First-time home buyers Am I ready to be a first-time home buyer?

Am I ready to buy my first home?

Getting your finances in order is the first step towards home ownership

Ask yourself these key questions to decide whether the time is right to apply for a mortgage and buy your first property.

It's completely normal if the thought of buying your first home fills you with equal parts excitement and terror. Getting a mortgage is a serious commitment and buying property is often rife with unforeseen costs, no matter how carefully you plan - but the rewards of owning your own place can make it all worth it.

In this guide, we run through the key questions you should ask yourself to help you work out whether you're ready to become a homeowner.

  • If you're thinking of buying a home and want impartial, expert advice on the first steps towards getting a mortgage, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 for a free consultation.

Questions to ask yourself before buying a property

What’s happening to house prices?

For obvious reasons it's better if your property increases, rather than decreases, in value after you've bought it. Unfortunately, the market can be hard to predict: at a national level prices have started to climb again after the recession - but the local picture can be very different, with markets sometimes behaving differently street by street.

Ideally, you should try to buy at a time when prices are low but showing signs of rising - talk to local estate agents and look at sold prices on the Land Registry website to get an idea of what's happening in your area.

How will a lender view my employment situation?

Mortgage providers require proof of your income to decide how much - and whether - to lend to you. Some lenders will only give mortgages to people in permanent jobs so if you’re self-employed or on a fixed-term contract, getting a mortgage may be more difficult.

Do I have a good credit history?

A good credit history is key to a successful mortgage application. This can be a problem if you’ve never taken out any credit. One step that everyone should take is registering on the electoral roll.

Have I saved up a decent deposit?

When we surveyed 1,990 recent home movers in 2015, we found that a third of first-time buyers had to save up more than three years to buy - and just over half needed help from family.

You'll have access to better mortgage deals - and be more financially secure - if you can save up a decent-sized deposit. Help to Buy Isas are specifically designed for first-time buyers, and saving in one entitles you to a 25% government bonus on your savings (up to a maximum of £3,000) when you buy your first home.

Could a government scheme help me buy sooner?

If saving up a big deposit seems like a distant dream, schemes such as the Help to Buy equity loan and Help to Buy mortgage guarantee could enable you to buy a property with a deposit of as little as 5%.

What will my monthly mortgage repayments look like?

The numbers involved with buying a house are so big it can be hard to understand what they'll actually mean for your everyday finances. When you're looking at mortgages, work out what your monthly repayments will be - and how they'd change if interest rates went up.

Will I be able to afford the repayments?

Planning a budget carefully will allow you to work out how much you can afford to spend on mortgage repayments each month so you can be confident you can afford them - both now and in the future.

How much will my monthly bills cost?

If you’ve been renting from a decent landlord you won’t have had to worry about the costs of major repairs and maintaining appliances. But when you own your own home, all this will be your responsibility and it's important to set money aside for unforeseen costs such as repairing a leaky roof.

What extra buying costs do I need to factor in?

Your mortgage deposit is just the start: buying a house or flat is extremely expensive - you'll need to factor in stamp duty and survey fees among other things.

First-time buyer videos: things I wish I'd known

In the videos below, first-time buyers share what they wish they'd known before buying their properties and give tips on how you can avoid the problems they faced.

So, what next?

The brutal truth is that, while owning a home can be wonderful, the buying process is expensive, stressful and time-consuming. Home ownership isn't for everyone, and you shouldn't feel pressured into buying a property - only do it if you really feel ready for the commitment, and plan to stay put for at least five years once you've taken the plunge in order to make the expenditure worthwhile.

If you do think you're ready to become a homeowner, we'd recommend calling Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 to find out how much you might be able to borrow. The team of friendly, impartial advisers can help you work out the best mortgage and deposit options based on your personal circumstances.

Alternatively, if you decide you're not quite ready to start looking at mortgages and properties, use this time to start researching areas and getting to grips with the local property market so you're in a good position when you do decide to buy. You can find out more in our guide to researching the local property market.

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Last updated:

February 2016

Updated by:

Stephen Maunder

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.