Manage your budget
Now that you own your home it is important to continue keeping track of your finances
Use the Budget Planner to take note of your income each month and all of your major outgoings. These will usually include:
- Mortgage payment each month
- Buildings insurance
- Service charges (if any)
- Life assurance
- Household outgoings such as heating, electricity, telephone and broadband fees
- Other expenses such as weekly grocery shopping and going out
Recording your outgoings helps you see what you are spending your money on each month. Perhaps there are areas where you could cut back to help you save for anything unexpected.
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay the important bills, you should seek independent financial advice early on. Click on the links for more information.
Protecting you and your home
It is important that your home is always insured. Your lender will also require that you have this.
There are two types of insurance.
- Building insurance
- Contents insurance
If your home is an apartment, a management company may arrange building insurance for the entire apartment block. You should check this out. You should also ensure that any common or shared areas have appropriate insurance.
Below are some tips on home safety.
- Smoke alarm: Your home should have a working smoke alarm. The alarm should be tested every week.
- Carbon monoxide detector: If your home has a solid fuel or gas heating system, any gas appliances, or a stove, a carbon monoxide detector should be installed.
- Gas safety: If your home has a gas heating system or any gas appliances, you should have a Gas Safety certificate. These appliances should be checked every year to make sure they are safe to use.
- Mains shut off: Check where the heating, water and electrical shutoffs are located in your home.
It is important to keep your home in good repair and condition. If there is something that needs done make sure that you get a suitably qualified person to do the work.
- Check if the works need planning permission and/or building control approval from your local council. You can find information on your local council website.
- Check if you need the consent of any person or body to do the works. If you have a leasehold property, it may be that you need the approval of the lessor or similar person to carry out the works.
Depending on your circumstances there may be help in the form of grants to do certain works to the property. You should contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for further information.
You could also look at the Energy Performance Certificate for the home. It will give recommendations for works to be carried out to the home which will have a significant effect in reducing energy consumption and hence carbon emissions.
If your home forms part of a management company you will have to pay a service charge. You should also attend the meetings of the management company.
Similar to the way we shop around for the best deal when it comes to car insurance, mobile and broadband services, it is just as important to find the right mortgage product.
You should review your mortgage from time to time to check if it would be worthwhile to switch products or move to another lender.
- A product transfer is when you switch products with your existing lender.
- Remortgaging is when you move your mortgage from one lender to another.
A good time to think about this is shortly before you come to the end of a fixed mortgage rate. Depending on your circumstances, you may find that you could save money on your monthly repayments and/or be able to shorten the length of your mortgage term.
Below are some key steps to re-mortgaging:
- Start to think about a product transfer or re-mortgaging about three to four months before your current mortgage fixed rate deal expires.
- Find out the approximate amount needed to pay off your existing mortgage – this is sometimes called a redemption figure.
- You could ask your current lender what offers they have in place at the time and also approach other lenders for comparison – you can do this yourself or ask a financial advisor for assistance.
- If you own your home through shared ownership (i.e. Co-Ownership), re-mortgaging may be a good time to check if you are able to buy more of your home.
- Check the timing of your product transfer or re-mortgage as you may incur early repayment charges if you pay off your current mortgage during any early repayment period.
Managing difficult circumstances
If you fall behind in your mortgage payments it is important that you take action and do not ignore the situation. There are certain things that you can do and the sooner you do this the better the outcome may be. This is because your lender could bring court proceedings for possession and you risk losing your home.
If you think that you will have trouble meeting your mortgage payments, you should
- Make a budget – work out if you can afford to pay the arrears over a period of time in addition to your monthly installments.
- Check entitlement to benefits – check if you are entitled to any benefits which might ease your financial situation. Also, you may be entitled to apply for a loan for mortgage interest from the Department for Communities.
- Get independent advice – this could be from an advice agency such as Housing Rights, Advice NI, Citizens Advice or a solicitor.
- Contact the lender – tell the lender how you propose to pay the arrears. You could ask the lender to: change your payment date if that would help, extend the term of the mortgage or change the type of mortgage. The lender will come back to you indicating whether they agree to the proposal or not.
- Attend court – if the lender takes repossession proceedings against you, it is important that you or your solicitor attends court. You can find out more at the Department of Justice.
What should I do now?
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