9 Common Questions Asked By First Time Buyers

As part of our spring ‘Quiz Catalyst’ campaign, we invited first-time buyers to put their homebuying questions to our experts at a series of online and in-person events. Here we’ve answered the most common questions to help you get a clear understanding of the journey to homeownership as a first-time buyer. 

1) How do I start the home buying process?

We would recommend getting a clear understanding of your affordability as a good first step. This means that when you start your search you will be able to clearly understand what’s available to you, and will allow you to move quickly when you do find your dream home.

You can get a good overview by using our helpful Mortgage Affordability Calculator, but we’d recommend speaking directly to an independent mortgage advisor as well to make sure your results are as accurate as possible.

You can also find out more about the first steps you should take when starting your search by downloading our helpful buying guides.

2) When buying with Shared Ownership, can I only buy a 25% share to begin with?

No! Depending on the development you are interested in, you may be able to purchase a share anywhere between 25% and 75%. Read our Shared Ownership guide.

3) What’s better, Help to Buy or Shared Ownership?

Both schemes are great options for first-time buyers and which one is right for you will depend on a number of factors including where you are looking to buy, how much deposit you have and your income. With Help to Buy, for example, you may get access to better mortgage rates as you will take a mortgage out on a smaller proportion of the property price. Whereas Shared Ownership can offer those with smaller deposits a route to homeownership as you can buy as little as a 25% share of the property (paying rent on the remaining share).

It’s important to note the key difference between the two is that with Help to Buy you are purchasing the entire property, but with Shared Ownership you are just purchasing a share and have the flexibility to buy larger shares in the future until you own 100% of the property.

4) How do you decide who gets allocated a Shared Ownership property?

Where there are multiple applicants for the same home, there are a number of different factors that are taken into consideration when deciding who to allocate the property. This includes things like matching family size to property size, whether the applicant has a local connection, or whether they are armed forces personnel.

These factors can change for each development depending on the Local Authority, so it’s always best to check this with the sales team for the home you are looking to purchase.

5) What is a Mortgage in Principle?

A Mortgage in Principle (also known as an Agreement in Principle or a Decision in Principle) is a written indication from a bank or building society stating how much they might be prepared to lend you. It is not binding, but it is a very useful indicator of how much you are likely to be able to borrow.

Getting a Mortgage in Principle can help speed up your home purchase by providing confidence in your ability to purchase to the person or company selling your home. It’s worth remembering that lenders will have different criteria and may offer different loan amounts based on your circumstances. 

6) Can I make changes to my Shared Ownership home?

Your Shared Ownership home is yours, so cosmetic changes like painting, putting up shelves and hanging pictures are all absolutely fine!

The only time we request special permission is if residents are making more significant, structural changes to the home where it could impact the value of the property. As joint owners, we have a vested interest in ensuring the property retains its value. For instance, should an owner like to extend their home, then they would need to seek permission first.

7) Can I have pets in my Shared Ownership home?

Normally yes. At Catalyst most of our developments are pet friendly however, the pet policy can vary between developments so it is always best to talk to the relevant on-site sales team. The type of home you are buying and the access to outdoor space is all factored into the specific pet policy, which will be outlined in your lease.

8) How long does it normally take from first enquiring to moving in?

This really depends on the development you are looking at, as well as your own personal circumstances. If you’re viewing a property that is ready to move in, and you have all your finances in line, then sales can progress from first enquiry to completion in as little as 6-8 weeks, and sometimes even faster!

9) Can I use Help to Buy and Shared Ownership together?

Unfortunately not, you have to choose between the two schemes and there are specific benefits to both depending on your circumstances. A financial advisor will be able to help you decide between the two options based on your financial situation and what you are looking to buy.

Are you a first-time buyer with questions you need answering? Check out our helpful buying guides or contact us today.