18th April 2024

Buying your first home

Your first home is an exciting purchase but also one with lots of considerations and documents. This checklist should help you get organised:

Budget: Firstly, it’s important to determine how much you can afford to spend. 

Gather: Collect salary information, bank statements and other evidence of saving and/or investments. If you are being given money by family towards the purchase, make sure you have full evidence of this as well as confirmation from your family member where the monies have come from. Provide this information to your conveyancer and estate agent. 

Get a mortgage in principal agreed: Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a better idea of how much you can borrow and what your monthly payments will be. This will also make you a more attractive buyer to sellers. 

Find a solicitor/conveyancer: Consider whether you are happy to deal only by phone/ online or would prefer to visit the solicitor. Whilst solicitor fees are a consideration, a low initial quote may have added extras so ensure you check carefully what is included in each quote, so you know what you will be paying at completion.

House hunting: Once you have your budget and mortgage agreed in principal, you can start looking for homes. The estate agent will help you find the right home and negotiate the final price. You will need to decide, whether you want to buy a leasehold property – a flat/ apartment, in a block – or a freehold house. You are less likely to have outside space with a leasehold property, or may only have a small balcony, and will have ongoing charges each month towards the maintenance of the building, which is shared between all the owners in the block. For a freehold property, you are responsible for the maintenance. There are freehold flats on the market, but many lenders do not like these as it is more challenging for maintenance and repairs of the block. There are also freehold properties on managed estates, so you will still own your own house and be responsible for its maintenance, but you will also contribute to the maintenance of communal outside spaces and estate roads. 

Make an offer: When you find a home you like, you’ll need to make an offer. Your estate agent will deal with your seller to get the price agreed.

Get a home survey: The older the property, leasehold or freehold, it’s important to have it inspected by a professional property surveyor. This will help you identify any issues with the home that need to be addressed. Your estate agent and/or mortgage lender can help you arrange this.

The conveyancing process: Your conveyancer will share title documents and forms completed by the seller with information about the property. There will be a list of items at the property, with the seller confirming whether these are included in the price, excluded or the seller is willing to sell for an additional amount. Various searches will be carried out and the conveyancer will also receive your mortgage offer. You should note that the conveyancer will, almost always, also be acting for your mortgage lender – should any matters need reporting to the lender, such as a gifted deposit from family, your consent will be requested. You will have documents to sign and reports to read – ask your conveyancer if you do not understand.

Exchange: Once the survey report is available and all queries have received satisfactory responses, along with all conveyancing and financial queries, and you are happy to proceed, the deposit is requested from you, signed documents given and a date for completion agreed with the seller, and the onward chain. Once exchange has taken place, the completion date is fixed – once you have exchanged you are legally committed to the purchase and there are penalties, including a 10% deposit payment, if you change your mind.

Before Completion: Your conveyancer will carry out final searches, gather in the balance of monies from you, request the mortgage funds and complete the Stamp Duty Land Tax return for signature. Whilst you are unlikely to pay the tax as a first-time buyer, the transaction must be reported to the Inland Revenue.

Completion: You’re a homeowner! Your conveyancer will register you as the owner of the property at Land Registry along with your mortgage. Proof of your ownership will follow.