For many of our readers, your home will be the most expensive thing you own at any given time. It is, therefore, a good idea to get things right when purchasing as you don’t want unexpected costs or anything to go wrong. This is particularly important when you consider your first home. You will often not be established enough to absorb costs as they arise, and it is better to spend time rather than money when making sure everything is as it should be. The nature of first homes means that you may not have extensive experience to fall back on when making decisions, but that’s what we are here for, and these 10 tips should give even novice buyers the ideal opportunity to get it right first time.
1. Raise the Biggest Deposit you Can
If you are at the stage where you are choosing the right home, then you have probably been working on the deposit for a while. Hopefully, you have taken advantage of help and support from government initiatives along the way, although it is never too late to start unless you plan to exchange contracts tomorrow. Either way, you’ll need at least a 5% deposit, but the further you can go over and above this number, the better the deal you will get. We can empathise with first-time buyers that want to think about the house first and ongoing costs later, but this is something that needs to be in place.
2. Start the Mortgage Search Early
Some mortgage offers will be off the table, either because you do not fit the criteria, lack the credit score, or because they do not cover the properties that you are looking at. With those filtered out, the rest represent your options, and nobody can make the final decision except you. The specific mortgage package can be chosen later, but you will at least want an idea of your budget. Most lenders will offer between 3 and 4.5 times the salary of all buyers combined, and that is the amount you can afford to spend.
3. Get a Feel for Your Target Area
In ideal circumstances, you will move to an area you already know, but it does not always work out that way. If you are heading into unfamiliar territory, take the time to experience what it is like to live there before committing. Spend a couple of nights there, even if it is in a hotel, and see what the route to work is like. There are plenty of online tools that will also give an overview of a specific area, covering school rankings, crime rates, local amenities and more.
4. Start Viewing as Soon as You’re Ready
You can get a feel for a property from looking at photos online, but nothing beats seeing it in the flesh. Even if you have no intention of buying a specific property, it can be worth looking at even if only to give you an idea of what to look for in the future. Viewings are not commitments, and sellers expect failed viewings. You may unearth a hidden gem where the online listing did not do it justice. You will also start to build a rapport with local estate agents, who are handy for answering questions and describing the nuances of the local area – just remember that they are ultimately looking to make a sale.
5. Get an Offer in Early
When you have found the perfect property and are sure of your decision, you should get an offer in right away. In less popular areas, you might have time to mull on it. However, the chances are that if a property is perfect for you, it will be just as perfect for someone else and missing out is a horrible feeling.
6. Get Your Mortgage Sorted
The offer can be made without a mortgage, but once it is accepted, you need to get to work on getting the mortgage in place. Mortgage brokers and financial advisers are a good idea here, not least because even the most experienced home buyers tend to use them. If you go through the process correctly, they should not cost you anything either. The adviser gets paid from the lender rather than the client in ideal cases, and this is rarely passed on to the home buyer directly. They will be able to tell you where you are likely to be accepted, how much you can borrow and what you’ll need to do to give yourself the best chance of acceptance.
7. Get Surveys Done
Most mortgage lenders require an independent survey and valuation in their terms. Even if they did not, we would still recommend getting it done. These tasks are carried out by experts, and it is on them to verify that you are getting what you’re paying for. We mentioned early on that we try to avoid nasty surprises, and this is your chance.
8. Don’t Forget Removals and Insurance
Even if this is your first home, you’ll have possessions that need moving from somewhere. Removal companies like a full calendar as much as any other business, so the earlier you get in contact, the more likely you are to get your ideal date and time. Insurance should be in place from the moment the house enters your possession too – it probably will not fall down on the day you buy it, but the monthly premium is a small price to pay if it does.
9. The Exchange is Close to Final, but Not Quite
Once you exchange contracts, you are practically there on the purchase, but keep your wits about you. You are legally bound to complete the purchase and pay a deposit to prove it. If anything goes wrong at this stage and it is your fault, that is your whole deposit lost.
10. Complete and Move In
On the day of completion, you’ll feel a massive weight lifted from your shoulders. Your solicitor pays the rest of the purchase price, the keys are in your hands, and the home is yours. Our only tip here is to enjoy the moment, as there are few better feelings in life than completing on your first home!