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Buying your first home: Where to start?

So, you’ve decided to buy your very first home, but where do you go from here? Here’s a quick-read timeline for buying your first home, so you know what you’re doing from start to finish.

1. Save your deposit

To begin, you’ll need a deposit of anywhere between 5% and 20% of the value of the house. If your deposit is fairly low, it’s important to be aware that your mortgage rate may be higher than those who borrow with bigger deposits.

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme means you could buy a new build property with a deposit of just 5%. The terms of the scheme differ in England, Wales and Scotland – find out more

2. Get a mortgage in principle

Next, you’ll need a mortgage in principle. To find out more about the best mortgages available for first-time buyers, this article on moneysavingexpert.com is a great resource. Once you have agreed on a theoretical mortgage, you’ll be in a much stronger position when viewing houses and eventually making an offer. 

3. Decide what you want from a house

Do you want to live in a specific location? How many bedrooms do you need, and are you prepared to do any work? Are you looking for an energy-efficient home that’s cheap to run? Think about your priorities, and make a list of must-have features. 

4. Arrange viewings

Next, you’ll need to use property websites, agents and developers to book viewings of homes within your budget. If you can, arrange the viewings back-to-back over the course of a few days. 

5. Go on your first and second viewings

Make sure you ask plenty of questions, take notes and snap pictures on your first viewings. Whittle your list down to a handful of favourites, and arrange second viewings. At this stage, it’s always worth spending time in the local area, especially if you’re moving to a place that’s unfamiliar. 

6. Make an offer and negotiate

If you’ve seen a house you want to buy, the next step is to make an offer. Don’t go too low, but make sure there’s enough room for negotiation within your budget. If you’re a first-time buyer, use this as part of the negotiating process, as you’ll be able to move quickly with no chain. 

7. Have your offer accepted

If the seller accepts your offer, it’s all systems go. Bear in mind you’ll need to budget for the weeks and months ahead, with a kitty for surveys, legal fees and more. 

Click here to see our home buying guide for more information. 

8. Get a survey

The type of survey you choose will mainly depend on the age of the house, as older homes will need a more in-depth structural assessment.

As an absolute minimum, you will need to have a Valuation Survey done for your mortgage company using their surveyor. But remember this is only really to confirm the value of the property and not to identify any hidden issues that it might have. You could choose to use the mortgage company’s surveyor to conduct more in-depth surveys, or you may prefer to appoint your own.

Also consider asking for recommendations from friends, family and colleagues when choosing your surveyor – it’s important your surveyor is fully-qualified and trustworthy as they’ll be identifying any potential issues

9. Instruct a conveyancing solicitor

Your conveyancing solicitor will handle the legal aspect of the sale, including drawing up contracts, contacting Land Registry and paying Stamp Duty if it’s owed. Again, ask for recommendations for reputable solicitors, as this part of the process could be a drag if you choose the wrong one. 

10. Exchange and complete

The house should be taken off the market when your offer is accepted. When you’re ready to exchange, you’ll have everything in order including your contracts, mortgage, surveys, buildings insurance and deposit.

The amount of time between exchange and completion varies – it could be on the same day but typically takes around 2 weeks. Then, when you complete, you’ll pick up the keys, and the house will be yours. 

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