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When should I buy a house? Phil Spencer reveals advice for first-time buyers

The Location, Location, Location presenter shares his expert property advice

Sharnaz Shahid

The process of buying a house is no easy feat, and with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, there are now several new factors home buyers will have to consider when purchasing a property this year.

Here at HELLO!, we asked property expert Phil Spencer the all-important questions about the recent changes buyers need to be aware of and how the pandemic has influenced the property market.

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So if you are a first-time buyer planning on purchasing a house post-lockdown, take a look at the advice the Location, Location, Location star has to offer.

"It's been an unbelievable time in the housing market," he explains. "The market is exceptionally busy right now. Me and Kirstie [Allsopp] have travelled quite a bit during the last month. We went to different parts of the country and it's busy everywhere – although, it's probably not as busy in London."

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How are mortgage rates right now?

Mortgage rates are very low so whilst the market feels frothy, it can't keep going at the rate that it is currently at. It's climbing rapidly and that simply won't remain.

If you can find your dream place that you feel is fairly priced, you can afford it and you can get a nice long fixed-rate mortgage, then I'd go for it.

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The housing market is exceptionally busy right now

What about the competition?

Competition is rife, but there's no danger in holding off a little to see what happens. It can't continue at the rate that it currently is at. If you are going to go for it, my advice is: be as focused as you can about what you want and where it exists, just so you don't end up chasing all over town and not comparing like with like, because you really need to get to grips with the values and the possibilities in one area.

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Do your research and gather your paperwork

I think it's really important to develop as many personal relationships with agents in the area as you can. Don't rely on the internet, actually get out there and talk to agents. You want the agents to pick the phone up for you.

Don't judge a book by its cover

Virtual viewings are very good and a lot of photographs by agents are very good. However, I'm coming across some awful photos too. A lot of people are discounting properties that they see on the internet but when I get them into the houses, they say it's really nice and that they would have never come and seen it.

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Phil Spencer urges first-time buyers to fully do their research

Is haggling a good idea when it's a seller's market?

It is a seller's market so it is difficult to tackle as a buyer. You want to come across as prepared a purchaser as you possibly can.

You need to hone in on your finances, show your keenness and your ability to perform on the deal. There will be competition for the places that you're looking at so you want to present yourself in the best possible light - as somebody who is totally committed, has done their research, is fully organised, can do the deal quickly and can move at a fast pace. That would be key.

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Be flexible

You must demonstrate that you would be prepared to be flexible when meeting vendors. You need to keep yourself really up-to-date because the housing market is moving quite rapidly, and it's very busy. Things like market statistics and information on values need to be really up to date.

We do see some ambitious prices put on places and because of where things are, you don't want to overpay. The only way you can be more confident in your negotiation or with what you are prepared to pay is if you are fully informed. You have really got to get to grips with what's happening in your price bracket in your area.

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Be as prepared a purchaser as you possibly can

What about the government's new Help to Buy scheme?

It's a difficult one, isn't it? Because anything that helps first-time buyers has to be applauded. I like that, great, well done! But it is like pouring fuel on the fire because more people will buy and borrow more money; and house prices consequently will rise. So that has to be a concern.

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The other things I can't quite settle in my mind are that we got into the financial crisis in 2008 and the subprime lending. We got into that situation or the bank's got us into that situation because they were lending money to people that they perhaps shouldn't have been lending money to.

As much as I completely celebrate things that help people get onto the housing market, because I think it's a great thing to do for a myriad of different reasons, I have a concern if the government - and therefore us as the state - are underwriting 95% mortgages to people that perhaps couldn't afford them.

Is the whole thing going to happen again? This time it's the state - our government as the treasury (we the taxpayers) - who is lending money in situations where banks themselves aren't prepared to do anymore.

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