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Guide to Buying Your First Home

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Buying your first home is one of the most momentous days in any person’s life. It usually arrives after several months (or years) of preparation – including getting your finances in order, deciding where you want to live, negotiating prices, and more.

It can feel a bit daunting buying a property when it is your first time – but you are far from alone. There are many resources online with information about the house-buying process and experts who can guide you on your journey.

In the blog below, we have provided a comprehensive guide to buying your first property. There may be a few aspects you haven’t thought about before – so keep reading to ensure you are fully prepared.

Saving up money 

Managing your finances is integral to buying a house – and saving up for a deposit is arguably the most challenging part. 

The average house in the UK currently sells for £291,044, and with most lenders requiring a 10% deposit for you to purchase a property, this would be approximately £29,105. 

Saving up this figure is no walk in the park – especially if you aren’t moving in with anyone else (which, incidentally, can make it far more affordable) – so you will need to be disciplined and create a clear strategy towards saving up.

Some of the best ways to save money for a deposit include teaming up with someone else; subletting out a spare room; downsizing (if you are currently renting); increasing your income by negotiating a pay rise or getting a second job; or moving back in with your parents. Cutting down on your living expenses can also make an incremental difference.

Keep in mind that when buying a house, you will also typically need several thousands of pounds for legal fees and moving companies. This needs to be factored into your calculations, too.

Deciding on your ideal location

Online websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla can help you view all the available properties in any given area. However, it would help if you first decided where you want to live.

While most people have a ‘dream’ destination, this is sometimes unattainable for a first-time buyer, who has not yet built up equity while on the property ladder. It is much easier to make larger purchases later in life when you can use the money from your house sale to fund the next step up.

Plenty of neighbourhoods, both in major cities and surrounding towns, are ‘hotspots’ for first-time buyers. You may also want to consider other things, such as your proximity to your family and friends; how close you are to a major city; what transport links are available; and more.

Most importantly, it would help if you were realistic about what areas you can afford. There’s nothing worse than overpaying for a house and then being unable to live the lifestyle you want, because your living costs are taking you to the limit of your budget. 

Going to viewings

Arranging viewings is one of the more exciting parts of buying your first house. In an ideal world, you will arrange different viewings at several properties to compare the different features and determine what you want. After all, you may not know what your ideal property is… until you see it!

Square footage, communal spaces, parking availability, and the local neighbourhood are all important considerations. Your estate agent will be on hand to answer any questions that come up.

You may also want to find out other important details, such as the lease length, service charge, and whether any of the current furniture/appliances come with the sale of the property.

In an ideal world, you will complete a property survey before committing to a purchase. This can alert you to potential problems, such as dampness, asbestos, faulty windows or doorframes, neighbour disputes, etc.

Budget for your living costs

Before you apply for a mortgage, you need to calculate how much you can truly afford on a month-by-month basis. You will need to meet your mortgage repayments and budget for food, supplies, bills, council tax, service charges, and more.

Reviewing your past spending activities to see how much you have spent on each of these things in the past can provide a useful benchmark. However, if you are currently living with your parents and plenty of these costs are covered by them, you will need to allow for the noticeable increase in costs that living on your own will result in.

Making an offer on a property

Once you decide on the property you want to purchase and feel confident that it is within your offer, it is time to make an offer. Your estate agent can help communicate with the seller, and they can provide guidance on how much to offer.

It is common for the sellers to come back with a counter-offer, so don’t panic if your first bid isn’t accepted immediately. Negotiation is a key part of house transactions, so be clear-minded on the maximum you’re willing to go up to, and then keep to it. After all, there’s nothing worse than overpaying for a property, because it can put a strain on your finances for years to come.

Please click here for more information about the meaning of a best and final offer when buying a house.

Getting a mortgage in principle

You will need to speak to a mortgage advisor to help get your ‘mortgage in principle’. This is a confirmation of the total sum of money you are allowed to borrow. High street estate agents often have their own mortgage advisor who will liaise directly with the bank for you. 

The amount that you are allowed to borrow will be impacted by the size of your deposit, and your salary. Other factors will be considered, too, such as your credit score, whether you have any guarantors, how long you have been in your job, whether you have ever declared bankruptcy, and so on.

If you are struggling to get a mortgage, some UK government schemes may make it easier for you to do so. For example, read about your ‘Help to Buy’ options here

Finding the right solicitor and moving company

It is important that you do thorough research before deciding on the best solicitor and moving company to help with your move. You should check online reviews, to see which organisations/people in the area are the most reputable. You will also need to compare their prices with your budget.

You may ask friends, family or colleagues for recommendations on positive experiences they’ve had in the past. Regarding your solicitor, the most important thing is that they are responsive – as slow response times can jeopardise the property chain, which is not what anyone wants. 

Once the moving company arrives to take all your belongings to your new property, the contracts will be exchanged – and you will have officially bought your first-ever home.

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