You’ve made the decision that it’s the right time to start looking for your first home, and you want more than anything to get on the first rung of the property ladder, but before you get the property pages out, there are a few things you need to know to avoid the pitfalls many first time buyers fall into, and should make for a stress-free and successful property purchase.
BEFORE YOU START LOOKING….
Do your ‘Home’-work
Read, read and read some more! What’s a mortgage? Who offers the best? What help can you get? ‘Help to Buy’ and ‘Shared Ownership’ schemes are currently helping many first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. If you don’t know what these are, then clue yourself up on government websites ASAP. Free websites and publications like this, are also a good idea to immerse yourself in!
Research the following questions:
- What is the home buying process? From start to finish.
- What type of home do you need? Flat/House?
- What are the prices of homes in your area?
- What is the best mortgage for you?
- Who is the best solicitor for you?
- Who is the best surveyor for you?
- How much do you have to move? Will you need a removal firm?
Start asking around, word of mouth and recommendations are invaluable sources of knowledge at this point.
Save as Much Money as you can
Ideally, you should start saving for a house as soon as you get your first job. As you may need years to save enough for a deposit. The fact is that buying a home is an expensive business.
Don’t forget, you will need money to cover the cost of moving, including solicitor fees and surveyors, as well as your deposit.
The golden rule is, the bigger the deposit, the more deals you will get offered. The cheapest mortgage deals are reserved for the biggest deposits. Do not despair however, as help is available to make sure you CAN get a home, even with a small deposit.
The biggest question is how much do you need? This is something that depends on many factors (the region you live/what type of accommodation you need, for example) but doing your ‘Home’-work, should give you a good idea.
One tip is that you should always save MORE than you think, as there is no point putting all your money into a deposit, if you have nothing left to buy a sofa.
Look After your Credit Score
Mortgage lenders will always check your finances out before offering any type of deal. So, if you are thinking of buying your first home, you will need at least a year or two of good money management under your belt. So, avoid arrears, avoid unauthorised overdrawn accounts, and get your credit cards under control.
What are your Property Priorities?
Before you start your search for the perfect home, you need to know what you need and want in a home. Make lists of the following:
- Your ‘MUST HAVES’
- Your ‘NICE TO HAVES’
This will take minutes to write but should stop you from being wowed by an immaculately presently property, that doesn’t meet your needs. Or equally put you off a messy place that could be perfect. Keeping your mind ‘focused’ on what really matters.
Consider a Broker
Even after doing your homework, saving money, writing lists and sorting out your finances, you may still be confused as to what is best for you. An option could be to use an independent mortgage broker. They may save you money by finding a cheaper deal, save you time because they know the market inside out and will give you bespoke advice you are not likely to get elsewhere. Think of a broker as a ‘personal shopper’ experience to the whole homebuying process.
Have you considered Risk beyond the deposit?
Will your monthly repayments rise over an agreed term? Are you ok with this? Or do you need to know your monthly repayments are set in stone? This determines whether you go for a variable or a fixed rate mortgage.
Just like your car, if anything happens to your home you need to know its protected. Buildings and Contents cover is a recommended policy to take out when buying a home. Covering yourself as well is generally considered a good idea, with a good Life Insurance policy, especially if you have any dependents, so that the mortgage would be paid off in the event of your death. A morbid, but very sobering idea. Other insurances include Critical illness and Job Loss Protection plan insurance, which are also worth considering.
Help from Friends or Family
If you in a position to ask for financial help from friends or family, you could get a better deal. First time buyer joint mortgages or guarantor deals are available from some lenders. It’s worth asking the question to see if you could benefit from them.
Don’t forget About Technology
Homebuying apps are getting more and more popular, and more sophisticated. They give you the option to possibly get to a property before others, 24 hours a day. They are not an alternative to real advice from an expert, but they can help, and keep you in the ‘know’. Its sound advice to use all your resources and any help you can find to get you through the homebuying process.
THE DAY OF THE MOVE
So, you’ve found it, your first home. You’ve got your mortgage and finances sorted and you’re ready to move in….
What do you need to do in preparation for, and on the big day?
Our 8 steps to moving day success are as follows:
1. Confirm the moving date
First things first, you’ll need to get your moving date officially confirmed to put a big red circle in your diary, by your estate agents and the house sellers.
If you’re renting, you may be able to spread moving out and moving in across a few days, but if you are at the end of the chain, you may have to wait longer. Ask the question and make a transition plan, if required.
2. Give Notice
TO YOUR LANDLORD – This is very important if you’re renting, as you need to give notice to your landlord ASAP. Or you may incur further rent charges. The sooner you know your moving date, the sooner you can tell your landlord, and the less money you will have to pay.
TO YOUR UTILITY SUPPLIERS – let your water, electricity, gas, phone and broadband suppliers know your moving out, when, and where to. It’s a good idea to take a photo of your meter readings the day you move, so you can settle the bills and even get any money back that is owed to you.
An internet connection can take weeks to set up in a new property, so download anything important like appliance instructions, contacts, directions and anything you will need to set up your new house. Using your phone as a mobile hotspot maybe a short-term solution, so worth seeing what your provider can offer.
TO YOUR COUNCIL – unless you are moving to a house of the same size on the same street, your council tax will probably change, so you need to let your council know you are going, and where you’re going to.
TO THE POST OFFICE – nowadays this can be done online but will ensure against any awkward ‘forwarding address’ situations from the new tenants/owners.
TO WORK/DVLA/BANK/DOCTOR/DENTIST/INSURERS – anyone that needs to know your moving and where to.
TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY – a generic email should do the trick. At the same time, delete your old address from online accounts, such as Amazon!
3. Get quotes for removals
If you’re on a budget, hiring a van maybe the best option, but getting a professional service to help may take a lot of the stress away from the day. Some removal firms even offer a packing and unpacking service, or special strong boxes so you don’t need to find them yourselves.
Whatever you decide however, make sure your valuables and personal documents are in a safe place – even keep them with you if this is feasible?
4. De-Clutter before you move
Room by room decide what is worth keeping, and what’s not. It’s that simple.
It will save you time, energy and even money if you use a removal firm. Cutting down on the amount of physical ‘stuff’ you own, also has the added benefit of mentally preparing you for a new start.
5. Make a list of the important things in your new home
This is just about being prepared. Don’t wait for a burst radiator before you find out how to switch off the water.
Ask the sellers of your new property exactly where the following things are:
Stopcock (valve for controlling the main water supply)
Instructions for appliances
Gas and electricity meters
If you’re selling, make a list of where all the important things are in your home, and leave it for the people moving in. Doesn’t cost anything to be helpful and nice to your new owners. Sometimes people leave a card, flowers or a gift. If you are nice, they are more likely to send on any parcels or letters.
6. Pack everything and label everything
Pack breakables with newspaper or bubble wrap and label each box. Make a checklist of what’s in each box, so you don’t have to root around in the first few days to find something you need. There are mobile apps to help with this as well.
7. Make a ‘first night’ survival kit box
You should try to keep this with you, so if you get there late, you still have the essentials:
Kettle, mugs, tea, milk, coffee, sugar
Cleaning products and bin bags
Phone and laptop chargers
Loo roll, kitchen roll
Duvet, bedding and pjs for the first night
A change of clothes for the next morning.
Important documents that cost money to replace (passport, birth certificate, driving licence) and moving documents.
If you have room, also pack with you:
TV & Radio
Temporary furniture – deck chairs etc.
8. Finally, Make your new home ‘YOURS’
Once you arrive at your property, if possible before all your stuff arrives, give the house a deep clean. This is the best and easiest time to do it. You can scrub titles, clean carpets, wipe walls and skirting boards before all your furniture is in place.
Make sure you have keys to every door, window and cupboard as well. It’s also useful to find out when the bins are collected (in case it’s the next day).
Unload all your furniture and boxes (via the removal firm if hired – giving clear instructions as to what goes where, and as a nice touch, offer a tea or coffee to the workers).
Assemble your bed and bedding for the night (should be to hand), then you are all ready to spend the first night in your new home.
If you have time start with your kitchen and unpack room by room, but this can wait until the morning. You don’t have to unpack every box the day you move in, and it’s nice to try and have a night off and a grab a takeaway on your first night, with a friend or your partner and celebrate your new home.