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First-Time Property Buyers Guide (2023)


First-Time Property Buyers

Buying your first property can be an exciting yet daunting experience. The UK's property market is known for its complexity and competitiveness. However, with proper guidance and a clear understanding of the process, you can successfully navigate becoming a homeowner. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the essential steps and considerations for first-time property buyers in the UK using our first-hand experience working with UK estate agents.


1. Determine your Budget


Before you dive into the property market, you must have a clear understanding of your financial situation. Start by calculating your budget. Consider your savings, income, and any financial assistance you might receive, such as help from family or government schemes like Shared Ownership. This budget will determine the price range of properties you can realistically consider.


2. Costs and Fees


Be prepared for various costs and fees associated with property buying in the UK. These can include:


Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT): A tax on property transactions. The amount varies based on the property's price. As a first-time buyer, the rates at the time of writing are:


Up to £125,000 - 0%

Over £125,000 and up to £250,000 - 0%

Over £125,000 and up to £300,000 - 0%

Over £300,000 and up to £500,000 - 5%


Legal Fees: Charged by your solicitor or conveyancer for handling the legal aspects of the purchase.


Mortgage Fees: These may include arrangement fees, valuation fees, and broker fees.


Survey Costs: If you choose to conduct a property survey, you will need to cover these expenses.


Removal Costs: Budget for moving expenses, including hiring a removal company or renting a van.


Home Insurance: Protecting your investment is very important and will be required by your lender.


3. Agreement in Principle


Getting an agreement in principle for a mortgage is a crucial step (sometimes referred to as a decision in principle or Mortgage Promise). Based on your financial circumstances, it gives you a clear idea of how much a lender is willing to loan you. This pre-approval will also help you in a competitive market. As a potential buyer, approaching an estate agent with your agreement in principle and proof of deposit gives them more confidence that you are a serious buyer for their client.


4. Research the Property Market


UK property prices can vary significantly by location. Research the areas you are interested in to understand property prices, local amenities, crime rates, and future developments. Property websites like Rightmove, local estate agents, and government reports can provide valuable insights.


5. Property Type


Consider what type of property suits your needs. Options in the UK typically include apartments, houses, terraced houses, semi-detached houses, and detached houses. Each has advantages and disadvantages, such as maintenance requirements, space, and privacy.


6. New vs. Existing Properties


Decide whether you want a new-build property or an existing one. New builds often come with modern amenities and energy efficiency, but they can be more expensive. Existing properties that require renovation, or are in probate can offer character, lower costs and sometimes the potential to extend.


7. Future Proofing


Consider your long-term plans when buying a property. Think about how the property will suit your needs in the coming years. This can include family expansion, career changes, or potential resale value.


8. Energy Efficiency


Pay attention to the energy efficiency of the property. A well-insulated and energy-efficient home can save you money on utility bills in the long run.


9. First-Time Property Buyer & Seller's Position


Speak with the estate agent about each property. Is the property chain free? Or is there a property chain? Longer property chains have the potential to fail, or cause delays. Depending on your circumstances, you may not want to be part of a longer property chain, or potentially be the one to break it.


10. Making an Offer


When you find a property you like, it's time to make an offer. Your offer should consider the property's condition, market value, and any necessary repairs. It's best to make a sensible offer. Attempting to get a deal in a competitive market might work against you if the seller is considering multiple offers.


11. Property Surveys


It's, of course, advisable to conduct a property survey, especially if you are buying an existing property. Surveys can uncover hidden issues like structural problems or dampness, helping you make an informed decision. Surrey Surveyors can provide Level 2 Home Surveys or Level 3 Home Surveys. After your survey is completed, depending on the results, you may wish to consider whether you may need to renegotiate your offer. We can provide advice after your survey is completed.


12. Conveyancing


You will need a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal process. They will assist with property searches, contracts, and the transfer of funds. Ensure you choose a professional with experience and take time to look at reviews to learn more about customer experiences.


13. Property Valuation


Your chosen lender will conduct a valuation to ensure the property's value matches the loan amount. If the valuation falls short, you may need to renegotiate the purchase price, pay the difference out of pocket, or consider other options. Remember, the lender's valuation is not a survey; it merely estimates the property value, not its condition.


14. Exchanging Contracts


Once the offer is accepted, you will exchange contracts with the seller. This is a legally binding agreement, so ensure you have read and understood the terms thoroughly. Typically, you will pay a deposit at this stage, usually 10% of the property price.


15. Completion


Completion is when the property legally becomes yours. The remaining funds are transferred to the seller, and you receive the keys. This process usually takes a few weeks after the exchange of contracts.


16. Be Patient


The property-buying process can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. Be patient, and don't rush into a decision.


17. Seek Professional Advice


If you are unsure, don't hesitate to seek professional advice throughout the process. Consult with mortgage advisors, solicitors, and surveyors to ensure you make informed decisions.


20. Stay Informed


Stay up-to-date with changes in property laws, tax regulations, and market trends. Being well-informed will help you make the best decisions for future property purchases.

 

In conclusion, buying your first property in the UK is a significant milestone, and with the proper guidance and careful planning, it can be a rewarding experience. Be patient, stay informed, and make well-informed decisions to secure a property that meets your needs and fits your budget.


Happy house hunting!

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