Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Guide to UK Home Ownership

Now, more than ever, your home is the single largest purchase you are likely to make during your lifetime. Taking that first (or second or third) step(s) up the property ladder can be confusing and daunting.

Here is:

THE GUIDE – A quick reference guide to the steps involved in the purchase of your first or subsequent home. It covers everything from budgeting, finding the right mortgage and solicitors, and even exchanging contracts. It is full of simple, easy to follow, advice to ease your first steps onto the property ladder.

Step 1. Are You Financially Ready to Own a Home

Home ownership can be a blessing or a curse. If you have established a proper financial foundation, it can be a springboard for a successful and prosperous future. If not, it can be the first step down the path towards insolvency or bankruptcy. Here are some steps to building your foundation.

Establish an emergency savings account of at least £1000. Remember, unexpected expenses happen. You want to have some reserves set aside so that you will be able to pay those expenses and still be able to pay your other obligations. You also do not want to be forced into paying those expenses using high interest rate credit cards. In the United States, many families were forced into foreclosure and bankruptcy due to the lack of even a modest savings account. Learn from their unfortunate example.

Save 10% of each and every paycheck. As soon as you receive your pay, pay yourself first. Set aside 10% of each check in a separate savings account. Once you have four to six months of income saved you can start saving for your down payment. The reason for having this much money in savings is so that things such as a brief period of unemployment or illness will not force you into foreclosure or bankruptcy. Many families have so little in savings that they are always one or two missed paychecks away from bankruptcy.

After completing the first two steps, start saving for the deposit. Some experts recommend paying anywhere from 10% to 30% of the purchase price as a deposit. By making a higher deposit, you will borrow less money, have a lower monthly payment and will pay less interest. If you don’t make a large deposit, some lenders will charge a “High Lending Charge” which could add as much as £2000 to the cost of buying your new home.

Step 2. Calculating Your Budget

How much can you pay for your home? How much will it really cost you? Set your sights realistically and never borrow more than you can comfortably pay back.

First, work out how much you could afford to pay for your monthly mortgage payment. To help you, here is a monthly budget planner. Simply list your monthly outgoings and subtract it from your monthly income.

Monthly Budget Planner


Your take home pay after taxes £

Spouse / partner’s take home pay after taxes £

Other Regular Income £

Total Monthly Income £


Hire purchase / other loan repayments £

Credit Card / store card repayments £

Council tax payments £

Food / clothing £

Gas/ Electricity / Water/ Telephone £

House buildings / contents insurance £

Endowment / life assurance premiums £

Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance £

Travel / car (fuel / maintenance / insurance / tax) £

Savings £

Other £

Total Outgoings £

Amount Available for Mortgage Payments £

Step 3. Other Costs to Remember

When developing your budget, remember there are other costs associated with a home purchase including: Solicitor’s Fees, Land Registry, Valuation / Survey, Searches, Stamp Duty and Home Insurance. These costs could add as much as £4,825 on a £100,000 purchase.

Also, you will no doubt want to make your home, your own. You may want to make repairs, redecorate, paint or even remodel your new home. You may also want to buy new furniture or appliances. Remember to consider these costs as well.

Step 4. Choosing the Right Mortgage

There are many lenders offering many different types of mortgages. Two things to consider are:

How will you pay back your mortgage?

With a repayment mortgage you will pay back interest and a portion of the capital with each monthly payment according to an amortization schedule. After you make the last scheduled payment, you will own your house free and clear of all liens. On an interest only mortgage, you will pay back only the interest portion of the loan. You will need to make provisions to repay the capital.

What type of mortgage best suits your needs?

A fixed mortgage provides you the security of knowing what your monthly payments will be for the duration of the loan, while with a variable rate mortgage you take the risk that your payments will move up and down with changes in the interest rates. A variable rate mortgage may initially offer lower payments in the beginning, but the payments will increase if interest rates increase after the initial period.

What length of mortgage best suits your needs?

Mortgages also come in varying terms such as a 2 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year 25 or 30 year term. As the length of the term increases, the payments decrease. However, with a longer term loan, you will pay much more interest over the duration of the loan. How much more? Here is a simple rule called the Rule of 72. It says that to calculate how long an amount of money will double at a given rate of interest, simply divide the interest rate into the number 72.

For example, if you invested £100 at 8% interest, at the end of nine years you would have £200. It works the same way for mortgage payments. Suppose you borrow £100,000 at 8.00%

Loan, Term, & Interest Rate

Monthly Payment

Capital Paid

Interest Paid

Total Paid

£100,000, 10 year term @ 8.00%





£100,000, 20 year term @ 8.00%





Step 5. Agreement in Principle

Your real estate agent may ask you to provide evidence showing how much money you can borrow. You can do this by getting an agreement in principle with your mortgage lender which is based upon your income, employment status, and the type of property you are looking to buy. It shows that a lender is willing to give you a mortgage and how much you could borrow from them.

Step 6. Making an Offer

Once you have found a property that you want to buy, you need to make an offer to the owners through your real estate agent. Negotiate. Your broker can help you make the right offer. Remember, sellers set their initial price with the expectation that they will have to negotiate downwards. Never offer more than you are willing or able to pay. Also, if the seller won’t negotiate an agreeable price, do not be afraid to walk away. Sooner or later, you will find the right house at the right price.

Step 7. Full Mortgage Application

Once you have found the right property and your offer has been accepted, you need to make your full mortgage application with your lender. The lender will want to see proof of your identity, income, and current address. They will also run credit checks and arrange for a valuation of the property. After they are fully satisfied, they will make a formal offer to you.

Step 8. Finding the Right Solicitor

You will need to hire a Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer. How do you find one? Word of mouth is a common way to find a solicitor. You may also ask your real estate agent or lender for a referral. Finally, you can search the following websites: or

Step 9. Getting a Survey Done

Your lender will have a valuation performed on the property to ensure that it is worth the asking price.

You should also have a “Home Buyers Report” prepared. That is a detailed inspection of the property to make sure that it is structurally sound and highlight potential maintenance and repair problems of which you might not be aware.

Step 10. Exchanging Contracts

Since your home may be the biggest purchase that you make, it is obvious that the legal paperwork is critical. When you and your solicitor are satisfied, and your mortgage offer is in place, you are ready to exchange contracts. After you sign the contract and pay the deposit, your contract is legally binding. If you then choose to pull out, you may forfeit your deposit. Make sure that you discuss everything with your solicitor, and if you do not understand something then ask.

Remember, you also need to purchase Buildings and Contents Insurance to protect your home and belongings. You also want Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance to pay your mortgage in the event that you become unemployed or unable to work because of illness or disability. Finally, you should consider Life Cover which pays off your home in the event of your death.

Step 11. Moving In

On exchange of contracts, a completion date is agreed. On that date, your solicitor arranges for the money to be transferred and your real estate agent gives you the keys to your new home!

Moving is always stressful; however there are some things you should do to make it as pleasant as possible:

§ Organize a Removals Van

§ Get packed, also label each box with its contents by room

§ Have your post redirected

§ Change the address on your drivers’ license and passport

§ Arrange for the utility meters to be read

§ Cancel direct debits

Enjoy your new home. Personal Finance News