Buying your first home

Buying your first house
Buying your first home is a big step and one of the biggest financial and lifestyle decisions you will ever make, so it’s important to get it right. We've answered some frequently asked questions to guide you through the process and help you get started.


Q: How much can I afford?

A: If you are buying a house for the first time, it’s a good idea to try it out for a few months. Put the potential amount of your mortgage payment and bills like Council Tax, Electricity, Gas, and Water into a savings account and see how you manage. After a few months, the savings will help with the cost of moving.

Q: How do I know if a bank will lend me the money to buy a new home?

A: Before you start searching for properties, sit down with an independent financial adviser and work out exactly how much you could afford to borrow and what your monthly payments are likely to be. They will help you to try and get an offer in principal from the mortgage lender to show estate agents and sellers, it may help when making an offer if you can show that your mortgage finance is in place.


Q: How do I choose the best location to buy a house?

A: Once you’ve got an idea of how much you can afford, you have to think about where you want to buy. Proximity to work, family, good transport links, shops, doctors, and schools are worth careful consideration when thinking about the best location to buy a property.

(Local information on good vs bad areas/crime rates / etc.)


Q: How do I know which house is right for me?

A: When you’re looking for your first home, it’s likely that what you want and what you can afford, don’t match. So you need to compromise. It may be helpful if you list the features that you feel are essential such as:

You should also think about other factors, such as the overall size and age of the house. Bigger houses cost more to heat and usually demand higher Council Tax, and newer houses are generally cheaper to maintain for the first few years. For flats try and find out the ground rent and service charge, as these may take the property out of your budget.


Q: Where is the best place to look for a house to buy?

A: Start with the internet. Checking property websites is the quickest and easiest way to find out what properties are on the market in your chosen area and whether they are in your budget, and you can do it in your own time at home.

Q: Should I register with all my local estate agents?

A: Once you have an idea of what you are looking for, a chat with some estate agents will be useful.

Q: Why would someone sell their house privately?

A: Don’t just look at the big adverts with the estate agents, there are usually some homes being sold privately after the estate agent adverts, especially in the current economic climate when people want to save on as many costs as possible, they may try to sell their home privately to avoid estate agent fees. 


Q: What should I do prior to viewing a property?

A: Make sure you look through the Home Information Pack before you decide to view a property. It may contain information that puts you off the property or provides you with answers to questions you would ask the seller on a viewing.

Q: What should I look out for when viewing a property for the first time?

A: Take time to view as many properties as you can. Try not to be swayed by decor and furnishings and look at the design of the rooms as well as the general condition of the property. If a property is particularly cluttered with the seller’s belongings, look at the ceilings in the room to get a better idea of the size of a room.

Q: When is the best time to view a property?

A: View at different times of the day and on different days of the week. A place that might seem quiet during the evening could be noisy during the day. Make sure you visit the neighbourhood at peak times, such as morning, evening, and school times. 

Q: What questions should I ask the seller or estate agent during a viewing?

A: Try to get an idea of the running costs and bills from the seller whenever you view a property. For example, what sort of heating the property has and any maintenance charges you’d have to pay. If you are looking at flats, try and find out the ground rent and service charge, as these may take the property out of your budget.


Q: I’ve found the house I want - should I pay the asking price?

A: Once you’ve found the property you want to buy, it’s time to put in an offer through the estate agent. Remember that the asking price is how much the seller hopes to get for the property - not necessarily how much they realistically expect. Your first offer can be below the asking price. The estate agent may be able to guide you on whether the seller is likely to accept a lower offer. When deciding what to offer for the property, also consider how long the property has been on the market.

If the seller has only just marketed the property, they are less likely to accept a lower offer. If you are a first-time buyer, you don’t have to sell your present home before you can move. This puts you in a stronger buying position and could help speed up the buying process. But you’ll still need a good solicitor to make sure things go quickly and smoothly.

Q: What happens once I've made an offer on a house?

A: Once you’ve made an offer, it’s up to the seller to accept or reject it. It is possible that other buyers are putting offers in at the same time, so it’s a good idea to research into the typical price of such a property, or you may find yourself caught in a bidding war.

Taking time to do your initial research will really pay off here. If the seller does reject your first offer, you can always put in a higher offer later. If your offer is accepted, the estate agent will confirm it in writing. However, this is not legally binding and you could still lose the property if another buyer comes in with a higher price and the seller agrees to it.


Q: The offer we’ve made on a house has been accepted. What happens next?

A: Once your offer is accepted, inform your solicitor. Conveyancing is the legal term for transferring the ownership of property.

It involves:

It’s important that you choose the right solicitor, and keep your solicitor updated with anything you agree with the seller. For example, if you agree to buy their sofa. Never pay any money to the seller directly, always check with your solicitor first.

Q: Do I need to finalise the mortgage with my lender?

A: Yes, you'll need to finalise the mortgage deal with your lender. The mortgage that was approved in principle now needs to be arranged, based on the home you have decided to buy.

The lender (your mortgage provider), needs to know that the property is worth the amount being lent, and will arrange for a valuation report that you may have to pay for.


Q: What is a house survey and why do I need one?

A: A survey is a detailed report on the condition of the property you want to buy. It is highly recommended, as it will give you peace of mind and make sure you are aware of any immediate problems with the property. There are two main types of surveys a Homebuyer’s Report or a Full Structural Survey.

Q: Homebuyer’s report vs Full structural survey?


Q: How do I budget for surveys?

AAlways consider paying a bit extra and having a homebuyers or structural survey completed depending on the property you are purchasing. The standard valuation is not a survey as such, and you should not rely on it for your own purposes. Be prepared to budget for more than one survey during your home buying process, in case the first property falls through. Check that the surveyor you choose is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors or the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers.


Q: Is it compulsory to have insurance before I move in?

A: Once your solicitor has started the legal work, it’s time for you to start looking at buildings insurance and removal arrangements. It’s compulsory to have buildings insurance in place before your mortgage completes, and most solicitors will want to see your insurance details before you exchange contracts to check they are suitable for your lender.

Q: Why do I need to insure my new property before I move in?

A: Once you have exchanged contracts you also ensure that the building insurance is put on risk, as depending on the wording of the contract you may be legally responsible for the insurance. Make sure your solicitor tells you whether you need to insure the property from exchange of contracts or completion. If you get it wrong and the property burns down between exchange and completion, you may be legally obliged to complete the purchase but your lender will not advance you the money.


Q: How soon can I move into my new house after I’ve bought it?

A: Start to make removal arrangements as soon as possible. Look into prices with removal companies, and find out if there are any dates that are likely to be particularly busy so you can avoid these when negotiating a completion date with the seller.

Check if there will be a deposit to pay and if this is refundable if the completion date is changed once you have paid your deposit.

Always check with your solicitor before you book your removals, the completion date is not legally binding until exchange of contracts, even if you and the seller agreed on the date some time ago.

Unfortunately, sometimes there are problems that your solicitor must sort out before exchange can take place, both for you and your mortgage lender.

You should remember that you are legally bound to complete on the agreed date once you have exchanged contracts so make sure the removal company can do it all in one day.

If you are moving out of a rented property, remember that there will be a time in your contact that you must vacate by, its a good idea to check this with your solicitor.

However, as soon as your solicitor receives the buyer’s money, the property is theirs, so try and have everything packed and out of the property as early as possible.

There may also be a delay between you having to leave your present house and getting your new keys, as until your seller’s solicitor receives your money from your solicitor, they will not let you have the keys. Check that the removals company will be able to wait for you to get your new keys.


Q: What do I need to do about new utility services when I move into my new house?

A: Make sure you’re fully prepared before you move, with possessions boxed up and clearly labelled. 

Don’t forget to inform your old gas, electric, water and telephone suppliers that you’re moving out and take meter readings, as well as tell your new suppliers that you have moved in. 

You’ll also need to let the council know about your move so you don’t pay Council Tax at your old address.

You may also want to ask the post office to redirect your mail from your old address. Make sure that you carefully file away all the important documents you have gathered. They are your primary record of your purchase and your mortgage and you may need them in the future. 

Remember it might take a couple of months for your solicitor to get the Land Registry paperwork showing you as the owner, but they should always send you this for your records once it’s completed.

They may also send you all the old deeds that no longer prove ownership.

Please note that this is a basic guide, for more information, please contact us.


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