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One of the topics that my friends and I discuss the most right now is buying a dream home. As many of you know, I am currently making changes to my own house so that it is a more attractive place to sell in future, or even rent out. At the same time, two of my close friends are looking for first time buys in my home county of Cambridgeshire. When we are together it is all we talk about.
My friend Sally (let’s call her that for the sake of this post) was already on the hunt for a home just before the pandemic struck and had to put things on hold. Now she is back to checking out houses online and arranging visits. I am really interested in the process as I want to buy a new place when I have finished upgrading my kitchen and living room so we have been punching in some figures together and really getting to grips with it all.
Is House Buying Stagnant or Buoyant?
Sally was asking me to get involved and do a bit of basic research so I decided to begin by checking out useful articles online. The BBC Housing Market Page was really interesting as a starting point. One article pointed to a 12 percent rise in house prices (great for any sellers like me). It also talked about specific issues around the country but I had to look to other financial resources to find out more about buying as a first timer.
I think it is fair to say that the housing market is looking lively again in 2022. When Sally put in an offer on a three bed house a month ago, she was outbid a few days later. There seem to be a lot of people who have decided that now is the time to try and make that leap onto the housing ladder and yes, it is getting very competitive.
Both of my friends wanted to explore ‘help to buy’ opportunities so we started to check out the Guardian website where we laughed at the fact that the average first time buyer is in their thirties now (just like my two first time buying mates). Interestingly, I found out that the equity loan on a ‘help to buy’ scheme came with zero interest for the initial five years. Also there is an option to clear your equity loan after a few years if you choose to do so. That’s pretty cool if you can afford it and stops the loan value increasing as the property goes up in value.
How Can We Find Out What We Can Afford?
A really useful site for making projections was the Mortgage Calculator which I messed around with to try and work out how my money might work for me. The calculator was really easy to use and let me choose the term of the mortgage alongside the price of house I was thinking of.
There was also a helpful affordability page which gave an indication of what we could buy based on our current salaries. Things have changed since when I bought my very first house in 2003 because back then mortgages were commonly without deposits but these days you have to factor that in as well. Sally is lucky enough to have moved back from Dubai five years ago and built up a healthy deposit while staying with her mum. My other friend, Eloise, has also managed to accrue a reasonable deposit to place down on a house, when she feels ready to do so.
What Is The Best Way Forward?
Eloise is still at the ‘doing the sums’ part of investigating home buying. She has literally just started her hunt after renting a two bedroom village home for over ten years. Recently she has been trying to work out exactly how much a single salary can get her, given that she wants a place with a garden and extra room in case she wants company or a lodger.
Doing the working out online, Eloise was stunned to find out just how similar her payments for a mortgage would be compared to her rental costs. There wasn’t much difference at all. The sad reality is she could have been building up equity and working her way up the property ladder instead of feeding someone else’s pockets for the last few years. She would definitely advise people in their twenties to get on that ladder as soon as possible as she feels like she has missed out.
For all three of us, the prospect of buying a new house is definitely on the agenda. I was literally finalising my kitchen installation this morning and am weighing up selling or renting out my starter home in the near future while the other two get to grips with making offers and squeezing the most value out of their house buying experience.
What I am suggesting is that the housing market seems to have become busy and exciting again as the pandemic has retreated from the news and restrictions have ended in the UK. My friends and I are excited to find out more about which houses are for sale and to look into what we can afford given our current incomes and needs.
If you are looking to buy for the first time then there are plenty of online resources that will help you along the way. Start plugging in those calculations, checking online estate agent sites and doing some good research into house prices in your area. Make sure you enjoy the house hunting process and get the most out of it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article about house buying. If you have any thoughts on this or want to share your own experiences, please drop a comment below and maybe consider following my blog for future similar content.