Taking your first step on the property ladder is an exciting time, but it can also be a daunting time. It will also probably be your biggest and most stressful purchase so far, but it can also be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. It’s a place to call home and an investment for the future. A lot of the steps, from knowing what you’re looking for to knowing how much to offer, become easier with experience, but if you don’t have that experience, then our top tips for first-time buyers should help.
ARE YOU WONDERING IF YOU’RE READY TO TAKE THAT STEP? HERE ARE 10 THINGS TO THINK ABOUT.
1. WORK OUT WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD
Your budget will partly be determined by how much you’ve saved as a deposit, but you might not want to buy the most expensive house you can get with that deposit. Be realistic about how much you can spend each month on mortgage repayments, not forgetting that you’ll also have to pay for buildings insurance, household bills, repairs and maintenance. Factor in all the upfront costs of buying a home too, including surveys, conveyancing fees, moving costs and furnishing costs.
2. CONSIDER GOVERNMENT SCHEMES
If you only have a small deposit, you might want to seek help from the government to afford a more expensive property. You could look into Shared Ownership, Help to Buy loan or the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme.
3. GET TO KNOW THE PROPERTY MARKET
These days it’s easy to find available properties and see all the details online. Check often to see what’s newly listed in your chosen location and get to know what you might be able to afford on your budget.
4. MAKE A WISH LIST
List the features that matter most to you about your living space. If you’re not sure where to start, think about the features you like or dislike about the home you live in now or homes you’ve lived in before. Perhaps they were too noisy, too cramped, too dark or lacked outdoor space. When you start to view properties, this will help you to quickly judge if they meet your requirements.
5. PRIORITISE LOCATION
To afford your first home, you might have to make some compromises on the features you’re looking for. If the décor isn’t to your taste, the bathroom or kitchen is outdated, or there isn’t enough space for your family to grow into, these are all things it’s possible to change once you’ve moved in, and when you have the budget for renovation. The one thing you can’t change is the location of the property. So, it’s best to narrow down possible locations early in your search and stick to your choices.
6. PREPARE FOR VIEWINGS
If you’re viewing properties for sale for the first time, you might not know what you’re supposed to look at. The purpose of viewings is partly to see if you like the property and can imagine yourself living there, but there’s a lot more you can check at the same time. For example, you’ll need to look at the appliances, find out if they’re included in the sale, judge if they’re in good working order, ask how old they are, and consider when they might need replacing.
7. TAKE PHOTOS OR VIDEOS
When you see features you like or dislike, they might seem easy to remember later, but it’s often difficult to recall the exact detail – especially if you’re viewing multiple properties. Rather than relying on memory, be methodical about capturing everything in photos or videos, which you can look back on in the future.
8. EXPLORE THE AREA
When you’ve found a home you really like, spend some time in the surrounding area to get to know it as well as possible. Even if you live locally, there might be things you haven’t noticed, such as sources of noise, lack of parking or poor transport services, which could all affect your enjoyment of your time living there.
9. DECIDE HOW MUCH TO OFFER
Consider the advertised price of the property and whether you think that’s fair, taking into account any flaws you’ve noticed at viewings. If there are things you don’t like about the property or local area, decide if you can live with them or improve them. It’s usually best that your first offer truly reflects your financial situation and how much you’re willing to pay.
10. PREPARE FOR THE PURCHASE
It’s very exciting to have an offer accepted, but you haven’t quite reached the finish line yet. There are still things that can go wrong, so to minimise the chances of your purchase falling through, get all your paperwork and admin in order as soon as possible. Your top priorities should be appointing a conveyancer and applying for a mortgage.