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Everything you need to know as a first-time buyer

Buying a home for the first time is a hugely exciting time in anyone's life.

But can also be one of the most stressful experiences.

Some proper planning, though, can prepare you for what to expect from the sales process and from some of the potential pitfalls you may experience when a first-time buyer.

First-time buyer guide

What is a first-time buyer?

It probably sounds obvious: A first-time buyer is someone who is buying a property for the first time, right?

Well, it's not quite that straightforward...

Typically, you are a first-time buyer if:

* You have never bought a home before, either in the UK or abroad
* You only own a commercial premises, with no living space attached
* You are looking to purchase a buy-to-let property but have never purchased a property before in the UK or abroad

You wouldn't usually be classed as a first-time buyer if:

* You're buying a home with someone who has owned a property before, even if you haven't
* You are having a property bought for you by someone else who already owns or has previously owned a property
* You've inherited a property and sold it on, even if you never lived in it

Who qualifies as a first-time buyer

Criteria for first-time buyers tends to vary from mortgage lender to mortgage lender.

But essentially, and certainly from the perspective of the government when it comes to Stamp Duty (more on that later), you're a first-time buyer (or not) if you match the criteria outlined above.

Your deposit

As a first-time buyer, you'll need to save a deposit to put towards buying your first home.

How much you save depends on you.

But you should aim for at least 10% of the purchase price, which will help you secure a mortgage.

If you can save more, then do.

Saving a 25% deposit will see you entitled to better mortgage rates, meaning your monthly payments will be lower.

Remember, though: You'll have other costs to factor in to your budget, like solicitor's fees and Stamp Duty...

How to get a mortgage as a first-time buyer

It's often hard to know how much you could potentially borrow as a mortgage on your first home.

After all, many factors come into consideration, such as debt, credit history, income and other affordability factors.

The best place to start is often an online mortgage calculator.

While this is not a cast-iron indication of what you can borrow, it can help with budget planning and knowing what kind of properties you can realistically afford.

Once you have your deposit in place and an idea of your borrowing capability, speak to lenders or an independent mortgage broker.

They will take a closer look at your finances and will be able to advise on what you may be able to borrow.

At this stage, it can pay to get a mortgage agreement in principle - this will show sellers and estate agents that you are in a position to buy and could put you ahead of the competition when making an offer on a property.

Once you have found a property and had your offer accepted, you'll need to complete your mortgage application.

The property search

One of the most important (and positive) things to remember as a first-time buyer is that while you are inexperienced, you are also in a great position to buy.

Buyers who have homes to sell themselves will never be as attractive to a seller as someone who is ready to move right away.

This can put you in a great position as a buyer.

Before you start frantically browsing the online portals, be sure to filter out any properties that don't meet your needs or budget.

So, if your maximum budget is £300,000 and you need three bedrooms, don't waste your time looking at properties that are £350,000+ and have four bedrooms.

Think clearly about distances to work or to your child's school. If you're going to be spending more time in the car or on the train by buying a house further afield then perhaps you would be better looking in a different area.

If that area is more expensive, consider compromising to make your budget work.

Most importantly, when looking for properties in the area you want to live, speak to your local estate agent.

Even if they don't have any homes on the market within your budget or that you are keen to view, give them your details and let them know what you're looking for.

Doing so could mean they contact you and you get to see a property fresh on the market before anyone else.

This kind of head start can be priceless...

Arrange a solicitor

...and if you get a head start such as that, you'll want to take advantage.

So, before setting out on your property search, speak to several solicitors (friends, family and your local agent can be great for recommendations) and appoint someone to take care of the conveyancing process for your purchase.

With a solicitor or conveyancer in place early, as soon as that offer is accepted you can move quickly - meaning you are ever closer to picking up the keys to your first home.

Making an offer

When you've found your dream home, it's time to make an offer.

Knowing where to pitch your opening offer can be difficult and many first-time buyers end up paying near or on the asking price simply through fear of losing their dream home.

But if you have time on your side, try a lower offer.

This is where knowing as much about the seller's circumstances can pay off, so speak to the estate agent and do your due diligence.

If the seller is desperate to sell because they have a new job elsewhere in the country, there's a strong chance they'll accept a lower offer.

Stamp duty and other fees

As we mentioned earlier, factoring in other costs that can eat away at your deposit is important early on in the process.

The good news for first-time buyers is the government issued an incentive on Stamp Duty tax back in 2017.

That means first-timers pay no Stamp Duty on the first £300,000 of their property's sale price.

You'll also need to factor in solicitor's fees, moving costs and survey fees, as well as the all-important purchase deposit.

Have a survey

Did we mention surveys above? We did!

While property surveys are an added cost, Martin & Co always recommends buyers undertake one on their new home.

A survey can reveal any issues with your purchase structurally or otherwise and knowing about potential problems before you buy can save you a whole lot of money and hassle further down the line.

Exchange and completion

Once your solicitor has performed all searches and your survey has been signed off, you will be getting closer to exchanging contracts with the seller.

Once this has been done, the sale is legally binding, so it's a huge moment for you as a first-time buyer.

Completion of the sale usually takes place seven-to-28 days after exchange of contracts and once the solicitors have ensured all monies are where they need to be, you'll be ready to collect the keys and move into your first dream property.

If you are currently searching for your first home, take a look at our properties for sale or get in touch with your local Martin & Co office.

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