According to the latest English Housing Survey, 64% of the population in the UK own their own home, with the average age of someone getting their foot on the first rung of the property ladder when they’re 33 years old.
Regardless of age, when you’re buying property for the first time, there are common mistakes that people make, due to lack of experience or eagerness to buy.
While it can be difficult to find an ideal home within your budget and in the area you wish to live, it’s sensible to consult an expert before entering into any form of agreement which could cause you financial heartache long term.
Possibly the easiest mistake to avoid is buying in a hurry. It can be tempting to line up your deposit and book the moving van if you see an affordable property close to your work or the school you’d like your kids to go to, however, it is smart to take a bit of time before committing yourself. If you have a trusted relative or friend who has experience with property, you may want to take them with you for a visit.
Once you’ve weighed up your options, some due diligence will be required. If the price is particularly affordable for that area, it is worth having a conversation with your estate agent or local residents as to why that is. As the saying goes, “if something looks too good to be true, it probably is,” and houses are no exception. It could be something as simple as the previous owners need a quick sale because of a move abroad or the property has been on the market for a long time, or it could be due to something more sinister, like flooding risk or the smell of a local sewage works wafting into the dining room.
In addition to informal conversations, it is essential to get an independent homebuyer survey of the property done. Many mortgage lenders will not allow you to borrow without one. There are four main types of survey, a valuation report, which establishes the value of the property, a condition report which outlines any urgent faults, a homebuyer report, which looks in more detail at structural issues and ongoing maintenance issues, and a structural survey, which is beneficial in a much older property or one that could require significant and essential repairs to ensure it is habitable.
It is also essential that you get your financial options arranged before you make your offer, for example, a mortgage in principle. This will give you an accurate picture of how much you can borrow and therefore what your budget is, meaning you can look at properties within your price range and avoid disappointment in the long run.
I spoke to Tony Dobbins at Anthony Jones Properties about potential pitfalls a first-time buyer could come across, who agreed about good preparation and budgeting.
He said: “Probably the biggest mistake that we see with first time buyers is that they fail to prepare. It’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a mortgage adviser and get an Agreement in Principle to show sellers you’re serious. However, it’s also advisable to appoint a solicitor early as there will be paperwork to sign and ID to provide.
“Finally, there’s nothing worse than falling in love with a property or an area that’s simply out of your budget. You should always ensure that you have thoroughly researched which areas you can afford to buy in and consider the type of property you're looking for before you start your search.”
Written by Martin Williamson, Director and Head of Residential Property
Please note: This article is intended as guidance only. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks. In addition, no responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by the firm.