer without a chain, and that you have a pre-arranged Decision In Principle. You may be able to negotiate the price down if the property requires a lot of work, or if it has been on the market a long time and the owner is eager to sell.
7) Buying your home
Once your offer is accepted, the buying process known as conveyancing, can start. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a home’s ownership from one person to another, and this is when you will need to instruct a solicitor and complete your Mortgage Application. Once the Mortgage Application has been processed, a Mortgage Valuation will be arranged on the property you are buying. The Mortgage Valuation will ensure the property is in good order, and that the price you are paying is fair and reasonable. At this point, following a successful valuation, your Mortgage Offer will be issued. Once the solicitors are in receipt of the Mortgage Offer and all other legal requirements, they will exchange contracts and finalise a move in date! The whole process can take up to 12–14 weeks, from start to finish, although each transaction time will differ depending on individual circumstances. In short, the sooner you complete your mortgage application, the better!
If you’d like to take the first steps in getting your foot on the property ladder, or just to find out if it’s a possibility for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.