First Time Buyers Guide

The prospect of buying your first home can seem daunting, as not only is it a big financial responsibility but there is also a lot to learn and do in the process. In our first-time buyer’s guide we explain the basics so you know where to start.

Setting a Budget

You need to have an idea of how much you can afford, which will be determined by your salary (or combined salary if more than one person is involved).

Most mortgage providers will lend between 4-5 times your annual salary. So, for example, if you earn £45,000 a year, a mortgage lender could let you borrow anywhere between £180,000 to £225,000. However the amount a mortgage lender will be willing to lend will take into consideration other factors such as outgoings and financial commitments therefore we recommend you arrange a FREE appointment with our in-house mortgage brokers to establish exactly how much you can borrow.

In most cases you will need at least a 10% deposit, although 95% mortgage options are becoming more common once again. You will also need to factor in other costs, such as:

  • Valuation fee
  • Mortgage fee
  • Solicitor fee
  • Stamp duty (no stamp duty is paid on purchases up to £300,000)

Which locations should I be looking at to buy?

The next thing to decide is where to buy the property. This is very much down to personal choice and is often determined by what you need from the local area.

For example, if you are looking for a smaller town with a quieter pace that has strong transport connections with surrounding cities, the likes of Biggleswade, St Neots and Huntingdon tend to be popular choices. Or if your heart is set on living close to water, then St Ives (a picturesque market town on the River Great Ouse), while also providing good schools and reliable transport links could be ideal.

Applying for a Mortgage

Once you have a deposit ready, you need to find out how much you can borrow. The mortgage lender will look at your salary to determine how much you can afford and weigh up your outgoings. It’s a good idea to look at any debts you may owe and ensure your affairs are in order before going any further here, as the lender will examine your finances in full.

Ideally, you should try to secure a mortgage in principle. This is a document issued by the lender that states they would be happy to lend you a certain amount of money based on the information they currently have. This agreement can help push you close to the front of the queue when it comes to talking with buyers, as it demonstrates that you are a serious buyer.

Searching for a property

You can start looking for properties in your preferred area to get a feel of the market and type of houses that are available. At this point you may want to get an estate agent such as Harvey Robinson involved as we can provide some valuable insight and connect you with serious sellers who are actively looking to sell.

One of the most important questions you will need to ask is whether the property is freehold or leasehold and the length of the lease. This will potentially affect the ownership of the land you live on and what you are able to do with the property.

Viewing and making an offer

If you have a mortgage in principle this puts you in a strong position as a buyer. Once you have found a property, think about how much you’d be happy to pay and then submit the offer.

Avoid going in too low, especially in a seller’s market, as houses tend to sell for the asking price or above.

Conveyancing Solicitor

You will need a conveyancer or property solicitor to deal with the legal side of the purchase. They will communicate with the seller’s conveyancer to discuss contract details and ensure everything is legally in order. They will also carry out relevant searches with the local authority and Environmental Agency and generally work to ensure that there are no major problems during the process.

Exchange of Contracts

Once the conveyancing process has been completed and you have received a mortgage offer from your lender you can arrange to exchange contracts. You need to agree a completion date (the date you become the new owner of the property) with the seller, which is usually 7 to 28 days after the contracts have been exchanged.

Exchange of contracts is the point where the purchase becomes legally binding and if you decide to pull out after the exchange of contracts you could lose the full deposit.


When the completion date arrives, you will have to pay the outstanding balance on the property, and you will then receive the keys to your new home from the estate agent.