Everything You Need To Know To Get Your Foot On The Property Ladder

While renting for much longer than our parents or grandparents is a reality for many young people these days, being able to buy your own home is still one of the most important and significant steps you can take!

Finally having a place to call your own is one of the most satisfying feelings around, and the independence that comes with buying a home can be incredibly exciting! However, for first-time buyers, the whole process can be incredibly intimidating. There are so many forms, checks and steps to take that you don’t have any experience with, that it can seem overwhelming at the start.

In this quick guide, we’ll give you the information you need to get started, as well as what to expect as a first-time buyer. We know it’s scary, but Jordan & Halstead are here to help! Keep reading, or get in touch to see how you can start your journey onto the property ladder.

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Quick Questions

When Should I Buy My First Home?

It can be tempting to try and get a deposit put down on a new home as soon as you possibly can, but it’s worth remembering that not owning your home is far better than not being able to afford your home, becoming saddled with payments you struggle to keep up with or even having your dream property repossessed.

While getting a mortgage can seem like the most daunting part of the home buying process, it’s also one of the most important, and it’s vital you take steps to be sure you can afford both the upfront and ongoing costs of buying your first home. Most importantly of all, you should make sure your finances are in order yourself, before a bank or building society takes a look at it, to prevent any issues coming up now and in the future!

What Do I Need To Do Before Getting Started?

Before you start househunting, you’ll want to try and make sure you have a mortgage in principle, which basically means that having looked at your finances, a lender confirms they will be happy to lend you a certain amount. Having this set up before you go househunting can help get the process moving and prevent delays to you or your buying chain (more on the chain later!)

Now for the fun part, househunting! Depending on your expectations, it might be worth trying a couple of exercises to make sure you don’t become disheartened over time. Try setting a list of needs – things you cannot live without straight away. This might be a functional kitchen, two bedrooms, an ensuite or storage space, as well as a hard limit on how much you can spend. Second fiddle to this is things you don’t need, but would really like, or things you don’t need straight away (after all, it’s your home and you can change things around over time as well!), so if you’d like a bath or an open kitchen/dining room, for example, that might be something that you can get the builders in for down the line. 

Don’t Forget Any Extra Costs

The estimated cost of buying a house ranges from around £1,330 – £6,140, so before you get started, make sure you’ll be able to cover these costs. Some of the most common costs you’ll need to factor in are:

  • You may need to hire a surveyor to get up-to-date surveys and reports carried out. 
  • Conveyancing fees.
  • Building, home, contents and life insurance, if you need them.
  • Moving costs.
  • Essential home repairs or improvements, depending on what is included in the final contract.
  • Mortgage costs.
  • Service charges and ground rent in leasehold properties

Stamp duty in England or Land Transaction Tax in Wales, though this is generally only applicable for more expensive properties, and first-time buyers also receive relief for stamp duty.

What’s The Process Like?

 

The short answer is that the home buying process is different for everyone! Once you have your mortgage in principle, you’ll be able to start hunting, and hopefully find your perfect starter home! You might carry out private viewings with an estate agent or the homeowner, or visit an open house with other potential buyers. When you’ve found a home you want to place an offer on, your estate agent will negotiate with the seller’s agent on your behalf. If your first offer isn’t accepted don’t worry too much, it’s all about the negotiation at this point!

Once the sale is agreed with the seller’s estate agent and solicitor, you’ll get a Memorandum of Sale to confirm that your offer has been accepted and to kickstart the rest of the sales process.

Next up is finding either a solicitor or specialist conveyancer, to begin the conveyancing process. Now, what is conveyancing? It’s the legal process of making sure the property changes hands to you, and to ensure you become the legal owner of the home. You’ll need a solicitor to help carry out this process, and it generally costs between £1000 and £1500, though this will vary depending on the price of your home (and is something else to budget for). You’ll have to fill out plenty of different forms, and your solicitor will help you work through all of these to ensure you get a hassle-free, legal sale and that everyone involved is on the same page.

Now you also will need to finish off your mortgage application, so you need to get back in touch with your mortgage broker. You’ll both agree to the right mortgage deal for you, and you’ll be able to complete your mortgage application. Your lender will also arrange a mortgage valuation, to allow your lender to confirm the value of your home. This valuation ensures that your mortgage is correct, but won’t take into account how any issues with the property or any work that needs to be done, so you’ll need to carry out separate surveys for this (this is where your surveyor comes in). While you complete your mortgage application, you’ll also want to think about making sure you’re in a good financial position, in case of emergencies. Life insurance, home insurance, and other financial services are incredibly important to have as a homeowner, and is something that many first-time buyers aren’t experienced in. At Jordan & Halstead, we have a specialist financial services division that works to make sure that all of our customers are as comfortable as possible within their finances, and will be able to advise you on all of the services and products you might need before buying your first home.

Around this point, the seller’s solicitor will receive title deeds from the seller, and start to draw up the final contract of sale. Your solicitor will contact the seller’s solicitor and together they will confirm exactly what is included in the sale. This means your solicitor will dive into the nitty-gritty to find out about all the boundaries of the properties, any current disputes or any alterations that have been made since the sale was agreed, among a wide variety of other things. At this point, you’ll also sort out (through your solicitor) what fittings, appliances, repairs and work is your responsibility, and what is the responsibility of the seller before you arrive. As a part of this process, your solicitor will search the Land Registry and Local Authority for information about planning history and developments in the area, as well as draining and mining around the property. 

Around this point in the process, you’ll usually get your final mortgage offer and be able to go through the details, terms and conditions, which is something you’ll need to do before exchanging contracts.

Finally, after all that, it’s time to sign the contract! You’ll sign a little bit before you exchange contracts, to give your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor time to arrange exchange dates and dates for completion (the day you’ll get the keys and can move in!). At this point, most people in the know recommend you start getting quotes for removals and sorting out any plans you need to put in place for moving day – do you have pets who will need to stay somewhere for a few days?  Are you hiring a removals company or renting a vehicle to do it yourself? Do any of your belongings need special packaging to move safely? These are things you should start thinking about now.

Finally, its exchange day! Your signed contract and deposit will be sent to the seller’s solicitor, and your sale is now legally binding, so you know at this point that the home is yours. Breathe a sigh of relief and start on the next fun step, admin!

Informing anyone who needs to know about your change of address can be time-consuming and isn’t very exciting, but it has to be done! Inform your utility companies, your employer, banks, credit card providers, the DVLA, family and friends, the NHS and anyone else you can think of! You can also arrange a mail redirect with Royal Mail for a small fee, to make sure you don’t miss out on anything important. Now is also the time to confirm all your arrangements for moving day, including with your removers and anyone else who is helping you move.

Finally, you have reached the completion stage – this is it! Your solicitor will pay the purchase price to the seller’s solicitor, and your estate agent will be able to release the keys. That’s it, you’ve successfully bought your first home! All that’s left to say is congratulations, and enjoy!