Three MAJOR problems for first time buyers and how to avoid them

GETTING on the property ladder isn't easy and first-time buyers are facing more obstacles than ever before.

But if you are saving for a deposit for your first home – don't despair.

Getting prepared, doing your research and saving hard means home ownership is definitely achievable.

Our My First Home series shows how making a few sacrifices can help get you on the ladder.

Like this couple who bought a £200,000 first home despite having no credit history, or this person who saved up £13,000 by selling old cars and junk.

But there are three big problems facing first-time buyers at the moment that you need to be aware of.

Getting prepared ahead of time means you should still be able to get a foot on the property ladder.

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Problem 1: property prices

Sky-high prices are a problem for any aspiring home buyer.

According to government figures, the average UK house price reached a staggering £264,000 in August.

That's an increase of 10.6 per cent over the past year.

Higher house prices are a problem because it means you need to save even more for a deposit to be in a position to buy.

Typically, mortgage providers will only lend you a maximum of four times your annual salary, or three times your joint income if you're buying as a couple.

Most lenders also want you to have at least 5 per cent of the property price as a deposit.

On the average house price of £264,000 that means saving up £13,200 (and remember, there are lots of costs on top of that like solicitors and stamp duty).

And ideally you would want a 10 per cent deposit in order to get a better mortgage rate – that would mean saving a whopping £26,400.

How to avoid it

Supercharging your savings is the best way to boost your deposit.

Lifetime Isas can help you save towards your first-home.

You can put up to £4,000 a year into these accounts and when you come to buy your first property the government will give you a 25 per cent bonus.

If property prices are out of reach, you could consider buying through a shared ownership scheme.

This means you only a certain percentage of the property – usually around 30 per cent – and pay rent on the rest.

This can reduce your costs significantly as you only need a deposit to cover the portion you're buying.

You should factor in the rental costs and ground charges too though, as sometimes this can be expensive.

A final option could be to ask a relative to be a guarantor for you.

Some lenders offer guarantor mortgages, whereby someone else provides a guarantee that they will repay your loan if you can't meet your payments.

Problem 2: interest rates

Interest rates are set to rise and that means mortgage repayments will get more expensive.

The Bank of England is widely expected to raise interest rates over the coming months and that will hit anyone with a tracker mortgage or variable mortgage in the pocket – not to mention first-time buyers.

When interest rates go up, so do mortgage rates.

Some mortgage providers have even started hiking their rates in anticipation of an interest rate rise, even though it's not yet happened.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has warned that mortgage interest payments could increase by 5.6 per cent next year, and by a further 13.1 per cent the year after.

It would add hundreds of pounds to repayments for millions of homeowners.

If just 0.5 percentage points is added to mortgage interest it adds about £50 a month to the cost of a £200,000, 25-year mortgage.

It would add around £120 a month extra to a £450,000, 25-year mortgage.

How to avoid it

You shouldn't rush a house purchase just to save a few quid – this is an important decision and you want to get it right.

But it can help to get yourself in a position to move quickly when you are ready to buy, so you can bag the best rate on the market.

You can get a mortgage in principle from a lender, which details how much you can afford to borrow.

This shows any estate agent you're a serious buyer and might put you in a stronger position when making an offer on a home.

If rates are set to rise, a fixed rate mortgage will be the best bet for most buyers.

This gives you certainty over your monthly repayments for a set period so your lender can't pass on any extra rate hikes to you immediately like they can with a tracker mortgage.

It also allows you to budget as you know what your outgoings will be.

The longer you fix for, the higher the interest rate will be – but you're effectively making a bet that by paying a little more now, you'll get a better deal for the long term.

Two- and three- year fixed rate mortgages have traditionally been the most popular options, but five-year fixed deals are becoming more sought after.

And some lenders will let you lock in for the ultra long-term with fixed rates on offer for 10, 20 or even 40 years.

Problem 3: energy efficiency

The UK government is getting super serious about energy efficiency and while that's great for the environment, it could hit aspiring homebuyers in the pocket.

As part of its net zero strategy, the government has said that mortgages could soon be linked to the energy efficiency of a property.

That's a problem for homeowners, because only around 40 per cent of homes are currently at a rating of C or above.

It could mean that Brits have to stump up extra cash to make their property eco-friendly if they want to granted a mortgage on it, or not be able to access the best deals on the market.

That's bad news for any first-time buyers who are already stretching themselves to afford a home, or for those planning on getting a cheaper property as a project, which could now come with more costs than you'd bargained for.

How to avoid it

Checking the energy efficiency of a property before you buy it is important anyway, as this will give you an idea of how much your heating bill will be, for example.

It's worth asking about things like insulation and double-glazing when you're viewing a property too, as these all make a home more efficient.

Buying a property without these could cost you thousands in improvements, and it's difficult to get government grants to help.

New build homes are often more energy efficient than older properties as they have to meet certain standards.

Another thing to check is the heating system.

The government has said gas boilers could be banned by 2035, so if a property has an old school heating system it could cost you thousands to upgrade.

Heat pumps are one of the alternatives being promoted by government but could cost as much as £14,000 to install.


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