Five Tips for First Time Buyers, from First Time Buyers
“My partner and I started renting our first flat together a couple of years ago. So far,it’s going well (or at least, we haven’t killed each other), and it’s beginning to feel like the next logical step is to buy a house.
Our collective parents seem to think so, anyway. They’re not the first to compare renting andchucking money down the drain, and with the average 2-bed flat in Brighton commanding over £1,200 a month, it’s hard to argue that moving back up north and buying an actual house is such a bad idea. Add that to the fact that many of our friends are starting to step onto the property ladder, and we’re feeling the pressure from all sides to suck it up and settle down.
Between us, my partner and I know approximately nothing about house-hunting. This being the case, we decided to quiz some of our house-owning buddies about their experiences, and whether they could offer us any advice. The resounding answer? Yes.
Think about why you’re buying.
Buying a house is a huge commitment, and a lot of hassle. The whole process – from estate agents and solicitors, to the heartbreak of a sale falling through –is pretty stressful, and will be made a lot more difficult if your heart isn’t in it.
Spoiler; caving to peer pressure or “because you should” aren’t good enough reasons to buy a property. If you’re serious about becoming a homeowner, you should be able to confidently write a long list of reasons why you’re ready, along with ways you’re prepared to deal with snags along the way.
Do the maths.
Apparently, mortgages are a pretty big deal, and banks like to make sure you can pay them back. When you apply for a loan, all of your financial ins and outs are going to be thoroughly vetted. Be prepared for this, and ideally start spending responsibly from three months ago.
To work out yourmortgage budget, factor in every single expense you can think of. That includes the big stuff like commuting costs (car insurance and petrol, season train tickets etc.) and council tax, but also the nitty-gritty like your Spotify subscription and monthly cinema trips. Remember that a house costs more than the offer you make – you’ll have to pay stamp duty, solicitors fees, survey costs and much more along the way.
Know what you’re looking for.
Now this sounds obvious, but another big mistake that we were making was to view pretty much any flat within our budget. One of us was always underwhelmed, because we hadn’t taken the time to sit down and discuss what we both needed in a home.
We spoke to a couple of old school friends, Tom and Jess, who told us that they each wrote out a list containing “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”. This included obvious features like outdoor space and a separate kitchen, but also aspects like having a good pub within walking distance, and being able to reach commuter routes easily. When they compared lists, they had to work out where they could compromise, and which properties simply wouldn’t tick enough boxes.
Don’t do it alone.
Our friend James was looking to leave a Brighton house-share for somewhere outside of the city that he could afford by himself. After a slow start, he eventually found a beautiful flat about 25 minutes away, that was perfect for him. James revealed his secret weapon was the local Haywards Heath estate agent, who kept their ear to the ground and kept him up to date with upcoming properties that he never would have found by himself.
If you’re moving somewhere that’s difficult for you to visit regularly, find a reputable agent who can do most of the work for you. Arrange a meeting to explain your budget and exactly what you are (and aren’t) looking for, along with timescales if possible. As long as they know you’re not just “browsing”, they’ll do everything they can to help you find a new home.
Be conservative with your cash.
It’s generally accepted that housing should cost about 33% of your income, but that doesn’t mean it has to. As another friend, Alex, pointed out – don’t aim to spend the biggest loan you’re offered. While a slightly bigger property might feel nice initially, it will feel much, much better to have extra money in your pocket every month.
Don’t scrape out all of your savings for a deposit, either. Without fail, all of our friends had something go wrong in the first couple of months of moving in, from accidentally ripping a handrail off the wall to discovering a bat infestation in the loft. There’s no telling when the first “rainy day” will arrive, so keep some savings back to help you sleep at night”.
The most important thing when deciding whether to buy a home is to let your head rule over your heart. Have a look at the figures, and compare the benefits of buying and renting for your personal situation. Ultimately, advice is just advice, and only you can decide what’s right for you.