Wondering if you’ll ever be able to buy your first home? These expert tips could help

Rising mortgage rates and deposits are making life tougher for aspiring homeowners. By Vicky Shaw.

Vicky Shaw
Friday 19 August 2022 08:00 BST
Wondering how you’ll ever afford to get on the property ladder? (Alamy/PA)
Wondering how you’ll ever afford to get on the property ladder? (Alamy/PA)

With mortgage rates jumping and house prices already having soared, aspiring first-time buyers face an uphill battle to get onto the property ladder.

The Bank of England hiked the base rate by 0.5 percentage points to 1.75% in August – the biggest single rate jump since 1995 – meaning would-be first-time buyers may have higher monthly mortgage costs than they had previously budgeted for.

Property website Rightmove recently calculated that a combination of rising house prices and interest rates mean average monthly mortgage payments for new first-time buyers putting down a 10% deposit now exceed £1,000 – at £1,032.

Despite these challenges, the determination to get on the property ladder remains strong. Demand for properties in the typical first-time buyer sector is 32% higher than at this time in 2019, Rightmove says.

So, are there things that might help first-time buyers navigate the tough market and get ahead? Graham Sellar, head of business development for mortgages at Santander UK, shares the following tips…

1. Don’t panic

“The first thing is not to panic because the market’s gone up, prices are going up, it’s hard to find a property,” says Sellar. Buying a house is “a really big financial commitment”, he adds, “so the first thing is to stay calm. Yes you’re reading that prices are going up, and yes you’re reading that the cost-of-living is going to affect affordability, but the market’s very active at the moment.”

In what could bring some relief to first-time buyers, some housing market reports have pointed to a cooling in house price growth, with Halifax recently reporting that average UK house prices slipped back in July from a record high the previous month.

Rightmove has also reported that average asking prices were down month-on-month in August, although this is in line with the usual lull it sees during the summer holidays.

2. Read up on the subject

Saving for a deposit? (Alamy/PA)
Saving for a deposit? (Alamy/PA)

Sellar suggests reading up on what becoming a first-time buyer involves. “Treat it like a book and read what is it that you do from start to finish, and start to visualise you doing that yourself. Then it’s time to start thinking about: how to I save the deposit? Where do I want to live? How much can I borrow?”

The time it often takes to save for a deposit means many people nowadays are likely to have started a family before they buy their first home. For some, this means the first home they will buy could be a property big enough to fit a family, rather than a flat or typical smaller ‘starter’ home.

Sellar also advises checking out local primary and secondary schools in the area where you plan to buy, as this could help save you needing to move again in a few years’ time.

3. Make the idea of borrowing become more ‘real’

Sellar suggests making the most of online mortgage calculators to get a realistic idea of how much you may be able to borrow: “You can play around with how much you can borrow, how much it will cost you each month, the differences between terms.”

Calculators can “make it more real” and help aspiring homeowners work out the type of property they can afford, and the location, he adds.

4. Spend time thinking and looking

Some people may want to seek independent advice and speak to a broker or bank. It’s also worth taking time to weigh up how long you want the mortgage to run for and how this could affect your monthly outgoings. “If you have too long a term, you may pay too much interest, and if you have too short a term ,you may pay too much money each month,” Sellar adds.

In addition, if you’re commuting less frequently than you did before the pandemic and working from home more, you may also be able to expand your location search to include some less expensive areas.

5. Check your credit report

Sellar suggests making sure you are on the electoral roll, as this can affect credit scores. And if you have already got credit, make sure you always pay that and any mobile phone bills when they are due each month. It’s also important not to ignore bills and seemingly minor disputes.

“Some very small disputes you have with companies may come back and cause you problems later on,” Sellar cautions. “It’s worthwhile understanding your credit history.”

6. Think about the size of the deposit you’ll need – and whether family could helpThere are mortgage options for first-time buyers whose parents are in a position to help, whether that’s helping towards the deposit or putting money up as security on a mortgage, for example. Some lenders will accept gifts from the ‘bank of mum and dad or the bank of gran and grandad’, Sellar says.

Many lenders offer mortgages for people with deposits as low as 5%, but bear in mind the interest rate you will pay may well be higher than if you had a bigger deposit of say 10% or 15%.

7. Consider wider support

There are various schemes and discounts available, which vary depending on where people live in the UK, such as stamp duty relief in England and Northern Ireland and relief on the land and buildings transaction tax in Scotland. Lifetime Isa savings accounts are also available for eligible people buying their first home, which come with bonuses.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in