10 steps to buying your first home

10 steps to buying your first home

A property insiders guide for first-time buyers

Taking that first step onto the property ladder can be an emotional rollercoaster; anticipation, fear, excitement, setbacks and sheer joy – it’s all a part of the journey.

Unfortunately, mistakes are a part of buying your first home but the more you educate yourself on the process, the more of your time, effort and hard-earned cash you can save. That’s why we’ve created this step-by-step guide to the home buying process to help you along the way. With this, you’ll be ready to tackle anything… even the mountain of boxes you’ll need to unpack.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room…

1. How much money do you need to buy a house?

Typically, you would need a minimum of a 5% deposit, although your ideal deposit would be at least 10%. So, if you’ve saved £10,000, then you could look for a house valued at up to £200,000 (also dependant on your annual salary). You also need to factor in a range of additional costs like solicitor fees, mortgage fees, survey costs, buildings insurance and all that other good stuff. Don’t stress about these – we’re here to help if you need more detail.

2. Get your mortgage in principle

This is an estimate of how much you could potentially borrow from a bank or building society. Bear in mind it’s not a formal mortgage offer but it means you can show sellers that it’s likely you’ll be able to afford the property you want to buy.

You can get this directly from a bank, or from a broker who would have a view of deals across the market. If you need to arrange a mortgage we can help through our associated company, Countrywide Mortgage Services*. They have access to thousands of deals from high street banks and other lenders and can help guide you through the minefield that is the mortgage market. Find out more about mortgages.

Want to increase your chances of getting a mortgage? Here are our top tips… 

  • Find the RIGHT lender – if you’re rejected by one, you may be accepted by another
  • Check and improve your credit report in advance
  • Don’t apply for credit in the run-up to your mortgage application
  • Pay your bills on time
  • Avoid using an overdraft
  • Register to vote
  • Separate your accounts from ex-partners and housemates. Their financial activity could affect yours
  • Cut back on spending – your statements will be analysed 

Visit our mortgages section to find out more. 

3. Register with your local agents

This is the fun bit. Make use of our branch teams who are there to make your buying process as simple and as smooth as possible – they have many years of experience to help you along the way. Plan plenty of property viewings. Do your research and get to know the local market. If you need a little extra advice on up-and-coming areas, talk to your agent.

There’s no time like the present. Start your property search now.

4. Make an offer – and get it accepted

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, it’s time to make an offer. Think carefully about what you would be willing to pay, if you go too low you risk not being seen as a serious buyer, so make sure your offer is realistic. Equally, don’t go in too high and miss the mark completely. Remember, your dedicated estate agent will be on hand to guide you through the process. You’ve found out your offer has been accepted? Fantastic. Pour yourself a drink, relax, and take a deep breath. It’s about to get serious.


Being gazumped at the final stage of buying a home can be a huge disappointment. So be aware, just because you’ve had an offer accepted by the seller doesn’t mean that the transaction is final. The seller can still receive and accept an offer from another buyer.

Visit our recent blog on Gazumping to find out more.

5. Arrange a mortgage

Your mortgage in principle (step 2) usually expires after 30 or 90 days (depending on the lender) so it’s worth checking what’s new to the market and seeing if you can find a better deal. We know this seems like a pain but it’s always worth double-checking. Countrywide Mortgage Services has access to thousands of mortgages covering high street and specialist lenders, so, if you need a little extra help, take a look at some great first-time buyer mortgages.

How to avoid a buyer chain

A property chain is a cue of homebuyers and sellers connected by their need for one another to complete their sale/purchase in order to complete their own. This can be problematic and frustrating but there are ways you can avoid a chain or at least minimise the time you spend in one. 

The best way to avoid chain delays is by purchasing a new-build home that has no upward chains. However, if you’re buying an existing home, try to get the seller to agree to a date by which they are prepared to move out, whether or not they've bought a new house. They may agree to avoid risking you pulling out of the purchase. 

6. Hire a property solicitor called a conveyancer

Once you've had your offer accepted and confirmed your mortgage, it's time to think about who you want to handle the legal side of things. A conveyancer will take charge of conducting searches, liaising with the seller’s conveyancer, inspecting the seller’s documents, dealing with the Land Registry and all that fun stuff. This role is critical to keeping your house purchase on track so do your research.

Have a look at Countrywide Conveyancing Services, which just so happen to be one of the largest transactional conveyancing companies in the UK.

7. Get a survey

Sorted your mortgage and conveyancer? Great.

It’s survey time. A survey isn’t compulsory, but it’s definitely advisable. If you don’t get one and you come across unforeseen structural issues once you’ve bought the property, it would just be hard luck. Don’t be one of those people that rely on the mortgage valuation or you might find yourself forking out thousands of pounds later down the line. Give yourself peace of mind by having a survey conducted. The HomeFact Report, RICS HomeBuyer Survey, RICS HomeBuyer Survey & Valuation and the RICS Building Survey are your main options. If you’re wondering about which survey suits you best, take a look at our survey information for a simple breakdown of each. If you’d rather speak to someone directly, contact our support team on 0161 401 2917.

8. Arrange buildings insurance

How important is buildings insurance? Well, take this example – as soon as the contracts are exchanged, you’re legally bound to buy the property. If the building were to burn down the day before completion and you weren’t insured, you’d have to pay every penny of the sale price yourself. Also whilst you’re browsing all things insurance, you may want to consider contents insurance to protect your belongings as well. Explore your insurance options.**

9. Set the completion date and exchange contracts

This is the date that you’ll finally move into your new home. Completion usually takes place between one and four weeks after you’ve exchanged contracts. During this time, it might be an idea to find a trustworthy removals company to help get you moving.

If you don’t know a man with a van, we have plenty of options to make things easier.

You’re almost there! When your solicitor and the seller's solicitor swap signed copies of the contract, you’ve effectively exchanged contacts. Time to put the champagne on ice and celebrate, you’re about to complete on your first home.

10. Completion

You did it. You’re officially a new homeowner – collect the keys and let yourself in! Now, time to bribe your friends with pizza and get them to work on the decorating.

Looking for your next home?

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*Mortgages available through Countrywide Mortgage Services. A fee will be payable for arranging your mortgage. Your consultant will confirm the amount before you choose to proceed. Countrywide Mortgage Services, Countrywide House, 6 Caldecotte Lake Business Park, Caldecotte Lake Drive, Milton Keynes, MK7 8JT

**Cover is underwritten by AXA Insurance UK plc, Registered in England No: 78950. Registered Office: 5 Old Broad Street, London,EC2N 1AD. AXA Insurance UK plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under Financial Services register number 202312. This can be checked on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website at www.fca.org.uk/register.