Making the step from paying to live in someone else’s property to owning one of your own is a huge one, and it’s something that many renters across the UK aspire to. The process of renting a home is a lot different to buying one, and it doesn’t exactly prepare you for a smooth property buying journey. So, in this article, we’ll be dishing out a few tips and tricks for first-time buyers that could make all the difference to your transition from renter to homeowner.

Make your finances attractive to a lender

Whilst leaping onto Rightmove is the bit you’re no doubt looking forward to, affordability must come first. When preparing to offer up your finances for scrutiny by lenders, it’s essential to do some housekeeping prior to any applications. This includes:

Checking your credit score – Whilst it’s not impossible to get a mortgage with bad credit, it helps hugely to have a high score. Correcting any errors, reducing debt, and registering to vote can all help boost your score.

Reducing your spending – It’s likely that any broker or lender may want to nose through your bank statements to determine how much you can borrow based on how much you can pay back. Therefore, it’s wise not to demonstrate an extravagant lifestyle that could put a question mark over whether you can afford mortgage repayments.

Avoid getting credit close to application time – If you’re thinking of upgrading your car as well as your home, we’d strongly advise against doing so by borrowing money if you’re applying for a mortgage in the near future. The hard checks that flag on your credit file when you enquire about borrowing money (including when you don’t sign on the dotted line), even if it’s for something as simple as a phone contract, could be a red flag to lenders.

Get a mortgage in principal before you start your search

There’s another step to take before you start organising viewings, and that’s obtaining a mortgage in principle. A mortgage in principle is proof of what a lender is prepared to lend you, so that you know what you can afford, and a vendor can see that you’re a serious buyer. It speeds up the process when you find a home you love, too! A good mortgage broker will be able to use your details to get a mortgage in principal, or you can approach lenders directly.


Understand the difference between freehold and leasehold

These two terms are essential to understand during your property search – particularly if you’re in the market for a flat or apartment.  These are the definitions in simple terms

Freehold – you own the property as well as the land it’s built upon.

Leasehold – you own the property but not the land it’s built upon – you’re essentially leasing that land for a set period of time from the owner.

With several properties built upon the same land, apartment complexes and blocks of flats are where you’ll usually come across leasehold agreements. Leases are usually long (between 125-999 years), with communal areas the responsibility of the land owner; whilst this means you’re not responsible for repairs to these areas, you will likely still need to pay ground rent, and/or maintenance fees, which is something to factor into your budget.

Budget for the extra costs

It’s not just a deposit that you need to save up for; there are other costs involved in buying a house. These include:

Valuation fees – charged by your lender to value the property for themselves

Surveyor’s fees – to assess the property’s condition

Legal fees – charged by your solicitor or conveyancer to seal the deal on your behalf and in the eyes of the law

Stamp duty – whilst stamp duty is not applicable to first-time buyers who are purchasing a property with a value of up to £425,000, you would be wise to double check that this is the case at the point of purchase.

Find a reputable property solicitor

From negotiating on dates to drafting those all-important contracts, property solicitors have a huge part to play in the process of buying a home – they make it legal, after all. It’s essential to engage a reputable property solicitor early in the process; they can help you guide you through this new world of home ownership too.

Don’t forget building’s insurance

With a big new investment in your life, you’ll need the appropriate insurance in place to protect it. You may already be familiar with contents insurance, which protects you if your belongings are damaged or stolen, but you’ll also need to take out buildings insurance for your new home too. This you can call upon in the event of damage to the structure of your home, and is essential for a homeowner’s peace of mind.