First Time Buyer’s Guide


Are you looking to buy a property?

We have created a step-by-step guide to inform you of the process of buying a house and what to look out for along the way.

1. How much could you borrow?

To find out how much you could borrow, you can complete a budget planner. This will allow you to assess your income and expenditure to see how much you have available each month to spend on mortgage repayments. We have a free budget planner that you can download to help you work out your current level of disposable income.

A variety of financial organisations that offer mortgages have mortgage calculators on their website which help you to figure out how much you could apply to borrow. You can use our mortgage calculator or apply for an Agreement in Principle to give yourself an idea how much we may be able to lend. However, this is not guaranteed as a full affordability test would need to be completed. Many providers work out how much you can borrow based on between 3-5 times your salary but this varies between lenders.

2. Getting an 'Agreement in Principle' (AIP)

An AIP is confirmation from a lender of an approximate amount they would be willing to lend to you, based on the information you have provided them with. The lender will undertake a more in-depth assessment later if you proceed with a mortgage application.

An AIP is often necessary to have ready when making an offer on a property. It proves to the estate agent that you are likely to be able to afford the property you would like to purchase. Some people chose to get this prior to searching for a house to ensure they know how much they can borrow, although this is not entirely necessary.

3. Looking for 'the one'

Now you know how much you can borrow, it’s time to start looking at properties. There are a variety of websites that advertise properties, the most commonly used being Rightmove and Zoopla. You can also speak to local estate agents to see what they have to offer. Once you see properties you like we suggest viewing them all! It may seem excessive but when you consider this is probably one of the biggest investments of your life, it’s important to get it right.

4. The viewing

Once you have arranged a viewing, consider the following to help you gain more of an insight on the property.

Questions to ask...

  • Are many people interested in this property?
  • Has anybody put an offer in yet?
  • How long has it been on the market?
  • Is it Leasehold or Freehold?
  • Why are the vendors moving?
  • How long has the vendor lived there?
  • What is included? (Appliances? Shed?)
  • Is there space for parking?
  • What is the council tax band?

Look out for…

  • Damp – wet spots, mould and peeling wallpaper.
  • Ceilings – stains and slow drips.
  • Open doors and windows – it may seem odd, but you need to check everything is in working order.
  • Flick switches – check the electric is working properly throughout the house.
  • Sockets – think about convenience and where you would like them within your home.
  • Plumbing – check the water pressure and see if the water gets hot enough.
  • Check your phone signal – you would expect to get signal all around the house.
  • Check outside – cracks in the wall, mould or rotten woodwork.

5. Making an offer

Once you have found your perfect property, it’s time to make an offer. Consider whether you are going to offer the asking price or not. If you found any issues with the property when you viewed it, consider reducing your offer by a similar amount to the cost of rectifying the issue. This is something you can negotiate with the vendor.

6. Offer accepted

Great news, your offer has been accepted by the vendor and its full steam ahead! Once your offer has been accepted, it's on to the legal process. You will need to hire a conveyancing solicitor, complete your mortgage application, hire a surveyor and exchange contracts.

7. House valuation and survey

Once accepted, you will need to have a valuation on the property that you are looking to purchase. This is often done through your mortgage provider and you may or may not be charged for this. This survey is carried out to allow the mortgage providers to determine what the property is worth before they commit to lending you the money. They want to ensure it's worth what you're offering, so if you were to default on your mortgage they would be able to get their secured investment back.

You may also want to consider a survey on the property. This will help to identify if there are any structural problems, such as unstable walls or damp. The aim is to highlight any repairs you may need to make, and by becoming aware of any maintenance issues, you can then decide whether you would like to proceed with the purchase, or even ask for the vendor to complete repairs or reduce the price due to the cost of repairs. A survey is not a requirement and it is up to you if you want to pay for this service.

There are 4 main types of survey you can have done and they go up in levels. Level 1 is the cheapest and most brief survey you can get, which will rate items in the house using a traffic light system, whereas Level 4 is the most expensive and most in depth survey, which is usually more appropriate for an older property that may not have had new owners for many years. The surveys can also be referred to as a Basic Valuation, Home Buyers survey or a Full Structural Survey. 

8. Fixtures and fittings negotiation

At this stage, it is worth negotiating around the fixtures and fittings that will be left by the vendors. This could range from carpets and curtains to fitted kitchen appliances, shelves and even wardrobes. It may well be worth negotiating the price for these, if they are not already included in the original offer price. Once you have agreed terms with the vendor, your conveyancing solicitor will write this into the contract of sale.

9. Exchange of contracts

This is when the two conveyancing firms will swap signed contracts. You will be required to pay your deposit at this time and and the agreement to buy/sell the property becomes legally binding. Once everyone in the chain has exchanged contracts, it is then legally binding.

You will need to arrange buildings insurance, this must be in place from the date of exchange. This is to make sure you are covered if something were to happen to your house. The two solicitors will then agree a date of completion.

10. Moving in!

Once everything is complete, you need to consider the next steps to move into your new home.

Depending on whether this is your first home or not, and how many items you already own, you might want to consider hiring a removal van. When packing up your items, it could be wise to declutter! This way you won’t be taking any excess items that you don’t necessarily want, you could either donate or sell them. You should inform your utility providers that you are moving so that it ensures a quick exchange between you and the new tenants.

When you leave your old property you should take final readings from your utility meters. You should also do this in your new home when you move in. Also remember to update the DLVA with your new address along with your electoral roll and any other companies you have insurance with.