Want to take advantage of that stamp duty holiday? Here’s the expert’s guide for first time buyers

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Photo Credit:British GLAMOUR

Thinking of buying your first home? Here’s everything you need to know, plus why now may *actually* be the best time to buy…

Bianca London
What about the rest of our finances? Do we need to do anything?
“Have you checked your credit score?” asks Andrew, “Your credit score impacts whether or not your mortgage application will be successful so it’s vital that you check it before applying. You can check your score for free via ClearScore, MSE’s Credit club and Credit Karma. There are a number of ways you can improve your credit score such as registering on the electoral roll at your current address, checking for mistakes on your file and making sure you pay phone and internet bills on time.”
Should we get professional help?
“Yes!” says Andrew, “There are many different mortgage deals to pick from, so choosing the right one can be tricky. It can depend on several factors, so it’s a good idea to do some research and talk to a mortgage broker or advisor.”
I suppose that will cost MORE money?
“A big myth is that you have to pay for mortgage advice,” says Cassie, “Every mortgage broker in the UK gets paid by the lender for placing your mortgage with them, and many brokers charge the homebuyer around £200-£500 too. BUT there are free brokers online, including Habito. Another
is that mortgage brokers often also get access to better rates. So, be sure to check with a free broker what rate they could get you, as it could help you save even more on a deal.”
Can we get any government help?
“If getting a 15-20% deposit together isn’t an option for you, but you do have a 5% deposit, then you could look at using the Government’s Help to Buy Scheme,” says Cassie, “This is still available to you if you can also meet the other criteria for getting a standard mortgage. Once the Government loan of up to 20% of the property value (40% in London) is included, it means you’ll need to qualify for a standard mortgage for the remaining amount – so either 55% or 75% of the value of the home.

What other advice do you all have?
“You need to get yourself in the
best financial shape
you’ve ever been in your life so lenders can view your mortgage application more favourably,” say Ashley and Eve, “Improving your financial health involves reducing any debt you have, cutting back on non-essential purchases and reviewing your credit score to see if it needs improvement. Working on all these elements will put you in better shape when it’s time to apply for a mortgage.”
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“Plus, given all the paperwork requirements associated with the mortgage process, do yourself a favour by getting your financial paperwork in order at the beginning,” they add, “There’s a few key things you’ll need: three months’ of bank statements, three months’ of payslips and your passport or driver’s license (please make sure they are up to date).”
This sounds like a LOT of work- is now the right time?
“If you know you want to buy, get on with it!” says Cassie, “ Buying a home can take months, depending on how long the home-buying chain is, and if there are any delays for any reason. The stamp duty cut is available for those who complete on, or by, 31 March 2021 which is only 7.5 months away. We also don’t know if there’ll be a second Covid-19 wave of infections in winter or any local lockdowns, so if you’re considering buying this year, don’t hang back for the sake of it – start looking at properties now!”

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