First-time buyers can get a free £1,000/yr to help buy a property
If you’re a first-time buyer aged 18 to 39, you could get up to £32,000 from the Government by opening a new Lifetime ISA, which launched in April 2017. You can save up to £4,000 a year into the LISA either as a lump sum or by putting in cash when you can. Then the government will add a 25% bonus on top if you use it towards your first home (or retirement). So if you save the full £4,000 you'll have £5,000. And that's before interest or growth.
The maximum that the Government will contribute is £32,000, meaning you'd have a total of £160,000 including the bonus to put towards your first home. Though bear in mind it would take 32 years to reach this level!
Free house sale price tools
The web has become a goldmine of info to interrogate any property. Once only the preserve of agents and brokers, now done right, you can get an incredible amount of really useful information for free.
To see what any home anywhere went for going back a good few years, try sold-price property sites such as Nethouseprices and Rightmove.
Boost your credit score
Don't apply for mortgages before checking your credit files at the main agencies are error-free.
Small mistakes can cause rejection. For example, active accounts registered to old/wrong addresses can hurt badly, so whip through your credit files and ensure any active account (even historic and unused) is registered at the correct address.
Take snaps when viewing
Take photos on your mobile, as they'll be a useful reference point when all the homes blur into one.
Do check with the estate agent first, but don't feel like you're being cheeky.
Arrange a mortgage in principle
Few lenders offer actual mortgages if you've no property in place - they offer a ‘mortgage in principle' (MIP). This provisionally lets you know how much you can borrow, subject to finding a suitable property in a specified time.
Proof of your deposit and MIP can give you a big advantage when putting in an offer. It may mean a credit check, though one mark on your file isn't too big a deal. It's best to talk to a decent mortgage broker who'll often be able to help give an idea of what you can borrow.
Do bear in mind MIPs give absolutely no guarantees - they are subject to valuation. Mortgage rates shift daily, so always check whether a better deal become available.
Chase your solicitor
To put it politely, some solicitors work at their own pace. Make regular phone calls to get papers processed quicker. Remember, you're paying them. If they don't meet your expectations, try writing to a senior partner.