22/10/2018 17:04 BST | Updated 12/11/2018 16:00 GMT

The Golden Rules To Follow If You’re Looking to Buy Your First Home

Expert tips to help you find the perfect place to hang your hat.

The housing crisis shows no signs of slowing down. Recent figures indicate that the average age of first-time home ownership is now 31 - and that’s not accounting for the stress and work of getting a deposit together.

“It’s difficult, and I don’t think it will get easier any time soon,” says UK property expert Phil Spencer (yes, he of Phil and Kirsty of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location fame), who has recently launched moveIQ.co.uk, a website which helps people to navigate heading to a new home, whether they’re renting or buying. 

“First-time buyers are being asked to make ever-larger sacrifices, and that’s hard,” he continues. But if you do get to a place where you can make it happen? “Owning your own home immediately starts to pay dividends. You’re paying down your own mortgage every month, and, if you’re able to add value to your property, you’re more likely to outperform the market in general. That means when you sell you’ll make more money to invest in your next home. It’s a slog but it’s worth it.”

If you’re thinking about trying to purchase your first ever place, then here’s Phil’s expert rules to follow.

Rule 1: Do your maths

Whether you’re buying on your own, with friends or with a partner, it’s important to work out what your budget is and stick to it. “It’s what I call the fixed piece of the home-buying triangle,” says Phil. “You can be flexible about the area you live in and the type of property you buy, but the budget is the budget and that’s it.” First-time buyer Georgia Hatton, a 25-year-old PR executive, agrees. “We compromised on size to get the location we wanted, but it was so worth it,” she says.

Rule 2: Search and identify 

“Think about the area you’d like to live in and expand your search area around your dream location to encompass realistically priced properties. This will help you stay focused,” says Phil. “I see so many people looking at houses here, there and everywhere but it makes it very hard to compare like with like if you do it that way.”

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Rule 3: Get expert help

Using an independent financial advisor (IFA) or mortgage broker can be extremely helpful. “My IFA made the process so much smoother,” says Georgia. “They answered all my questions so I felt less clueless and more in control. Plus, I had peace of mind that I had the right mortgage for me, rather than trying to figure it out on my own. It also meant all the property purchase lingo was explained, making conversations with solicitors and estate agents a lot easier. You do pay for their services, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Expert help also means you’re less likely to miss out on all the options that could help you to secure a mortgage, such as a Post Office Family Link™ mortgage, provided by Bank of Ireland UK. If you’re struggling to get a deposit together, you can raise the cash needed by borrowing the money against a family member’s home, as long as that property is mortgage-free. The maths looks like this: You see a house you want for £200,000 but need a 10% deposit, which you don’t currently have.

A mortgage of £20,000 is taken out against your parents or step parents’ house (this makes them your assistor, and they should seek independent financial advice before doing this). This becomes your deposit. You are then able to borrow the remaining £180,000 to cover the rest of the cost of your new home. The deposit is interest-free, and paid back over five years, while the mortgage repayments (subject to interest) are made over a term that suits you (up to 35 years). Explore more here.

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Rule 4: Be your own crystal ball

“Try to project five years down the line - to the life you might lead, then. Then, buy a property with that life in mind,” says Phil. “Moving is stressful, and expensive. Even though your first property won’t be your forever home, it needs to be somewhere you can comfortably stay should a partner move in, for example.” He notes that you’re not going to get your dream flat first time round, but that if you have a rough outline of the future in mind, you can work your search around that. 

Rule 5: Remember, you’re only a first-time buyer once

It’s easy to get disheartened. But, if you soak up everything you learn from this experience, you’ll be so much more confident next time. “Don’t let your rookie status prevent you from negotiating hard,” says Phil. “You’re a potential buyer, and therefore valuable, so don’t be intimidated. As a first-time buyer, you can be flexible about purchase dates, which may help the people you’re buying from. Be sure to let them know you have your financial ducks in a row, too.” 

Feeling a little more ready to go, house-hunters? Go forth and nail it.