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5 tips for First Time Buyers

First Time Buyer, Mortgages
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5 tips for First Time Buyers

1. Find out how much can you borrow?

It is rarely as simple as saying a lender will lend First Time Buyers up to X times your earnings anymore as lenders have tightened up their underwriting in lieu of the credit crunch.  Before underwriting your borrowing capacity the lender will want to know?

  • Details of your Income
  • Details of your expenditure
  • How much of a deposit you can put down?

Each lender has different criteria and will estimate your borrowing capacity differently which makes the need to get advice even more prevalent as these calculations often include a credit search and too many can be damaging to your credit score.

2. Budget, Budget, Budget

In buying a property you will likely incur some fees along the way such as

  • First Time Buyer Northern Ireland (NI)Surveys
  • Stamp duty
  • Land registry fees
  • Conveyancing
  • Arrangement fees
  • Moving costs

On top of that once you have bought the property you could also be responsible for meeting the additional cost of all the following expenses (depending on your personal circumstances):

A good budget is essential in preparing yourself for what lays ahead.

3. Choose the right rate for you

Generally speaking (always dangerous to speak generally about personal financial circumstances but we’ll go for it) most First Time Buyers opt for a fixed rate as this means they know exactly what they a paying for the first 2, 3 or 5 years.  This obviously depends on the market at the time but is a sensible approach especially in the current market with rates at historic lows.

4.  Timing, how long will it take to get a first time buyer mortgage?

This will vary from week to week and from lender to lender.  Those with the most competitive deals will often take the longest as there is more demand for the product.  In today’s market it could take from 2-4 weeks at best and 8-10 would be a reasonable estimate for the worst case scenario.

The key is to approach the lender prepared, you need to have all the answers and documentation ready along with your deposit etc. and a good Mortgage Adviser can help you with this.

5. Get independent mortgage advice

Of course we would say this but here’s why:

  • Buying your first home is stressful and as such it is worth speaking to a mortgage professional that will guide you through the process from start to finish.
  • Deposits, rates, affordability and terms for First Time Buyers vary from lender to lender and this needs to be matched to your circumstances.

An Independent Mortgage Adviser will help you from start to finish including finding a suitable lender, working with Surveyors, your Solicitor and making sure you have any necessary insurance.

Images courtesy of Sunfox on Flickr

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This page does not constitute advice and should not be taken as a recommendation to purchase or invest in any of the products/services mentioned



What is the Help to Buy Scheme and how does it work?

First Time Buyer, Help To Buy, Homebuyer, Mortgages, Remortgage
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What is the Help to Buy Scheme and how does it work?

The Help to Buy scheme helps homebuyers and First Time Buyers who don’t have a lot of savings to buy a home.

The Help to Buy scheme is available to those who have a 5% deposit to put towards the purchase of a property.

Help To Buy Mortgage

How does the Help to Buy scheme work?

As with any mortgage application you need a good credit rating and to buy a home through the Help to Buy scheme you will need to have a 5% deposit.

Once you have found a suitable property you will then need to find a suitable Help to Buy mortgage from a willing Lender.  The Lender then applies to the government for a guarantee on your loan of up to 20% of the value of your property, which means if you default on your mortgage and the property is repossessed the Lender will be liable for this portion of the loan.

Who are Help to Buy schemes available to?

Help to Buy mortgage schemes are available to first time buyers, homeowners moving home and potentially those who need to remortgage.

Unlike other schemes the Help to Buy scheme will accept both new builds and second hand properties.  The property must be valued less than £600,000 (£400,000 in Scotland). Second homes and Buy to Lets are excluded from the scheme.

How do I apply for a Help to Buy mortgage?

A good Mortgage Adviser will help you source a suitable mortgage from a lender that operates in the Help to Buy scheme.

Remember there will be additional costs above and beyond the required 5% deposit, such as

  • Mortgage application & booking fees
  • Survey costs
  • Solicitor’s fees
  • Mortgage Advice fees
  • Buildings and contents insurance and life assurance

Of course the lender will have to carry out the usual checks on prospective borrowers such as assessing their credit report, assessing affordability including the ability to cover repayments if the interest rate increases.

Images courtesy of kennymatic on Flickr



5 reasons business owners should consider a SIPP to buy commercial property

Business, Pensions, SIPP
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5 reasons business owners should consider a SIPP to buy commercial property

A Self Invested Personal Pension or a SIPP can purchase almost any form of commercial property depending on your SIPP provider’s own rules. The most common commercial property to be placed inside a SIPP is a Business Owner or Owners trading premises.  SIPP providers are particularly keen on this type of property as the business owners are also the tenants they have a vested interest in the property.

There are plenty of good reasons to consider SIPPs for your commercial property purchase but here are 5 of the best:

 SIPP Owned Commercial Property

1. To Save Tax

No-one wants to pay tax and there are plenty of good legitimate ways to reduce your tax bill, one of which is using a SIPP to purchase your trading premises.  Once the property is held within a SIPP the company will pay a market rent to the SIPP which is a tax deductible expense.  Within the SIPP itself the rent is received free of income tax.

When you sell the commercial property there will be no CGT payable and potentially no IHT on death and this makes buying your trading premises through your Self Invested Personal Pension incredibly tax efficient

2. Ability to raise funds

Getting commercial finance is not a straight forward process and requires a minimum deposit of around 30%. This leaves a loan-to-value of 70% and would still be considered quite high risk especially in Northern Ireland given the last few years.

A SIPP can borrow up to 50% of net scheme assets, so if you have £200,000 in your SIPP you can therefore buy a commercial property for around £285,000 after expenses (£100,000 of which would be a mortgage). In this circumstance the mortgage is restricted to 35% which makes the commercial mortgage quite low risk for the bank.

Not only that but SIPPs are not restricted in who they borrowing from, only that this must be on commercial terms, as such you can borrow the extra funds from a Business Angel, a friend, a family member even your own Business.  This affords you a lot of flexibility in terms of your borrowing.

3. Pooled Investments

SIPPs can club together with other SIPPs held with the same provider, businesses and/or individuals to purchase commercial property. This provides added buying power, for instance a combination of 10 SIPPs, businesses or individuals with £100,000 each could buy a property for £1.5 million (£500,000 mortgage)

4. Future Development

The funds within the SIPP will build up over time from both contributions and on-going rental and along with investment growth this could lead to a considerable pot of money.  Not only can the SIPP pay for development and improvement works to the commercial property, it can also be registered for VAT to claim the VAT costs back.

5. Asset Protection

We all know someone whose business has gone bust in the recession and it certainly brings home the risks involved with running your own business.  If your commercial property is owned by your SIPP then it is ring fenced from creditors in any future Bankruptcy proceedings giving you an extra layer of security.



Of course there are disadvantages to investing in a commercial property through a SIPP and these must also be considered before making a decision.  As such here are 5 disadvantages of investing in commercial property through a Self-Invested Personal Pension:

  1. As the Property will be legally owned by the SIPP, business owners can feel they have a lack of control
  2. The property cannot be used as collateral for future loans to the company
  3. As the company are will be the tenants it will have to pay a market rent
  4. On retirement of the investor and if the SIPP wishes to raise finance the property will need to be valued incurring additional costs for the SIPP
  5. The SIPP will lack diversification if the property represents the main asset of the SIPP

Image courtesy of VGB Studios on Flickr



Bank of England Base Rate held at 0.5%

Mortgages, Savings

Bank of England Base Rate held at 0.5%

Although not much of a surprise the BoE Monetary Policy Committee has announced that rates will be held at the record low of 0.5%. The base rate has been held at 0.5% since March 2009 and the Bank has indicated that the rate will not rise until the unemployment rate falls below 7%.

Under the guidance of Mark Carney the Bank predicted that the unemployment rate would not fall below 7% until 2016 though, many experts feel that given the strength of UK’s economy this could happen in 2015. The June-to-August figures have the unemployment rate at 7.7%.

Good news for existing mortgage borrowers, especially those on low variable rates but continuing bad news for savers with money held on deposit.

Auto Enrolment Solutions For Small Business | Workplace Pension Design

Auto Enrolment
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Auto Enrolment Solutions For Small Business

Workplace Pension Design

Two employees discussing Workplace PensionsAt From Acorns Financial Planning Ltd we offer small to medium sized employer’s (SME) a clear and concise Workplace Pension Auto Enrolment service.

Although many large employers have passed their staging date and are in full swing in terms of automatic enrolment most employers are only at the beginning of their journey.  The Pensions Regulator (TPR) continues to update their guidance for employers and our independent Financial Advisors at From Acorns Financial Planning can help guide you through the maze by providing practical help to those who are not sure how, when and where to start.

We provide SME’s with help and professional advice to help them understand the impact of automatic enrolment on their business and their duties going forward.  With our guidance together we will design a suitable automatic enrolment solution for you to meet you Workplace Pension reform duties.

Our Auto Enrolment Advice service will:

  • Gather all the required  information
  • Detail your specific staging date
  • Review any current pension schemes and assess their suitability
  • Assess your workforce
  • Provide precise guidance and support through the implementation phase

5 Top Tips For Employers On Auto Enrolment

Auto Enrolment
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5 Top Tips For Employers On Auto Enrolment

It is essential not to underestimate the challenge Auto Enrolment poses for employers, both large and small, however tackled in the correct manner and it could be rewarding for both employers and employees. Here are 5 top tips for employers to follow to ease the transition.

A small Businessman pondering AutoEnrolment

1. Learn and understand your auto enrolment deadlines:

Each employer has been, or soon will be, given a Staging Date based on their number of employees on 1st April 2012. It takes 12 to 18 months to prepare for Automatic Enrolment and many employers find their staging date is earlier than they thought so get like the scouts and be prepared.

2. Nominate a point of contact as soon as possible:

Better still implement a project team including your payroll and HR people and a ideally Professional Adviser to act as co-ordinator to ensure all the affected roles understand and agree upon each decision.

3. Agree an auto enrolment implementation schedule:

If you have an existing workplace pension scheme you will need to review it to see if it is fit for purpose, requires tweaking or a complete overhaul. Every employee must be assessed and categorised to decide who will be auto enrolled and who will not.

4. Make sure your payroll systems can cope:

You will need implement procedures to identify the eligibility of every single employee, deduct the correct levels of contribution and produce the relevant communications at the right time and on each pay period, be that weekly, four weekly, monthly or any combination of these. Manual data manipulation may be required and will require strict procedures

5. Install processes and implement staff communication:

One of the key methods to easing the transition for your employees will involve consulting with staff right from Day 1 and throughout the Auto Enrolment process. Employees will have questions and it is imperative that you provide these answers proactively or you risk being inundated with queries and concerns later.

There are many other factors to consider such as should you use postponement? Is salary sacrifice suitable for your company? What about data protection issues? But then these are simply our 5 top tips and we would be more than happy to speak to you if you have any questions.

It’s nice to be sociable

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Financial Planners on Social Media

Image by BirdBrian on Flickr

It’s nice to be sociable

From Acorns Financial Planning are ready to connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ through the links below.  We plan to share interesting and informative articles from the world of finance for individuals, small businesses and trustees.

If you have any questions or suggestions let us know and we’ll certainly blog about it (within reason of course).

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn  | Google+

Financial Planning Northern Ireland

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What is Financial Planning?

Financial Planning is an ongoing process which involves setting goals around how you wish to spend the rest of your life and then helps you make clear financial decisions that can help you achieve your goals.

Good Financial Planning is not about simply buying products like an investment or a pension but aligning plans, new or old, with your life goals.

Your Financial Plan may be quite straight forward such as simply making sure that your family are protected if you were to fall ill or worse and you may feel comfortable building your own plan.  Of course we would always advocate the benefits of engaging the help of a good Financial Planner and for more complex financial requirements the need for quality financial planning becomes even greater.

At From Acorns Financial Planning we usually create a financial plan in four steps:

  1. Develop an understanding of your current financial situation and establish your life’s goals
  2. Analyse your current financial position & develop a plan for achieving your goals
  3. Implement an agreed plan to achieve your goals
  4. Review and make adjustments to your plan on an annual or bi-annual basis

Financial Planning involves establishing short, medium and long term goals. Estimating the cost of each of these goals and prioritising them so we can create a financial plan to achieve them. We know that life will throw a few spanners in the works and will build this into your plan.

At the end of the process you should have peace of mind that you and your family are on track for the future you desire.

From Acorns Financial Planning Ltd are based in Tyrone, Mid Ulster and provide a comprehensive Financial Planning service to both personal and business clients across Northern Ireland and the UK.


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