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8 tips for first-time buyers

You’re ready to take your first step on the property ladder but where do you start? Here, we’ve given you some helpful tips on what to do before you start looking for your first home, what to consider when you start viewing properties and how to be prepared for a smoother buying process.

1.   Start saving early

Buying a property involves a lot of expenses, the biggest of which is your mortgage deposit, so begin saving as early as you can to have a substantial sum available when you’re ready to take the plunge and buy your first home. The bigger the deposit you have available, the better position you are in when considering mortgage deals. Get help with saving your deposit when you take advantage of one of the government schemes.

As well as your deposit, there are numerous costs and fees to take into account throughout the process. These can include mortgage arrangement fees, survey fees, your solicitor’s costs, stamp duty (if applicable), insurance payments and removal costs. You also need to have enough money left in the pot to buy furniture, to decorate and to cover the energy bills.

To help you save, consider paying yourself a set amount of money each month just after you’ve been paid, as though you’re paying a bill. Ideally, this should be into a separate savings account so that you’re not tempted to dip into it for anything else.

2.   Check your credit score

Your credit rating affects your ability to get a mortgage. Check your credit score in advance and do your best to increase your rating. Obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the UK’s credit agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Your credit report details your credit history, such as credit cards, loans, mobile phone contracts, utility bills and shopping catalogues. It shows how much you owe and you should check that all of the information is accurate. The higher your score, the better your chances of being approved by a lender and getting a better mortgage deal.

If your score’s not as high as you hoped, there are ways you can increase it. Make sure you pay bills on time, keep the balances on your credit cards low and don’t miss monthly payments. If you have any excessive debt, do your utmost to clear it.

3.   Register on the electoral roll

This is another way to increase your credit score to help you get a mortgage. But regardless of your credit rating, most lenders require you to be registered on the electoral roll as a way to confirm your identity and protect against fraud. If you’re not on the electoral roll, your mortgage application may be refused by some lenders.

4.   Do your research

Check out the area you’re interested in living in. Visit it at different times of day and on various days of the week to see how it changes. For example, it might be quiet during the week but very busy at weekends if it’s near to a popular attraction, such as a stadium, or it might be quiet by day but very lively in the evenings if there are lots of pubs and restaurants nearby.

Do some research to find out what properties have sold for in that area. This helps guide you when you’re ready to make an offer and puts you in a better position when negotiating. Ask the local council about any projects that are planned as these may either increase or decrease the value of your property in the future.

Check the transportation links. If you commute to work, you need easy access to transportation but, on the other hand, it’s not ideal to be living right next to a motorway or railway track. Test routes that you will use frequently, such as the school run or visiting relatives, to see how long they take or to highlight any issues.

5.   Speak to people

It’s easy to browse through the Internet and see page after page about mortgages and properties available for sale. But not everything is listed on the Internet and you’ll miss valuable opportunities and professional guidance if you don’t speak with people face-to-face.

Speak with your mortgage broker to find out about the different mortgages available and discover which type is best suited to your needs. He/she can arrange a mortgage in principle for you so that you know exactly what purchase price you can afford before you start viewing properties. Having a mortgage in principle makes you more attractive to vendors as they can see that you already have your finances in place.

Visit your local estate agent’s office to find out what properties are available that aren’t advertised on the Internet or displayed in the office windows. They will be able to give you in-depth information about the properties and areas and to help you when you’re ready to put in an offer.

6.   Check everything within the property

When you’ve found a property you like, be sure to check it thoroughly rather than just giving the rooms a cursory glance. Test things properly, such as turning on the taps, looking at the boiler and checking the windows and flooring. Ask what the maintenance costs are like. Once completion has taken place, any repairs become your responsibility.

If you can, speak with a couple of neighbours to try and glean more information about the immediate area or if they’re aware of any issues, such as boundary disputes.

7.   Be realistic about your needs and think ahead

Don’t fall in love with a property that’s impractical for your everyday needs. For example, you may like the idea of living in the middle of nowhere but it might take too long to commute to work or be too far away from your kids’ schools, plus the isolation might get you down after a while.

You’ll own your property for a number of years so try to think ahead for the future. What suits you now might not be practical in 5 years. For example, think about the size of the property and its garden — you might not have any kids yet but you may do in the near future.

8.   Have your paperwork ready

You might be eager to complete quickly but remember that numerous steps have to be carried out by your lender and solicitor to avoid any issues at a later date. One way to get things off to a quick start is to have all your paperwork ready to proceed with your mortgage once an offer has been accepted on the property you’ve found. This includes copies of documents, such as your bank statements, utility bills and passport, and proof of your address, income and expenditure.

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