Judging by the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking it's
all doom and gloom for today's first-time buyers. But there are ways
to make it more affordable, such as buying with a partner or
The obvious advantage of buying with someone else is that it
allows you to buy a bigger and possibly better home in the area of
your choice. However, it's always advisable to rent together first
for at least six months first; if there are too many disagreements,
it's much easier to walk away from a tenancy agreement than a joint
No matter how well you get on with your co-owner, there are risks
to be considered. If one of you can't meet your obligations, it will
fall upon the other(s) to make up the balance of mortgage payments.
You must also consider what you'd do if either of you couldn't work
due to illness, lost their job, wanted to move out, or died.
You should seriously consider taking out private health insurance
or critical illness cover. It is also worth drawing up a legal
contract to cover any eventuality.
Find out about joint mortgages in our money and legal section.
It's important that the estate agents regard you as a serious
applicant. Show willing and be eager to view, and you'll be top of
the list when something new comes on the books. Call them regularly
- they'll think of you first when a property comes on the market.
Many estate agencies now have their own websites, where you can
browse available properties. Be aware, however, that many don't
update their sites as often as their shop windows.
Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when looking for the
house of your dreams:
- View the properties as soon as possible. Leave it too long and
you could lose the house. Print off our viewing checklist and take it with you.
- Make good use of your lunch hours or make appointments on the
way to and from work.
- If two of you are buying and you have children, decide which
one of you will be the chief viewer, whose job it is to weed out
all but the strongest candidates.
- Don't be afraid to make numerous visits with tradesmen to find
out what you're letting yourself in for.
- Check the history of any scruffy - and therefore cheap -
property. If it's been rented it may have had a succession of
landlords, all of whom may have done the bare minimum in repair
- If you're tempted to buy a run-down property to renovate and
sell on, check how long it's been on the market. If it's been
there a long time, it suggests there isn't a lot of profit to be
made. Find out more in our renovating for profit section.
- New carpets, bathrooms and kitchens can be signs of a
superficial renovation that is hiding more serious work to be
Putting in an offer
It's human nature to try to strike a deal, but if you find your
ideal home and it seems to be priced correctly, consider offering
the full asking price. This means you'll be taken seriously, there
won't be any time-wasting and it will lessen the possibility of
another party stepping in (see Gazumping, below).
All offers should be made with the stipulation of taking the
property off the market. Getting a 'Sold' board outside is a good
way to dissuade others from looking.
Most house are sold as links in a chain but, unfortunately, one
in three property chains fall apart. This can happen for numerous
reasons, from one party not having their finances in order, to an
unpleasant surprise in the survey.
Under present British house-buying and selling practice, little
can be done to alter the process, although the Government is
proposing a legislation that will require home owners or their
selling agents to provide a Home Information Pack (sellers pack or
HIP) to prospective buyers on request.
The best way to ensure a chain progresses smoothly is through
good communication. Stay in regular contact with your solicitor and
estate agent to make sure everything possible is being done to speed
It can also help to stay flexible. Be prepared to move in with
your family or rent as a short-term measure if it means you can keep
the chain going.
Gazumping - outbidding rivals at the last minute - is a horror
estate agents are powerless to stop (even if they wanted to!).
Unless you're lucky enough to live in Scotland where there are laws
to protect the buyer. Under the Estate Agency Act, estate agents are
obliged to pass on all offers they receive, although a determined
buyer will probably go straight to the vendor.
There's little you can do to repel a determined bidder, but there
are ways to lessen the chance of it happening, or at least reduce
the impact if it does:
- Offer the full asking price and request the property be
removed from the market.
- Be flexible with the vendor and don't quibble over minor
- Make it clear you're willing to complete on their timescale,
- Be nice to the vendor - if you've established some kind of
relationship with them, it should be harder for them to let you
- Take out insurance - you must do this before you instruct your
solicitor, but then if you're gazumped, you can be refunded the
cost of your various fees.