Top Tips for First Time Buyers

Congratulations! You’ve decided to buy your first home and you’ve found a property you want to buy. But…what next?

Buying your first home is extremely exciting but it is also a big commitment and can quickly become complicated and sometimes daunting.

Here are our top tips for helping the process to run smoothly when buying your first home…

Have your mortgage in place before you find your home

First time buyers will usually be using a deposit (saved in cash) and a mortgage to fund their property purchase. As such, knowing how much you are able to borrow and arranging a mortgage in principle is a must. With first time purchases, we would advise that this step is taken before you decide on a property.

If the property you are purchasing is eligible for government assistance, such as a Help to Buy scheme, you will also need to factor this into the equation. Due to the complexities involved with such schemes, not all solicitors are able to offer conveyancing on properties being purchased using Help to buy.  Here at O’Donnell Solicitors, we are specialists in this area.

Budget properly

If you haven’t owned a house before, you may be unfamiliar with the full extent of costs that come with buying property. The deposit for the property is just the first consideration – there are then several other outgoings you will need to pay for, including removal fees, storage costs, valuation fees, surveyor’s fees, mortgage fees, solicitors fees and Stamp duty land tax (if the property you are buying costs over £300,000).

Unfortunately, not fully understanding the extent of these costs can mean you running out of funds before you even get the keys. So do be sure to compile a full list of all the fees involved and check that these are affordable.

Protect your investment

Buying a house is likely to be one of the biggest purchases you ever make and for your first home, you will likely have put a great deal of effort into saving up, perhaps having had to make sacrifices along the way. As such, protecting the investment you have made is absolutely key. If you are buying the house with someone else, you will firstly need to consider whether you want to buy the house as ‘tenants in common’ or ‘joint tenants’ (this is something your solicitor will be able to advise you on) as this determines how the property will be treated in the event that one of the buyers passes away. It may also be sensible to have a ‘declaration of trust’ created to set out the contribution each party has made.

At the point of ‘exchange of contracts’, you will be making a legal commitment to purchase the property and will required to pay a deposit (usually 10%). From this point on you have a responsibility for the property and as such, you will need to ensure you have the necessary Buildings Insurance in place.

Find a conveyancer you can trust

The house-buying process is as much a legal process as anything else and is therefore laden with terminology. Some of the phrases you are likely to hear during the process include ‘exchange of contracts’, ‘completion’, Land Registry’, ‘searches’, ‘survey’, ‘valuation’ – and there are many more! A good conveyancing solicitor will be happy to talk you through the terminology and explain what things mean throughout the various stages of the process.

At O’Donnell Solicitors, we offer straight-talking legal advice and are always keen to keep every legal matter as swift and simple for our clients as possible. We are accredited by the Law Society’s Quality Conveyancing Scheme and have helped many first time buyers onto the property ladder.

Claire Egerton is Head of Residential Property at O’Donnell Solicitors.

For more information or to discuss purchasing a residential property, please contact Claire on 01457 761320 or email