10 things to know before buying your first home

Buying a home can be an exciting, stressful, and emotional experience. It is like this for everyone, whether it is their first home or their fifth home. However, when it is your first home, you do not have the luxury of experience and hindsight behind you, so it is very easy to feel like you are being thrown into the deep end. After all, buying a property is not something that they teach in school, and is something that we are all somehow expected to do without much in the way of help!

Here, we look at ten things that you should know before you buy your first home, to hopefully give you a bit of support and benefit of someone else’s experience! 

Be realistic with what you can afford when it comes to the mortgage

If you are approved for a £320, 000 mortgage but can only plausibly afford £300, 000 do not try being clever and going for it.  You are not required to accept what you have been approved for, so take the time to determine your true budget and stick to it. Not only are you leaving yourself no leeway for mistakes, but your home may be repossessed if you do not make your mortgage payments on time. The last thing you want to be doing is moving into a house that you really can’t afford and spending all your time worrying about how you will make repayments. Make sure you do plenty of research and use tools such as www.mortgagecalculator.uk to know what you can afford.

Do not plough all of your money into the deposit

Purchasing a home entails many more expenses than just the mortgage payment and the deposit, so do not sink every last penny that you have into the deposit.   You have the fees for applications, stamp duty, CHAPS fees – where you transfer your funds for the mortgage to the solicitor involved, solicitor fees, Land and Building Transaction Tax if you live in Scotland, and many other costs before you complete, not to mention the actual moving expenses themselves – hiring removal trucks and so on. It is vital that you take these costs into consideration.

Sort the finances out before anything else

Before you start seriously looking for a house, get a Decision in Principle to find out how much you can obtain. If you know you can get the mortgage before you go and fall madly in love with a house, it could save you a lot of grief and embarrassment.  That way, if you do find a house you really do like, you will be ready to make a competitive offer based on what you know you can manage.

Be realistic about your lifestyle

Do not go in buying a property and then trying to work your lifestyle around it – it just will not work. If you love going out to nightclubs and bars, buying a house in the middle of nowhere probably is not going to work for you. Nor is buying a remote farmhouse ten miles from the nearest shop going to be any good if you can’t drive. Think about how you will get to work, your hobbies and social life, and schooling before you jump into a purchase.  If you are intending on having kids, an apartment in the middle of the city with no garden probably is not the right option for you. Ideally, you should plan to be in the property for a few years – while you might hope to move sooner than that, you cannot foresee the future so make sure you choose wisely based on your future family and lifestyle plans. 

Look with your head, not your heart

When it comes to making a decision about your home, leave the emotions out of it. Of course, you should love where you live, but if you know nothing about the house, do not get your heart set on it and let your emotions run away. Love the beautiful original tiled floors? Great. But if your head is telling you ‘no’ because you can spot those signs of subsidence or can see how isolated it is, listen to it. If you don’t, you run the risk of having buyer’s remorse afterward – and that can be terrible. 

Know how buying a house and buying a flat can be different

Flats and apartments are common purchases for first-time buyers. However, it is important to know how they differ from buying a house. Flats that are in buildings with lifts can be considerably more expensive, for example. You may also have things like service charges to pay out for the communal cleaning, as well as many more restrictions as to what you can and cannot do to the property. A house is more hands-on when it comes to maintenance in that it is all your responsibility. However, if it is listed, it may restrict you from doing lots of things, from major structural work to things like changing the colour of your front door. Knowing these things is vital before you get well stuck into the process – it can be expensive and unfair to other people in the chain if you have to pull out. 

Talk to the neighbours

Assuming you are not looking at a property ten miles from its nearest neighbour, it is important to talk to them and get a sense of what they are like before making any commitments. The likelihood is that your prospective new neighbours know a thing or two about the building, the house, and the neighbourhood as a whole. You don’t want to move in only to discover an ownership of land dispute, noisy pets, or uproarious party animals. 

Look at every detail before you commit

Treat the house buying process like buying a car. You do not just walk into a showroom, point at a car and say ‘Yes, I want that one’, and hand your money over. You sit in it, you look around it and you do your research before making a decision. The same goes for a home – it is probably the most expensive thing that you will ever buy! Check out the windows, crawl into the loft, turn the taps on, flush the toilet, look behind furniture and see what is lurking behind that funny old shed in the back garden. The last thing you want is to buy something and then realise the garden is basically a giant bog, or that the woodwork is rotting behind that carefully placed wardrobe, or that the water pressure is practically non-existent

But don’t be afraid to overlook ugliness.

That ‘interesting’ feature wall or ‘unique’ fireplace might be as far from your tastes as possible, but be prepared to forgive some questionable decoration choices and features if the house, area, and price are otherwise perfect. You can redecorate once you have moved in, knock that fireplace out and change that rather fetching carpet. Sure, you might have to live with it for a few weeks or months, but don’t discount what could otherwise be your dream home for the sake of a few minor and easily resolvable details.

Be aware that there is help out there for first-time buyers

Speak with a mortgage advisor about the various mortgage programmes available. If you can’t get all of the money you need for a deposit, it’s not the end of the world – the government offers a variety of schemes to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder, with some schemes requiring as little as a 0 – 5 percent deposit.

Image of new homeowners courtesy of Shutterstock

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