Is now a good time to buy a property if you are First Time Buyer?

publication date: May 11, 2011
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Is now a good time to buy a property if you are First Time Buyer?

Kate Faulkner, MD of the independent property advice site Designs on Property says that the coming year may be a good time to buy a house depending on your ‘risk profile'.

As a first time buyer, if you buy now, it may be that prices in your area will fall (see below) and as long as you have secured a 10-20% discount off the value of the property, this should cushion you from future falls. Remember the discount is off the property's value, NOT the price the property is marketed at by an agent. To find the true market value, it's worth either doing your own DIY Valuation, allowing Designs on Property to do it for you or securing a valuation from a local surveyor that knows the area well.

So, if you do buy now, you might be able to secure a great bargain, but you have to cushion yourself in case property prices fall further due to the impact of the spending cuts. And if you are willing to take this risk, it's worth considering buying now.

The second question you need to ask is ‘is my local area rising or falling in value?". Currently at a national level, property prices in most areas are 10-20% below their 2007 peak when the average property price was £183,695 (Land Registry data). Prices on average fell to £152, 657 during 2009, then increased back to around £166,000 in 2010 and since then have fallen back to £161,000 in March 2011.

This is just the national picture though and what happens nationally versus what's happening in your area is probably completely different! The reason being is we are finding some areas, which tend to be the richer areas, high in equity and a good private economy, property prices are showing a recovery, slowly but surely towards 2007 levels. In other areas, property prices are still dropping, especially where home equity is low and the local economy is more reliant on the government and local authority which is cutting expenditure and increasing unemployment.

It's essential therefore before you decide to take some time to work out if your local property market is rising or falling, read our 'How to check out the local property market' article to find out how to do this, for free, yourself.

As a First Time Buyer, apart from understanding your local market and what risk you can afford to take, it is vital to protect yourself by securing a property for 10% less than it is true market value (ie not necessarily what it is marketed at).

It is essential to be able to afford to own the property for at least the next five years (ie to 2016). This should be (but it's not guaranteed) long enough for the economy, people's jobs and wealth to recover and property prices nationally to start rising again.

Finally, make sure you protect yourself from being forced to sell the property. For example, if you are sick, made unemployed or you have to move unexpectedly, check whether your property costs can be covered by renting out the property instead.

Alternatively, buy somewhere big enough to rent out a spare room to someone (which might be a friend). You can (depending on the local market) rent a room for up to £4,250 a year (or £350 a month) free of any income tax.


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