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  • Writer's pictureRichard Jennings

10 Top Tips for First Time Buyers

Updated: Jan 27

Ever thought about taking that monumental step towards homeownership but find yourself overwhelmed with the intricacies involved? You're certainly not alone.

Buying a home, especially for the first time, can be an intimidating process. There's a plethora of factors to consider, from understanding your budget and credit score to selecting the right mortgage and researching neighbourhoods. This discussion will provide you with ten essential tips to navigate this complex journey with confidence.


However, there's a major pitfall many first-time buyers fall into, and you'll want to know what that is, won't you?

Two couples infront of a house that has sold

Key Takeaways

Understanding your financial capabilities and automating savings can help you accumulate funds quickly for a deposit and legal costs.

Building and maintaining a good credit score is crucial for obtaining favourable mortgage terms.

Researching and assessing the neighbourhood for amenities and safety is important in finding the right home.

Conducting a thorough home inspection and seeking professional help can help you make an informed decision and protect the property's value.

Understanding Your Budget

First off, you need to have a clear understanding of your financial capabilities before diving into the home buying process. It's not just about how much you earn, but also how much you save.

The reality is, buying a home often costs more than you anticipate. This is where savings strategies come into play.


You've got to be smart about saving. First, identify what you can comfortably afford to set aside each month. Then, automate your savings using a standing order. Your current account may also offer a round up facility.

You'll be surprised at how quickly it can accumulate. But remember, your savings aren't just for the deposit. It's also there for unforeseen expenses that always seem to pop up when you're buying a home.


Unexpected costs like home repairs, legal costs, moving expenses, and even new furniture can quickly drain your savings. And if you're not prepared, they can potentially derail your homeownership dreams. That's why it's so critical to plan for these unforeseen expenses.

Importance of Credit Score

Next up, let's tackle your credit score - a vital component that lenders use to determine your mortgage eligibility and interest rates. Your credit score is a numerical representation of your financial responsibility. It's essentially a report card of your financial health. Building credit history is crucial.


How? By making timely payments on loans or credit cards, you're proving to potential lenders that you're reliable and can manage debt responsibly.


What's more, enhancing creditworthiness isn't just about paying your bills on time. It also means keeping your credit utilisation low, ideally below 30% of your credit limit. Lenders don't want to see you maxing out your credit cards, even if you're paying them off every month.


It's also beneficial to have a mix of credit types, such as a car loan or a student loan, in addition to credit cards. This shows lenders that you can handle various types of debt.

Selecting the Right Mortgage

Choosing the right mortgage can be a pivotal decision in your home buying journey, as it determines the amount you'll pay each month and impacts your budget significantly.

It's crucial to make an informed decision, and a mortgage types comparison is a great place to start. You've got options like fixed-rate, tracker rate, discounted rate, offset deals, capital repayment  or interest-only. Each has its pros and cons, and what's best for you depends on your financial situation and future plans.


Fixed-rate mortgages offer stability. Your interest rate and monthly payments stay the same for a predetermined period of time. They're a good choice if you like to budget and know what your mortgage payments will be each month.


Tracker rate mortgages have interest rates that are linked to an external index, such as the Bank of England base rate. They will usually have a % above the base rate for a set period of time. If the base rate increase, so too will your mortgage rate and payment. If the base rate decreases, then so too will your mortgage rate and payment.


Discounted rate mortgages are another variable mortgage type, however usually this is a set % reduced off of a lenders standard variable rate (SVR). If the lender increases their SVR then your rate and payment will rise. If they decrease their SVR then your rate and payment will decrease.

The impact of interest rates can't be overstated. A lower rate means you'll pay less over the life of the loan. But remember, a great rate isn't everything. You also need to consider factors like loan terms and fees.

Researching Neighbourhoods

Once you've got a handle on your mortgage options, it's time to dive into the neighbourhood research. This critical step involves assessing local amenities and checking Information such as local crime rates.


Start your local amenities evaluation by identifying what's important to you. Are you a fitness enthusiast who'd benefit from nearby gyms or parks? Maybe you're a foodie and proximity to top-rated restaurants is a must? Or perhaps you have children, and the availability of reputable schools is a top priority? List your needs and evaluate potential neighbourhoods based on these.


Next, don't overlook the importance of crime rate analysis. You want to ensure your potential home is in a safe area. Use online resources to check the crime statistics for your potential neighbourhoods. Higher rates might be a deal-breaker, while lower rates can give peace of mind.

Home Inspection Necessities

After you've thoroughly researched and selected your potential neighbourhoods, it's vital to understand the role of a thorough home inspection in your home buying process. This step is crucial to uncover any hidden damages that might impact your decision or the property's value.


Here are three key items to include on your inspection checklist:


1. Structural Elements: Check the walls, ceilings, floors, roof, and foundation for any evidence of water damage, cracks, or sagging. These may indicate serious structural problems.


2. Systems and Components: Inspect the heating system, plumbing, electrical systems, and appliances. Make sure they're functional and in good shape.


3. Exterior Evaluation: Look at the home's siding, landscaping, and drainage system. Observe if there are any potential issues like rotting trees or pooling water.

Don't rely solely on your own examination or the basic valuation offered as part of the mortgage application. There are three types of home inspection you can have carried out.

Mortgage Valuation

This is completed on behalf of your mortgage lender. It’s a short report, which is not always shared with you as the purchaser. It outlines the suitability of your prospective new home for mortgage lending purposes based on the lenders criteria.

Home Report

This is a more detailed report that provides information about the condition of the property and any issues that may need attention. It will highlight any areas that need attention and give an indication of the severity of this. They will typically highlight where any specialist reports are required or advised

Buildings Survey

This will give you the most in depth report of all three types. It is much more detailed and in addition to covering the aspects of a home report it will look at the structural integrity of your proposed new home.

Which survey you decide to pick is entirely down to your own personal preferences, budget and knowledge of the property you are purchasing.

Negotiating the Purchase Price

Once you've found your perfect home, it's time to negotiate the purchase price, a crucial step you can't afford to overlook. Remember, the listed price isn't always the final price. You've got some wiggle room, especially if you understand the seller's motivation and the current market conditions.

Seller motivation is a crucial factor. If they're in a hurry to sell, maybe due to a job relocation or financial constraints, they might be more open to negotiation. So, ask the estate agent for insights into the seller's situation.


Market conditions also play a huge role. In a buyer's market, where the supply of houses exceeds demand, you'll have more leverage to negotiate the price down. On the flip side, in a seller's market, with more buyers than available homes, sellers have the upper hand.


Don't be afraid to make an offer below the asking price if you feel it's overpriced, but also be prepared to go above your initial budget if it's a hot market or the property is exceptional. It's a delicate balance, but with careful consideration and strategic negotiation, you can secure your dream home at a price you're comfortable with.

Managing House Buying Costs

After successfully negotiating the purchase price, you'll need to get a handle on managing other related house buying costs, an often overlooked part of buying a home. These are expenses over and above the property price that buyers incur. They often include valuation fees, lender fees, solicitors costs and broker fees among other costs.


Here are two top ways to manage costs:

1. Understand what you're paying for: House buying costs can be a mystery if you're not familiar with the terms. Take time to understand each fee, especially the lender fees, which can include product fees, application fees and valuation costs.


2. Decide how and when you are going to pay each cost: Some fees are required to be paid upfront, such as a reservation fee if you are buying a new home. Other costs are paid during the process such as a valuation fee or your mortgage brokers fee and then other costs are payable near the end of the purchase, such as mortgage product fees, solicitors fees and your deposit.

Receiving illustrations or quotes for each fee, with details on when they are due will help you plan what savings you need and when they will be required by.

Managing your costs doesn't have to be a headache if you're informed and prepared. Start early, ask questions, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Planning for Future Maintenance

Now, let's tackle the crucial task of planning for future maintenance, an aspect that's often underestimated by first-time homebuyers. It's not enough to simply afford the mortgage; you need to factor in maintenance costs as well.

These costs can add up quickly if you're not prepared, but with careful planning, you can avoid being caught off guard.

First, you must understand the importance of preventive measures. By regularly checking and maintaining your home, you can catch potential issues before they become massive, costly repairs. This includes tasks like cleaning your gutters, servicing your boiler system, and checking for leaks.


Next, start an emergency fund for unexpected maintenance costs. Even with preventive measures, things can still go wrong. Having a fund set aside can lessen the blow of these unexpected expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Make My Offer More Appealing to Sellers?

To make your offer more appealing, get pre-approved for a mortgage. It shows you're serious. Also, write a personalised letter to the seller, expressing your interest and why you love their home.

Don’t be afraid to highlight why your offer is better than someone else’s. Include items such as, you are a first time buyer, you have no chain and as such can move at a pace to suit the seller.

Many people fall in to the trap of saying they can move quickly and want to complete as soon as possible. This is great if your seller is in the same boat, however not all sellers are. If they haven’t found their own next home yet, or are waiting on a new build to be ready they may prefer a buyer who can afford to wait to complete.

Is It Advisable to Buy a House With Planning Permission?

If you are planning on a big renovation or improvements then it can be advantageous if planning permission has already been approved. Be mindful of renovation costs and ensure you've enough financing for the renovation works.

Don't let your initial budget be overtaken by unforeseen expenses.

Always have a contingency fund.

What Are Some Ways to Prepare Financially for Unexpected Home Expenses?

You should start an emergency fund for unforeseen home expenses. Additionally, review your insurance policies to ensure they cover unexpected costs. It's crucial to plan ahead financially to handle any surprises your home might throw at you.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying an Older Home Versus a New Build?

When considering an older home, you'll find historic charm and possibly superior construction quality. However, it might need more repairs. New builds are often more efficient, but they may lack character and build quality.


So, you're stepping into the world of homeownership. Remember, understand your budget, know your credit score's importance, choose the right mortgage, and research neighbourhoods.


Don't skip the home inspection, learn the housing and mortgage lingo, negotiate your price, manage costs, and plan for future maintenance.


It may seem daunting, but with these tips, you're well-prepared for this exciting journey. Good luck, first-time homebuyer! You're on your way to securing your dream home.

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