It’s official: we make our members very happy

Nothing makes us happier than making our members happy. And this year everyone’s smiling. Our customer satisfaction survey revealed that 97% of our members were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with our overall service in 2016.

It’s a fantastic result and the best we’ve had in recent years, surpassing our previous scores of 94% in 2015 and 93% in 2014.

It’s great news for everyone – but how exactly did we manage it?

The secret to our success

You can find the answer by looking back in time. We’re a Friendly Society, which means we were set up to make a positive contribution to people’s lives. And our past has a big impact on how we work today.

What exactly is a Friendly Society?

Friendly Societies were originally set-up before the Welfare State existed. Back then, if you died or were unable to work because of illness, your family would receive very little help – if any – from the state.

So the founders of Foresters Friendly Society all agreed to pay into a fund which could be used for their mutual benefit in times of need. That was in 1834, and we’ve been run for our members ever since.

What does it mean for me?

That was a long time ago, but it still influences what we do today. Here are some of the things that make us different from other financial organisations:

1. We don’t have shareholders.

Friendly Societies are a type of mutual – an organisation which is owned and run by its members. This means we have no shareholders to pay or answer to, so our profits go to our members and members help decide the direction our company takes. We re-invest part of our profits in improving our customer service – which seems to be working!

2. We’re all about affordable saving.

Foresters Friendly Society was set up to help people help themselves, by saving now for a time when they would need financial help in the future. That’s still our goal, which is why we focus on affordable savings.

We aim to make saving accessible to as many people as possible, so we offer a range of simple, flexible and affordable products – with our Tax Exempt Savings Plans you can start saving £25 a month for an adult or a child. And our ISAs have a minimum level of £50 a month or a £500 lump sum investment. We want to help people save regularly to build up a nest egg over time.

3. We take our responsibility seriously.

Because we’re run for the benefit of our members (not shareholders), we think very carefully about how we approach our savings and investments and prefer to take a balanced, long-term, lower risk approach.

4. You can get extra tax-free savings.

Most people don’t know that, thanks to our unique legal status as a Friendly Society, we can give you tax free savings in addition to your annual ISA tax-free savings allowance, which means that you can save up to a maximum of £25 a month in our Tax Exempt Savings Plan. Please be aware that tax rules may change and depend on individual circumstances.

5. Friendly by name. And by nature.

We’ve been supporting families since 1834. And we see no reason to stop now. We’re more than just a financial services provider – we’re a community of people and we care for each other.

When you become a policyholder you automatically become a member. That means the opportunity to have a say in how we’re run, and all kinds of extra benefits including optical and dental care and the chance to apply for discretionary grants from us. Plus we organise social and community events for our members too.

In a way, it’s no surprise our members are happy with us – we really care about them. It’s what our whole business is built on, it has been for over 180 years and it’s going to stay that way.

The content of this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. We do not offer financial advice. If you’re unsure as to the suitability of a product you should seek advice from a Financial Adviser. You may have to pay for this advice.

How to buy a house – a guide for first time buyers

So, you’ve started thinking about buying your first house. You’re feeling daunted, your brain is refusing to compute the number of zeros involved and you keep coming across made-up sounding words like ‘conveyancing’ and ‘gazump’.

It’s hard to know where to start, the figures are eye-watering and you want to get it right. But relax, it’s not impossible.

It is worth remembering that last year, 335,750 people managed to buy their first home. So we’re confident you’ll manage it too. Just stay positive, keep in mind the reasons you want that new home and remember that home owners are statistically happier than renters.

To help you get started, our guide to buying a home aims to make the whole process clearer and takes you through it a step at a time.

How to buy a house: 7 easy steps to follow

  1. Work out what you can afford
  2. Save for a deposit
  3. Get a mortgage and find a solicitor and surveyor
  4. Decide where you want to live
  5. Be proactive about finding properties
  6. Ask the right questions when you view
  7. Make your offer

1. What can you afford?

To avoid being disappointed later, or ending up owning a house you can’t afford, carefully work out what you can afford to pay each month before you do anything else. Make a budget to see what you’re spending and what you’ll be able to afford to spend on a house every month.

Don’t forget that you’ll need to cover home insurance, council tax and utility bills on top of the cost of your mortgage. Plus, you should also factor in the cost of maintaining your home.

2. Save for a deposit

This can seem like an impossible challenge but, with time and determination, it is possible. Having already taken a cold, hard look at your finances when making a budget, you may already have some ideas of where you can save money. We often think of things as ‘essential’ which aren’t and it’s very easy to spend more than you need to without thinking. For example, are you sure you’re getting the best price on your energy bills? Can you change the way you cook and eat to help you save money? Or are there ways you can earn more money? If credit cards are holding you back we have 8 tips to help you pay off credit card debt so you can start saving.

Making lots of small changes can help you save money regularly. And if you stick to it, you’ll be surprised how it can start to mount up.

3. Be ready to pounce: get a mortgage and find a solicitor and surveyor

To give you the best chance of getting your dream house, it helps to be ready to strike as soon as you find it. As a first time buyer you won’t be part of a chain, which will be a big help. It’s also a good idea to have a mortgage offer in place and line up a solicitor and a surveyor before you start looking, to help things progress quickly.

4. Decide where you want to live

Bearing in mind what you can afford, decide what you’re looking for in a house and narrow down the area for your search. Make a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ for the neighbourhood and the property itself – and be prepared to compromise! Our guide has a list of resources to help you find out more about your chosen area.

5. Be the first to know

Meet estate agents in person and build a good relationship with them, so they’ll be keen to help you with your search. It’s worth signing up to alerts on online property sites so you’ll know as soon as new properties are on the market.

6. Search strategically

Bring your checklist with you when you go to viewings and score each property against the list to help you be objective. It’s a good idea to ask the neighbours and the estate agent specific questions (like the list of suggested questions you can find in our guide) to help you make up your mind – this will also help you when it comes to step 7.

7. Make your offer

Once you find the house you want, think carefully about how much to offer. Too high, and you could overpay by thousands of pounds; too low, and you could be beaten by someone offering a higher price. Even after your offer’s been accepted, there’s always a risk you’ll be ‘gazumped’ (where the seller rejects your offer in favour of someone offering more money). Our downloadable guide looks at ways to help minimise this risk.

For more help on getting the home you really want, download our free guide now.

The content of this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. We do not offer financial advice. If you’re unsure as to the suitability of a product you should seek advice from a Financial Adviser. You may have to pay for this advice.