Golden questions for First Time Buyers


Buying your first property is a big decision. It’s not something that should be done lightly and there’s plenty to think about, too. They’ll likely be some big questions to consider, and as the process goes on you’ll also find some bumps in the road and unexpected fees or hoops to jump through.

For that very reason, WEST-The Property Consultancy has put together this guide for first time buyers, who may need a little hand holding to work out the ins and outs of house buying. They do say it can be one of the most stressful things you can do – but WEST-The Property Consultancy are here to help. For help and advice, no matter how big or small, we’re here.

At WEST-The Property Consultancy, we pride ourselves on being trusted agents who know a thing or two about the property industry. We’re driven to get results for our buyer and seller, and to help you make those first steps to buying your first property, here’s some first-time buyers FAQs, answered.

The first question you need to ask yourself;

Can I afford to buy a house?

This might seem an obvious one, but there are plenty of extras and additional costs involved in moving, which collectively do start to add up.

You’ll need to consider:

  • Your initial deposit
  • Stamp duty land tax
  • Valuation fee
  • Surveyors fee
  • Electronic transfer fee
  • Broker fees
  • Removal fees
  • You ideally need to save at least 5% and 20% of the purchase price of your property.
  • Your initial deposit will also affect your mortgage, and the type of mortgage you will be able to secure.

How much deposit do I need to buy a house?

  • You ideally need to save at least 5% and 20% of the purchase price of your property.
  • Your initial deposit will also affect your mortgage, and the type of mortgage you will be able to secure.

What is a first time buyer?

A first-time buyer is anyone who is purchasing a property, having never previously owned a free hold or leasehold interest in a residential property in the UK, or abroad. Essentially, you are coming to the market with no overheads in terms of existing property.

Top Tip: If you’re a first-time buyer with a ‘mortgage in principle’, make sure you mention this when you meet sellers. It puts you in a good position, as it means you can move things forward quickly.

Mary West at The Money Consultancy can offer advice covering a comprehensive range of mortgages from across the market, and could save you valuable time, effort and money. You can find their website here or ring 01865 553039.

Can I afford to take this step?

As a first-time home buyer, the most important thing to bear in mind is whether you can really afford to take this step.

Put together a budget before you start looking for a property. This will help you to work out your monthly affordability. Consider all outgoings and overheads, as well as those pesky additional fees we mentioned earlier.

Don’t forget…

Lenders will only make a mortgage available to you if they think you can feasibly afford it. They will consider your outgoings, income and make a decision based on this.

This isn’t a bad thing as this is more to ensure you don’t get caught up with a property you can’t afford! Lenders will also ‘stress test’ your ability to make your payments if interest rates were to rise or if your circumstances changed, such as:

  • A planned retirement date
  • Starting a family
  • Redundancy
  • Having a career break

Other costs of buying a home

We mentioned these earlier, but can’t stress enough how these can affect your financial position.

These include:

  • Survey costs
  • Solicitor’s fee
  • Removal costs
  • Buildings insurance
  • Initial furnishing and decorating costs
  • Mortgage arrangement and valuation fees; and stamp duty

Stamp Duty: A Mini Guide

What is stamp duty?

Stamp Duty is a tax attached to buying a property. It is an obligatory payment and is calculated based on property purchase price.

0% on the first £125,000 = £0

2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500

5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250

How much is stamp duty for first time buyers?

First-time-buyers will pay no Stamp Duty on the first £300,000 for properties worth up to £500,000.

If you’re a first-time buyer in England or Northern Ireland, you don’t have to pay stamp duty on properties up to £300,000. This is known as first time buyer relief, and it can save you up to £5,000. For properties up to £500,000, no stamp duty is needed on the first £300,000. You’ll pay remaining on any amount above that.

Be careful you don’t overstretch yourself when buying a property. You need to be sure you’re able to cope with the financial ties of owning a property. It is wonderful to be able to call a place your own, but the above considerations will need to be made, as will the matter of interest rates and ongoing costs such as:

  • Council tax
  • Utilities
  • Insurance

What help is there for first time buyers?

Government first time buyer scheme

There are several government backed schemes to help give home buyers a helping hand onto the property ladder. These can be of significant help, but lenders will check if you can afford your mortgage. 

Help to Buy

There are affordable schemes to help first time buyers and home buyers. These include the Help to Buy scheme.

How does Help to Buy work?

The scheme involves an equity loan, where the government lends both first time buyers and existing homeowner’s money to buy a new build home.

  • Home must be no more than £600,000
  • You can borrow 20% of the purchase price of a property, for the first 5 years, as long as you have at least a 5% deposit.
  • If you are in London, the amount you can borrow goes up to 40%

From 2021, there will also be new regional price caps which could reduce the maximum value of homes that can be bought through the Equity Loan Scheme.

Should I be buying Freehold or Leasehold?

If you want to buy a house, it’s likely you’ll buy the freehold, meaning you own the property and land it sits on. If you’re buying a flat, you’ll be buying leasehold, or buying into a share of the freehold.

What is a freehold?

  • The freeholder of a property owns it outright, including the land it’s built on.
  • If you buy a freehold, you’re responsible for maintaining your property and land, so you’ll need to budget for these costs.
  • Most houses are freehold but some might be leasehold, usually through shared-ownership schemes.
  • The benefits of having a freehold are that you don’t have to worry about the lease running out, as you own the property outright. Nor do you have to deal with the freeholder (often known as the landlord). You also will not have to pay ground rent or any landlord charges.
  • With a leasehold, you own the property (subject to the terms of the leasehold) for the length of your lease agreement with the freeholder.
  • When the lease ends, ownership returns to the freeholder, unless you can extend the lease. Most flats and maisonettes are owned leasehold, so while you own your property in the building, you have no stake in the building it is in.
  • Some houses are sold as leaseholds. If this is the case, you own the property, but not the land it sits on. When you buy a leasehold property, you’ll take over the lease from the previous owner.

What is a leasehold?

House viewing: Hints and tips

It’s important to make the most of every house viewing to scope out the house, and get an idea of the technicalities. It can be easy to get caught up emotionally when it comes to viewings, and want to sign on the dotted lie immediately! Before you do, though, it’s worth considering the following.

Questions to ask at a house viewing

Why the current owners are moving?

Get a feel for their current position, as this will help you determine how motivated they are to move. If you offer no chain, are first time buyers, and come with a mortgage in principle, you may find your sale goes through far more quickly than it might otherwise.

How long has the house been on the market?

This is very relevant as it will give you an idea of the homeowner’s position going forward. If it has been on the market for a long time, you have to ask yourself why? But it also may open opportunities of a lower offer.

Does the house come with parking?

For some parking is essential. Ask about off road parking, too, and if necessary, contact your local council to find out how you can get a designated space.

What are the running costs?

Ask the agent what Council Tax band the property is in, and also have a look at the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), to see how energy efficient the house is. The EPC will tell you the current rating from A-G and the potential rating it could be if the energy efficiency is improved. Note that Listed buildings are exempt from Energy Performance Certificates for a property sale.

Is the house part of a chain?

The chain is a vital part of buying a property. A long chain can lead to lengthy waiting periods as everyone gets their affairs in order. The smaller the chain the better, so consider this into your final decision about putting an offer down.

What is included in the sale?

Get as much information as you can here. For example, will any white goods, such as a dishwasher or washing machine, be included in the price? Having these essentials already in the house will make the move feel a lot smoother as you spend the following days and weeks unpacking. Consider furnishings such as the curtains, the carpet, bed frame… you never know, some property owners may leave more than you think!

What to look out for during a house viewing

-          Get a feel for the local area

Try and get your bearings – read public forums, have a drive around, check out local shops, schools, and amenities. This will help to paint a picture of what it would be like to live there, and whether it would suit your lifestyle.

-          Be thorough. Check the plumbing, check for mould, consider the garden space, and ask about the neighbours. Make the most of the house viewing to really scope out any concerns you may have – this can help to avoid you getting caught out later on.

-          Ask what work has been done on the house. Collect all receipts and guarantees related to any work carried out on the property.

What type of survey should I choose?

You should commission a survey on the property to help you avoid hidden costly problems in the long run. It’s your property, so it’s in your interest to pay for a decent survey at this stage. It can also help you in renegotiations, if a major issue is highlighted. For example, if the survey reveals a problem with the property that will need £5,000 to pay for repairs, you could ask the seller to lower the price by this amount, or make a contribution but we as agents are best to advise you in these matters.

There are several types of survey available:

  • RICS condition report – basic ‘traffic light’ survey and the cheapest. It’s most suitable for new-build and conventional homes in good condition. No advice or valuation is provided in this survey.
  • RICS homebuyer report – suitable for conventional properties in reasonable condition. This is a much more detailed survey, looking thoroughly inside and outside a property. It also includes a valuation. Building or structural survey - the most comprehensive survey and suitable for all residential properties. It’s particularly good for older homes or homes that might need repairs.

If there are any questions you would like answered get in touch with WEST–The Property Consultancy today on 01865 510000 or speak to one of our team, Nikki directly on 07964 544798 / We are here to advise buyers and sellers alike - however big or small your question, just get in touch today!