Buying a home is the mature, grown-up thing to do. You know that, it says so in all the papers. Let's face it, one of the main pieces of ammo aimed at millennials is that they don't plan ahead and buy their homes, right? Ammo often aimed, it has to be said, by people in their sixties and seventies who bought their homes when they cost the same as a sandwich costs today.
Okay, that may be a small ... okay, huge exaggeration. But there is still a grain of truth in it. It has, statistically, never been harder to buy a home. People in their forties are still living with parents. Families of five are still renting. In this environment, surely buying a home is an undertaking only a certifiable idiot would enter into?
Well, no. It may be difficult, but buying your home is still worth it if you can do so. If you've been renting for a while, look at how much you pay in rent. Then check the value of your home, and look at how much you'd be paying in mortgage repayments if you bought it. Then silently curse your landlord and see the advantage of owning.
No, buying will not be easy. But there are some solid rules - let's call them commandments - which will keep you on the right track to break the chains of rental. And one day, own that home outright.
1. Thou Shalt Always Find Out Why The Home Is For Sale
When buying a new house, it is in your interests to know why the person selling has put it on the market. Don't expect them to come out and say "because I'm desperate for money", but their answer may be illuminating.
Often, the reason they are selling up may be because they are getting divorced and need to move. In such cases, although it's bad news for them, it can mean they're ready to accept a lower offer. Whereas if they say "I have my eye on a bigger place/I'm moving to London", they're going to hold a firmer line. People who need to sell will move more on price than those who want to.
2. Thou Shalt Not Think Thou Knowest Better Than Experts
You can take a lot on yourself when buying or selling a home. But, as a rule of thumb, if there is a job someone has to spend years qualifying for, assume you can't learn it in a week.
You can look over the financials and think "Yeah, they seem fine." Or you can ask an accountant. You can try to do all the paperwork yourself. Or you can consult lawyers who know all there is to know about mortgage and remortgage conveyancing fees and exchange of contracts. Your call.
3. Thou Shalt Control Thy Use Of Credit
It's inaccurate to say that using credit is a bad idea altogether. Indeed, if you want to get a mortgage, it's beneficial to show that you do use credit in a responsible manner. Showing years of credit card bills paid on time (and in full, if possible) will stand you in good stead. But if you're in the process of trying to get a mortgage, put your credit cards in the freezer.
If you have made a large purchase on credit recently, it affects your mortgagability (is that a word? It is now...) in a negative way. So avoid that. If you have money left over after the sale has gone through, and you want a new tumble dryer, get it then. Waiting can save you a lot of money.
4. Thou Shalt Not Buy Based On Emotion
You hear so much about the best ways to sell a house. How to arrange furniture, how to position lights and so on. There is the old classic of baking cookies or bread before a showing, to create a homely atmosphere. This is an attempt to play on a buyer's emotions, to make you love the house. It can work.
It can also be done in the space of a couple of hours. See what you're doing as buying a neighbourhood, not a house. The seller cannot fiddle local crime statistics or block out the smell from a nearby plastics factory. So research the area before moving. It may not put you right off the house, but it could provide wiggle room in negotiations.