Follow our tips for first time home buyers.
Remember that one of the most important aspects of a home's value is the area it's in. Research the neighbourhood profile and check for good transport as well as schools. If you're finding property too expensive consider buying a home that needs some work, or look slightly outside your preferred area for a better bargain.
Before you start looking for a property make a list of everything you want and need in a home. Use this as a base guide when hunting for properties to help focus your search. Many people would choose a garden rather than an extra bedroom, for example.
Before you start looking at properties, calculate how much you can realistically afford. Consider other expenses involved when buying a property, including stamp duty, surveying, conveyancing and local authority searches.
Banks are now requiring higher deposits from buyers as the credit crunch has demanded they enforce more stringent lending criteria. Calculate your monthly costs (utilities, credit cards, groceries etc) and subtract that amount from your monthly income; this is roughly what you will have left for mortgage payment.
Consider these rules: the purchase price should be around 2.5 times your joint annual income and your mortgage payment should be less than 28% of your gross monthly income, so compare lenders and deals.
A good estate agent can access invaluable market information before the public, knowing the homes just on the market and comparable prices. Ask family and friends for referrals and seek someone who is well connected, understands your needs and has experience with homes in your area and price range.
SEE WHAT'S AVAILABLE
You can search for property online. Check regularly for information such as the address, photos and details, age, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, taxes and schools districts.
It is also worth looking through the local newspapers for the latest listings in that area.
As viewings do not usually last long take a checklist with you outlining what you should be looking for and what you should be asking. Take a tape measure to ensure your belongings will fit and check the property for damp or any repair work that needs doing.
Ask the agent to provide you with a copy of the HIP (Home Information Pack) which includes energy rating and property information.
MAKING AN OFFER
Don't be afraid to put in an offer lower than the asking price, particularly if the property has been on the market for a while. You can gauge how fair an asking price is by comparing with recent sales in the area or purchasing a property valuation report for an instant valuation. Both can be good tools for negotiation.
THE BUYING PROCESS
Once your offer has been accepted, the legal and financial legwork begins. You need to:
- Complete your mortgage application with your lender, who will check your credit and finances before granting approval
- Instruct a solicitor to manage the legal side of buying the property
- Arrange for a survey on the property to check its structure
- Pay for other costs including stamp duty, local authority searches and Land Registry costs
- Sign and exchange contracts
You can pull out of the sale at any time before exchange.
Once contracts have been exchanged, start planning your move. Find local removal companies, hire vans and arrange storage if needed.