A guide to buying your first home

What you need to know

Find out how the home-buying process works, from working out what you can afford to picking up the keys.

  • What you need to do, and when 
  • Understanding your options
  • We’re here to help – online, by phone and in branch

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

  • The deposit

    Work out how much you can afford to put down as a deposit. This will help you decide what you need to borrow for a mortgage. You’ll usually need a deposit of at least 10% of the property’s cost, but if your family can help you could get a mortgage without a borrower deposit through Family Springboard.

    Through Government schemes like Help to Buy you could also get a mortgage with a 5% deposit.

    The bigger the deposit you have, the better the mortgage deals available to you will be.

    The mortgage amount and monthly payments

    Taking your deposit into account, you’ll need to work out how much you could afford to borrow and what your monthly mortgage payments could be. A mortgage calculator can give you an idea of this.

    You can usually borrow up to 4.5 times your salary but your other monthly costs like loan and credit card payments, household bills and childcare fees will also be taken into account.

    You may be able to get a larger mortgage if you’re buying a property with other people or getting help from your family.

    Additional costs

    Don’t forget to consider the other costs associated with buying a home, such as application, valuation and legal fees, and Stamp Duty.

  • Getting an Agreement in Principle (AiP) will give you an indication if we can lend you the amount you need. You can complete an AiP online, by phone or in a branch by providing a few details about yourself, your income and regular spending and how much you want to borrow.

    Why get an AiP?

    • You’ll have an indication, although not a guarantee, of whether you’ll be accepted for a mortgage
    • It shows estate agents and sellers that you’re serious about buying a home
    • It can flag any issues on your credit file so you can correct them as soon as possible

    No effect on your credit score

    Unlike some other mortgage providers, completing our AiP doesn’t involve a credit check, so there’s no effect on your credit score. We only look at your credit file – which may appear as a ‘quotation search’ – to confirm what you’ve told us in the application. 

  • Once you have your budget, you can start looking for your first home in earnest. Register with local estate agents and property-finding apps and websites and sign up for their alerts so you can act quickly on homes that catch your eye.

    Decide what you need

    As the biggest purchase you’re likely to make, you should think carefully about what’s most important to you in a home, and what you’d be willing to do without.

    Research your location

    Once you have an area in mind, do your research – online and in person. You should visit at different times of the day and night, during the week and at weekends, to get a real feel for the area. Remember to think about the practicalities – how easy is it to get to work and the local supermarket? What about the local schools?

    And if you’re finding that an area is too expensive, be willing to look at areas nearby that could offer more for your money.

    Making an offer

    Making an offer is usually done through the estate agent, but you should bear in mind that they’re ultimately working for the seller. They want the property to sell for as much as it can, so don’t let them push you into an offer you can’t afford.

    Remember that as a first-time buyer you’re an attractive option to sellers because you don’t come with the time-consuming hassle of another place to sell.

  • There are a number of things you need to consider when deciding which mortgage is right for you.

    • Type of loan – repayment (where you pay part of the balance and interest each month), interest-only or both
    • Type of mortgage – eg fixed-rate , tracker or schemes designed to help first-time buyers
    • Mortgage rate – it’s important to look beyond the initial interest rate and consider what the rate will be after the deal ends
    • Mortgage fees – these can be considerable, particularly if you change your mortgage before your deal ends, so make sure you check what fees apply to the mortgage you’re considering

    You can get help choosing the right mortgage from one of our mortgage advisers or from a mortgage broker. 

  • When to apply

    When to apply for a mortgage depends on where you’re buying the property. In England and Wales, you should apply once you’ve had an offer accepted. In Scotland, however, you need to apply before you make an offer because you’ll be legally bound by it if it’s accepted.

    When you apply, your mortgage adviser will have detailed questions regarding your income and outgoings and your personal circumstances. You’ll need to provide them with a number of documents to verify this information.

    Legal advice

    You need to appoint a solicitor or conveyancer to manage the legal aspect of buying a property. If you need advice beyond property issues, you should get a solicitor. If you don’t, appointing a conveyancer could save you money as they’re usually less expensive than solicitors.

    The independent Money Advice Service can help you find a solicitor or conveyancer.

    Valuation and surveys

    Your mortgage adviser will arrange for a valuation of your property to determine how much it’s worth. You should also consider appointing a surveyor to carry out an in-depth inspection of the property to ensure there aren’t any structural problems. Your solicitor, estate agent or mortgage lender can usually recommend a local surveyor.

    A guide to survey and valuation services 770 KB

    Exchange contracts

    Once you’ve approved the valuation and surveys, your solicitor will agree the purchase details in writing with the seller’s solicitor. Then you and the seller will need to sign it – this is called ‘exchanging contracts’ and legally binds you both to follow through with the sale. At this point, you’ll also need to have your deposit ready to give to your solicitor.


    You’ll need to agree a date of sale with the seller, your mortgage adviser and solicitor. On that day, your mortgage adviser will transfer the mortgage amount to your solicitor and they’ll complete the purchase. Then you can pick up the keys from your estate agent and move into your first home.

  • We’ll work as fast as we can to give you a decision on your mortgage, but it can take a little time.

    To make sure you know what’s going on at every stage, we’ll give you a reference number that you can use to track your application online – it’s called Track It.

    Enter your reference number on the Track It page and we’ll tell you what stage we’re at, and what you can expect next.

Helpful tools

Mortgage calculators

Work out the kind of mortgage you could afford

Use our mortgage affordability calculators to work out how much you could borrow and what kind of deposit you need for a mortgage.

Agreement in Principle (AiP)

Take the first step to your mortgage with an AiP

Start an Agreement in Principle (AiP) online to find out quickly if you could borrow the amount you need – without affecting your credit score. 

Track your application online

See what’s happening with Track It

We’ll send you a Track It reference any time you submit an application that you can track online.

Need some help?

If you want to know more about buying your first home, choose how you’d like to get in touch – online, in branch or over the phone. You can also browse our mortgage FAQs.

If you want help choosing the right mortgage for you, you’ll need to call us to speak to a mortgage adviser.

Chat to us online

Chat to us online if you have a question about applying (we can’t give mortgage advice in web chats).

Call us

Call us1 today on 0800 197 1081. Lines are open all day, every day, except on bank holidays and during Christmas, when they may be closed at off-peak times.

Visit a branch

Find a branch near you that offers appointments with mortgage advisers and see when we’re open.

Make money work for you

Feel optimistic about your financial future

We understand that money can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together helpful articles and easy-to-follow guides to help you feel financially confident.