The first-time homebuyer FAQ guide

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Buying your first home is one of the most exciting experiences you will ever take part in, but also one of the most daunting, with many unfamiliar procedures and processes along the way.

Understandably, there are many questions that first-time buyers will ask before, during and after the journey to help increase understanding and peace of mind.

We have created a first-time buyer FAQ checklist that answers these questions and helps to make your first buying experience as informative and enjoyable as possible.

What should my budget be?

While we would all like to move into a mansion with six acres of land, the reality is that your first home will be slightly more modest. However, if you or your partner earn a good living and have few financial commitments, you may be surprised at just how much you can afford to pay. In December 2020, the average house price in the UK reached a record high of £252,000.

This budget calculator from the Money Advice Service may help you to work out how much you can realistically spend on a new property.

What deposit will I need?

A deposit can be almost any percentage of the total cost of the home and depends entirely on the mortgage you are able to acquire. The days of 100 per cent mortgages are gone, so you will need at least some capital to put down, but this can be as little as 5 per cent of the value of the home, in some cases. On a £186,000 home, this would be £9,300, for example. However, be aware that the greater your deposit is, the more likely the lender is to grant you a mortgage in the first place.

Which additional financial commitments can I expect?

Buying a property brings with it a number of additional monthly commitments. Aside from your mortgage repayments, the most sizeable commitment will be council tax. This is calculated based on what your property would have been worth in 1991 and is influenced by a number of factors, including size and location. The lowest band is A and the highest is H and these costs can vary significantly.

Paying council tax usually covers the cost of rubbish collection, but other costs such as water, gas, electricity, broadband and home insurance will be separate. Energy costs will be dependent on the property's Energy Performance Certificate, which you can find more information on in the Avant House-Buyers' Jargon Buster.

How much will it cost to maintain the property?

If you own the freehold for the property, which the majority of house purchases cover, you will have lifetime rights to live in the house and occupy its land.

What this also means is that you will be responsible for its upkeep and for maintaining and repairing the property. In older houses, this can be expensive due to antiquated plumbing systems, ageing brickwork and roofing, and problems with drainage and insulation.

In contrast, new-build properties come with a 10-year NHBC warranty or Premier Guarantee, which covers the cost of repair work stemming from any problems in the building work.

How long does the process take?

Buying a new home takes longer than buying a car, but the length of the process is dependent on a number of factors.

A large chain can elongate the process as a number of buyers are included in the process, though for first-timer buyers this is less of an issue as they do not have a property of their own to sell. Anyone moving into a new build home is similarly not waiting for a property owner to move out before they can move in.

Solicitors and the legal processes involved with selling can also have a bearing on the process. This experience can be sped up by taking a methodical approach; this tool from Money Saving Expert can help you to save for a mortgage.

Where is the best place to buy?

Sometimes, your ideal property may not be located in your ideal area, and so it is best to explore many possibilities before committing. Factors such as neighbourhood size, council tax band, local school standards, transport links and climate can all be significant factors. Check out our guide on choosing a new area to live in to help you make your decision.