How we got on the property ladder

KFH sales experts from across the network use their first time buyer experience to reveal some top tips.

27 November, 2021

Get serious

Rita Glover, Battersea Sales Branch Director

"My first purchase was drama-free, back in 1996. The property was a top floor Victorian conversion flat in Clapham. The property was chain-free and included a share of the freehold. The first thing I did to ensure a smooth transaction was to have an agreement in principle from my mortgage broker and a solicitor who I had faith in to act swiftly to raise or respond to issues. I managed to get to exchange within six weeks.

So doing your homework and being prepared is crucial. My top tips would be to ensure you have a good solicitor, provide them with ID and money on account. Send all your paperwork, payslips and bank statements to your broker, so once the offer has been accepted the application is submitted immediately.

There is nothing more reassuring for a seller to have a mortgage valuation booked in within 48 hours of having accepted an offer. This proves to the seller that you are a serious buyer and are doing everything within your remit to buy the property."

Learn about finance

Paul Bent, Kennington Sales Branch Director

"My property journey started as a negotiator in our Forest Hill branch. I wanted to live in East Dulwich, but property prices there were out of my reach, so I looked at neighbouring areas that had the potential to be up-and-coming in the future. I decided on Peckham Rye, which met my criteria, buying a newbuild one-bedroom apartment with private balcony and parking. It was on the top floor, so I was within my rights to call it ‘the penthouse’.

The first-time buying process is exciting, but it can be like stepping into the unknown. The best tip I can give is not to cut corners when instructing a firm of solicitors. A property is someone’s biggest financial asset, so choosing a solicitor on price alone for such a fundamental financial decision is counterproductive and puts your purchase at risk. I instructed a solicitor who was on the KFH approved panel whom I had worked with regularly, so I knew they offered a high quality and consistent service.

I would also recommend first time buyers brush up on their financial knowledge before setting out and ensure their credit score is good. Do your due diligence and explore all the options available to you including shared ownership, help to buy, the resales market and new builds."

Ask experts

Susan Tary, Chislehurst Sales Branch Director

"My first experience in buying a property was possibly the most exciting yet nerve wracking experience I've had. I was buying a flat above a shop in Islington with my new husband, and when our offer was accepted, we thought it was going to be an easy journey from there, but of course it was not.

“We had no experience of leaseholds and really did not understand the implications of a shorter lease or indeed how much more lengthy the transaction would be given lease enquiries. Suffice to say, our solicitor guided us through the process, explaining what the implications were and advising us every step of the way.

I would always advise any buyer to do their homework, particularly on leasehold properties, but more importantly make sure you use a good solicitor, preferably one who comes recommended."

Talk to a mortgage broker

Shaun Cunningham, Highgate Sales Branch Director

"Establishing your budget is the first step you should take. Make sure you talk to a mortgage broker who has access to the home loan market and will find the best product for your circumstances. You will also need to account for other costs such as stamp duty, solicitor fees and a surveyor. Once you have started to register with estate agents, it is important to put yourself forward as a good buyer.

Agents work for the seller and will naturally want to work with buyers that are eager and ready to buy. I bought my first property in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. It was a new-build development with off - street parking, and it met all of my requirements for space and finish. I made sure to be clear on what items and appliances were remaining in the property (during the buying process)."

Consider compromised properties with potential

David Moreton, West Hampstead Sales Branch Director

"My first place was a top-floor flat in a period mansion building. I was on a limited budget and so I knew that if I wanted a better location, I’d have to make a few compromises.

The flat was in a location I wouldn’t have been able to afford had it not been for several limiting features that made it less attractive to most buyers – such as no lift, being above a commercial unit, being on a busy road and having a short lease of 78 years – all of which I was happy to accept in order to get on the property ladder.

The short lease could have been a problem, but happily the seller had already undertaken most of the extension process, so I knew the exact amount the freeholder required to extend the lease."

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