As a first time buyer navigating the complicated process of buying your first home, it’s only natural to make a few mistakes along the way.
However, many of these pitfalls can be easily avoided with the right advice, some planning and preparation.
Here’s some of the most common mistakes we see first-time buyers making and how to avoid them.
Not getting an agreement in principle
It’s so easy to get swept in the excitement of looking for your first home but it’s important to get your mortgage sorted out first.Viewing properties is all well and good but if you don’t have an agreement in principle from your lender before you start looking you may lead to you viewing properties you can’t afford or delay the process of making an offer.An agreement in principle is a certificate from your mortgage provider which shows how much they’re likely to let you borrow and are valid for between 30 and 90 days. Whilst it’s not an official offer it will give you a much more accurate idea of what your budget is and help inform your estate agent as to which properties to show you and also indicate to sellers that you’re serious and ready to buy.
Underestimating how long it takes to get a mortgage
Most borrowers can expect to wait around 18 and 40 days between submitting an application and getting a mortgage offer but it could take a lot longer than this. This is another reason why it’s important to get the process of applying for a mortgage started before you start investing time and energy into viewing properties. When it comes to making an offer on your dream home, it pays to be able to move quickly and if you’re unable to prove you have a mortgage offer this can delay things significantly.
Not knowing the full cost of buying a home
The cost of buying a home far extends the asking price for a property and it’s important to have a firm grasp of the extra expenses before you start making offers.
Additional costs include valuations, legal fees, survey costs and conveyancing fees along with things like contents insurance, council tax, removal costs and other upfront costs you’ll need to consider as a new home owner.
Having a clear idea of these and factoring them into your budget will make you a lot less likely to get caught out financially when you’re already in the process of buying.
Using the wrong solicitor
Choosing the right solicitor is really important when it comes to buying a home. Most mortgage lenders will have a panel of solicitors that they are willing to work with and if you choose someone different you may find they are not able to work on behalf of your lender which could lead to you paying extra for one of the approved solicitors to be instructed.
Not understanding the difference between leasehold and freehold
Leasehold and freehold properties are a very different prospect when it comes to buying. If you buy a leasehold property you have the right to live in the home for a certain amount of years specified on the lease but you will not own the land it stands on. This means you’ll have to get permission from the person who owns the land (the freeholder) before any alterations can be made to the property.
Leaseholders also have to pay ground rent each year as well as other service charges which can really add up depending on what the individual property charges.
If you buy a freehold property, you'll be the sole owner of both the building and the land it sits on. As a freeholder, you won't have to pay things like ground rent, service charges or permission fees and you will be responsible for the maintenance of the building.
It's really important to know the difference between these property types so that you aren't caught out by unexpected costs and restrictions later down the line.
Not doing enough research into the area
Before you register with an agent or start your online search it’s a good idea to decide on what your priorities are when it comes to location.
Consider factors like transport links, green space, good schools, shops, restaurants, gyms and decide which are the most important to you.
Having an idea of what you need from your home’s location will not only help you select an area but may help your agent rule out any properties that won’t work for you or suggest similar areas that you might like to explore.
It’s also a good idea to spend a day in the area to get a feel for your potential new neighbourhood. Remember, you can renovate a house but you can’t change its location so it’s important to be completely happy!
Choosing a ‘difficult’ property
There are certain properties that lenders may be more reluctant to grant a loan for. This includes flats above shops or other commercial buildings that can be affected by things like noise, smell and security issues that could negatively affect the value of the property.
New builds can also be problematic as lenders are often stricter about the amount they’ll lend to protect themselves against the property losing value in the early years of ownership.
This is why it’s important to get as much information as possible about the property you want to buy to help your mortgage application and always seek expert mortgage advice before making an offer.
Not asking enough questions
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of finding your first home. Especially if you find somewhere that seems to tick all your boxes. The competitive spirit kicks in and you rush to make an offer, in case you lose out.
However, it really pays to take your time and ask plenty of questions, no matter how much you love the property upon first viewing.
Our guide to the essential questions to ask when buying a house will help give you a starting point but it’s also important to really think about what’s important to you before you go into a viewing and make sure you ask the agent or seller about these factors.
It also pays to test out things like windows, water pressure, lights and doors and to check behind furniture for any concealed damage. Make sure you have a good sniff too - smelling damp is often a warning sign of bigger problems with the property.
For more tips on buying a house, take a look at guide to buying a home here.