Get on the property ladder

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What You Need to Know

  1. For many people, getting on the property ladder seems like an impossible dream, but there are plenty of ways to achieve it, regardless of your income levels.
  2. The main barrier to buying a house is deposit, so developing a successful savings plan to put aside enough money to have a deposit is a great first step.
  3. You will need at least 5% to get a mortgage, although get to 10% if you can as the available mortgage deals will become much more affordable.
  4. If you cannot raise a deposit there are plenty of other options available. Think about pooling resources and buying a place with friends or your partner.
  5. There are various options available on new build developments, including Shared Ownership opportunities and schemes where the developer lends you the deposit you need.
  6. The Government help to buy scheme also offers cheap loan to anyone who has already saved a 5% deposit.

The impossible dream?

Getting a foot on the property ladder is tough. Much tougher these days than it has ever been in the past, and with house prices continuing to rise much more quickly than wages in many parts of the country, and especially the capital where so many young people gravitate in the search for work, there is no sign that it is going to get any easier.

Many people have given up hope of ever being able to get on the property ladder such is the challenge, but whilst it is certainly not easy, it is also by no means impossible. Indeed there are also a number of schemes designed to help first time buyers secure their first home. But you will have to put in the hard work and make sacrifices of your own as well. It will not be easy, but there are plenty of ways that almost all of us can get on the property ladder.

Deposit

The first problem that everyone will encounter when looking to buy their first property is deposit. Everyone has to have a deposit available, and for most regular mortgages the minimum lenders will want is 10%. With the average UK house price now reaching just over £180,000, this means most of us need to be able to get together at least £18,000. If you are looking for a property in London, you are likely to need considerably more than that.

There are a number of options available for those with a lower deposit, including an increasing number of mortgages asking for 5% deposit. It is however worth bearing in mind that the lower the amount of deposit you can raise, the higher interest rates and fees you are likely to find yourself paying out. Therefore if it is possible to get to the 10% mark, make every effort to do so, as you will find yourself saving money in both upfront costs and longer term interest payments.

Before you make a mortgage application, it is well worth checking your credit record as well and making sure it is clear. Your lender will certainly make this check, and if they do find anything that concerns them in there, you could well see that affecting the amounts you have to pay them, or even being turned down for a mortgage altogether.

If you are lucky enough to have a family member who might be able to lend you some or all of the money, it is well worth swallowing your pride and asking them. Even if you have to agree to repayments and interest, with house prices rising steadily, it is well worth getting on the ladder sooner rather than later. Of course make sure that you are able to make repayments on this and your mortgage before taking the plunge though.

Saving

If borrowing the money from family is not an option, the only other option for raising a deposit is saving, and needless to say the sooner you can start to save, the sooner you will reach your target amount.

There are many ways to save, and how you go about doing it will depend on your income levels. Our comparison pages has the best deals on a range of savings options, while we also have a range of savings guides to point you in the right direction.

Try to be disciplined and save a set amount each month if you can. If you can find ways to save on your expenditure, you will get to your target that much quicker. For example, if you can move back in with Mum and Dad for a while and save on rent money you are likely be able to put much more money aside than if you have to pay rent and bills as well.

One option to give real thought to is the Governments new Help to Buy ISA, which is due to launch soon. This will work like a cash ISA, but the Government will top it up by an additional 25% on up to £12,000 worth of saving. This could give you as much as £3,000 for free, but the cash has to be used on the deposit for a new home.

Low Deposit Schemes

If you have a low income and getting together a deposit for a full mortgage is beyond you, or if you are feeling impatient to make the step up, and don’t want to take the time to gather up the money you need, there are a range of other schemes you can consider, which help you get onto the property ladder:

  • Shared Ownership Schemes: A Shared Ownership Scheme allows you to buy part of a property outright and rent the rest. The amount available to purchase is usually between 25% and 75%, and you will retain the right to purchase the rest of the property in the future.

 

These schemes are usually only available new build properties, and can be found through housing developers or councils. They will usually be advertised in local media when they are being made available, and demand for them is frequently high.

Shared Ownership Schemes will often have maximum income levels, as they are targeted at low income workers, and some will only be open to those who hold key worker status, in jobs such as nursing or teaching.

A Shared Ownership Scheme will require a lower deposit, but you will have to cover the cost of both your mortgage, and the additional rent as well. There may also be extra costs such as services charges to take into consideration as well.

  • New Build Deals: As well as Shared Ownership deals, property constructors also offer a different type of deal which allows you to buy the whole of a property. These deals involve the developer lending you the money you need for a deposit. This saves you having to find a deposit up front, but does of course mean you have to find that money later on.

 

Different developers offer different schemes and they won’t be available on every development, but it is worth exploring any new property developments in your area to see what offers are available.

  • Buy a house together with friends: If raising a deposit on your own is proving too daunting, an increasingly popular option these days is to pool your resources with friends of your partner.

 

It is a great way to get on the property ladder quickly, but is not a decision to be taken lightly. With both of your names on the mortgage, you will both be responsible for monthly repayments so you must be sure you trust the person you are buying with implicitly.

You will also both have to agree how to share maintenance costs and other expenses, as well as what your options will be if just one of you decides they want to move out. The practicalities of such an agreement can be difficult, but if you can overcome them, it is a great option.

  • Buy a development project: The most obvious way to save money when buying a house is to buy a cheaper house. And one of the best ways to do this is to buy a development project, or a house that needs some work doing to it.

 

Houses with outdated décor, poor layouts, or former rental properties in a poor state of repair often come to the market at a lower price, and offer real potential to someone willing to get their hands dirty fixing it up, or who can spend a little money having someone do the work for them.

Buying at auction is a very popular means of picking up such a property, and if there is little interest from others, you might end up with a real bargain on your hands. You will however still need a mortgage in place, and some auctions will only accept cash buyers.

Such renovation projects are increasingly popular these days, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bargains out there to be had.

  • Help-to-Buy: Lastly, there is the Government Help to Buy Scheme. This is a scheme which helps people with a little as a 5% deposit buy a property valued up to £600,000. To be eligible for help to buy you must be a first time buyer with a good credit rating and at least 5% deposit saved up.

 

It is an affordable option, but it is still worth remembering that the money you receive from the Government does take the form of a loan, which is free for the first five years, but will then accrue interest at a rate of 1.5% plus inflation. This is still a low cost loan, but it is not a free loan.

For full details of the Help-to-Buy scheme and to find out if you are eligible, visit the Help-to-Buy website.

Whichever scheme you choose, or even if you opt to save up the deposit yourself, it is vital to be 100% certain of your decision before you commit. Always read all the small print carefully, factor in extra costs and fees associated with buying a house, including stamp duty, and try to keep an emergency fund handy incase when you move into your new house, you encounter any problems.

But keep heart, because it is possible for even minimum wage workers to get their foot on the property ladder if they know where to look.

Further Reading

  • Our brief guide to Buying a Property has plenty of tips about how to buy your first home.
  • If you are thinking of buying at auction, our guide has plenty of handy tips and information.
  • And if you want to purchase a renovation project, be sure to read our guide to doing up houses for profit before you start. 
 

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