If you cant find anything in your price range that you love, the first thing to know is, you aren’t alone. Many First Time buyers find can’t afford their ideal home. In fact, even those already on the ladder usually have to compromise in some way when they buy.
Part of the reason is that when you are looking for a property, there are just 7% of homes owned (outright or with a mortgage) available for sale at any one time. When you know this, it’s quite a miracle anyone finds the property they want when they happen to be looking!
The other reason is that unlike factory-produced goods like cars, which are produced for every budget, where supply can be increased or decreased according to demand, property is in short supply. With people living longer, our population is growing and there are not enough homes being built to meet the demand. We are currently trying to fit four generations of people into three generations of housing stock!
What can you do if you can’t afford to buy what you want?
One of the reasons that renting has increased in popularity is that it’s often cheaper to rent in more expensive areas than it is to buy, especially when it comes to houses. So, one option might be to rent in the area you want, get to know it really well and wait for a property you can afford to come onto the market.
Another way to look at buying your first home is to remember it’s just that: it’s your first step on the ladder and all you want to do is secure a home of your own. It won’t be perfect. It might not have as many bedrooms as you want, the lounge might be smaller than you wish – or the property might not be as nice as the one you are currently renting. However, if it gets you on the ladder, this can be the next step on the way to the property of your dreams.
People will often move three or four times in order to secure the property they really want. Work out what you can afford and buy the ‘best you can’ for now and hopefully as property prices rise, you can build the equity (the overall value of the property, minus the mortgage or debt amount) in your home. As you build equity and hopefully earn more income, you should then be able to trade up to the next property, or two, and finally make it to your dream home.
Can you renovate to create your dream home?
In an ideal scenario, you could buy a fixer upper at low cost and spend the time investing in it and fixing it up to make it your dream property. There are multiple TV shows that romanticise this option, but for many people it's unlikely to be as simple as that.
Firstly, most First Time Buyers need a mortgage. The majority of the bargain properties that require a lot of work are likely to be unmortgagable, so they'll be snapped up by developers and landlords. If you are a cash First Time Buyer you will have more options here, but please seriously consider whether you have the skills, the know-how and the patience to do a renovation. You'll also need a significant amount in the bank to make the improvements, and everything always costs more than you think.
But, if you have experience in building or renovation, and are up to the challenge, then we'd recommend looking at a time when most people aren't house-hunting, like the run up to Christmas or the summer holidays.
Most people wouldn't consider buying a plot of landing and building on it, especially as a First Time Buyer, but there are options like ‘custom build’ where the plot and the build are done for you and you can choose from a selection of designs. The builder can do as much or as little as you want. So they might build the property until it’s ‘wind and water tight’ and then you can finish the property in the way you wish – subject to planning and building regulations.
If you prefer to build yourself, you can even use a Lifetime ISA to help save for a deposit, so it’s definitely worth checking out the options if you have a particular idea of what you’d like.
Access government schemes such as Shared Ownership or Help to Buy
If you have the need – or just the desire – to live in a particular area, but you can’t find what you are looking for at a price you can afford, it may be worth checking out what government schemes can help you. Schemes such as Help to Buy and Shared Ownership can help you onto the ladder if you are struggling to save for a deposit and/or struggling to get approved for the mortgage amount you need.
Although new, it also might be worth checking out the government’s new First Homes Scheme, if you are local to the area. This could help you buy a home for 30% or more lower than the market value. You will have to sell the property for the same discount in the future, but this could still help you gain some equity to secure your next home.
Remember, everyone, however much money they have, will have to compromise on what they want when it comes to buying a home. Few people actually ever afford or find their ‘dream home’, so don't go in with too many expectations.
When it’s your first home, you will probably have to compromise more than any other purchase you make. But, once you are on the ladder and have your own home, you will be able to increase your equity to put towards your next, better, home. No home is perfect, but it's up to you to decide whether owning now matters more than buying something ideal.