Sales, Lettings & Property Management 

First time buyers start-up guide

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When you start the process of buying your first home you will have lots of questions that you need answering. It is an exciting time but it can be daunting as well as it can be hard to know where to start. This guide takes you through the process from your initial research to moving in.

Step 1: How much can you afford?

Before getting serious with your search, it's a good idea to work out how much you can afford to borrow. At keystones Properties, we look at your net monthly income, your outgoings and what disposable income you have. This is to ensure that you are not stretched financially and can comfortably afford the monthly repayments.

Top tip – We can work out how much you could borrow within minutes. We can also provide you with examples of what your monthly repayments might be on different mortgage agreements.

Step 2: Start looking!

Now you know what you can afford, you can begin your search! Think over these questions first.
•How many reception rooms would you like?
•How many bedrooms do you need?
•Are car parking facilities or a garden important?
•Are you bothered by traffic noise?
•Do you need a school nearby?
•Where would you want to live in relation to your workplace?
• Would you prefer a brand new home or an older one?
• Do you prefer the town or somewhere more rural?

Once you have an idea of your basic requirements, a quick call to keystones properties in your desired area will give you a good idea of what type of property your budget will buy you.

Top tip – If your preferred areas are a little out of your reach, ask the estate agents if they can recommend up and coming areas, close by, where you might get a little bit more for your money.

Step 3: Be ready to make an offer

When you have found your ideal home, it's important to get your mortgage arranged as quickly as possible. When you apply for a mortgage through keystones properties, we will ensure that things move as smoothly as possible. However, mortgages by their very nature, take a few weeks to sort out, so the sooner you make an appointment with us the better.

Top tip – First time buyers are preferred by sellers because you buying their property isn't reliant on you selling another property. This means the 'chain' stops with you and there is less chance for any hiccups.

Step 4: Choose your solicitor

Your solicitor carries out the conveyancing which is the legal process of handing over a property from one person to another. They also have a duty to protect your interests so they will investigate the legal aspects of the property such as its boundaries and exactly what is included in the sale.

Your solicitor will carry out a ‘search’ to determine, for example, whether someone has gained planning permission to build something close to your home which could reduce the value of your property.

They will also advise you on and handle the offer you make to the sellers and then make sure the sale is completed once contracts are exchanged. Most solicitors will charge a fixed fee and it is usually a percentage of the agreed sale price. It is useful to agree the fee in advance and check whether items like Land Registry Fees and local searches are included.

Top tip – Buying a home can be a complex process and many of the documents you will be asked to read and sign will include unfamiliar legal terms. Most solicitors will be happy to explain anything you don’t understand, so if something isn’t completely clear, don’t be afraid to ask.

Step 5: Make an offer

Remember that the price the seller is asking for is not necessarily the price they will finally accept. Your first offers can be lower than the asking price. Although, if there has been a lot of interest in the property it could be wise to make an offer close to the asking price. Your estate agent will be able to tell you how much similar properties have sold for. Once your offer is accepted, it will be confirmed in writing. But do remember, the property is not officially yours until legally binding contracts are exchanged and the monies have been paid over.

Top tip – You may have heard of 'gazumping'. This is where a seller has agreed to sell their property to you but later accepts another (normally higher) offer and rejects yours. This can be frustrating and costly, but is not illegal. You have to just think, it wasn’t meant to be and you are sure to find a better property waiting for you around the corner.

Step 6: Have the property surveyed

A survey will give you a good idea of the property's condition and value. There are different types of survey, from a simple valuation indicating how much the property is worth, to a full structural survey. It is always worth spending as much as you can afford on your survey as it will highlight potential problems such as damp and subsidence. If problems do come to light, you are within your rights to try to re-negotiate or withdraw your offer.

Top tip – If you withdraw your offer due to problems with the property, you cannot get a refund on your survey. However, it is always worth spending a little money now, to prevent spending thousands of pounds in the future.

Step 7: Exchanging contracts

You are nearly there! As long as there were no problems with the survey, the solicitors from both sides will draw up formal contracts for you and the seller to sign. These contracts are legally binding so make sure that you are totally prepared to go ahead. On the day agreed by both parties the mortgage funds will be released to your solicitor who in turn transfers them to the seller's solicitor.

Top tip – Remember to have your buildings insurance in place because as soon as the funds are transferred, the property is yours.

Step 8: Completion and move in

The day has finally arrived! If you have a lot of possessions it's a good idea to book a professional removal firm to help you. You should also contact the utilities companies in advance to make sure that you have heat and light, and a phone connection ready for when you move into the property.

One of the most time consuming jobs is informing the various organisations of your new address, you will also need to ask the Post Office to redirect your mail. Your first mortgage payment should leave your account about a month after you move in.

Top tip – Unless they are included in the sale, many sellers take curtains with them so make sure you have something to put up at the windows for your first night in the property.

Enjoy your new home!

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