Tips for a First Time Buyer
Buying a home can be an exciting and daunting process, especially if you are buying your first property. In this article, we will explore 10 tips that could help make the experience of purchasing a house in the West Country easier.
Probably the most important stage of the process for a first-time buyer. Doing your research before you start your property journey is vital. Understanding the process, the challenges, the professionals involved, and the timeline, will mean you can start out on the right track.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the process, it’s time to start thinking about properties. Research which locations you are interested in, factoring in things such as family ties, work, commuting and school catchments. Shortlist some areas and consider doing drive-bys to get a feel for the local area.
You can then start to look at what properties sell for in the area, what types of property come to the market, and scope out your needs in relation to this. You may not have an exact budget, but having a ballpark figure in mind can refine this process and help you as you draw up a list of must-haves.
Once you are more confident with the process of buying a house, it’s wise to speak to a mortgage or financial advisor to better understand what you can afford.
If you start viewing houses before understanding this, you may find yourself disappointed if you come to submit a mortgage application and are unable to borrow as much as you would like.
It’s also better to do this as early as possible, as mortgage advisers can outline what lifestyle changes you may need to consider for affordability reasons.
You may get a mortgage in principle, which is basically a document that details how much you are able to borrow. Some vendors and agents will ask first time buyers for proof of funds or a mortgage in principle before accepting offers, or even viewings. This is especially important during highly competitive and busy periods.
For more advice on mortgages, speak to our partners, Cooper Associates, who will be able to walk you through the process.
Consider Other Costs*
As you begin to assess your mortgage affordability, you also need to consider the short term costs that come with moving home.
The costs vary for each move, but you can expect to factor in costs such as:
- Solicitors fees
- Property searches
- Land registry fee
- Mortgage arrangement fees
As a first time buyer, you do not need to pay Stamp Duty up to £425,000. You’ll have to pay stamp duty on the amount that exceeds this limit.
The costs that go into the move itself will have to be paid up front to facilitate the purchase, so be sure to know what to expect before starting your property journey.
If you’re looking to buy a home, chances are you’re probably spending much of your free time scrolling through Rightmove and other portals. This is fine of course but properties can come to the market daily, meaning if you’re working or otherwise busy, you might miss new listings.
In most cases this won’t cause any harm as you’ll pick it up later. If you’re entering your property search during a busy period such as spring, summer, or the run up to Christmas, there may be more competition.
Desirable properties can be snapped up in a matter of days and in some cases, where properties are proving to be incredibly popular, agents have to cap the amount of viewings they can book at a time. You can be added to a wait list, but a sale may have been agreed before you get a look-in.
To be among the first to see new listings, be sure to register with local agents. By giving them a description of what you’re looking for, they can send you properties as soon as they are brought to market. Sometimes, they will even be able to give you a heads-up if they think a particular new instruction would be of interest.
Remember to set filters on Rightmove, OnTheMarket and other porals too. You can set these and receive notifications at certain times.
Starting to view houses can feel like the first ‘real’ step towards buying your first property. It can be very exciting, but also quite overwhelming.
It varies for every sale; some people may find their dream home after the first viewing, and other can take months. There’s no ‘correct’ way to view a home, but there are some best practices you can follow.
Consider viewing a range of property types. While you’ll have a wish-list, sometimes it takes seeing a few properties to realise what you actually want and need. You might find that you don’t need an extra room, or that you’re willing to compromise on the kitchen / diner for a better garden. You may also realise that you want a second bathroom or that you must have parking.
Don’t immediately rule anything out online; if the property boasts some features you’re interested in and it is in your price range, book a viewing!
If your budget is not flexible, avoid viewing properties that are well over your price range. If the property isn’t affordable, it’s not worth a viewing if you’re going to be left disappointed.
When you find the property, it’s time to put in an offer. Don’t be afraid to negotiate; most people expect haggling over price. In most cases the guide price is just that – a guide. Discuss with the agent if the vendors are open to offers, and what is realistic.
A number of factors will impact the negotiation. You might be up against other buyers, in which case you may have to up your offer. Or if the property has been on the market for a while, the sellers might be keen to move and be open to lower offers. Don’t forget, as first time buyers you’re often in a desirable position with no additional chain making the process a little easier.
It’s not just price you can negotiate on, you can also discuss having some extras included. While this is usually ironed out in the later stages, it’s best to discuss with the agent and seller at the point of offering what else could be included. This might be white goods for the kitchen, or even garden furniture. Or it could be stipulations about the timeline and when you want to move in by.
Always discuss it with the agent, you don’t get if you don’t ask!
Once an offer has been accepted, it’s time to instruct a solicitor. The solicitor’s job is to arrange the legal paperwork, carry out searches on the property (boundaries / covenants), and manage the funding when it’s been released from the lender.
These days you can either instruct a local solicitor, or an online service. There are pros and cons to both, so make sure you research your options and pick what suits you best.
High street and local solicitors are often more accessible, with the added benefit of being able to see someone in person. They can often be very busy, especially in spring and summer so can be slower sometimes.
Online solicitors can promise faster turnaround times, and can be slightly cheaper in their upfront fees. You can’t typically see someone in person or visit a branch if you have any concerns, and your appointments will be virtual.
The selling agent will ask for confirmation of your instructed solicitor to get proceedings underway, so it’s important to organise this quickly.
Home surveys are an additional expense that can be considered non-essential. Moving is expensive as it is, so it might be understandable that buyers don’t want to incur additional costs where they don’t need to.
However, a survey can save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run. A Level 2 survey report will detail the state of the property, identifying any major potential issues including structural problems. Issues such as these can cost thousands in the long run, so knowing about them early on gives you the option to further negotiate, or change your mind on the property.
Regardless of its findings, the report will give you peace of mind for your sale, knowing that the investment you are about to make is the right one. For homes that have loft conversions or extensions, it’s even more important to get it surveyed to ensure the work was above board.
For properties that are in desperate need of renovation, a Level 3 survey is vital. This looks deeper into the property itself and is considered the most in-depth survey.
You can read more about the different kind of surveys here.
Be Prepared to Move Quickly
As a first time buyer, many sellers might be counting on you for a quick sale. While mortgages, solicitor’s searches and surveys do determine the timeline of the sale, you’ll need to make arrangements to ensure no further delay.
Discuss early on with your solicitor what your ideal timeline would be, they’ll be able to give you realistic expectations and talk you through potential challenges. House sales can be quite complicated so expect some unknown issues to arise.
Keep in contact with your solicitor and mortgage lender who can provide you with updates as the sale progresses. When you get a clearer idea of exchange (the signing and exchange of contracts) and completion (keys released and move day), start looking into removal companies, van hire and any other bookings you may need to make ahead of move day.
Ask the Experts
Throughout the whole process, remember there’s always an expert who can help. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, it is better that you understand what is happening, so you can act if needed. There are many moving parts in a house sale, and it can be further complicated depending on the size of the chain you’re in.
Keep in touch with the selling agent, they will act as your go-to point of contact and can help get answers from the other sellers and buyers and assist in keeping the sale on track.
Buying a home can seem overwhelming, but following these 10 tips should help make things simpler while still getting great value out of your investment. Speak to us for more advice and to start your property search.
*Greenslade Taylor Hunt does not provide financial advice. All information given should only be used as a guide. Always consult a financial or mortgage professional.