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First-Time Buyer Checklist: Your Step-By-Step Guide

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Feeling daunted by the prospect of buying a house? Here’s a first-time buyer checklist to help the road to becoming a homeowner run a little smoother.

Buying first home checklist 

  1. Step one: Decide if now’s the time
  2. Step two: Budget & save for a deposit
  3. Step three: Get your head around the costs
  4. Step four: Work out how to pay for it
  5. Step five: Get a mortgage agreement in principle
  6. Step six: Start property viewings
  7. Step seven: Put in an offer
  8. Step eight: Exchange contracts
  9. Step nine: Complete
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1.Is now the time?

First things first, you need to ensure this is the right time to buy. Some things to consider include:

2. Save for a deposit

How much you’ll need for a deposit varies.

You’re looking at a minimum of 5% of the property value. However, it’s recommended to save as much as possible, e.g. 20%, as you increase your chances of getting a better mortgage deal, with lower interest rates. 

So, for a £245,443 property (the average UK house price) a 20% deposit = £49,089. Start saving before you speak to a mortgage broker.

3. The cost of buying a house – can you afford it?

Before you apply for a mortgage, you need to factor in a number of costs to work out what you can afford, not just the property price. 

Mortgage arrangement fees

An essential piece of help for first-time buyers? Work out which type of mortgage is right for you. There are a number of different types to choose from, so make sure you know what’s what.

If you know what you’re looking for, this can help improve your chances of getting a mortgage.

Remember, your lender may charge a fee. Ensure you request mortgage quotes beforehand to ensure you’re getting the best deal. 

Use a mortgage calculator to work out if you can afford the monthly repayments you’re committing to.

How Much Could You Borrow?

Home insurance costs

First-time buyer insurance can be tricky. It’s unlikely your lender will agree to a mortgage unless you have buildings insurance in place.

Also, bear in mind that insurance isn’t a one-off payment, but an ongoing one. Plus, it can be affected by interest rate rises.

Stamp duty

There’s good news for new home buyers when it comes to buying a property under £300,000… You don’t have to pay stamp duty!

However, for those buying a property over that amount, use a stamp duty calculator to work out exactly how much you’ll be paying.

Up-front costs

Buying a house for the first time costs money! Here are some hidden costs that are important to remember…

Ongoing costs

From council tax to utility bills, owning and running a home costs money. Other first-time buyer costs can include furniture, maintenance and decoration of your new property.

4. How are you going to pay for it?

If you’ve reviewed your costs and concluded that you can afford it, it’s time for the next step. 

Say you save a 15% deposit, you’ll need a 85% mortgage to pay for the rest – or you could use other support, such as schemes or input from family members.

Have your finances in order

It sounds simple, but far too many potential homeowners try and buy a property without being prepared.

Getting your finances in order, including your credit history and clearing any debt you can is an important step.

Check Your Credit Score

Leverage existing schemes

If you need a leg-up to get your foot on the property ladder, there are many government schemes in place to help you. These include:

All these schemes have their differences, so ensure you’ve worked out which one is for you.

5. Have a mortgage agreement in principle

Always have an agreement in principle before you start your search.

Knowing how much a mortgage lender will agree to lend you (and therefore how much you can afford) will help you start your house hunt. It will also present you as a more attractive, prepared buyer.

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6. Begin the house hunt

Of course, property portal websites like Zoopla or Rightmove are often the first port of call.

But, they shouldn’t be your only point of reference. Consider local estate agents who may not be on the portals but know the area well. Also, seek advice from family and friends who have done it before. 

A property report can also give you valuable insights on information you need to know.

How to view properties

There are many questions to ask when viewing a house. Don’t simply consider how long it’s been on the market or whether there’s any other interest. Instead, go deeper. Think about the neighbours, recent building work and the parking situation. 

Get the answers to anything that would make you reconsider buying before you part with your cash.

When viewing properties, be thorough. Try and visit the property twice, and at different times of the day. If possible, drive by also!

Get a Property Report

Things to consider

Don’t just look at the property itself, but its location. 

How important is it for you to be close to local amenities? 

  • Local shops
  • Pubs
  • Restaurants 
  • Leisure facilities
  • Bars
  • Good schools

7. Put in an offer

Making an offer on a house is often one of the hardest parts of buying your first home. Ensure you’ve done your research into what similar properties in the area have sold for as a guide.

You could deduct 5-10% off the asking price, leveraging your chain-free status and the fact that you’re prepared. Make sure you state this in your offer – and put your it in writing too. 

Presenting yourself as an attractive buyer could help you negotiate a house price too. Your first offer might well be rejected.

Offer accepted?

Let’s say you receive good news and your offer is accepted. Before you go any further, you need to run some final checks on the property.

Get a property survey to ensure it has no major defects that you’ll need to pay for. 

Find a Local Surveyor

8. Exchange contracts

If the survey checks out, the next step in  buying a house is exchanging contracts.

This is the moment where the sale becomes legally binding.

While timings vary widely, the exchange process can take anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks.

Find a Solicitor

9. Completion

Time to swap the rest of the money and receive the keys to your first home!

In most cases, you’re looking at around 14-28 days between exchange and completion. Sometimes, you can exchange and complete on the same day – but it’s not recommended.

It’s not always that smooth-sailing, as completion can be delayed, sometimes by up to three months. Often, this is pre-agreed, for example in the case of property chains. If you’re looking at a new build, you may have compiled a snagging list which is delaying the process.

However, this is the stage you can legally call yourself a homeowner!

First-time buyer’s guide to saving money

After years of renting, difficulties getting on the property ladder and the stresses of the buying process – you’ve finally done it.

Now, all you need to do is move in. While this can get costly, there are many ways to save money, including:

Want to get started?

Let’s get this show on the road; talking to a mortgage provider is an essential first step. Get in touch with a trusted professional below.

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Last Updated: July 30th, 2021

Phil Spencer

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