Aug 4, 2013

Buying for the First Time in Northern Ireland

The housing market has had a rocky road over the past few years and mortgages have been hard to come by. Now the situation is easing and some specialist providers are specifically serving the first time buyer. We look at the process of buying for the first time.

It wasn't so long ago that buying a house was pretty much the expected thing to do for most people. Mortgages had become relatively cheap and easily available. Some lenders offered 100% mortgages and at the height of easy credit others even offered greater than 100% mortgages, the balance to be used, presumably, for home improvements. Other companies offered self certification mortgages, where evidence of income was not required. These were originally intended for the likes of the self employed, who might find it difficult to provide evidence of earnings but the reality is that they could be used by almost anyone. The credit crunch in 2007 put an end to all that but now there are strong signs that the market is recovering and 25% of house purchases are by first time buyers.

The Challenges For First Time Buyers
It is good to see so many first time buyers coming back to the market but many estate agents Belfast has report that such buyers have a common set of concerns. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most reported concern is simply raising a large enough deposit to qualify for a mortgage with a competitive interest rate. The days of 100% mortgages seem to be behind us and the best rates are now usually reserved for those with a large deposit. The second most widely reported challenge is finding a suitable property. This can be especially difficult in cities and areas where property prices are high, meaning that first time buyers may have to look at moving away from friends and family to find affordable housing.

Personal Concerns
Many potential first time buyers are concerned about their personal financial security. Clearly the economy has been tough recently and jobs have not been as secure as they have been in the past. This has led first time buyers to postpone their first purchase until the economy improves. Other first time buyers report they are concerned about meeting the monthly repayments on their mortgages.

In the rental market, such people could simply move to cheaper accommodation but the mortgage is more of a fixed cost. With houses in the last few years often taking longer to sell, downsizing to a smaller house may not be so easy. For some estate agents Belfast has been a fluctuating market and this is again reflected in the concerns of first time buyers. Whereas house prices in the past were always expected to rise, the current market has been less predictable. It is more important than ever before, therefore, to find an experienced estate agent who has expertise both in the local area and in the first time buyers market. There is no doubt that such advice does exist and the savvy first time buyer will take advantage of it. Renting has become more common in the past few years, especially since the credit crunch began to bite in 2007, but there is no doubt that many people harbour aspirations to get onto the property ladder. Government initiatives and rising house prices will help.

Della Moris is interested in personal finance and real estate and writes widely on related topics. She has himself recently become a first time buyer NI after years of renting.

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