*Sigh* Katy’s back with another house based post straight after the other one. Maybe I am but give me a break, I’m just going mad because I’ve bought my first property and I really want to share my top tips for first time buyers! Even though Toby and I did all the research we could before we jumped into buying a property, there are certain things Google can’t tell you and that’s why I’m here!
Have a look at government schemes
As I’ve mentioned before, we went down the shared ownership route in order for us to get our foot on the property ladder. This basically means we don’t own 100% of the house but we can work our way up to it. For example, if a house cost £100,000 (not that you’d get that anywhere in Kent unfortunately), and we owned 50% of it then we’d only own £50,000 and the housing association would own the other half BUT we could buy a higher percentage if we wanted to – it’s obviously a lot more detailed but that’s the basics. Alternatively, you could go down the help to buy route where you put down a 5% deposit and the government puts down 20% so you’d only need to get a mortgage for 75% of the value of the property, making it slightly more affordable. These are just a couple of schemes you could be eligible for but unfortunately they’re not available on all houses, only a select few which is a bit of a bummer but it’s definitely worth looking into.
For more information on government schemes, take a look at this website.
Save as much as you physically can
I knew that buying a house would incur other costs but I didn’t realise how quickly the money would be sucked out of my account. My biggest advice would be to save save save! You can never have too much money in your savings and you’ll be able to put all of it to good use. Obviously you’ll have a reservation deposit to put down as well as the cost for a mortgage broker and solicitor, your actual deposit, stamp duty (if your property is worth more than £500k) and all the other bits and bobs – furniture, removal costs, TV licence, bills, insurance, food shop and a shit tonne of other things.
Set up a joint account if there’s two of you
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I really wish that when Toby and I started saving, we had set up a joint account or transferred all our savings into one. Not only would it have meant we saved the same amount every month but it would’ve been a hell of a lot easier when it came to producing proof of savings and deposit because it would all just be in one account! We’ve now set one up for mortgage repayments, bills, food shops and all that jazz but we both definitely regret not setting one up way before!
Make sure you have everything together before mortgage advisors and solicitors get involved
This tip follows on perfectly from my last one. So basically, I had five different accounts which I used to save for my half of the deposit and even though I thought it was going to be a piece of piss to collect my previous six months of bank statements for every account, it really wasn’t. This meant that it was tough to hand everything in on the deadline because it was all a last minute rush – which is so unbelievably unlike me because I’m normally so organised! My advice to any first time buyers is to make sure you’ve got your six months of bank statements, proof of deposit, proof of address and ID all ready to go! It will save you so much time and stress, I promise!
Don’t make decisions based on cost
Aka, don’t opt for the cheapest solicitor just because they’re the cheapest! My friend advised me when I was looking at solicitors to thoroughly check the reviews and not just to pick one because they only cost £900 and he was right! Unfortunately, despite the five star reviews our solicitor and mortgage advisor had, we were bitterly disappointed by their performance so also bear in mind that even if you pay a bit more for a decent service, it’s not guaranteed to be top notch! I’d recommend speaking to every single mortgage advisor and solicitor you’re interested in on the phone and getting a full quote emailed to you so you can kinda judge how professional they look!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
At the end of the day, buying a property is a pretty big deal so if you wanna ask 30 questions before you sign the papers then ASK 30 QUESTIONS! When we went on our first viewing, I’d written a list of questions we needed to ask but felt a bit awkward asking them because I didn’t want to seem annoying. Looking back, I was being so silly because it’s such a massive thing to buy a house – it’s not just like buying a new pair of shoes on a whim – so I should’ve asked whatever I wanted to without the fear of looking annoying!
My top tip would be to keep a note on your phone with any questions you have no matter how big or small they are! Is there a smart meter installed? Where can you park your car? Is there NHBC warranty? Is it gas or electric? Do you have access to the loft? Where do you keep the bins? If you’re buying a property with another person then it’s a great shout to invite them to the note on your phone so you both have view of it – we didn’t do this until we’d actually bought the house but it would’ve saved so much time if we had it the entire process.
Remember you don’t know it all
Not that Toby and I thought we knew the whole shebang or anything like that but it’s so important to listen to your family – their experiences, thoughts, opinions and advice will all be extremely handy! Both our parents have helped us out so much with general understanding and bringing up subjects and problems we hadn’t even thought about like nomination periods and what are the neighbours like?! Even though it can be overwhelming with everyone going on in your ear hole about this and that, it will help you out big time if you just listen!
Register to vote
If you’re not already on the electoral register then you need to register! Don’t ask me why but I just know you need to be on it! It’s something to do with confirming your identity and showing that your details are accurate which you need for anything like a mortgage or loan.
If you need to register to vote, just head to this website to do so.
Set up a Help to Buy ISA
Okay so you need to be doing this way before you actually come around to purchasing your property so this is a reminder! Basically it’s like a savings account where you get a 25% government bonus on amounts saved between £1,600 and £12,000. So it’s essentially free money after you’ve had the account for three months! I recommend depositing the maximum amount in your first month which is £1200 and then £200 every month. Then when it comes around to sorting your mortgage and the serious bit, you’ve got a bit of extra cash! The only thing you need to consider is that you will only receive the government bonus on properties up to the value of £250,000. Due to this, it meant I couldn’t actually get the money I was hoping for because our house was too expensive. I was so gutted and really wish I’d read the T&Cs before I set up the account so please watch out for that!
Update: The Help To Buy ISA is now being replaced with a Lifetime ISA which enables you to save more and receive the 25% boost on properties up to the value of £450,000. You can find out more information here on what the differences are between both ISAs in case you want to set one up soon as November will be the last month you can open a Help To Buy ISA.
Patience is key
As exciting as the whole buying a property/moving out process is, it can’t be done overnight. Things take time and even though it’s frustrating, patience is key! Unfortunately, people won’t get back to you when they say they will, you’ll be left on hold for ages and your emails will inevitably end up being ignored but it will all be worth it in the end! Just hang on in there!
I know this is the longest post in the whole entire universe but I think I’ve covered most topics when it comes to tips for first time buyers. I don’t want to bore you guys to death with ‘moving out’ based posts but I’m really enjoying writing them and fingers crossed they can help at least one person. These are just what I needed when we started the whole process so hopefully they can be of benefit to someone else! And if you have no idea where to begin, here’s a guide which you may find useful!
Are you currently looking to move out? Do you have any tips for first time buyers?