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Take Your First Step On The Property Ladder

Dec 16, 2007
Buying your first house is one of the scariest things you'll ever do.

With the signing of a few documents, you'll be committing yourself to a couple of decades of debt! And you'll suddenly be responsible for keeping a property in good working order.

But if you're sick of renting property and seeing your hard earned money disappear into someone else's pocket, then getting on the property ladder is the sensible thing to do.

Use this easy guide to ensure you go into the process with your eyes wide open:

Pick the right location: With your first home, you may not have that much choice in the properties you can afford. But you should still try to pick the most suitable location for your lifestyle. Look at journey times to work, where the closest shops are etc. Before you fall in love with somewhere try to look forward a few years and consider if the property will still be suitable then. For example, are you planning to have children? Is this property big enough, and where are the nearest schools? You'd hate to find yourself being forced up the property ladder again within the next 12 months.

Do your research: A limited budget means a smaller selection of properties for you to look at. You must be very careful that you don't force yourself into somewhere that you will come to hate. When you find somewhere you like, do some basic research. Look it up on the internet, ask the neighbours what it's like to live there, and visit it at different times of the day. Trust your brain more than your heart - if you find yourself willing to "overlook" shortcomings because you love the place, beware! These shortcomings may make your entry to the property ladder less enjoyable.

Get your money sorted out: It's not cheap to get on the property ladder. On top of the purchase price, there are legal fees to pay, the cost of a surveyor, Stamp Duty if the property is above the threshold, and then the costs of moving house. Inevitably it will cost more than you think, so have a fighting fund available just in case.

Make an offer: So you've found a property that's right for you - congratulations! Now decide how much you are willing to pay and make an offer to the estate agent. Don't be afraid to offer a little less than the asking price. And ensure that your offer won't leave you financially stretched. We've all broken our house hunting budget before, but it can only take a few rises in interest rates to give you a headache of a mortgage.

Have an offer accepted: Now you're close to that property ladder. You might be asked to pay a deposit as a sign of your serious intent to buy. You should get this back if the sale doesn't go ahead for reasons outside of your control. Be aware that once contracts have been exchanged, your deal then becomes legally binding and you may lose your deposit if you pull out. Whatever happens, instruct a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to carry out all of the legal work on your behalf. Don't forget to get quotes from a few firms.

Complete your mortgage application: Your lender will want to survey the property to determine it's worth at least its sale price. This is so they know they'll get their money back if you default on the mortgage. A simple valuation survey like this won't look for any problems with the property. So if you think there are hidden problems, or just want peace of mind, get a Homebuyer's report done, or the more thorough (and expensive) full structural survey.

Move in: A few weeks or months later - you'll be in your own home. How long it takes depends on if you're in a big chain. The people who are selling you their property are reliant on the people they are buying from, and so on up the chain. Don't forget basics such as getting your insurance sorted, notifying the utility companies and your bank.
About the Author
Info on how to buy property can be found at http://www.propertytoday.co.uk
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