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First-time buyer’s mortgage guide

A step-by-step first-time buyer’s mortgage guide on how to buy your first home

So, you’re thinking about buying your first home? Congrats! It’s exhilarating, but it can seem daunting, too. That’s why we’ve put together this first-time buyer’s guide that walks you through the whole process, from scrolling for properties to getting the keys to your first pad.

How much can I borrow?

Before you start looking for houses, know what you can afford. Unless you have a sweet pile of cash, you’re going to need to take out a mortgage to buy a home.

A mortgage is a loan to help you buy a property, which you pay off monthly.

There are a variety of mortgages available for first-time buyers so it’s important to be aware of your options.

How much you can afford depends on your mortgage term, income, savings, debt, and credit rating (among other factors). Talk to a pro to understand what you’re eligible for and what will work best for your circumstances.

We’ve partnered with Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB) to bring you 12,000+ mortgage deals from 90 leading lenders plus advice from 1,500+ expert advisers nationwide.

Start saving for a deposit

One of the first steps in the house-buying process is to save up cash for a deposit.

Be prepared to put down anywhere between 10-20% of the house price. Be realistic about what you can save each month, set a goal and stick to it.

Psst: automatic payments help! Put away a certain amount of cash on payday so you learn to live without it and steadily build up your savings. We have oodles more money-saving tips.

Also be aware that there are additional costs of buying a home that you’ll need to save up for, such as mortgage arrangement fees, survey costs and moving expenses.

Find your dream home

Let the house hunt commence!

Before scrolling through Boomin, ask yourself what type of property you want (and can afford). Flat or house? Freehold or leasehold? New build or existing property?

Make a list of things you need (e.g. located close to work) and features that would be nice to have (e.g. a garden). This way, it’ll be easier to identify what you’re willing to compromise on.

Book viewings 24/7

See something you like? Book a viewing on Boomin, online– 24/7. See Estate Agent availability in real-time and get an email confirmation immediately.

Once it’s in the diary, prepare a list of questions to ask at a viewing as it’s easy to get carried away and forget when you’re at the property.

Make an offer

Ready to make an offer on the right house? First, judge how much you can comfortably afford.

Many Estate Agents will require evidence of a Mortgage in Principle prior to putting in an order. You can get this from your mortgage adviser. Head back to step 1.

To make an offer on a house you’re happy (and comfortable) with, you may need to employ some negotiation skills. Whether you can negotiate on the price, fixtures that are included or timings, mull things over with the Estate Agent, but only propose what you’re comfortable to do.

Bonus tip: Set your maximum price – and stick to it.

Confirm your mortgage

You may have already found a mortgage deal that suits you. If not, a mortgage adviser can help you find a suitable one. Once you’ve found the right mortgage deal, you can start the application process.

You’ll need to gather a variety of documents together, send them to your mortgage lender and wait for approval. This can be a nail-biting stage in the journey, but your adviser will help you cross the t's and dot the i's.

Get a property survey

While your mortgage application is in progress, it’s a good idea to get a property survey to keep the sale moving forward. This is an in-depth report on the condition of the place you want to buy. A surveyor will inspect the property and highlight any issues you should be aware of.

There are different types of property surveys you can get. Although the survey should only take a day or less, you may need to book in advance if the surveyor is busy.


Here, you’ll need to instruct a specialist property solicitor or licensed conveyancer. They handle all the legal work involved in transferring the property from the old owner to you, the new owner. This legal process is known as conveyancing.

The solicitor will carry out property searches to understand if there’s anything that could impact the value of the property or your experience living there.

Typical searches include:

  • Environmental searches for problems with flooding or contamination.
  • Drainage searches to show any issues with water supplies or sewage systems.
  • Local authority searches to identify issues like upcoming planning projects.

Exchange and complete

Exchange is the point at which the sale becomes legally binding. In this stage, your solicitor will draw up contracts for the sale in consultation with the seller’s solicitor.

And for completion, the solicitor will also help you organise a completion date (where you can pick up the keys and move into your new home). If the seller is in a chain, multiple transactions will be happening on the same day so it can be a waiting game.

Organise utilities

Once you have a completion date, you can start planning your utilities.
Boomin’s Priorities service helps you secure amazing deals on your home’s essential services and save time on shopping around.

Compare the top utility providers for energy, broadband, home insurance and more, so everything is all set for move-in day.

Get the keys

Finally, the sale completes, and the agent will arrange for you to collect the keys to your new home. Congratulations! Step inside (your own) front door and consider what to do first: start unpacking or pop some bubbly.

Make your house a home

One of the best parts of having a home of your own is getting to decorate it however you want. Yet, with very little left in the piggy bank after buying your first home, you’ll want to make strategic decisions to stretch your decorating budget.

Start by exploring Property Playground. Collect home interior designs you love, purchase products from leading retailers and connect with local home professionals. It’s your ultimate playground for all things home.