>> Jul 3, 2013
Getting on the property ladder is no easy task in today's harsh economic climate, but the long-term advantages of paying into your own property - and even making a tidy profit - can outweigh all the risks. This said, it is a big decision which should be approached with caution. Here's a quick guide on what to expect when looking for your first home.
How much do I need to save?
It is usually advised that buyers borrow up to as much as three times their annual salary, factoring in any second incomes if buying with a partner. But in today's buying market, lenders often look to things like earnings potential and whether there are any children involved.
In any case, it is a good idea to put away as much as you can for a deposit as the more you can offer to a mortgage provider the more attractive the prospect will seem to them. You will also have a bigger stake in the property itself, safeguarding you against any decreases in value.
Searching for the right property
Start with location. The most obvious divide is from the north to the south of Britain, with Greater London, the West Country and Home Counties being typically expensive for housing. Also factor in the distance from the nearest major city. Houses further out can offer more rooms or space for the same price as a much smaller, urban dwelling.
As for the house-hunt itself, try to view houses with an experienced family member or a friend. Enquire about council tax and water bills and look for signs that major repairs might need doing.
What is the buying process like?
Once you have decided on a property, you will need to make an offer. It is good to look at similar houses in the area, consult your estate agent and investigate the sellers before naming a figure. You do not want to go too low and lose the property, but neither should you over-pay.
Even once an offer has been accepted, the process is still a long one. It is recommended to get a survey done on the property and a solicitor also needs to be involved in what is called the conveyancing - checking that the sale is legal. The final stages are the exchange of contracts by the solicitors and the property does not officially become yours until 'completion', when you will receive the keys to the house.
It is important to note that the costs of moving into a new place. Legal fees, surveys, insurance and stamp duty all must be factored in when you are saving up for your new home, as well as the mortgage. It can also be worth considering buying from a developer, as there is less chance of the sale falling through and new builds such as those at Ben Bailey Homes, often have more up-to-date energy systems and layouts already in place so there may be fewer improvements down the line.
Helina Hanshaw is a former property consultant who now writes for various blogs on housing and home improvements issues, using sites like #Linden Homes for updates on property news. She has recently moved into her second home outside the city of York.