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Seven things you really must know when buying your first home

Content Manager, Ruby Atkinson, shares the tips she’s learnt as she embarked on the journey to buy her first home.

Getting your first step on the property ladder is an exciting yet daunting milestone for first time buyers. There’s so much to consider, from securing a mortgage to navigating the legal stuff, the process can seem overwhelming at times.

To help you navigate this exciting phase of life, here’s some of the top tips I’ve learnt as I prepare to move into my first flat.

Start a regular savings habit

Winding right back to the beginning, when you start saving towards buying a property, it definitely helps to set a goal. Be realistic with an amount you know you will be able to save and try and put it away at the beginning of the month. Bath Building Society has a series of Regular Saver accounts including the Homestart Regular Saver which allows you to put away up to £250 each month and if you take a mortgage with the Society you benefit from no arrangement fee and £500 cash back. I wish I’d known about that!

Alternatively, boost your savings with a Lifetime Isa to help save towards a deposit. With a Lifetime ISA, you can save up to £4,000 every year and you’ll get a free 25% top up from the government. Find out more here.

Work out your finances and determine your budget

Before you start house hunting, it’s important to understand your financial situation. Consider what savings you have, any debts you’re currently paying off and find out what your credit score looks like. Consider cancelling and direct debits on luxuries you can live without to achieve your dream of owning your own home.

Calculate how much you can comfortably spend on a home without straining your finances. It’s easy to forget all the additional costs like home insurance, household bills and property maintenance. To help with this, we provide a mortgage affordability calculator to help you get an idea of how much you could borrow, while factoring in other outgoings.

There’s also a lot of additional costs associated with getting a mortgage that it’s easy to forget about. Make sure you have factored in fees such as stamp duty, valuation fees and land registry fee so there’s no last minute surprises.

Choosing a property

When choosing a property, there are so many crucial factors to consider and you might have to compromise when buying your first home, but important considerations include:

  • Location – commute to work, the setting, parking
  • Size – room for furniture and the number of people who will be living in the house
  • Quality – how old is the property, any physical internal or external issues that may need money spent on them in the near future
  • Outside space – if this is important to you, consider if a garden is North or South facing, are you overlooked by neighbours etc

Don’t skip on appointing a surveyor for a home inspection

The home inspection is a safety and quality inspection conducted by a surveyor on the house you are planning to buy. They will identify any issues with the home. Review the inspection report carefully and address any concerns with the seller before finalising the purchase agreement.

Stay flexible and patient

I learnt that finding the perfect home can take time. I fell in love with so many places that ultimately weren’t suitable, but it’s worth holding out for the right property. Consider all opportunities before rushing into anything.

Getting a mortgage

  • Save up for a deposit – the more money you can put down, the lower your payments will be.
  • To speed up the process, consider a Joint Borrower Sole Proprietor mortgage if you parents are prepared to support you with this.
  • Improve your credit score – a good credit score will make you more attractive to lenders and help you get a lower interest rate.
  • Reduce your debt-to-income ratio – your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of debt you have compared to your income. A lower debt-to-income ratio will make it easier for you to get approved for a mortgage.
  • Get a decision in principle (pre-approved loan) before you start shopping for your new home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you start your property search

And finally, there’s so much help and advice out there, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure. Seek help from professionals to ensure you make informed decisions and find the best home for you.

 Things to think about

  • Have there been any renovations done to the property?
  • What is the local area like?
  • How old is the property? Is it listed?
  • Has the property had any insurance claims?
  • How long has the property been on the market?
  • Why is the owner selling?
  • What is the property’s tenure?

Happy house hunting!

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