I have recently got my foot on the property ladder and navigated my way through getting my first mortgage. I am happy and excited to be in the next big stage of my life (home renovation and interior design here I come!). I thought I would pass on some of my knowledge and experience of this process to other first time buyers. This post is a list of a few things to consider and start thinking about if you want to get your foot on the property ladder. I hope it provides some guidance for you, I’m here for any questions if you have them.
Your Wish List
What are your must haves? What are your would likes? What area are you looking to buy in? Have you spent time there? Would you or could you consider letting something go in favour of another?
Figure out what you want, what you don’t want and what you would like. For me, I really wanted a house and Sam wanted a garden. We wanted a second bedroom and those three things were non negotiable for us. Three bedrooms would have been a bonus but just one wasn’t enough anymore. I would have liked a driveway and Sam would have liked a fireplace but these things weren’t deal breakers for us. For us the type of property was the most important thing – that was the top of our must have list. We were willing to re-locate for a property that we felt was worth it.
My point here is consider what you will and won’t compromise on but also be realistic.
Buying a Home, Not an Area:
I have always had my heart set on living my life in Essex. I grew up there and its always been home to me. Sam and I have spent five years living in Brentwood and calling that little town our home. When we first started our search we only looked in Brentwood. We could barely afford a one bed flat there but I still held hope that an amazing little two bed house would come up on the market and it would have my name all over it. It took me a lot of viewings, maybe-next-times and constantly rising prices to realise this just wasn’t going to happen. So we looked a few miles further afield. When that didn’t yield any results after more than six months we had to re-think our property ladder strategy.
In the end, we decided on a complete change of location and settled on Canterbury in Kent. We already had family connections and we already spend a lot of time there and more importantly, we could actually afford the type of property that we wanted. I guess my point here is that you are buying a home not an area. For the type of home you want, you may need to look in a different area – don’t be afraid to consider it as you may find something wonderful. Area is very important but its not always the be all and end all. If area is something you absolutely aren’t willing to negotiate on then you may need to re-consider another item on your wish list.
Location, Transport and Access:
Its important to think about what you do and where you need to go. Sam and I both work in London so a train station within a reasonable walking distance was important. I researched the service provider, prices and had a snoop of their twitter account for reported delays. I did not want to be in a situation where I had a train station in walking distance but an awful service! Research as much about the local transport as you can.
Consider how far things are from the house. Estate agents go by a birds eye view so your 1 mile from the station property might actually be a forty minute walk because of where the roads and pathways are located. Google maps is a great tool for eyeing up distances in terms of walking, driving and seeing what is around before your viewing. There is also a lot to be said for exploring on foot as some pathways are not listed on google maps.
I have a car so parking was a massive consideration for us. Ideally I wanted a drive way but on-street parking was ok too. When we viewed the house I looked for any yellow lines and checked sign posts to see if there were any parking restrictions. All good things to check both for yourself and for any friends and family that come to visit you. Our road in Brentwood was terrible for parking and it was nearly always completely packed. Sometimes our friends had to park several roads away!
Are there shops near by so you can buy food and any bits and bobs? How far is the supermarket? Is it walking distance or do you need a car? These are things to consider. Is a regular takeaway delivery important to you? Not everywhere delivers takeaway to your door especially if you choose to live in a small village. Not an important one but when you are very used to a 24/7 lifestyle in the London bubble it can be very different moving away and not having these things available at the touch of a button.
Affordability & Money
Those mortgage calculators on websites are good for giving a rough idea but the reality is often vastly different. I think when I did my first one it said the bank would be willing to lend £400,000! The reality of it was considerably less. If you are serious about getting on the property ladder then book in a mortgage consultation with a broker and go through the steps. They won’t issue you the Mortgage in Principle straight away and it won’t mark your credit report but its good to get an idea of exactly what you could borrow so you know what your boundaries actually are. If you have bad credit don’t worry as there mortgage companies who help people in those situations. I am writing a post specifically on this so check back for that.
Mortgage and Documents
This is a given but get all your paperwork in order and organised. I have supplied countless documents to my solicitor and mortgage advisor. They may need updated documents further down the line so its good to keep on top of everything rather than scrambling around looking for your latest P60. Whilst some solicitors and mortgage advisors accept digital copies some do not so make sure you have paper versions.
This was something I wasn’t prepared for at all. I was told by several family and friends to always offer less than asking price but I found quite frequently that we were outbid by higher and higher amounts. One property we looked at which needed a complete renovation actually went 50,000 over the asking price. The property market is insane and is in favour of the seller rather than the buyer (depending on area). Every area is different so you might find that property often goes for less than asking price in some areas but its just something you need to be aware of. If your mortgage is for a certain amount only its probably best to look at property beneath that amount so you have room to negotiate.
By law, estate agents have to let the seller know of every offer no matter how big or small that is put on the property. But they are more willing to side with you if you are friendly, polite and your offer is within reason. If you offer is considerably lower than the asking price they won’t hold you in high regard and will probably think you are just wasting their time.
Don’t be fooled by what anyone tells you (including me!)
Absolutely everyone has an opinion on the property ladder, how to get onto it and the housing market in general. Listen to their opinions and advice but its best to do as much research on your own as you can. Arm yourself with as much information as possible and its ok to ask questions if you need to 🙂
Have you brought your first home? How did you find it?