Media Spotlight: How To Buy Your First Home

By Phil Spencer

First-time buyers have the odds stacked against them when it comes to buying property these days.

Sky-high house prices and restricted access to mortgage finance have left first-timers needing enormous deposits to get their foot on the ladder. But even though the average age of a first-time buyer stands at 38 the appetite for home ownership appears as strong as ever.

The British desire to own property is the likely driving force behind this guide to buying a first home from Location, Location, Location television presenter Phil Spencer.

For the layman, buying a house can be complicated and it can be difficult to know your surveyor from your conveyancer and your broker from an in-house branch adviser.

To this end Spencer has written a valuable guide that clearly explains the complex and frustrating aspects of home buying. The book is littered with useful checklists and handy tips that could make a huge difference to a purchaser.

For instance, one excellent chapter offers handy tips on how to make the most of house viewings.

First, there is a list of essentials to take with you when viewing a home. This includes a compass, notebook, torch, measuring tape and map. The compass can be used to test where the sun rises and sets and where in the garden sunlight will fall at different parts of the day.

Spencer argues that a conventional paper map can reveal more than electronic versions like Google Maps by identifying local amenities such as train stations and post offices.

Prospective buyers may look like they are preparing for a Himalayan trek but it will help them gain a better understanding of the house.

Another tip is to view the property both at night and during the day. Houses that seem perfect in daylight can seem less appealing if a howling dog or loud nightclub disrupts your sleep.

Spencer also gives buyers a checklist of things to look for when viewing homes including central heating, cracks, double-glazing and door security.

For brokers, the most interesting chapter is on finance and how to obtain a mortgage. Spencer highlights brokers as one method of obtaining a mortgage and tells first-time buyers to check their credentials on the Financial Services Authority register of regulated individuals.

He also warns that some IFAs and brokers might not be as independent as they seem, but curiously doesn’t mention direct deals.

The book advises buyers to quiz brokers about their fees, early repayment charges, porting the mortgage in future and whether they are whole-of-market advisers. He then explains the different types of mortgages from repayment and interest-only to fixed rates, trackers and offset deals.

There is a helpful list of all the fees associated with a housing transaction including arrangement fees, surveys, Stamp Duty and Land Registry charges.

Extra fees is one of the things first-time buyers are most surprised by so it is good to have a guide to prepare them for these costs. Overall, the chapter on finance is a good starting point for those new to buying property.

Brokers would be well advised to read this book and use it to give clients a smoother ride when they are buying their first home.

Review by Samuel Dale