My experience as a first-time-buyer: advice on getting that mortgage

I’ve owned my flat for just over a year now, and I still have nightmares about trying to get my mortgage. There are a few things I wish I'd known before I got started.

Check your credit rating

The best mortgages are only available to people with excellent credit ratings, so it’s essential to check yours before you start house hunting. If there’s anything you need to change, give yourself as much time as possible to do this.

I had a few surprises about my credit rating when I was applying for my mortgage. I had moved home with my mum and changed all my bank details to match. I’d also paid off as much debt as I could, but not closed any lines of credit since credit available also contributes to a good score. I had been careful not to open any new lines of credit, as this will bring your credit score down temporarily.

But I hadn’t thought to move my electoral registration to my mum’s house. I was commuting 50 miles, and my old voting place was more convenient. But your electoral registration is another piece of the puzzle for your credit rating, further verifying your address. It’s essential to get this sorted as soon as you can.

Get an adviser

I was totally bamboozled by mortgage jargon and had no idea how to decipher the options available to me. That and every check of your credit rating by a lender bumps the rating down a bit. I invested in a mortgage broker, recommended to me by a colleague, to help out. The money spent was more than made up for in terms of getting the best mortgage available to me, and it made the whole process much less stressful. My advice would be to opt for an independent advisor with plenty of experience.

Be prepared for road bumps

Before house-hunting, I was offered a “mortgage in principal” – the lender had taken a look at my credit rating and income and would be happy to kit me out with a mortgage once I found a property. So I found the perfect flat and managed to get it within budget with some furniture thrown in. I contacted my adviser to get the ball rolling with that mortgage I had been promised.

But remember I said every time a lender checks your credit rating, it bumps it down a bit? Well, before finalising my mortgage, the lender checked my rating again. It was lower than the last time they checked – because of them checking it. Apparently, my credit rating had been just good enough last time, and now it was too low for the mortgage they offered me … or any mortgage at a 95% LTV.

I was devastated. No-one else wanted to give me a mortgage for the amount I needed. I expect that this is less of an issue if you’re buying a home with a partner – two salaries makes your affordability much more attractive. But I was on my own, and I felt like I was facing brick walls on every side. Meanwhile, the seller’s lawyer was on my back to find out what was wrong, since I had to push the entry date back.

In the end, I managed to scramble together more cash and bring my deposit up to 10%. Bringing the LTV down was the miracle I needed, and I finally got my mortgage.

It’s worth it in the end

Now I’ve been there for over a year, and I’m finally able to put my own stamp on the place. I’m starting to replace some of the hand-me-down furniture, and decorating the place in my own style. I can still keenly recall how awful that time was. But the feeling of finally getting my mortgage approved and collecting my keys – nothing can beat it. It was a hard slog, but it’s been totally worth it.

I hope from reading this that you might be more prepared for your journey to owning property. It’s a stressful time, but going in armed with knowledge will make it so much easier.

Share in the comments any advice, tips or surprises you came across when buying your first property. And if you’re about to be a first-time-buyer – good luck!

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