Hello Google – what are the main questions being asked by first-time buyers?
By Ellen Bowers | 17th May 2017
Online estate agents Tepilo look at the search engine questions that are most popular among the growing first-time buyer demographic.
What are the questions most likely to be asked by first-time buyers? It’s something that will be as useful and fascinating to first-time buyers as it is to sellers targeting their homes towards this ever-growing demographic.
New research carried out by home builder Strata, which has 16 developments across Yorkshire and the Midlands, has helpfully revealed the top questions asked by first-time buyers as they enter the intimidating world of mortgages, credit scores and interest rates for the first time.
As is the modern way, first-time buyers turn to the internet for assistance, advice and reassurance when it comes to buying that crucial first property.
To come up with its findings, Strata utilised Google search data to pinpoint some of the most commonly searched for phrases from the first-time buyer demographic. “First time home buyer”, for example, received 9,900 average monthly searches, while the more practical, functional question of “how to get a mortgage” received 5,400. This was closely followed by “how to buy a house?”, which received around 3,600 monthly searches on average.
To gain an even greater insight into the mindset of first-time buyers, Strada also trawled the web to reveal the top web-based discussions over the last year and uncover the most pressing questions first-time buyers had to ask. Despite it being a personal, individual thing based on circumstances, salary and other variables, Google was asked 325,000 times “how much can I borrow?”, even though this is a question that the search engine would never be able to answer.
Meanwhile, 64,800 searches were made in the last 12 months regarding mortgages and how first-time buyers can go about getting their first, while “how to buy a house” received 43,200 searches. Worryingly, 34,800 searches were made for “what is a mortgage?”, suggesting that many younger buyers simply aren’t aware of what this most important part of a housing transaction entails.
As we’ve written about before, mortgages can be a complicated minefield, so it’s perhaps not surprising that they cause such uncertainty and confusion. The internet can help, up to a point, but it’s best to speak to an experienced mortgage professional before making any major decisions. Many banks, building societies and other lenders have in-house mortgage teams, while independent mortgage advisers are also available and there are specialist websites dedicated to mortgage advice such as Which? Mortgage Advisers and the Mortgage Advice Bureau.
Other searches that were popular among first-time buyers on Google included queries over how long it takes to buy a home (15,600 searches in the last year), what Help to Buy constitutes (10,560 searches) and how best to save for a property (7,080 searches). Less frequently asked were questions about the cost of solicitors’ fees (4,680 searches), queries over what a homebuyer survey is (2,040 searches) and how much stamp duty will set buyers back (1,680 searches).
While it’s understandable that first-time buyers have a number of burning questions about a number of different issues, it may not be the wisest move to be seeking answers to these home-buying queries anonymously via Google. The internet can be an excellent starting point, but it’s also full of information from a wide range of sources (not all of it helpful, correct or up to date) which could simply serve to confuse and befuddle first-time buyers even further. Many first-time buyers might not be aware that help is out there, in the form of independent mortgage advisers, estate agents and the websites we mentioned above, which will be more tailored and useful than generic web searches.
What’s more, the government has a wide range of information about mortgages, buying a home and its flagship Help to Buy scheme on its various gov.uk websites, which buyers are well-advised to check out.
Equally, if you are selling to first-time buyers there are a few things to consider. They are likely to be seeking a starter home – a flat, home or apartment at the more affordable end of the market, often with one or two bedrooms – and are also likely to be aged between 25 and 40, with designs on a property that is modern, well-furnished and commuter-friendly. If you have a home close to good transport links, this is likely to be especially attractive to first-time buyers. Homes near to areas with buzzing nightlife or a good restaurant/bar scene will also have significant appeal.
Generally speaking, first-time buyers also prefer newer properties. Strata’s research showed as much, with its analysis of Google Trend Data revealing a year on year rise in people browsing for new build homes across the UK, with 3% year on year growth in this specific search term. Many of the buyers seeking out new build homes will be first time buyers, eager for a slice of contemporary, 21st century living.
First-time buyers are becoming an increasingly important part of the buyers’ marketplace – with government schemes, buy-to-let tax changes and a growing number of lenders deliberately targeting this demographic all helping to increase its influence and scope. As a result, sellers should definitely be considering tailoring their homes towards this particular market. The demand is certainly there.
As ever, a clean, welcoming, well-maintained home will appeal most to would-be buyers. If your property has certain attributes that make it particularly appealing to first-time buyers – for example excellent train links or close proximity to a town or city centre – don’t be afraid to shout out about these when they come to view your home.
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