They say hindsight is a wonderful thing – and they’re not wrong. Often, we have to go through something to know what we’d do differently next time. Buying a house? Yep, it’s most definitely one of those things.
For a lot of us, the ultimate goal in life is to get onto the property ladder. In fact, as a nation, we’ve become almost obsessed with the dream of owning a home, no longer paying rent (referred to by some as ‘dead money’) and being able to paint the walls any colour we damn well please. But how do we prevent the purchasing process turning a little nightmarish at times?
With that in mind, here are a few shoulda-woulda-coulda tips for any first-time buyers…
1. Get a good broker
It’s natural to be slightly nervous about approaching a mortgage broker for the first time. It can often feel like they have all the power to make or break your financial future. But you’re the customer, after all, so go along with a list of questions and see yourself as interviewing the broker, not vice versa.
2. Get your insurance plans in check
Insurance isn’t just another formality involved in the sale. Firstly, your mortgage provider will refuse to give you any money until you can show insurance is in place. Secondly, insurance protects your investment. It should be in place from the date of exchange, in case something happens to the property prior to completion. And it’s not just property insurance you want to think about here – moving to a new home is the perfect point to review your life insurance. Not sure how much life insurance you need? Use this handy tool.
3. Budget, budget, budget!
You can make an offer within budget, but when the seller asks for more money and various fees rack up, before you know it you can end up spending much more than you’d planned. Being tough with your budget and including a buffer fund for unexpected costs is key.
4. Don’t be greedy
It’s oh-so tempting to take the maximum mortgage being offered to you. But before finding out what a lender might offer, work out how much you would need. If you do it the other way around, the temptation to up the loan size can prove irresistible – and then you may end up being one of the 74% of first-time buyers (according to Money Advice Service research)* who said they had to stretch themselves to be able to afford their new home. Or, worse still, one of the 38% who lie awake at night with money concerns.
5. Avoid looking at houses above your price range
Even a fraction over. What’s the point? If you keep looking at your dream house with a pool, subterranean gym and stables for four horses, it might make the terraced house you end up buying seem like less of a catch than it really is.
6. Neighbourhood watch
You might be the kind of person to view a property three or four times, carefully looking over the house with a fine tooth comb and asking lots of questions about its condition. Very wise. But what you shouldn’t forget to do is spend a little time in the neighbourhood after dark and during rush hour; your road might be a rat run for drivers wanting to take a short-cut, or your street could be student party-central.
7. Be patient
You can’t help yourself. The minute your offer is accepted, you’re thinking of knocking rooms through, adding a swanky kitchen and overhauling the garden to be a multi-level urban sanctuary. But who knows? You could end up spending almost all of your spare money on legal fees and sorting out some dodgy wiring instead.
Speedy sales are possible, but don’t count on it. You could find yourself in a chain, for example, where the seller has problems with the home they’re purchasing, meaning the completion of your new house keeps getting pushed back. But there is good news: If you’re the kind of person who gets irritated waiting for the kettle to boil, you may just discover that you can be more patient than you ever thought possible!
In essence, the buying process is a bit like a relationship – you don’t really know what you’re in for until you’re in it! But, like with a relationship, once you’re settled and happy, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
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