How to Buy Your First Home

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment. There’s plenty to think about so it can be difficult to know where to start. Use our timeline to find out more about the process, key stages and what fees to expect.

Stage 1

Finding a property you can afford

Before you start house-hunting, it’s a good idea to work out the amount you can afford to spend on buying a property and on your monthly mortgage payments.

This Affordability calculator will give you an estimate of how much you can borrow based on your income and outgoings. If you want more detailed advice our mortgage advisers will offer you free personal advice.

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Think about costs

Before you start house-hunting, it’s a good idea to work out the amount you can afford to spend on buying a property and on your monthly mortgage payments.

Remember your savings will have to cover not just the deposit but expenses such as mortgage fees (typically anything between £0-£2000), legal fees (typically £1,500 – £2,000), Survey (£400-£1,000) and Stamp Duty on properties costing more than £125,000. A useful stamp duty calculator can be found here.

Choosing the right mortgage

It’s never too early for you to start thinking about arranging a mortgage as this can be time-consuming. You can get a mortgage from an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA), mortgage broker or direct from a lender. To ensure you get the best deal for you we strongly recommend you consult an independent financial advisor (some charge for this service – some don’t).

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Once you’ve found a mortgage, agree a mortgage ‘in principle’. This tells you how much money the lender is likely to offer and the interest rate you will pay. You may have to pay a booking fee to reserve the mortgage product you want. Typical cost: £99-£250.

Stage 2

Making an offer

Once you’ve found a home you want to buy, the next step is to make an offer, usually through an estate agent. The estate agent will need details of all the people who will be buying with you and will also need details of how you are going to pay for the property.
If your offer is accepted the estate agent will need to carry out due diligence to confirm you have the funds to buy the property.
There are a number of things you will need to do.

  • Instruct a solicitor/conveyancer
  • Apply for a mortgage
  • Arrange a survey

Stage 3

Instruct a solicitor or licensed conveyancer

Shop around and get detailed quotes including disbursements – there charges vary! Either a solicitor or licensed conveyancer should be able to do the legal work for you. Don’t just go for the cheapest quote – it’s very important to choose someone who will do a good job for you – ask around – get recommendations (we only recommend solicitors and conveyancers who have looked after our clients well in the past) – Your solicitor will tell you how much you can expect to pay and will usually ask for some payment upfront to cover disbursements (such as searches). Typical cost: £500-£1,500. We can provide you a quote here to compare.

Applying for your mortgage

If your offer is accepted you will need to contact your lender or mortgage adviser to proceed. There is often a fee, usually called an arrangement fee, to set up the mortgage. This can be added to your mortgage, but if you choose this option bear in mind you’ll pay interest on it for the length of the mortgage. Typical cost: £0-£2,000

Arrange a Survey

Your mortgage lender will require a valuation survey to make sure the property is worth the price you’re paying before they approve the mortgage. Typical cost: £150. You can usually arrange for the same person to do a more detailed survey at the same time (we strongly recommend this)
There are three types of survey:

  • Home condition survey – this is the most basic and cheapest survey. Cost: £250
  • Homebuyer’s report – this is a much more detailed survey, looking thoroughly inside and outside a property. It also includes a valuation. Typical cost: £400+
  • Building or structural survey – this is the most comprehensive survey. Typical cost: £600+

Stage 4

The processing period

There will then be a period of 4-6 weeks where a lot will be going on behind the scenes on your behalf.

  • Your solicitor/conveyancer will undertake the legal work for you including submitting searches to the local council and environment agency to check whether there are any planning or local issues that might affect the property’s value. Typical cost: £250-£300.
  • They will check the draft contract issued by the seller and in the case of a leasehold property (such as a flat) check the lease and obtain details of the management company
  • Then raise additional enquires with your seller
  • The mortgage company will process your application and send it to their underwriters for approval
  • The mortgage valuation and survey will be done and reported back to you and the building society
  • A mortgage offer will then be issued
  • Your solicitor will then report back to you prior to exchanging contracts.

Stage 5

Exchanging contracts

Your solicitor/conveyancer will send you a report once all the above is done.
Before signing the contract, go through it with your solicitor/conveyancer to check that all the details are correct. Make sure you are happy with what the sellers have agreed to leave in the property and that all your queries have been answered. Check you have read and understood the survey report and you are happy with it.

Agree a completion date

You will need to agree a date with your seller for completion. There may be a number of households in your chain all looking to move the same day so it will need some negotiation and be prepared to compromise to get a date everyone can make. If you’re using a removal company consider moving on a Monday – Thursday which is cheaper. Typical cost: £300-£1,000+.

Once you exchange you and the seller are committed to the sale. You may also be asked by the seller to pay a holding deposit – this may be up to 10% of the sale price – your solicitor/conveyancer will advise you. Once you’ve exchanged contracts you’ll need buildings insurance in place to cover the structure of the property.

Arrange for your mail to be re directed

Tell your existing utility, telephone companies and local council that you are moving. Make a list of all the people you need to tell about your new address including:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Banks
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers
  • DVLC
  • TV licencing
  • Doctors, dentists and hospitals
  • Clubs and societies

Buying a house is probably the largest purchase you will make, don’t rush it and allow plenty of time when you view a property.

Set Of House Keys

Stage 6

Completion and final steps

There is typically a two to four week period between exchange of contracts and completion of the sale.
On the day of completion your solicitor/conveyancer will transfer the money to your seller’s solicitor. Once they have received the money the transaction is complete and you can collect the keys to the property. You will have been told how you can obtain the keys.
Your solicitor will register the sale with the Land Registry for properties in England and Wales and pay the stamp duty you owe.
Once you move in check the house and make sure you have all the keys you need. Read all the utility meters (including the water meter if there is one).

Handing Keys Over To New Owners