Buying a home

How to choose the perfect time to buy for YOU

February 23, 2023

Figuring out the right time to buy is one of the most difficult decisions you’ll face when buying your first home. Trying to understand whether prices are going up, down or holding steady in your particular area is a minefield. To help you get your head around it, we’ve put together a guide to understanding your local housing market, starting with the terms you need to understand.

Asking price, offer price or agreed price?

The asking price is the advertised price of a property, as set by the buyer and the estate agent. This is the amount the buyer is hoping to achieve, and it’s generally above what they actually expect to get. Occasionally the asking price will be set at below market value to facilitate a quick sale, for example if the buyer is keen to move for a new job or secure a particular new home quickly. But generally, you’ll find the asking price is quite a bit higher than what the buyer pays in the end – known as the agreed price or final sale price.

The final sale price is what you’ll pay once you’ve had the results of a survey (or done your own sleuthing) and discovered any work that needs doing to the house. This might be something cosmetic, like cracked tiles, or a job to make the house safe, such as addressing structural issues or rising damp.

Comparison website GetAgent analysed data from property portals and cross-referenced them with the HM Land Registry database of final sale prices across England and Wales. They found that buyers paid £13,303 less than the asking price on average. In areas like Kensington and Chelsea, you can expect to pay around £90,000 less than the buyer originally asked for.

Lower sale prices don’t only affect areas with expensive housing, however. In Gwynedd, North Wales and Blackpool – where the average asking prices are £200,556 and £119,199 – buyers can save an average of £15,000 and £7,000 respectively. That represents a healthy discount on what is probably the biggest purchase you’ll make in your life, and it could help you to buy now rather than waiting for house prices to fall in your area.

Hang on, aren’t you missing one?

Yes, the offer price. The good news is that you decide what you’re willing to pay for a home. But when you find your dream home (spacious kitchen, close to the office and that view!) it’s all too easy to get carried away and throw your maximum budget in at the first bid.

How much you’re willing to offer is completely up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to offer 5-10% lower than the asking price. If the house has been on the market for a while, or if houses in your area are selling slowly, you can probably pitch your offer even lower.

If you’re looking for more tips on getting your dream home at the dream price, check out our first-time buyer’s guide on how to negotiate your offer.

Asking price, offer price and agreed price can vary considerably when buying your home

Should I wait for my local housing market to collapse?

Tldr; probably not. We’d all like to pounce on our dream home right at the moment prices reach their lowest point, but that moment can only be identified in hindsight and oftentimes it mightn’t line up with the optimum time for your personal circumstances.

If house prices do flatten or go down, they are likely to do regionally. If you’re based in areas like the Midlands or the North East, house prices could come down over the next couple of years. But if you’re based in London or the South East, it is likely that they will remain more stable. And, because of the lack of available housing and the UK’s growing population, many experts assert that house prices are unlikely to collapse completely. If you’re waiting to buy because you’re hoping for house prices to plummet, you might have to wait a long time.

It’s difficult to predict exactly how house prices will respond to the rise in interest rates and slow economic growth, especially following the chaotic final quarter of 2022. Karen Noye, a mortgage expert at Quilter, explains that house price fluctuations need to be considered on a longer time frame:

“Therefore, while it is likely that the cost pressures associated with the current economy will cause there to be a drop in house prices in the short to medium term, when viewed through a historical lens a 10% or even 15% drop would represent a minor blip in a housing market that has largely had a significant upward trajectory. This slowdown in the market and a potential increase in housing stock will, at least during the start of 2023, be likely to continue to depress prices.”

So, finding the right time to buy your first home might involve a close look at your hopes and ambitions, rather than scrutinising interest rates and house price fluctuations.

How to figure out the best time to buy for YOU

Personal circumstances are always a factor in buying your first home. For many people, owning a house provides a sense of security and the opportunity to build the future they’ve dreamed of. Timing your purchase correctly can help you achieve those dreams.

For example, job security and income are a major factor in securing a competitive decision in principle from a mortgage lender. If you’ve got a secure job right now but you’re considering returning to studying or thinking about a change of career in the next few years, you’ll need to think about whether you’ll be able to borrow the amount you want on a reduced income.

And, while having a child doesn’t mean you can’t have a full-time job, many people choose to work part-time when they have a baby to save on childcare costs and spend quality time with their little one. Even if house prices have gone down in your area, you still need to convince a mortgage lender to offer you sufficient finance at a good enough rate and that will be more challenging if you don’t have reliable, full-time employment. So, if you’re itching to start a family or have another baby, it could be better to buy a home first.

Ready to take the plunge?

If you’re fed up of waiting for the perfect purchase moment to present itself, StrideUp can help. Our shared-ownership model could boost your buying power and help you achieve your dream of home ownership sooner than you think.

For a no-obligation chat, call one of our friendly StrideUp advisers today on 020 3875 3585.

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