What You Need to Know as a First-Time Buyer
November 16, 2023

So, you’ve done it; after lots of saving, you finally have your deposit ready to buy your first home! As exciting as this is, it is also highly overwhelming. The professional and highly experienced residential property lawyers at Bowsers Solicitors have taken the time to consider the property market through your eyes and share some top tips for buying your first home.

According to research by online financial comparison website Finder, there were approximately 360,000 first-time buyers in the UK in 2022. The average deposit was £62,470, approximately 21% of the average house price for a first-time buyer, which comes in at £302,010. The average age of a first-time buyer was 34 – this has been creeping steadily upward over the years. Furthermore, higher prices in London are reflected in higher average deposits and house prices at £125,378 and £518,900, respectively.

Despite inflated house prices, rising interest rates and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis impacting the UK property market, as well as high average deposits, as mentioned above, opportunities still exist for those looking to get onto the property ladder.

1. Consider the schemes available to you.

The government’s Help to Buy scheme closed to new applicants on 31 October 2022. However, despite this, several new schemes have been introduced.

Launched in April 2021, this scheme enables people to buy a property valued at up to £600,000 with a 5% deposit. Originally ending at the end of 2022, this scheme was extended and will now end in December 2023. Since its introduction in April 2021, it has helped over 24,000 households.

Launched in 2021, this scheme, available to first-time buyers over 18, allows purchasers a discount of 30%-50% when buying a new build. Not all new builds are eligible, but government specification states that ¼ of all affordable housing sold by developers must fall under the First Homes initiative. A further 10,000 properties will be added to the scheme every year.

This scheme applies to all buyers who meet the eligibility criteria, not only first-time buyers. Buying a property through shared ownership means paying between 10% and 75% of the market value and paying rent to the landlord on the rest.

A Lifetime Individual Savings Account (ISA) allows first-time buyers to earn a 25% bonus from the government on savings up to a maximum of £1,000 per year. To be eligible to open a Lifetime ISA, you must be over 18 but under 40 and £4,000 per year can be contributed until you are 50. People over 60 can withdraw the money for any purpose, but for those under this age, the money must be used to purchase a first home.

    2. Get a Survey.

    It can be tempting to find ways to save money when faced with the expense of purchasing a property. However, a short-term saving could have significant and costly repercussions in the long run if you decide against getting a property survey.

    A property survey conducted by a chartered surveyor is intended to indicate any potential defects, issues, or risks associated with the structural integrity of the property you are purchasing.

    If your survey highlights issues, you may be able to negotiate the purchase price of the property relating to this.

    3. Consider your property options.

    When purchasing your first property, getting tied up in the excitement of it all can be easy. However, taking the time to consider your options and priorities is essential – after all, this is one of the most significant (and most expensive!) purchases you will ever make.

    Once you have decided on your desired location, it is sensible to view various property types. For example, do you want to purchase a new build? New build properties offer advantages over older properties, such as avoiding the conveyancing chain, removing the likelihood of needing major maintenance and benefitting from energy efficiency.

    On the other hand, bear in mind that conveyancing on a new build can be complex, with tighter time scales, enhanced documentation and additional searches. Always seek the appropriate advice from a trusted conveyancing solicitor to support you.

    Taking the time to weigh up your options will ensure that you make an informed decision that best suits your needs as a first-time property owner.

    4. Consider mortgage offers and repayment rates.

    Various factors will impact which mortgage type is the most suitable for you, including:

    • The size of your deposit.
    • The property you are purchasing.
    • The type of mortgage you desire (repayment or interest-only).
    • How long you want your fixed rate to be.

    Lenders continue to offer high loan-to-value mortgages, meaning you no longer require a substantial deposit to buy a property. However, it remains paramount to thoroughly research the conditions of your proposed mortgage offer(s) before committing to a deal.

    It is sensible to utilise comparison websites to weigh up mortgage interest rates. We recommend taking a look at MoneySavingExpert and MoneySupermarket.

    5. Be mindful of hidden costs.

    This element of buying a property is often overlooked and can lead to some nasty surprises. Researching which of the following ‘hidden’ costs will apply to you when you buy your first home will help put your mind at ease.

    • Cost of your survey.
    • Legal fees.
    • Valuation and mortgage arrangement fees.
    • Removal costs.
    • Buildings insurance.
    • Stamp Duty.
    • Council tax, utility and other bills.
    • Initial furnishing and decorating costs.

    In addition, for a flat in a communal building, you may be liable to additional costs, such as service charges, for which you will also need to make allowances.

    6. Instruct an experienced Conveyancer.

    With so much to think about and consider, instructing an experienced conveyancing solicitor is vital when you purchase your first home – or any property for that matter.

    Your conveyancing lawyer will ensure that the transfer of title is legal and that the transaction runs smoothly. They will also keep you informed throughout the purchase process and liaise with other parties, ensuring everything is in place for a successful completion. 


    Residential Property Solicitors Wisbech and March

    Bowsers Solicitors’ specialist team of residential property lawyers have been assisting first-time buyers across Cambridgeshire for many years. We understand the daunting prospect of taking your first step onto the property ladder and will do all we can to ensure your transaction runs smoothly, keeping you informed of every step.

    If you are a first-time buyer seeking to instruct a professional and reliable solicitor, please get in touch with Bowsers Solicitors today. You can call 01945 583194 (Wisbech) or 01354 652606 (March). Alternatively, please email reception@bowsers.co.uk or fill in this contact form.

    CQS Accredited Lawyers

    Bowsers Solicitors’ residential conveyancing department is proud to be accredited by The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). CQS is a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices in the UK. Find out more here.