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Eight tips for first-time buyers in London

Looking to get a foot on the property ladder? Times are tough, but not impossible – follow these pointers to make buying your first London home that little bit easier

By Dan Frost and Flo Wales Bonner |
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1 Buy with friends

Found the per fect pad but your relationship status is ‘complicated’? Make like Joey and Chandler and go in with friends. A ‘tenancy in common’ mortgage allows two people to each own 50 percent of a property – and should your co-hab comrade snuff it, the share passes to their next of kin. Just choose your buddy wisely. Do they blow their earnings on Asos within a week of payday? Probably not a safe bet...

2 Sick of renting? Turn to the ’rents…

Two-thirds of first-time buyers in London are supported by their parents. The other third? Show your folks this stat. Even if Ma and Pa don’t happen to be sitting on a fortune, they may be willing to be guarantors on your mortgage – promising to cover repayments if you can’t, so the bank will be more likely to cough up.

3 Go halves with the developer

Want to go it alone but not sure how? Shared ownership schemes let you buy some of a property and pay rent on the rest to the developers or local authority. You won’t own the whole of your new pad, and you’ll have to shell out for mortgage repayments, but you’ll need a smaller deposit for a smaller mortgage. And that’s a big upside.

4 Consider a newbuild

If you can live without a period fireplace, developers sometimes offer equity loans on newbuild properties because first-time buyers are appealing customers – they don’t need to sell anywhere else before they can move in. (And if you can’t live without a period fireplace, there are support groups for that.)

5 Embrace the lease (not the leasehold)

A lease option provider is like a kindly old uncle who buys you a property then lets you move in as a tenant, with the option to buy the place yourself once you’ve saved up. You’ll have to pay a deposit (as little as 2 percent of the value), but your purchase price is fixed when you move in, so it won’t matter if property prices rise while you rent. And you’re under no obligation to buy if you change your mind. Simple.

6 Harness the power of the world wide wonderweb

As well as being the internet’s most comprehensive source of property listings, RightMove allows you to browse sold prices for specific areas and postcodes, which you can compare to the asking prices of properties you’re interested in to judge how fair they are. If you’re feeling really sneaky, download a browser extension for Chrome called Property Track – this will flag up properties listed on RightMove that have had their asking price reduced, meaning you’re likely to have more bargaining power when it comes to thrashing out a deal.

7 Access Westminster’s money bags

It’s worth getting to know the government’s Help to Buy scheme. It offers buyers two options: an equity loan for up to 20 percent of a property value (newbuilds only); and a mortgage guarantee of up to 15 percent (from January 2014). Both come with small print but could help you get on the ladder with a much lower deposit than normal – so you’ll have more to spend on tasteful cushions.

8 Go under the hammer

Pick up a bargain property at auction. But be aware that these are often properties that couldn’t be sold on the open market. Do your research before that hammer falls, or risk making a Del Boy-worthy buying blunder. Except it won’t be funny, and you’ll have to explain the asbestos-lined shack in Brent to your partner.

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