I was 26 when we bought our first home. We decided to skip the whole renting thing first because we thought we'd struggle to save enough if we had rent coming out as well as everything else, so we moved straight from our parents houses into a mortgage. You obviously don't need me to point out the massive commitment that comes with a house so its important to consider everything before deciding between renting and buying to ensure you are 100% ready!
The more deposit you can put down, the better! I'll be honest, at 26 I still wasn't entirely clued up with how everything works, I didn't understand how deposits would effect things, I didn't get this whole 'fixed rate over 25 years' business... I just sorta breezed through it and let Mike (my partner) do all the deciding. Now I'm more older (and wiser!) I would completely recommend to start saving as soon as you decide you want to buy a house - it makes sense now I think about it but the bigger deposit you have to put down, the less your monthly mortgage payments will be, which means more cash to spend on other things! I was too eager to move and I think we only started properly saving for approx. 1yr and only managed a 5% deposit. Luckily we found a mortgage provider that would accept this, a lot of banks want 10% deposit at the very minimum. Obviously, depending on the bracket of house prices you are looking at, this deposit may be able to be reached fairly quickly, again, depending on the price of houses you are looking at.
Don't punch above your weight in regards to house prices. Its all well and good looking at luxurious 4/5 bedroomed houses in the middle of no where with a garden the size of a jungle and an indoor swimming pool, however if you don't earn big enough bucks, your money just wont to cut (not to mention you wouldn't be accepted anyway!). Even if you can afford the mortgage payments, you have to consider everything else in between, it wont be a happy place if you're leaving yourself short every month. The best thing to do is start small and work your way up as the years go on. It might not be your dream house in your dream area but hopefully in a few years time after a promotion (or two!) you'll be able to upgrade! Although I wouldn't exactly class ours as a 'starter home' (they are usually smaller with no massive luxuries), I definitely don't intend on staying here long term. We're coming up to our 4yr anniversary, and within the next 3 years we are planning to move again.
It's not always about the size! Currently, me and Mike live in a 3 bedroomed house with a conservatory. No children, no pets, just us. I'll be honest, the size of the house appealed to me.. my head full of ideas of what I'd do with the spare room, how I was going to decorate the conservatory etc. In reality, once the novelty of a new house has disappeared, its all downhill. I remember when we were house hunting, my mum kept reminding me that there's 'only 2 of us' and 'the bigger the house, the more there is to clean' 'whatever...' I thought, but (as always!) mums really do know best and I can completely agree with her now, 4 years down the line! The cleaning drives me insane, 1 spare bedroom I've turned into my dressing room/study, the other room (which was going to be Mikes 'games room') and 4 years later its still a dumping ground (and a big one at that!). I think apart from my OTT collection of clothes, we would have still managed with a 2-bed house. I'm never on top of the cleaning...ever. So, moral of the story, only buy the space that you really need, unless you have the time (and willpower!) to clean!
Don't waste your money on a mortgage advisor. We did this and we could have done everything ourselves (admittedly with some help) and saved £300! You'd probably learn a lot more as well because your being forced to research it all yourself!
If you do happen to use a mortgage advisor, don't get talked into all the policies that they'll try and make you purchase. Young and naïve, we had no real clue what insurances we needed (apart from the obvious!). I remember after one visit, we had bought life insurance and some form of insurance for if any of us was off work sick. I think it took us nearly 2 years before we decided to get to grips with it all, assess all of our policies and cancel some! It makes me mad knowing how much money we wasted in those 2 years paying for an insurance that we never really needed. If circumstances were different (i.e. if I (God forbid!) had some form of illness but I could still work, I might have considered the latter policy, but we're both (fairly!) fit and healthy so we were putty in that advisors hands!
In conjunction with the one above, get new quotes annually for all your present insurances. Again, we were late on the uptake with this (simply because it's left to me to do!) but when I did it last year (I think for the first time!) I ended up saving us a massive £40 a month just buy changing companies when my renewal came round! Crazy!
That modern furniture is not always the comfiest! Buying your first home is probably the first time you will encounter buying larger furniture pieces. For the most part, I'm pretty happy with my purchases, but I remember going to DFS and buying a large corner sofa with a round cuddle swivel chair because I loved the appearance of it (and it felt comfy in the shop!). We also paid extra for it to have a pull out bed, for allllll those guests we'll be having. Have we ever had a guest over to sleep in 4 years? Nope. Waste of money. Do we use the cuddle chair other than to dump stuff on or for nieces/nephews to play on? Nope. Waste of money. Despite the appearance of it, is the sofa the most uncomfiest sofa I've ever sat on? Yep. Waste.of.money. We paid a lot of money for this as well. Moral of the story, be sure, and doubly sure of the purchases you make. Little tip (never buy bedroom furniture from Argos either!)
Assess your living situation. Are you out at work a lot of the time? Are there very few of you living at home? For us it worked out cheaper to be on a water meter as opposed to paying a set amount every quarter. We changed and now just pay for the water that we use, and now our bills are ridiculously cheap.
If you work full time and have your hands full of other social activities outside of work, chances are you'll have little real time to care for your house. Adapt things so its low maintenance - e.g. do any of you have green fingers? If no, it might be wise to change the garden a little - get rid of any grass in exchange for pebbles/slate etc. Pretty it up with some potted plants as opposed to bedding soiled plants. It might be a little expensive on initial pay out but in the long-term, having a low maintenance garden will save you so much time! Its so easy for me to spend almost a full day every couple of weeks in the summer in my garden just keeping on top of things.
If any of you are on the brink of buying your own house, good luck, but keep some of the above in mind!