An impressive – and rapid – increase in the use of digital platforms across the sector over the past few months, and of course, resources like sharetobuy.com, means now could be a great time to start your property search.
In the first of our guest blog series, where we ask industry experts to give you the lowdown on current trends and property market news, we speak to Jade Turnstill, Marketing and Communications Manager for Share to Buy, the UK’s leading online portal for Shared Ownership and Help to Buy homes. Jade runs us through four steps to kick start your online property search as the industry goes increasingly digital.
In the first of our guest blog series, where we ask industry experts to give you the lowdown on current trends and property market news, we speak to Jade Turnstill, Marketing and Communications Manager for Share to Buy, the UK’s leading online portal for Shared Ownership and Help to Buy homes.
So, whether you’re just starting out or well on your way to purchasing your first home, here are some steps to help you continue your property hunt in the digital world.
- Get your finances in order: How much can I borrow? Who do I speak to? And can I do it digitally?
Looking at your finances is always the first priority with any property search – it’s important to determine how much of a deposit you can save, and what mortgage options may be available to you. To gather as much information as you can online, try using a mortgage calculator, which can be a great place to start in giving you an idea of what you can afford.
Contacting a mortgage broker is a great step you can take to help get your head around the mortgage process. A mortgage broker will be able to advise you on what mortgage product will suit your needs based on your financial circumstances, and assist with any necessary paperwork to accompany your application. If you’re using an alternative route to home ownership, like Shared Ownership or Help to Buy, it’s best to use a broker that is well versed in the area.
You can contact many mortgage brokers online to get a head start on the home ownership process – for example, you’ll be able to enquire about what documents you’ll need to apply for a mortgage. Getting your paperwork organised means that you’ll have everything in order and be ready to go when it’s time to apply.
What are your options: Would a government scheme work for me?
Shared Ownership is a government backed scheme that offers first time buyers an opportunity to step onto the property ladder by purchasing a share of their home, rather than the full value. With Shared Ownership, your deposit and mortgage is based on the purchased share value – meaning you will only pay a mortgage on the owned share, while paying a subsidised rent on the remaining, unowned shares. If you’re a first time buyer that cannot afford to purchase a home on the open market, Shared Ownership can act as a stepping stone to help you onto the property ladder.
There are a few general eligibility requirements including an annual household income of under £80,000 – or £90,000 if you plan to buy in London – and that you don’t currently own another home. However, some properties may have specific criteria so it’s always important to check with the housing association.
Help to Buy is another government scheme helping make home ownership more accessible by providing a loan of up to 20%, or 40% if you’re buying in London, of the value of your new home. The loan is interest free for five years, helping to keep costs down during your first years of home ownership. Help to Buy is available on specific new builds that are valued at less than £600,000 – you will also need at least a 5% deposit and be able to take out a mortgage for the remaining value of your home.
Location, location, location: Where would you like to call home?
The right neighbourhood is a key component of the property search. In a 2019 survey, over a quarter of respondents rated a thriving high street and proximity to transport links as important factors in choosing their new homes.
There are plenty of ways to research a location online, whether you’re set on a particular area or still deliberating a few. Neighbourhood guides from Time Out can help you find out more about an area’s personality while CityMapper or Google Maps can assist when plotting out your commute. Once you’ve settled on a neighbourhood, browsing a portal like Share to Buy will give you an idea of what is available and what you can afford – so you can explore your options.
Go virtual: Find out more information – and take a virtual tour!
Once you’ve established your desired location, budget, and have found a home you believe would suit, taking a virtual tour is a great next step. After social distancing rules were initially put in place at the start of lockdown, we saw an exponential increase in virtual tours. With the availability of such technology, it’s never been easier to experience a property remotely!
While many providers have now reopened the doors to their sales suites and show homes with new safety measures in place, most housing associations are still offering video and 3D tours for many of their developments, while their sales teams are available over the phone or video call to answer your questions as you explore the digital show home. It can be a great way to narrow down your shortlist before actually going to visit – and many buyers have even felt confident enough to reserve online.
L&Q’s Sales Team are on hand to help you at every step of your home buying journey. Click here to see a full list of currently available homes, and to get in touch with a member of the team.