Residential Property legal expert, Paul Boucher gives his 5 top tips for first-time buyers who are eager to get on the property ladder.
1. Be organised in your approach
In a bid to boost the property market, the Government introduced a temporary holiday on stamp duty last year on the first £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland. The tax threshold has been temporarily raised until 30 June 2021 to help buyers struggling because of the COVID-19 crisis.
If you are buying it always pays to be organised and exchange and complete as soon as possible. Otherwise, a delay could cost you the property and the search for another may take time.
Before you start house hunting, it makes sense to get an agreement in principle from your lender. This is a certificate from a potential mortgage provider which shows how much the lender would be prepared to let you borrow which is valid for a set period. Although this is not an official offer from your lender, this will give you an idea of your budget. It will also assure sellers and property agents that you are committed to buying a house and have thought realistically about how you are going to finance the purchase. A good tip is to make sure you are on the electoral roll as the lender may check this to verify your identity.
Once the offer is accepted, make sure you provide your conveyancer with all the information they need as soon as possible. This would include details of the funding of your deposit and having your ID checked.
2. Be realistic about your budget
Many first time buyers under-budget. It is vital to have a clear understanding of how much the purchase process will cost. In addition to the purchase price of the house, you must factor in other costs such as getting a valuation, your legal fees, survey and conveyancing costs. You should also calculate how much it is going to cost you to live in the property - should your offer be accepted – and consider costs such as council tax, contents insurance, buildings insurance, etc.
3. Do your research to avoid common first time buyer pitfalls
Have a list of questions: When viewing properties it is easy to get distracted or focus on a particular feature at the expense of making sure that the property meets your actual requirements. Make sure you have a checklist of what facilities you need the property to have. Look carefully at fixtures such as doors, windows, lights. Ask the seller and estate agent questions such as, How long has the property been on the market? How long have the occupants lived at the property? Why are they leaving?
Know the neighbourhood: Make sure you research the area where you are thinking of buying thoroughly. Are there good transport links? Do you want to be near shops, restaurants and gyms? Do you need access to green space for outdoor exercise and so on. Visit the property you are thinking of purchasing at different times of the day to check out traffic, noise levels and other activity.
4. Make sure you get a survey on the property
Only around 20% of home buyers decide to get a private survey which is surprising as the cost of survey is just a tiny percentage of the overall cost of a property. Not commissioning a survey can be a big mistake. You could end up paying too much for the property, and face considerable future costs repairing defects that were not identified before you bought the house. Surveys can also give you leverage to renegotiate the price of a property if the survey report reveals there are issues which will be expensive to remedy.
5. Use an experienced conveyancer
Although it is possible to do your own conveyancing you will still have to pay for all your disbursements and if you make a mistake you will be personally responsible. Conveyancing is a complex process which requires experience to make sure that the legal aspects are handled as quickly and efficiently as possible. An experienced conveyancer on the other hand, specialises in house purchases and sales and has the knowledge to spot any potential problems before they arise and to deal with all the purchase requirements in good time so that you are in a position to exchange as soon as possible after your mortgage offer is available.
If you are a first time buyer we wish you every success in your purchase. Buying your first house is an exciting time and we believe the key to success to an early exchange is to adopt a strong and organised approach to the buying process and seek professional guidance.
For further information please contact a member of our Residential Property team who will be happy to help.