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Guide for first time buyers

Helping you on the journey to home ownership

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage

Starting out

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone in your life. But, as a first-timer, you may be wondering what the process actually involves.

So to help you on your way, we’ve summarised the key stages below with some links to helpful articles that will help make your journey to becoming a first time buyer as enjoyable as possible. If any of the mortgage terms we use are unfamiliar have a look at our jargon buster to help bring you up to speed.

How much can I afford?

A common question that people ask is: ‘what’s the biggest mortgage I can get? [1]

Rather than asking yourself: ‘how much can I borrow?’ you can ask yourself ‘how much can I afford?’.

Think about a deposit that’s achievable for you, carefully consider the size of mortgage and repayments you can afford, the costs involved in moving home and what you’d do if interest rates increase.

For more information to help you decide what you can afford, visit our section on the financial aspects of home ownership.

The search

Finding the perfect property can be tricky. A useful exercise is to think about the aspects of your dream home that are really important to you. Create a prioritised list of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ that will help you narrow down your search to the properties that have what you really need.

Don’t rush the process, be open-minded and keep your options open. It’s a massive commitment, but try to enjoy it. To help you, have a look at our article on finding the right home.

Make an offer

This is an exciting but nerve-racking point in your journey to becoming a first time buyer. The property you want is inches away and you’re ready to make an offer. Before you do, there are a few things to consider:

  • Some lenders have an agreed shortlist of solicitors for you to choose from so please check with them before appointing anyone
  • If you lender doesn’t have an approved shortlist, find a solicitor that comes well recommended
  • Agree with your solicitor in writing the services they’ll provide and the full costs involved such as mortgage fees, utility checks and non-compulsory searches

Before making an offer, compare the similar and nearby properties to the one you have in mind. Take note of any that sell, the price they sell at and what the original asking price was. This will help inform your offer.

It’s your solicitor’s job to deal with any negotiations with the seller’s solicitor.

Sealing the deal

The way a deal is made in England and Wales differs slightly from Scotland. In England you can speak directly to the seller, which means they’ll conditionally accept your offer direct with you. In Scotland your solicitor will usually negotiate the offer and so they’ll tell you if your offer has been accepted.

At this point in the process, you’ll have to make your lender aware of the property price and the mortgage you require to pay for it. After your vendor has seen proof that you have the necessary funds you’ll be clear to sign the mortgage deeds and contracts for exchange. Your exchange date is when your buildings insurance cover will need to start. You may also want to get a quote for your contents insurance at the same time as sometimes you get a discount for taking them together.

Now your solicitor will pay the balance of the property price and sort the remaining admin – getting the transfer document and the title deeds, pay the stamp duty and land registry.

When this is all completed, it’s time to start looking forward to the big move.

Moving day

This is a day you want to be fully prepared for. Put some time into planning ahead to minimise stress and extra work you have to do on the day.

Here are a few key things to plan for:

  • Parking – make sure you arrange parking as close as possible to your property. It might even be worth contacting the council if you need parking bays reserved for the day.
  • Your route – plan the most direct route between your old and new property that doesn’t include narrow roads.
  • Insurance – it’s a good idea to have insurance, including cover for breakages in force for moving day. Just in case.
  • Utility readings – take meter readings and sending it to your utilities companies on the day. A good tip is to take photos on your phone so you have a record of them.
  • Boxes – buy good boxes ahead of moving day and label them with their contents and the room they’ll be going in.
  • Keep an essentials box - have ready a bottle of bubbly, a kettle and the necessary coffee and tea making equipment to keep your removal team happy and a toothbrush.

When your boxes are in, it’s time to start making your new house a home.

  1. Google search term, May 2015

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Find out more on the financial aspects of owning a home

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