The quest to finally get a foot on the property ladder can be long and arduous, especially given the current economic conditions. The difficulties people face when seeking to buy their first property have become so well-known and oft-discussed that they almost feel like cliches, but the problems that people face are very real. What’s more, the problems extend far beyond simply buying a property – in an ever-more busy and bureaucratic world, the simple act of moving into a new home poses its own unique challenges.
Nevertheless, home ownership remains the dream for many, offering a sense of security and – when compared to renting – value for money that is hard to ignore. You, like many others in your situation, may therefore have acknowledged that buying your first home is tough, but have endeavoured to do so anyway; determined to turn the home ownership dream into a reality. The good news is that while you may face a few hiccups along the way, you can simplify your journey to your first night in your new home by breaking the process up into three distinct phases.
The planning stage
The planning stage of moving into your own home is all about setting a route to home ownership. To do this, you will first need to consider arguably the biggest barrier to home ownership in today’s world: saving for a deposit.
First and foremost, you’ll need to know how much of a deposit you’re likely to need to save. The average deposit in the UK is around 20%, but you’ll have to think about the property you want to buy in order to decide how large that amount may be in your circumstances.
You’ll therefore need to think about the size of property you require, keeping in mind aspects – such as potentially having another child – that may influence that decision. You’ll also need to think about location, particularly in regards to your work commute, and consider if you may be willing to undergo a longer commute in order to find lower prices. In addition, it’s also helpful to consider the likes of the Redrow Advantages scheme, which can provide discounts to first-time buyers who purchased properties on a – often advantageously located – perpetuity plot, provided certain requirements are met. Finally, it’s also worth thinking about the difference between freehold and leasehold, and whether you may be able to save on the overall purchase price by opting for leasehold property.
When you know roughly how much you need to save, here’s a few tips to help you put together the deposit as quickly as possible:
- Set up a standing order to automatically deduct deposit funds. Standing orders are a great way to simplify the saving process; the money is removed from your account without any further action required on your behalf, reducing both stress and the risk of accidentally spending funds that had been allocated for the deposit.
- “Round up” your expenditure. One of the best ways to add to your deposit fund without even noticing is by “rounding up” your expenditure. Every time you may a payment, round up and place the excess in your deposit fund – so if you buy a train ticket for £22.50, add an extra 50p to your savings. The amounts may be small, but they genuinely do add up over time, especially if you choose to round up to the nearest £5 or £10.
- Bump your savings if possible. The government’s Help To Buy ISA can add to your funds significantly, so definitely consider this option if you wish to boost your own savings by up to £3,000.
The decision stage
When you have saved your budget, you can begin to look for a property that suits your needs and the circumstances you have chosen to buy under.
Before you begin your search for properties, you first need to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page in regards to what you expect from the property. It’s always best to focus primarily on what your family needs from a property, with extra features – such as conservatories, a large garden, and so on – being viewed as ideal, but not crucial. When everyone is on the same page, you can start viewing properties that fulfil your chosen criteria.
It is often said that many prospective buyers just someone know when they have found “the one” – similar to how women are meant to just “know” when they have found the perfect wedding dress for their big day. However, very few first-time buyers do just “know”, and in truth, it’s unrealistic to expect it. Buying a property is an investment that has taken many months or years of planning to realise, so it is natural that your head will take control of much of the decision – so don’t be disconcerted if you view a number of properties and still don’t feel a particular, emotive draw to any of them.
Instead, focus on finding a property that suits your needs. Go through the list you assembled before you started house-hunting and see which property is the closest fit, then consider:
- Consider the transport links close to the property. If you tend to rely on public transport, then check the routes – and their operating times – close to any property you are considering. If you prefer to drive, properties that are close to motorway junctions and major A roads will usually make your life easier and can thus be seen as more valuable.
- Look at the potential a property offers. Often, first-time buyers will find a number of properties that satisfy their needs exactly, which can make deciding between these properties tricky. If you find yourself in such a scenario, consider the potential a property offers – for example, does it have a larger garden that could be extended in future, or ask a specialist to assess whether the attic may be suitable for conversion.
- Check the Wifi speed. If you’re still struggling to decide whether a property is right for you, then using the available Wifi speeds in the area can genuinely help to shape your decision. A good internet connection will influence nearly every aspect of your life – from your ability to pay bills conveniently to how you watch your favourite TV shows – so, odd as it may sound, the signal strength does have a role to play when considering how suitable a property may be for your family.
The moving stage
The decision is made, you’ve found the property that will become your home… and now things get really tricky: you have to arrange to move.
To get the ball rolling, you need to plan how you will leave your existing home. If you have been renting, you will usually need to provide notice to your landlord that you intend to leave and, if you have a fixed term tenancy agreement, you may be subject to further charges or deposit deductions, therefore you need to find out what these are so you can budget accordingly.
You’ll then need to decide how you want to move. You could opt to hire a truck and move your belongings yourself, or outsource the job to a professional team – the latter is the more expensive option, but is arguably less stressful. With that decision made, you can decide your actual moving date; if possible, try to arrange the move when you and your partner will be off work, so you can take your time and reduce the chance of leaving something behind due to a rush.
With the moving date fixed in your diary, you’ll now need to think about how your new house will be arranged. You’ll need to focus on two different conditions in this regard: how your existing belongings and furniture will fit into the property and deciding how much new furniture you need to buy. Here are a few tips to this final phase of your journey to home ownership:
- Take measurements of your new property. These measurements will serve as a guide to how your existing furniture can be arranged in the new property, and how much furniture you might need to buy.
- Consider second hand furniture. If you are moving from a fully furnished rental or have been living with your parents, then you will likely find yourself needing to buy a lot of furniture in a short space of time – which can be a hugely expensive endeavour. It’s therefore worth considering second hand furniture that can serve as a kind of placeholder that you will replace over the course of the next few years. Alternatively…
- Don’t be afraid to leave space empty. There’s no need to furnish every room from the moment you move in. You’ll need to ensure that you can use each room as it is intended – for example, your bedroom needs a bed, your kitchen needs a table, and so on – but anything beyond that, particularly in regards to guest rooms, can wait until a later date if your budget is tight.
The entire process – from first deciding to save for a deposit to actually moving into the property – of buying your first home can seem overwhelming; a massive task that will place huge demands on your time, resources, and even your mental well-being. However, by focusing on each of the above stages as they arrive, you can compartmentalise the entire experience to ensure it is as manageable as possible.
* Collaborative post