As you may already know if you read my last post, I have recently exchanged contracts for a house, meaning that everything is now set in place. It has been a very stressful time, as we are both first time buyers and so we have been very new to the whole 'buying a house' thing, and for this reason I wanted to share my tips and advice to other first time buyers - all from what I have learned along the way.
So here are my 5 pieces of advice if you are about to buy a house, or if you are currently in the process.
1. Get an independent financial mortgage advisor.
This is really important and was the first thing we did. We didn't have to pay for ours either and he has helped us with every step along the way, from giving advice, to helping find solicitors, insurance, the best mortgage deal, etc. I would say it's really essential if you are a first time buyer, and it's important that they are completely independent so that they have access to the whole market and aren't biased in any way.
2. Make lists, lists and more lists.
When viewing properties, it is a good idea to print out the summaries before you go the the viewing and be prepared with a list of questions to ask the estate agent, or even the seller if they are there which is even better as you can ask questions that the estate agent wouldn't know. Although be prepared that they may just answer positively towards every question for a quick sale - you can usually judge if they are doing this. After you've had a viewing, make a list of positives and negatives - it makes it easier when you are comparing properties and you will also start to forget particular details so it's best to come up with the lists straight after your viewing. Remember to find out about flooding, crime rates, neighbours, etc. You may also want to visit the property at different times of the day to get an idea of the area.
3. Research your area and negotiate.
We found York to be very different to Lincolnshire, my hometown. Houses go fast, and there isn't much time for negotiation - we learned this after speaking to other people who were house hunting in York, and from speaking to estate agents. In terms of offers, they were going above the asking price and people were starting at the asking price. However, at my hometown I know others that have moved house several times, and they had informed me that they often start around £15,000 below the asking price, and never pay the full amount. In York we also found there isn't much time to think about putting in an offer as a lot of houses sell in a matter of days - whereas in other regions this isn't very common at all. It is therefore important to research your area which will help you a lot in terms of the negotiations. You don't want to pay too much, but at the same time you don't want to lose a property that you love against someone else. When putting in offers and negotiating against other people, always ask yourself 'Is this house worth this price?' and 'Would I be able to find a similar property for a lower price?' - this is important because if you are competitive, you may just be increasing your offer to win, rather than it being the right thing to do.
4. Avoid making plans until everything is certain.
One of the best things about being a first time buyer is that you don't have another property to sell, and therefore most often you have no set time that you need to move by. I have found that you really can't make any plans about move dates until you have exchanged contracts - this is very annoying, and it can take a long time from having your offer accepted to exchanging contracts, but it is essential that you avoid doing this because if you can't get exchanged before your planned move date (completion date), then it will cause huge problems. It is also best if you allow around 2 weeks minimum between exchange of contracts and completion, as this will allow you enough time to plan your move efficiently. Exchange of contracts can be delayed, especially if you are in a chain, and we experienced delays with ours so we were very thankful that we hadn't made any plans around the estimated date.
5. Keep calm and motivated.
Lastly, remember to keep calm and not stress too much! A first time buyer is in a great position - every seller wants a first time buyer! So it's really important to remember this - you have no other property to sell and therefore no chain, you can move in whenever the seller wants, and you may have a mortgage in principle too. It is important to remember this when negotiating the price.
I hope this advice helps, and good luck!