Article by Finance writer Sara Yates and Felicity Barnett, National Account Manager, The Mortgage Brain

Home buying does not need to be a painful process. Here’s what you need to know to get your keys to the door as soon as possible.

Know your budget before you search

Start by sorting out your own finances. Check your credit rating, deal with any nasty surprises and calculate your deposit. Thanks to the government’s guarantee scheme a whole host of mortgage providers will lend against a minimal 5% deposit. Make it to double figures and many cheaper deals will unlock.

Your mortgage amount will depend on your income and its mortgage term. The cheapest deals are those with an initial 2-year term – such as Barclays who offer a 2-year fixed rate of 2.07% plus £348 fees for buyers with a 10% deposit.

However, strict UK regulations currently limit lenders to offering a maximum income multiple of 5x income on these products. For those on the median salary of £31k this means borrowing up to £158k, a £100k short of the cost of an average UK home.

Fewer restrictions apply to mortgages with at least a 5-year initial term. However, they come at a cost. Nationwide’s Helping Hand mortgage offers up to 5.5x income at a 5-year fixed rate of 3.49%, while Habito One lets certain professions stretch to 7x their income for a 10-year fixed rate between 4.44-6.29%.

Think hard before maxing out as it could mean spending up to 70% of your take-home pay on repayments.

Get a mortgage agreement in principle

Save yourself time and energy by consulting an independent mortgage broker. Once a deal is chosen, get an agreement in principle. This is a non-binding, free agreement that lasts for up to 90 days and shows how much you can likely borrow. You will need to provide your income information, a record of your spending, any credit agreements and your last three years’ addresses. But once submitted it can take less than an hour to receive and helps convince estate agents and new build developers that you are a serious buyer.

Prepare for additional costs

It costs over £6,000 to buy an average home in the UK according to This includes stamp duty which is payable at a rising rate on properties over £125k, conveyancing fees, a survey, mortgage fees and removal costs. Apart from some mortgage fees which can be added to the mortgage, these need to be funded from cash.

Know the process

Offer stage. Once you’ve found your dream home, make an offer via the estate agent. Make this as strong as possible by having your finances in place. If you are a first-time buyer or chain-free mention this.

Get a mortgage offer. Check that your mortgage in principle is still the best deal as rates/conditions may have changed, and complete a full mortgage application.

The lender will require a valuation. Note, this is not a survey. It is solely to ensure the property is worth at least the amount you are willing to pay.


This can take 16 weeks from when your offer is accepted. Don’t lose time. Find your licensed conveyancer during your property search, be ready to provide your original ID, proof of address and proof of funds and be prompt in putting money on account.

Without this, nothing will begin. Once the process starts, be proactive. Call them at least weekly and stay on top of documents and money required.


Book your survey when the conveyancing starts as you’ll want the result back before exchanging contracts so you can renegotiate or pull out if worrying issues are flagged. There are three options.

The basic Condition report costs around £300. This light touch is suited for new homes. A Home Buyers Report focuses on the key issues in modern homes and costs around £500. For an in-depth, Full Structural or Buildings Survey expect to pay around £800.

Get buildings insurance

This is a condition of your mortgage and needs to be done before you take ownership.


Your solicitor will need your deposit and signed agreement to exchange. Once exchanged, both parties are legally committed to the transaction. Pull out and you may lose your deposit and have to pay compensation to the seller.


The home is yours as soon as your solicitor transfers the remaining funds to the seller’s solicitor. Enjoy!

Note: All mortgage rates quoted are correct at time of being published (April 2022)
Subject to terms and conditions and qualification. Please speak to your mortgage advisor for more information.