Buying your first home should be an exhilarating and memorable experience. It can also be a daunting and confusing one, especially in today's property market. Following some key steps can make things easier.
The first step is to find out how much you can afford to borrow. A mortgage broker can assist you in searching the market for the best deals, maximising your resources and borrowing power. Don't try to take on a mortgage that's too large - monthly payments should be low enough for you to meet them comfortably. An online mortgage calculator can be helpful here. You should also make sure you put aside enough money to cover stamp duty and other fees.
Once you have a general idea of your budget, you can begin to narrow down the kind of property you're looking for. How many bedrooms do you need? Do you want a house or a flat? Consider whether you want a freehold or leasehold property. You'll also need to think about the location - what about public transport, shops and other amenities?
When you're ready to begin your search, start by registering with estate agents in the area where you plan to live. Pick up the local newspapers and check the property pages. You can also look for a new home online. When you find a property that meets your criteria, the next step is to phone the agent and arrange a viewing.
Bear in mind that you're unlikely to find the perfect home right away. You may have to visit a number of different properties before you find one that really suits you. Resist the temptation either to go over budget or settle for a property that you're not comfortable with.
Before you make an offer, you can ask for a Home Information Pack (Hip). You should also find out as much as you can from the estate agent. If the house has been on the market for some time or the buyer wants a quick sale, consider making an offer that's lower than the asking price. Once you've made an offer and it's been accepted, start arranging your mortgage. You should also instruct your solicitor to begin working on a contract.
Your mortgage lender will arrange for a surveyor to inspect the property. You should also arrange your own survey to ensure that there are no problems with the property. You can save money by asking that the lender's surveyor also gives you a homebuyer's report - you'll still have to pay but it will cost less than a separate surveyor.
Once all the necessary checks have been completed, you will sign a contract that legally commits you to buying the property. A date to complete the purchase will be agreed. You'll need to pay a deposit, typically around 5%. When the sale is complete, you'll be able to pick up your keys and move in.
Your mortgage lender will require you to take out buildings insurance on your new property. This protects your investment, and theirs, if anything happens to your home.