How to buy your first house in the UK

22nd Feb 2023
Waterside properties - Thornley Groves

If you’re thinking about buying a house for the first time, the prospect might seem confusing and overwhelming at first.

Don’t worry. Like most things in life, if you break the process down into doable steps, then buying your first house isn’t so scary after all.

Keep reading to find out how to buy your first house in the UK…

1. Start building a deposit

The first thing you should really consider when you start your property-buying journey is whether you can afford it.

In order to buy a house you’ll need to take out a mortgage, and normally your deposit will need to be at least 5% of the property’s value.

So if, for example, you want to buy a house that costs £250,000, you’ll need to prepare a deposit of at least £12,500 - in an ideal world, even more.

If you have a bigger deposit prepared then you’ll have a wider range of mortgages available to you, and at cheaper rates, because mortgage lenders will see you as lower risk.

On that note, when you’re preparing your mortgage application, you’ll need to check your credit score.

Lenders want to see you are a reliable borrower when they are assessing your mortgage application. They will carry out an affordability and credit score check, so it’s better to keep on top of your current account and credit score.

If you’re struggling to save up the deposit, a range of family assist mortgages exists. That way, other people can support you by depositing money into a specific savings account, or they can secure your mortgage against a percentage of their own property.

2. Research the hidden costs

When you’re thinking about how to buy your first house in the UK you have to be realistic about the costs.

It’s not as simple as taking out a mortgage - there are other hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The other cost involved include:

survey costs
solicitor or conveyancer fees (this often includes extra costs, such as search and Land Registry fees)
mortgage arrangement and valuation fees
removal and moving in costs
buildings insurance
initial furnishing and decorating costs
Stamp Duty (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland, or Land Transaction Tax in Wales).

The cost of maintaining the home will also include service charges, ongoing maintenance costs and utilities.

If you want to know more about the hidden costs of buying a home in the UK, speak to our friendly team of advisors today.

3. Find out which mortgage is best for you

Don’t just rely on gut instinct or go for the first mortgage that you can afford.

We are talking about large sums of money here, and that means that even the tiniest difference in interest rates can have a huge impact on how much your mortgage actually costs over its lifetime. The difference can be as hefty as tens of thousands of pounds.

You also need to know about the different types of mortgages - fixed or variable? And the term of the mortgage? Most mortgages last for 25 years although some can be extended to 35 years.

Most people start out on a fixed rate deal for a set number of years and then move on to the lender’s more expensive standard variable rate.

Repayment mortgages are the most common, where you make monthly payments for the amount you borrowed, plus interest.

There is also such a thing as an ‘interest only’ mortgage, but these aren’t often available unless you’re looking for a buy-to-let mortgage.

It’s a good idea to talk to an expert about these matters, as there is a sea of information out there, and such a big commitment shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Perhaps talking to friends and family who’ve bought houses could be a good idea too, as they are sure to have some advice and warnings for you.

4. What help is available?

Shared Ownership Schemes

Some housing associations and private developers offer the option to buy only a part of your home. For example, you could buy 60% of the property, and then pay rent on the remainder until you can afford to buy the rest.

Sometimes, there is also a monthly service charge to contribute to major maintenance works.

Mortgage Guarantee Scheme

Since April 2021, the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme has offered buyers the chance to get a mortgage with just a 5% deposit. Be quick though - the scheme only runs until December 2022.  The scheme applies to all types of properties (new build and old) that cost less than £600,000.

Help to Buy Equity Loan

This scheme lends you up to 20% of the value of a new build home you want to buy, interest-free for the first five years.

You can borrow up to 20% of the value of the property, allowing you to secure a home with just a 5% deposit, and mortgage out the remaining 75%. Applications close this October, so make sure you take advantage while you can!

First Homes Scheme

This scheme launched In June 2021 and offers newly built homes to first-time buyers with a discount of at least 30% compared to the market value of equivalent properties.

But be aware that the schemecurrently has limited availability depending on demand and regions.

5. View Properties in Person

Viewing a property in person at least once is highly superior to viewing it online, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the neighbourhood.

Things to look out for:

  • School catchment areas. Prices can be higher if there are highly rated schools in the area.
  • Transport links. Close proximity to motorways and train stations boosts a property's value.
  • Local infrastructure plans. New commercial and housing developments can have an impact on local services, but also increase traffic and pollution levels.
  • Flood zones
  • Crime levels
  • Register with local estate agents. Registering is free and won’t create any obligation on your part.


6. Arrange a solicitor and surveyor

A vital part of the home buying process is to arrange for a valuation and property survey.

The surveyor will value the property and check for problems, which might affect the cost of the home.

You also need a solicitor or conveyancer to carry out legal work regarding the property. They will submit searches to the local council, to make sure that there are no planning or local issues.

Valuation survey

This survey is carried out by the lender to ensure that the property is worth the price you’re paying before your mortgage is approved. This survey won’t identify all the repairs or maintenance that might be needed.

The property survey

The property survey is essential to avoid any hidden costly problems in the long run. It’s worth doing this correctly.

If the survey reveals problems with the home that will later cost you money, you are within your rights to ask the seller to lower the price by that amount.

There are several types of surveys available:

  • RICS condition report – basic ‘traffic light’ survey and the cheapest.
  • RICS homebuyer report. Much more detailed survey of the interior and exterior of the property.
  • A building or structural survey - the most comprehensive survey, most suitable for older homes.


7. Make an Offer

It’s quite common to offer below the asking price, but that depends on the property and the demand it’s attracting.

Once you’ve decided how much you want to offer, tell your estate agent and we recommend putting it in writing.

8. Finalise Mortgage

If your offer is accepted with no hitches, contact your mortgage advisor to proceed.

It’s normal procedure for the mortgage lender to give you at least seven days to think about whether or not this is the right mortgage for you.


9. Exchange Contracts

You’ll receive the contract to sign and complete the sale. Go through the contract with your solicitor to ensure it’s all correct.

It’s normal to be asked to pay a holding deposit of around £500-1000 to show intent.

To exchange contracts, you’ll need a written mortgage offer, an agreed completion date, and buildings insurance in place. The building insurance is legally binding in order to protect the structure of the property.

10. Complete and move in

The completion date isn’t set in stone, but it typically takes place around two weeks after the exchange of contracts.

On completion day, you can collect the keys and move into your new home.

All that remains then is to organise with a removals company and move in!


If there’s anything else you want to know about how to buy your first house in the UK, then get in touch with us here at Thornley Groves today. Your dream home is waiting for you!