Buying a home for the first time is as nerve-racking as it is exciting.
There are a whole host of things to consider, however, even before you begin your search for your first dream home.
Firstly, you should decide if buying a home is right for you at this stage in your life. Would you be better off continuing to rent for a period of time?
With so much to consider, this Whitegates guide can help...
Finances for first-time buyers
The most important step as a first-time buyer, even before you start your property search, is to make sure your finances are in order.
And the most important sum of money at this stage? Yes, your deposit.
Saving a deposit large enough to buy your first home is one of the biggest tasks facing the millennial generation.
But your deposit is by far the most important aspect of your finances when you are looking to buy your first home.
A close second to your deposit is reducing your monthly outgoings or debts to be more attractive to mortgage lenders' affordability tests.
Could you save money by cutting back on those runs to the coffee shop at work? Is it possible to pay more off your credit card now, so it is clear by the time you come to apply for a mortgage?
Draw up a budget in advance of your property search and stick to it. Having your finances in order could mean being able to borrow more to fund your first home, or save a larger deposit in order to obtain a more attractive interest rate on your mortgage.
Costs when buying a home
Your mortgage and deposit won't be the only big sums of money to consider when buying your first home.
You'll also have to factor in:
* Stamp Duty
* Solicitor fees
* Survey fees
* Buildings insurance
Make sure these are in your budget as they could affect how much you can offer on a property further down the line.
Establish your dream home wish list
A property search without focus is a wasted search. And in a market that can move as quickly as a hungry cheetah, time is most definitely money.
Draw up a list of the kind of property that will suit your needs. Consider:
* If you need a house or a flat
* How many bedrooms you need
* The amount of outdoor space you require
* How many bathrooms you need
* If you need off-street parking as well as a driveway
* If you are happy undertaking property maintenance
Also consider what you would be willing to compromise on. As a first-time buyer with a budget, getting everything on your list of desires will be a big ask.
So, consider what you would be willing to give up and what you simply have to have.
Establishing the kind of property you want before starting your search will save you wasted time looking at homes that don't fulfil your needs.
For instance, if you are maintenance-shy, looking at ageing, period properties is wasted viewing time.
If a garden is top of your must-have list, viewing third-floor apartments is wasted viewing time.
Knowing your priorities and potential compromises is crucial to a focused property search.
Where do you want to live?
Once you have established your property wish list, it's time to start researching areas that fit your requirements.
Consider the following:
* How far can you realistically commute to work?
* Are you planning to start a family? If so, look into the best school catchments
* If you are commuting, do you need to be close to a train station or main road
* How important is it that you are close to family and friends?
* Are you keen to stay close to the social life of a town or city, or are you looking for a more peaceful location?
Draw up your list of priorities and start researching areas that fit your needs.
Questions to ask when buying a house
No matter how certain you are of the key things you need to ask on a viewing, almost all of that will go flying out of the window when your heart takes charge.
This is where taking a more experienced head along with you can pay off. They are more likely to look at a property with a keen eye and delve a little deeper into potential issues while you imagine your sofa and TV in the lounge!
Here are some of the most important questions to ask when viewing a house:
* Why is the owner selling?
* How long has the property been up for sale?
* How many viewings have there been?
* Have there been any offers?
* When was the boiler last serviced?
* When were the electrics installed?
* What Energy Performance Certificate rating does the property have?
* What would be included in a sale?
Even if your first impressions tell you this is the property for you, try to seek out potential issues through questions such as these.
If you can, arrive an hour early for your viewing and speak to neighbours or local shops about the area.
Spending time in the area will help you decide if the property is as perfect as it appears.
Making an offer on your first home
This is one of the most difficult aspects of the buying process for inexperienced first-time buyers.
Negotiations and holding your nerve can be extremely daunting, as can making that first offer.
Knowing where to start with an opening offer can be tricky, but you should consider the following:
* The seller's position: Find out from the agent how keen they are to move quickly. Are they already in a process to buy somewhere else?
* How long the property has been on the market: If the house you are offering on has been up for sale for some time, a lower offer may be more acceptable to the vendor
* Other buyers: If you have competition for the house of your dreams, you may have to consider an offer nearer to the asking price to secure it.
If you have set your budget, don't be tempted to go over that figure. As much as you may love the property, there will be other opportunities at other properties.
Stretching yourself to the financial limit now could end up being a costly decision in the long-term.
Consider, also, yourself in the offer process. As a first-time buyer with no chain, you are appealing to any seller.
Make sure you have a mortgage agreement in principle, so you can show the seller you are ready to move through the process quickly.
A slightly lower offer from you in that position could be more appealing to a buyer than a slightly bigger offer from someone in a long chain without a mortgage agreement.
Finally, we mentioned earlier how other costs associated with moving should be factored into your budget.
Stamp duty relief for first-time buyers means the first £300,000 of your property purchase is exempt for this tax.
Consider this when making any offer. If your dream home has an asking price of £315,000, offering £300,000 would be preferable to offering £305,000 or £310,000, which would mean you have to pay 5% stamp duty on the amount above £300,000.
The importance of a survey
While first impressions count, a survey can reveal any nasty surprises you may have missed during the viewing process.
Arrange a full survey of the property you are buying once your offer is accepted.
This will give you peace of mind that the home you are buying is sound. If a costly, much-needed repair is outlined in the survey, such as a new roof, you may be better off accepting that the property is not right for you after all and pulling out.