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House buying checklist

Checklist for first-time buyers

A house buying checklist is the perfect gift for any first-time buyer and we’re in a giving mood – here's your first-time home buyer checklist ready for you! So, you can stop searching “what do I need to buy a house?” and relax because we’ve got it covered. Step by step, we’ll get you there.

Budgeting and saving for a deposit arrow

Once you’ve decided you want to buy a house, it’s probably time to start saving. Which means it’s time to make a budget and see how much you’re able to save each month. We’ve created a handy budget planner to help you do just that. Simply fill in your incoming money and outgoings that you need to pay for and see what you’re left with to spend and save towards your future home. Once you’ve eyed up a price-range of properties that you’d be interested in and you know what percentage you want to get to, work out how much deposit you’ll need with our deposit calculator.  

Remember, the higher the deposit you have, the more mortgage deals that will be available for you to choose from. Then, use our mortgage calculator to see how much you could be paying each month. It’s handy to check out mortgages on the market that you could potentially be eligible for, so you’ll have an idea of the interest rate to add to this calculation.

Mortgage jargon arrow

If you’re struggling with any of the wording around mortgages, don’t worry – there's a lot. We’ve got a guide that covers all the different mortgage terms that you’ll come across in your house buying journey.

Before you start looking

Once you’re on your saving journey it can be wise to start getting all your other ducks in a row too.

  • This means paying off any straggling store cards or remaining credit card debts if you can as these will affect your credit check once you get to this stage.
  • Your lender will also do a deep dive into your online banking so if you can wipe out some subscriptions and unnecessary spending a few months before you apply for a mortgage, do.
  • Make sure all your ID is up to date too.  
Organising a mortgage adviser arrow

A mortgage adviser isn’t essential, but they can make the house buying process simpler by finding the right deal for you using their expertise.   

  • A mortgage adviser could potentially find you a deal with a lender that you might not have considered.
  • They might be able to find you more competitive products. 
  • Sometimes they’ll have access to exclusive products that aren't available directly to the public and could open the door to a wider range of deals to choose from. 

Read more about mortgage advisers

At Beehive we’re partnered with  - expert advisers that can search over 90 lenders and 12,000 mortgage products to find the right one for you and your situation.  

What's a Mortgage in Principle? arrow

A mortgage in principle is a borrowing number usually based on a multiple of your income and outgoings which would be reached without a credit check and can be printed off for you by your mortgage adviser or emailed over to you.  This’ll tell you roughly how much you can borrow.  

A mortgage in principle is different to an agreement in principle (AIP) or decision in principle (DIP). AIPs and DIPs are the same number to let you know how much you can borrow but they’re a more formal option as they can sometimes require a credit check and usually come from the lender, not just your mortgage adviser. Read more about the difference between them all and how to get a mortgage in principle.

Finding your home

Finding your first home is the fun, if not slightly stressful part once you’ve saved your deposit. Here are the five steps to finding that dream home. 

  • Choose your area.
  • Know your budget.
  • Register with estate agents.  
  • Sign up for alerts online.
  • Be on your game – the market moves fast and if there’s a house you like the look of, get in for a viewing as quickly as you can.

Making an offer on a property arrow

Once you’ve decided to make an offer, ensure you have the right amount of deposit and your agreement in principle ready and give the estate agents a call. You’ll submit your offer to them, and they’ll present it to the owners of the house. It’s common for there to be lots of offers on the table and for everyone to have to re-submit a ‘best and final’ offer which could end up being more than your original offer.

Applying for your mortgage arrow

We’re covering what do you need to buy a house next! Speak to your chosen lender or your mortgage adviser to find a mortgage deal for the house that you’ve offered on. You’ll need to have a few meetings or calls and provide them with the following bits of information. 

  • Evidence of your income (pay slips or accounts if you own your own business).
  • Your ID and proof of address (so they can make sure you are who you say you are!).
  • Proof of any current credit commitments such as phone contracts or car finance   

Read more about the mortgage application process in our handy guide.

The conveyancing period arrow

After your mortgage application is in and your offer has been accepted it’s time to appoint a conveyancer to look after all the legalities. We're partnered with Optimus who offer online conveyancing tracking from all of the law firms they work with so that you can track the whole legal process online throughout your purchase. Interested in conveyancing services from Optimus? Email or call 0330 0366 393.

Once your house purchase is underway, you might want to get a home buyers survey completed which Optimus can also help with. They have a team of home survey experts as well as RICS regulated surveyors to complete the checks for you. You can access home surveys by emailing or calling 0330 0366 391.

Exchanging contracts arrow

Exchanging contracts usually happens between a week to on the day of completion of your house purchase. This is the step when both parties can no longer pull out of the sale or the purchase without having to pay fees. Before you exchange, check through this list to make sure you’re happy to go through with the purchase.

  • Make sure your searches are complete and you’re happy with any outcomes.
  • Confirm you have a mortgage offer in writing.
  • Double check you have the savings for your mortgage deposit (you should already have withdrawn from your Lifetime ISA by this point and your conveyancer will have your savings if so).
  • Agreed on a completion date for sale and potentially moving in.
  • Carefully read the contract your solicitor sends before signing and sending it back. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand, it can a big old document.  
  • Sort your buildings insurance and make sure it’s valid from your exchange date. 

You will complete the purchase either on the same day or within a week of exchanging usually and this is official, you’ve bought the house! You’ll usually get a call from your conveyancer saying that you can pick up the keys from the estate agent. 

Moving in arrow

Once you know your potential moving date you can hand notice in at your current rental property if you need to and get ready to start packing. If you’re moving in on the day that you’ve bought your house this can be very exciting, but it’ll also be a busy day. Our top tip is to pack your kettle, tea bags, mugs and snacks in one box and make sure you know which one it is so that you can get the kettle on as soon as you fancy a break!

We hope our first-time buyer checklist was helpful and that you’re well on your way to buying your dream home.

Beehive Money is an introducer to Landmark Optimus Ltd (Optimus) who are registered in England and Wales under company number 05524369 Registered office: 5-7 Abbey Court, Eagle Way, Sowton Industrial Estate, Exeter, Devon EX2 7HY.

Frequently asked questions

What size mortgage can I afford? arrow

What size mortgage you’ll be able to get will depend on how much you can afford to pay back with your monthly repayments. To work this out, your mortgage adviser will need to see;

  • Your income.
  • How much deposit you’ve got saved up.
  • What other debts or borrowing you have.

The amount of deposit needed will depend on the property you want to buy, but as a rule, the larger the deposit the better mortgage deal you are likely to get, and lenders will look for anything from 5% upwards. Read more about how much you could afford with our mortgage guide.

Can I buy a home on a single income? arrow

Buying a home on your own is possible, it all depends on your affordability compared to the cost of the property. All your mortgage adviser or the lender will look at is whether you’ll be able to afford the mortgage on a single income and whether you have the initial funds to put into it to begin with. Read more on how to buy a house when you're single.

What is Stamp Duty? arrow

Stamp Duty is a tax the Government introduced in 2003. It’s basically a charge on ‘land transactions’, and applies when you buy: 

  • Both freehold and leasehold property.
  • Shared ownership property.
  • Residential and commercial property.
  • Land.

It’ll cost different amounts based on your circumstances and the cost of the property. Find out how much it’ll cost you based on what you’re buying and whether you’re a first-time buyer or not by reading our Stamp Duty guide.  

Plus, check our Stamp Duty calculator to help you work out how much you might have to pay.  

How do mortgage interest rates work? arrow

Mortgage interest rates determine how much you'll be charged to borrow the money you need for your house or flat purchase and what your monthly repayments will be over the length of the deal. Your interest is the cost of borrowing the money - what it costs you as a percentage of the amount you've borrowed. You’ll need to pay this back as well as the loan amount from your lender.   
Mortgage lenders will all charge different rates for different circumstances with different products. The higher the interest rate and the longer the term, the more expensive your borrowing will be. Any amount of interest to pay on a loan means that you’ll pay back more than the amount you have borrowed. Read more in our mortgage interest guide.

What’s a credit score? arrow

Your credit score is a number related to you that explains your personal credit files to mortgage lenders and other financial institutions. It explains how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are at borrowing money and paying it back, this is called your creditworthiness, to any company who may want to lend to you. Your credit score is based on your credit report that lets credit referencing agencies such as Experian and Equifax know how creditworthy you are. Find out more about how to improve your credit score with our handy article.