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10 essential questions for a first-time buyer in Plymouth

First-time buyer

Buying your first home is a hugely exciting time. But where do you start?

If you’re looking to get on the property ladder, now is an excellent time to be a first-time buyer in Plymouth.

Estate agents in Plymouth are reporting stablising interest rates, better mortgage deals and lower-deposit schemes. Those factors mean that it is getting more and more affordable to buy your first home.

Being a first-time buyer can be an exhilarating yet daunting experience, fraught with potential pitfalls. One of the primary challenges is navigating the complex landscape of estate agency transactions, from understanding market trends to deciphering legal jargon in contracts.

Financial considerations also loom large, with hidden costs such as closing fees and property taxes often catching buyers off guard.

While buying your first home is exciting, it is crucial you approach the process with caution and seek guidance from experienced professionals.

Here, Lang Town & Country director James Clarke looks at the 10 questions you need to ask as a first-time buyer in Plymouth.

1. Is now a good time to buy a property?

“We are seeing a lot more first-time buyers now coming back into the market, which is brilliant to see. I think this is a contribution of various factors, particularly the interest rates starting to stabilise.

“Some lenders are making their rates very attractive now, together with some lower-deposit schemes as well, whether that be for 5% or 10% deposits.

“It’s making it far more affordable now for a first-time buyer to get into the housing market and get themselves on the ladder.”

2. What is my first step as a first-time buyer?

“The first thing any first-time buyer should do is actually find out how much money they can borrow.

“This is done in one of two ways. The first is to speak to your own bank, but I would highly recommend also speaking to an independent mortgage broker just because they’ve got a variety of different lenders they can choose from and products that will be available to you.

First-time buyer

3. What is an agreement in principle and how long is it valid for?

“An Agreement in Principle (AIG) is a document that will be issued to you by a bank, building society or mortgage broker, which confirms how much you can borrow with a specific lender.

“Most estate agents will ask to see a copy of this. When you’re making an offer on a property, they tend to last between one and three months, depending on your lender. 

“As a first-time buyer, I would strongly recommend asking your bank or building society for the time period for the specific AIR that you have received.”

“As well as your Agreement in Principle, there is one other key document that you need as a first-time buyer. 

“It’s really important that you have a copy of your proof of deposit. That means having your bank statement or a screenshot of your account to show the agent how much deposit you have to put down on the property you want to buy.”

4. What is the solicitor’s role in the buying process?

“A solicitor has a really important role in any property transaction, and is obviously very important for a first-time buyer. 

“The legal term for property transactions is known as conveyancing. Some people will use a solicitor or a conveyancer to purchase their property.

“They will check a variety of different aspects with regards to the legal title, and also make sure that your mortgage lender is happy with the property you’re buying, from a legal perspective.”

5. What is stamp duty?

“Stamp duty is a tax that is charged on property transactions in the UK. This is normally paid for by the buyer of the property.

“The good news currently for a first-time buyer is that until March 2025, stamp duty is exempt up to £425,000 on a property.

“This is obviously great news if you’re looking to buy your first home now.”

6. What are the additional costs of buying a home?

“One of the key things you should consider as a first-time buyer is the additional fees that are required

“Typically you’ll pay your solicitor / conveyancer fee, so it’s worth getting quotes from a couple of local solicitors just to get a comparison on the costs.

“Depending on your own circumstances, some people will use a removal company. So, you should also contact a couple of local removers just to get an idea of the costs involved in physically moving on the day of completion.

“Another key fee that is sometimes paid for by the buyer will depend on which mortgage product you’ve got. You may need to pay for a valuation or a survey, and sometimes you might want to get your own independent survey done as well.

“You should consider all of these factors and price them into your budget when you’re buying your first property.”


7. I’ve seen a property I like. What do I do now?

“The first thing a first-time buyer should do If you’ve seen a property that you like is go and arrange to view it in person.

“If you’ve already been to see it and you think this is the one for you, the next step is to contact the estate agent to make an offer on that property.

“The agent will then take that offer to the vendor, also known as the seller, to see if they would accept that offer. 

“An agent’s role is to negotiate the best price for their client in this transaction, so there’s always going to be a meeting point between the seller’s expectations and what you’re happy to pay. 

“If those two things can actually meet, then that’s great because that means the offer will be accepted and then you can move on to the next stage of the property transaction.”

8. How do I know if the price of a property is right?

“Most buyers, when they’re out viewing properties, will have done their own research by looking on various property portals – including Rightmove and Zoopla.

“You can also look at these portals to see historic sold prices in a particular area.

“I also think that when you’re on a viewing, you’ll get a feel about the right price for you to pay for a specific property.

“The good news is that when you get your mortgage, the mortgage company will also instruct a valuation. Your lender will physically go into the property to assess that they feel it is the right price, and that they would be happy to lend on the figure that you’ve agreed.”

renting out your property

9. How long will it take to buy my first home?

“In the UK, property transactions typically take between three and four months.

“This timeline can be accelerated, but some of the work would be down to you as the buyer. 

“I would say getting all your ducks in line when you start – including getting your Agreement in Principle, having a solicitor ready, and getting all of your paperwork that you can submit to the mortgage lender as they request it – will certainly speed up the transaction time.

“I would always ask the estate agent you’re buying from about the chain situation of the property. I.e. is the owner of that property buying somewhere else? And how long is that upward chain?

“This will determine how many transactions are linked to your purchase, and this could have a significant impact on your timeline.

“One other part of the transaction that a first-time buyer might overlook is if you are renting, it’s worth looking at how much notice you have to give on your rental agreement.

“You might want to try and tie in handing in your notice with buying your new property so that you don’t have a large period of time where you’re paying your first mortgage and rent at the same time.”

10. What is the last step before I move into my first home?

“As a first-time buyer, you’ll hear various terminologies when you’re buying a property, including the words exchange of contracts and completion. But what do they actually mean?

“Exchange of contracts is the legal term for when you are legally bound to buy that property. Typically at that point, your solicitor will be asking you for a 10% deposit. And at that point, once exchange of contracts has taken place, you will have a fixed completion date.

“The completion date is the exciting part. That’s when you get to get the keys for your new home, and you can physically move in. 

“So, on completion, what will happen is your money’s mortgage and deposit will be sent to the seller’s solicitor. Once these are received by the seller’s solicitor, they will typically contact the estate agent and your solicitor to say you have completed.

“Then you can come and collect the keys from your estate agent or from the seller directly, depending on what’s been arranged for the day of completion. And you’re ready to enjoy your new home!

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How do I get in touch with Lang Town & Country?

If you’re a first-time buyer and are thinking about purchasing your first home, please do contact a member of our team today and we’ll be more than happy to help you get started.

Plymouth Sales – 01752 256000 /

Plymstock Sales – 01752 456000 /

Waterside – 01752 200909 /

Land & New Homes – 01752 278499 /

Lettings – 01752 201010 /

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For help with the topics discussed in this article speak to our friendly team based at our modern new office at 6 Mannamead Road.

Our Sales, Lettings, Waterside and Land & New Homes teams are based in our bespoke building ready to help you. For enquiries in Plymstock, you can visit our dedicated branch on The Broadway – details on our contact page.

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