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Top tips for first time house buyers

Reading time: 6 mins

Alice Sanderson. Updated, January 02, 2019

Buying a house is said to be one of the most stressful experiences of your life, and for first time buyers this stress is only exacerbated by not knowing what to expect.

Over half of all home purchasers in 2018 were first time buyers, so we put together this guide on what to expect and top tips to make the process a bit less daunting.

Start with an open mind, but be clear on essentials

It’s easy to pass judgement on certain areas, house types or designs, but you also need to be realistic about how far your budget will stretch, so try to keep an open mind.

Make a list of the things that matter most to you (and are within budget). Is a dining room more important than off-road parking? Does location come further up the list than the type of house?

It’s unlikely you will find your dream home first time around but, equally, you don’t want to make huge compromises and regret them further down the line.

Always remember that cosmetic areas, such as bright walls, old wallpaper or dated carpets are things that you can change yourself, so try to see past them.

Making a list can help keep you focused on the ‘must-haves’ and those areas in which you’re willing to compromise.

View plenty of properties

You might fall in love with the first property you see, and it may well be the perfect property, but make sure you shop around to know what else you could get within your budget.

Not only will this help you decide whether you’re getting value for money, it will also make sure you don’t regret your purchase. You don’t want to look online a month later and see your dream home when it’s all too late.

Be wary of estate agents trying to add on services

Some estate agents will try to pitch you the services of their linked mortgage brokers and solicitors. They may well be a good deal but shop around and make an informed decision.

If you accept a solicitor, make sure they are independent from the seller, or they may not act in your best interests. This can be the case if you are buying directly from a developer, who may add pressure for you to use their chosen solicitor for a ‘discount’, or to speed up the conveyancing process.

Similarly, don’t feel threatened if the estate agents say you can only have your offer accepted if you go with their preferred solicitors or mortgage broker. Often if you speak to the sellers directly they will be unaware the estate agent is saying this and will be happy to accept your offer (as long as it’s reasonable!).

Don’t underestimate the use of a mortgage advisor/broker

When you are a first time buyer (or even if you’ve bought before) it can be difficult to navigate the twists and turns of getting a mortgage on your own.

A broker can help you find the best deals, help you put together applications and relevant documents, and even apply for the mortgage on your behalf.

They should be able to answer any questions you have about the process and help guide you through if you’re feeling lost.

Take your time

It can be easy to rush into a decision when there are other people interested or you’re just worried that a house will sell quickly. But make sure you scope out the local area and check whether the property is leasehold or freehold.

Freehold is preferable because it means you own the property outright. Leasehold properties mean that you have a lease to the freeholder, and you will have to pay maintenance fees, annual service charges and an annual ground rent.

If it is leasehold, you will need to find out how long the lease is for as leases less than a hundred years old can cause problems when applying for a mortgage.

If the worst happens and you realise you’ve made the wrong decision, you can withdraw your offer, but it’s far better to do your research beforehand to give yourself (and the seller) peace of mind.

Know that surveys are not the same as property reports

Your solicitors will carry out reports on your behalf such as land checks to make sure the house can legally be sold. These will often be included in the price you are quoted initially by your solicitor.

A survey is more in depth and is done on behalf of the mortgage provider rather than the solicitors, or you can arrange it yourself. These can cost a few hundred pounds depending on the type you go for. More information on this can be found in our guide to the costs of buying a home.

Budget for all costs, not just the deposit

It may seem like enough of a struggle trying to save for a deposit, but you also need to make sure you have enough in the pot to cover mortgage fees (including the broker if they charge), legal fees, stamp duty, surveys, removals, furniture and whatever else might crop up along the way. Our home-buying guide (mentioned above) contains more information on the various costs you can expect during the home-buying process.  We also have a guide to stamp duty

Be prepared for all eventualities

Most guides will tell you that the process can be anything from 6-8 weeks, but it’s not unusual for it to take longer – especially if you are in a chain of buyers/sellers.

Be prepared for stress when things go wrong, and don’t expect it all to be plain sailing. You may well be one of the lucky ones and complete your purchase in record time, but if you do have delays, don’t panic – it will get sorted eventually.

On the same note, make sure you have somewhere to live if the exchange date changes or things don’t go to plan. Don’t end up sofa surfing because you gave notice on a rental too early.

Check and boost your credit score

When applying for a mortgage, your credit score is used to decide whether or not you are approved to borrow the funds.

If you have a bad credit score, you may be turned down for a mortgage, so make sure that it is in ship-shape order.

You can check your credit score on websites such as Experian, Equifax and Clearscore. They will also give you tips on how you can improve your score. This could include registering to vote at your current address so you’re on the electoral roll, or taking out a credit card to build your score and reliability.

Make sure you pay all your bills on time and don’t go into your overdraft as all this will affect your credit score and/or the bank’s decision to grant you a mortgage.

Enjoy!

It might be a stressful time, but once you’re in your new home it should all be worth it, and we hope you enjoy having a space to call your own.

If you’re looking for a conveyancing solicitor, contact First4Lawyers for a no-obligation quote. Give us a call or fill in our enquiry form and we’ll call you back at a time that suits you best.