First Time Buyer? Tips to get you started on your journey to your first home

11 Jun 2019

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I often receive calls from first time buyers telling me they have never bought a property before and they don’t know where to start – What should I ask when I view a property? Do I need a survey? How long will it take? What deposit do I need? Are among a few questions I get asked – If this sounds like you then I can assure you you’re not alone; even someone who has bought a property before can find the process daunting!


To help you start navigating through this confusing process, here are my 10 tips:


  1. Ask questions. Whether it is whilst you are viewing the property or after the viewing make sure you ask the seller some questions. This can prevent surprises further down the line! Here are a few examples:

– Why are they selling?

– Are they buying somewhere else? If so, has their offer been accepted on their purchase property?

– What are the seller’s timeframes? You don’t want to find out later you will be waiting months to move in.

– If it is a leasehold property, how long is the lease? This is my number one question for leasehold properties. A short lease can be very restrictive although we can assist with this.

– If it is a leasehold property, what is the current service charge and ground rent and are any major works planned?


  1. Get your mortgage offer sorted ASAP. Your estate agent will want you to have a mortgage offer in principle at the point of making an offer on the property. A mortgage offer in principle is confirmation from the mortgage company that they are willing to lend to you without having to issue the mortgage offer at that stage. Your estate agent will also want to see proof of any other money you will need for your purchase (this is the purchase price plus all other costs)


  1. Decide whether you want to have the property surveyed. I always recommend you arrange a survey, but this is ultimately your choice. It is best to organise the survey sooner rather than later to prevent delays especially as the survey may flag issues that need to be resolved.


  1. When you are comparing conveyancing quotes (legal fees for your purchase) make sure the quotes are ‘like for like’. You’ll find that some conveyancing quotes will include extra fees for dealing with a mortgage, a leasehold property or filing your Stamp Duty Land Tax return. Make sure you understand what you will pay!


  1. What are the different uses of the term “deposit”? I get this one a lot! When you apply for a mortgage you will be asked what your deposit is – i.e. how much money you will be putting towards your purchase after the mortgage monies. Solicitors also use the term deposit, but we mean your exchange deposit which is normally 10% of the purchase price.


  1. If you have a Help to Buy ISA (HTB ISA) and you want to claim the Help to Buy Bonus to use towards your purchase make sure you contact your bank to check how long it will take for your HTB ISA account to be closed. Some banks will close your account on the day you request it to be closed; others can take a few days. You don’t want this to cause any delays just before exchange of contracts. Note: don’t close your account before speaking to your solicitor.


  1. Tell your solicitor at the start if any of the monies for your purchase are not coming from you, such as a gift from a family member or a friend. This way your solicitor can deal with any requirements from the get go.


  1. Check how much Stamp Duty Land Tax you will need to pay. Stamp Duty Land Tax can be a confusing topic when buying a property and we are able to help you. In the meantime use the following link to work out how much Stamp Duty Land Tax you will pay (if any!).


  1. What is the difference between exchange of contracts and completion? Exchange of contracts is the point at which you enter into a contract to buy the property from the seller and the seller enters into a contract to sell the property to you. Your purchase is not legally binding until you have exchanged contracts, so before this stage either party can pull out of the transaction. Whereas completion is the day when the full purchase price has to be paid to the seller and you are provided with the keys to the property – at this stage you are then the legal owner of the property.


  1. And finally – the Solicitor you choose is integral to the entire process. You need a solicitor who will be able to explain the process and terminology to you clearly and to guide you through your transaction from beginning to end.


Rachael Bewick

Residential Property Solicitor

For further advice and information on our conveyancing fees please contact me on


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