Are you ready to get a foot on the property ladder? Phil Spencer gives his advice on how to get started.

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Before contemplating whether to buy or rent a property, it is vital to do as much research as possible and consider whether the long-term financial commitment of home-ownership is for you…or whether renting would better suit your lifestyle. There are a number of elements that need to be taken into account. This month I am going to explore the things to bear in mind when buying.

If you own your home and have a repayment mortgage, rather than an interest-only mortgage, you are investing in your future and creating a valuable asset. Your monthly repayments aren’t going to a landlord and creating ‘dead money’ for you. However whilst the value of your home may go up as well as down, at the end of the term of the mortgage you will own the property outright.

Here are a few pointers to get you started.

Work out what you can afford

You need to have an idea of your budget so that you can start a realistic property search. Start by speaking to your bank or an independent mortgage or financial adviser who will be able to talk you through the process and give you an idea of what price range you can afford. There are many types of mortgage deals, so it’s important that you chose a deal that suits your lifestyle and budget.

Do your research

Get to know the geographic areas you’re looking at like the back of your hand. Visit them at different times of the day and week. Zoopla can help you make sense of the local property market and check out the local info and area stats pages and maps and nearby services. You can set up alerts via Zoopla for your areas and search criteria so that you are one of the first to know as soon as a new property matching your requirements comes onto the market. Look at what has previously sold in the area or on specific streets. All this information is free, will help your search and ensure that you are well informed in any decision-making process.

Do you know what you’re looking for?

If you have a good idea of what you’re looking for from the start then you can save time on pointless viewings. This will help an estate agent narrow down your search by location and property type as well and help you when searching online. Perhaps you’re looking for a project which requires some work or maybe you want somewhere that you can move in and is ready to go? The more specific you can be, the easier you will make it for the agent. Bear in mind though, that finding the right property often involves compromise at some point, so be prepared to be flexible…unless you have very deep pockets!

Arranging viewings

It’s likely that you’ll start your property search online and sending an enquiry for a property to an agent through Zoopla is easy. Once you have found properties you like online you will be able to ring or email the agent via the contact button to arrange a viewing.

Making an offer

If you have done your research and planning, you should have a good idea of what has sold in the area recently and what else is on the market that is similar. Zoopla has information on average asking prices and average prices per square foot which can also be useful. Use all of this information to determine what the fair value for the property you are interested in is before you make an offer.

Ongoing communication

If your offer is accepted, it’s vital to keep those important lines of communication open. Make sure you’re in regular contact with the selling agent and that your solicitor keeps you regularly informed on how the purchase is progressing.

Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. Zoopla strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

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