First Time Buyer


First time buyer advice


5 facts to consider:

HBC-First-HomeLike most things in life you can try and understand the whole process yourself or you can rely on help from others. In truth we tend to do a bit of both, but the real issues are won or lost on the accuracy of the information that we rely on. The main services that you will have to deal with are as follows;

1. Estate Agents

2. Lawyers

3. Surveyors

4. Banks

5. Other Sellers/ Buyers


Points to consider.


1. Estate Agents: “who do they work for…”

Paid to be friendly and helpful but you must consider who they really work for, you or the seller? Paid by commission on the value you offer, the higher the offer the more they make. What makes the price increase? Pitching one buyer off against another; setting closing dates; the use of enthusiastic buyers vs some buyers who may not even put an offer in. One fact is true the more you openly love the property, the more you let the estate agent know what your budget is and the more you will therefore pay. Always remember that thousands of pounds will be saved or overpaid dependent on the nature of your relationship with the sellers estate agent. That’s right, its the sellers agent NOT yours. Also remember that they do this on a daily basis you don’t. We always advise that you avoid doing the negotiations yourself but leave this to your representatives, your lawyers. They will no doubt do this on a daily basis. The fact remains that the use of an EXPERT property lawyer at this stage can save you thousands of pounds and in a way pay for your legal costs.

2. Lawyers: “…what do I need a lawyer for?”

HBC-Make-it-happenAppointing a solicitor is never easy as you have a huge variety to choose from. What should I look for? This is where we may seem controversial, yet ask yourself what do I need a lawyer for, what is the real purpose? Your lawyer is there to do more that give you cheap fee. They are there to ensure that when you spend epic money you are protected and your investment is ‘as safe as houses’. Like any other good professional, some are more focused in a particular area. Some are keener to ask the difficult questions, some will negotiate with a sharper focus from day one. Again remember saving a few thousand pounds at negotiation stage far outstrips any legal fee. Asking the right questions in this buyer beware process can save you thousands of pounds when you come to sell. Our advice is spend less time questioning the fee and consider asking questions about the service, the help and the proven track record. Who will look after your investment best? More is at stake than a saving of a few pounds.


3. Surveyors : “…look beyond the paper report.”

Like most contracts you enter there are caveats. Sometimes its not very clear who the surveyor is really working for, consider the commercial loyalties. Were they appointed by you? Were they appointed by your bank, the seller, Estate Agent (who acts for the seller) or your financial adviser. Did you pay them direct or through another (added to your financial product). Independent professional advice is a must when buying. Always remember that there are huge commercial pressures at play here and it wouldn’t be the first time things are missed. To keep you straight you must always deal direct with the surveyor or for that matter any other party. When checking the property do more than a cursory glance, look for signs of damp, water damage, cracks, ask about alterations and then challenge your surveyor about his findings, look beyond the paper report. Call the surveyor!


4. Banks : “…never assume things are in progress…”

We all have heard the stories about how hard it is to get funding to buy a property. In this regard we always advise clients to stay on top of the lending process NEVER assume that things are in progress. The banks will obtain reports , deeds, documents, ask your lawyer to report on matters and they may even appoint their own surveyor or lawyers. So always take it that until you have your loan paper in your or your lawyers hands that is not agreed. To aid the progress return all the documents and deeds as fast a possible and ALWAYS call to ensure that they have them. Again never assume that things are in hand. Its now about outsourced mail rooms, changing teams, 48hr scanning and call centers. Long gone are the days of dealing with your local branch. In may cases your own branch or financial adviser has not power to give you accurate advice once the process starts. Unfortunately computers were meant to streamline services but in this case they may not have. Our advice is keep pushing and checking (in a friendly way) , never assume that things are progressing and keep your lawyer up to date about the progress.

5. Other Buyers / Sellers : “…your lawyer should always be independent…”

Its unavoidable, you will come across other people trying to buy the same house as you and for that matter other people trying to get as much for their property. Always remember to keep your ‘cards close’. Remember that your lawyers can always do the hard negotiations to help diffuse any awkward face to face conflicts. Its easy to avoid the pointed questions by having to ‘think about things’. Its nice to be helpful but always remember that everyone has their own motives and your success at getting your ideal property for a good price tends not to be one others will promote. Contact your lawyers before even going to view your first property or talking to an estate agent. Unfortunately many people will have a chat with an estate agent to start with, worse still they may even use the Lawyer that the estate agent points them towards! A good lawyer is your best ally, your lawyer should always be independent from others and you should always have a chat with them BEFORE YOU START.




  • Always deal direct with those you rely on.

  • Never appoint on the basis of price alone.

  • The Estate Agent works for the other side.

  • Keep negotiation pleasant even if you are getting upset.

  • Talk with your lawyer before you speak with any estate agent.



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Buying your first property can be a daunting experience. It’s a big decision, so it’s important to get it right. We take you through all the steps involved

Unless you have enough money to buy a property outright you’ll need a mortgage. A mortgage is a loan used to buy a property and is normally repayable over 25 years. The loan is ‘secured’ on the property, which means the mortgage lender could repossess your home if you fail to make repayments on time. For this reason it’s vital only to buy a property you can realistically afford.

Before you start, find out how much money you can borrow. A mortgage adviser at a bank will need details of your income, outgoings, savings and credit history – they will then be able to give you an ‘agreement in principle’, which will state, in theory, how much they will be able to lend you. An agreement in principle, however, doesn’t tie you, or the bank, to anything. Instead, it will just give you a rough idea of how much money you’ll be able to borrow.

You’ll also need a deposit, normally at least 10{76c9c899818d6e3bb8cf28d2225ffd6ee16a179cd0963e1abb46f824648b6a35} of the property price. The bigger the deposit, the better the mortgage rate you’ll be offered. Each mortgage product will have a maximum loan-to-value or LTV.

Mortgage Brokers VS Banks
You can apply for a mortgage via a mortgage broker (or financial adviser) or direct from a lender. A broker can look at the deals available and advise you which one would be best for your circumstances. Some mortgage products are only sold through brokers, not directly to customers.

A broker will help you with the paperwork and deal with the lender on your behalf up until completion. You may have to pay them a fee or they may earn commission from the lender – find out how they are paid before committing to anything.

Mortgage advisers in banks will only be able to sell you products offered by that particular bank, so it’s unlikely they will be able to offer you the very best deal for your circumstances. It’s important to shop around. You can compare mortgage deals yourself using websites such as or, then apply directly to your chosen lender.

Some mortgages are fixed-rates. This means you’ll pay the same rate of interest for a certain period of time, and your repayments won’t change. If interest rates go up, you’ll be protected from the increase, but you won’t benefit from any fall in interest rates. Normally at the end of the fixed period your mortgage rate will revert to the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR) for the rest of the term. You can either pay this rate or remortgage to another lender. Remortgaging to another lender will usually mean you have to pay a fee or early redemption charge (ERC).

Variable-Rate Mortgages
Variable-rate mortgages are either linked to the lender’s SVR or the Bank of England base rate, and the rate you pay can change. Lenders can change their SVR whenever they want, but they normally only change it when the Bank of England base rate changes.

‘Tracker’ mortgages have repayment rates directly linked to the base rate and are liable to fluctuate, so you need to be sure you could afford higher repayments if rates rise.

Repayment or Interest-only
You can either pay your mortgage on a repayment or interest-only basis. If you choose a repayment mortgage, your monthly payments will pay off some interest and some capital. At the end of the term, you’ll own your home outright.

With an interest-only mortgage you’ll have smaller monthly payments, but these only pay the interest on the loan. At the end of the term you’ll still owe the original mortgage sum. If you take out an interest-only mortgage, you’ll need to have a plan in place (such as an investment) as to how you’ll pay off the capital.


>> You will most probably need to have at least three months of bank statements, payslips or tax returns, a valid passport and information on any outstanding loans. Banks will look at your outgoings to assess how much you can afford to pay on your mortgage each month.

>> The bigger deposit you have and the better your credit score, the better the mortgage rate you’ll be offered.

>> Work out how much you can afford to repay each month. Look at your income and outgoings, including bills, council tax, food, insurance and travel. If you are buying a leasehold flat, you’ll also have to budget for service charges, so find out how much they will be.

Credit Score
>> You can get a credit report from Experian or Equifax, and make sure there are no default accounts, CCJs (county court judgements) or missed payments. If you are making lots of enquiries to find the best deal, make sure the lenders log your enquiry as a ‘quotation’ (soft) search rather than an ‘application’ (hard) search. Too many applications will leave ‘footprints’ on your credit score and can affect your rating. To improve your credit score, make sure you’re on the electoral roll, and pay your bills and any loan repayments on time.

Buying a home is a big investment. You need to buy a home you can afford and one you’ll be happy living in.

Location is Key
The first step is to shortlist the locations you feel you’d like to live in, then check if you can afford the house prices in those areas. It’s also worthwhile visiting places you like: it may be that there’s an up-and-coming hot spot just down the road you didn’t know about that’s much more affordable. Ideally, you will have rented in the area before buying, but if this isn’t the case, at least spend some time there, check out the commuting time to work, and visit local pubs, shops and leisure facilities. Visit the area at night, too.

Property Search
Once you have found the right location, go online and check out what’s on offer. Most properties are listed on property portals or estate agents’ own websites.

Most of the properties featured have pictures and descriptions and some have a floor plan. Sign up with as many estate agents as you can (and your local Home Buy Agent housing associations if you’re looking at shared ownership properties). They should send you new properties that match your description, but it’s worth phoning agents regularly.

Once you see a property you like, arrange a viewing. Most people see at least 10 properties before putting in an offer. It’s worth bringing a friend or relative and also arranging a second viewing to check out any bits you may have missed. Don’t get taken in by the furnishings and décor too much. Remember that a property that is slightly run down can still be a great investment and may only need a touch of paint and a change of furniture.

Estate Agents
It’s a buyers’ market, so make use of agents’ legwork in finding properties that fit your requirements. Be aware that estate agents are paid commission by the seller on the sale, so try to inspect the property yourself rather than just the parts the agent shows you. Don’t get sucked in by the hard sell.


Research an Area
>> Check online for prices of sold properties in the area, and make sure properties you like fit your budget. You can search for recent sold prices of property in any area at, although be aware that prices have dropped significantly in the past year.

>> If you like a property, aerial shots of the area can be viewed at

>> Before you put in an offer, visit the street at different times to make sure it’s safe. Ask neighbours and local shop owners about the area.

Before you Buy
When looking at buying apartments, check exactly what is included in the service charge and how much it is. Also, ask about the terms of the lease and its length. If the lease has less than 80 years left, use this as a negotiating tool and make an offer below the asking price.


Surveys and Valuations
Once your offer is accepted, tell your mortgage lender. They will do a valuation to ensure the property is worth the money being advanced. At the same time, instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey. If this shows problems, find out how much they would cost to rectify and use this information to renegotiate the sale price. Or, tell the seller certain repairs need to be carried out before contracts are exchanged.

After the offer is accepted, you will also need to appoint a solicitor or conveyancer who will oversee the contract, deal with the finances and exchange the deeds. Your solicitor will carry out searches, check the terms of any lease and tell you how much stamp duty you have to pay. The seller will also appoint a solicitor, and the two legal teams will be in regular contact to make sure the purchase goes as smoothly as possible.

Exchange and Completion
Once the mortgage offer is in place, the contract is satisfactory and buildings insurance has been organised, both parties will agree an exchange date. On exchange of contracts, you pay a deposit, and a completion date is set. At this point, there’s no going back – the seller could sue you if you pull out, and you could lose your deposit.

The exchange can be on the same date as the completion, but they are usually a week to 10 days apart. On completion, the final paperwork is done, and the property is legally yours.

Time Scale
From offer to completion usually takes about six weeks to three months, but don’t feel pressured or rush into anything you’re not sure of just because the seller or estate agent wants you to exchange.


A Quick Sale
>> Push the seller to take the property off the market. This will limit the chances of being gazumped (another buyer making a larger offer). The seller can insist on continuing to show the property, especially if you haven’t offered the asking price.

>> Use a recommended solicitor who you know to be reliable and can move fast.

>> Never get pressured into an exchange and completion date without knowing all your finances and documents are in place. If you can’t complete, you may have to pay the seller’s costs.

>> English property law is different to Scottish law: in England, if you put in an offer and then have a change of heart, you can legally back out of the deal or negotiate up until the exchange date. But, in Scotland, an agreed price is binding.