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Things to consider when buying a home for the first time

Buying your first home is not always smooth-sailing, but it can be an adventure. You need to be constantly on top of your finances and in touch with all the right people, from solicitors to estate agents. To make that first step to buying a new home a little bit easier, let’s look at the important things to consider when buying a home for the first time.

Savings accounts for first-time buyers

The journey of buying a home for the first time begins with saving up. The good news is that there are a range of savings accounts that first-time buyers can take advantage of.

  • Lifetime ISA: You can use this for buying a first home that is priced up to £450,000. Up to £4,000 can be deposited every year to receive a bonus of 25% on your savings.
  • Nationwide FlexDirect: For this account, you can earn 2% interest on balances up to £1,500, but you’ll need to pay £1000 a month.
  • Help to Buy ISA: Unfortunately these are no longer available to new customers, but if you opened one before 30 November 2019, you can still continue to save and earn a government bonus towards your first home until November 2029. A maximum of £200 can be saved in the account each month. As you’re buying your first home, you’ll receive a bonus of 25% of the amount saved in the account from the government (up to a maximum of £3,000).
  • For helpful first-time buyer guides and more information, head to Money Saving Expert.

    Mortgages

    When it comes to mortgages, it can seem a little overwhelming. Ultimately, make sure you work with a trusted mortgage advisor who can guide you through all the steps and make sure you get the best offering.

  • Mortgage calculator - There are handy calculators out there to help you see how much you could borrow for a mortgage, using your annual salary. There’s also a mortgage calculator that can show you roughly how much you’ll need to pay back each month for certain mortgage debt amounts.
  • Mortgage in principle - To get a mortgage in principle, speak to a recommended mortgage advisor. They will be able to provide you with an indication of what amount could be lended to you, based on the details you’ve provided about your income, spending and debts. The lender may ask to see payslips and bank statements from the last 3-6 months. The amount is not binding, it is simply an estimate of how much you can borrow from a lender.
  • 5% deposit mortgages - Rishi Sunak announced the return of 5% deposit mortgages, for properties up to the value of £600,000. This is a great option for first-time buyers who have a low deposit saved. Follow the same process of liaising with a mortgage advisor to ensure you get the best deal.
  • House hunting

    Keep a lookout for your dream home by registering with estate agents online. You can set up newsletters and alerts for the types of homes, locations and prices you’re interested in - like Zoopla or Rightmove.

    The neighbourhood and area

    Researching the location and area where you’re looking to move is essential. As well as the house, you must make sure you're happy with its surroundings.

  • Crime rates - Use our Crime in the UK tool to find out about the number of burglaries, thefts and other crimes in the area you're looking to move to. Whatever the rates show, it’s always a good idea to invest in high-quality home security.
  • Amenities - Depending on your lifestyle and needs, considering how close amenities are may have a big influence on your buying decision. For instance, it may suit you more to have closer, local amenities with a wide range of choice because you mainly travel on foot, or need to take care of someone. You also may love the idea of being not too far from a leisure complex, where you can take the family for fun days out without travelling too far.
  • Schools - If you're a parent or a soon-to-be-parent, you'll want to check the school catchment area to ensure that your children will be able to get the best education. A postcode can make the difference between once school and another.
  • Transport - Whether you commute to the city for work or don't have a car, check where the nearest train and bus stations are. Not every town and city has Uber.
  • First-time buyer schemes

    There are many government-backed schemes that can help first-time buyers and existing homeowners including:

  • Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme - first-time buyers can borrow up to 40% from the government to put towards the cost of buying their first home. This is only available on new-build properties and developments, and you must buy your home from a homebuilder registered for Help to Buy: Equity Loan. This scheme is unfortunately soon coming to an end, but new homeowners have up to 31st May for completion.
  • Right to Buy - helps those who rent their home from their local council - allowing tenants who qualify to buy their home at a discount.
  • Shared Ownership schemes - this is where you buy a share of a home from the landlord, who is usually the council or a housing association, and rent the remaining share.
  • You still need to ensure any lenders that you can afford to pay off your mortgage. Read more about the different types of schemes from Money Advice Service.

    Property survey

    No matter the area or property type, a property survey is fundamental to ensure you know exactly what you’re signing up for. Using professional surveyors to poke and prod means you’ll get valuable, independent and objective information and feedback about the health of the property you’re interested in. This will also be appreciated by lenders and will help you make a more informed decision to weigh out any upcoming, creeping costs or repairs.

    Stamp Duty

    One very important thing you need to consider when buying a new home is stamp duty - the cost of the land tax the property comes with. The normal rates of stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland are as follows:

    Moving Screen

    See Money Saving Expert: normal stamp duty rates for the rest of the UK

    So, it’s good news for first-time buyers, as they can benefit from a 0% rate on properties up to £300,000 - for England and Northern Ireland. However, fortunately, as a response to the 2020 pandemic, the government put out a stamp duty holiday for all buyers, increasing the threshold for the 0% rate on properties priced up to £500,000 (for England and Northern Ireland) which was extended until June 2021.

    Home insurance

    You need to remember that when taking out a mortgage, it is a legal requirement to have home insurance in place, to cover the building in case of any damage or if a rebuild is needed. This can also tie into the factor of location with regards to flooding and the crime rate in the area, as out of the most common home insurance claims made, theft and break-ins was one of the popular claims, with subsidence and flooding also in the list.

    Having a safety net

    The obvious costs you need to be on top of from the start is your deposit, legal costs and your monthly mortgage payments. You also need to have a safety net of savings to prepare you for any unexpected or emergency situations, like property damage, legalities, initial repairs or leaks. In the UK, we’re known for having unpredictable weather and sometimes we get hit with storms and floods. The last thing you want is to be left with a damaged new home, struggling to make ends meet, so a safety net of savings reserved for unexpected incidents can go a long way.

    Making it your own

    One of the most exciting things about getting a new house is making it your own. Before you get settled in, you could even begin planning your interior design and decorating projects so you can hit the ground running when moving day arrives. Searching around for inspiration and finding the perfect decorations, appliances and furniture can be a lengthy process in itself. But, if you’ve done your research and already picked the perfect additions for your new home, your DIY and decorating projects will be a breeze - well, much easier anyway! For more advice, check out our tips on what to do after moving into a new house.

    Wherever your new home is located and whatever the style and size, your home should be your safe space and sanctuary. Help keep it that way with the smart home security packages from SimpliSafe. Contact us today to see what system would best suit your new home.