Buying your first home this Spring? Give yourself the best chance with these top tips.

1. Be sure you can afford it

Avoid setting yourself up for a disappointment by getting your sums straight first. You’ll need a deposit of at least 5% of the property price – but the more you can put down the lower rate you’ll get on your mortgage.

You’ll also need to raise enough money to cover your legal (solicitor) fees, stamp duty, surveys and moving costs.

Most important of all is whether you’ll be able to get a mortgage. This will depend on a combination of your deposit, salary (or combined salaries if you’re buying with someone else), outstanding debts and credit score.

Get an idea of what you might be able to borrow at Trussle’s affordability checker

5 of the most common questions first-time buyers ask mortgage broker

2. Consider Government schemes

Sums not quite stacking up? The Government offers a whole host of schemes to help first-time buyers ranging from Starter Homes and Lifetime ISAs, to Help to Buy and shared ownership. You can find out more about them with this guide.

3. Secure a mortgage agreement in principal

One you’ve been offered a loan from a bank or building society, get an agreement in principal. This document is free and demonstrates to sellers and estate agents you are a serious contender.

4. Do your homework

Now your budget is established, you can search for homes you can know you can afford. But preparation is key and, as ever, start with location. This is the most important factor as it's the one that can't be changed.

In terms of the property itself, think very carefully about your requirements and narrow them down to must-haves and nice-to-haves. List these down, remain focused on them and your search will be a whole lot easier.

5. Be clever in your online searches

Now get online and start your property search. In addition to the basic price, property type and number of bedrooms, you can refine your search using keywords – outhouse or parking for example. Use tools available such as map search and travel times to specific locations. Find out more about these and other tools.

6. Get local estate agents on side

It’s not all about online. Estate agents are the gatekeepers to early information on properties, so meet as many as you can face-to-face by dropping into local offices. Building a rapport could mean you hear of crucial developments before other potential buyers.

Communicate clear ideas of what you are looking for and stress you are a first-time buyer with a mortgage agreed and can be flexible on move dates. 

7. Be shrewd on viewings

Take your own photographs and use a compass to find out what direction the property or garden faces – south facing is most popular.

6 questions to ask about the garden of your new home

Take stock of the natural light levels versus the time of day, check for cracks in walls and keep a keen nose for the smell of damp.

Outside the property, look for leaks or bad guttering. Note how busy the road is, what the parking’s like and the condition of neighbouring homes.

Ask direct questions on viewing, such as if there have been any major works or extensions to the property? The agent is obliged to answer them truthfully – and make notes. If you’re conducting several viewings, it’s easy to get mixed up.

8. Cross reference nearby sold prices

Once you’ve found a property you want to make an offer on check the asking price against that of other homes that have recently sold in the local area. Just punch in the address on Zoopla’s house price tool.

And, while it can help to calculate a cost in '£s per sq-ft' of property, remember this is only a rule of thumb. After all, the calculation alone won't factor in the home's condition, direction of the garden, view, parking etc.

9. Negotiate

It’s still always worth negotiating on the price – as a first-time buyer with nothing to sell, you’re in a strong position.

10. Get ready to go!

Once your offer has been accepted, it’s all stations go. Use Zoopla’s new Move Planner to help organise your move from now, until you get the keys and move in.

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