Advice for buying a home for first time buyers

It can be a minefield. Are you a first time buyer looking for reliable, clear home buying advice? Read on to find a collection of practical home buying tips and tricks to get you on the right track. By the end of this article you’ll have all the buying a new home advice you need to start making a plan, bringing you closer to your goal and giving you the confidence you need to know you’re making the best decisions along the way. Read on for expert first time buyer mortgage advice including the government’s first time buyer help to buy schemes.

What is a Mortgage?

Our first piece of advice on home buying answers a critical question. What is a mortgage? A mortgage is simply a long-term loan designed to allow people to buy a home, second home, multiple investment properties, business or commercial property. Most of the time the mortgage term – in other words the length of the loan – is 25 years, giving people a good, long time to pay off what is often an enormous amount of money.

There are shorter term loans available as well as loans whose terms last for as long as 40 years.  If you’re young, say in your twenties, a 40 year loan can be an excellent way to get on the property ladder in a world where the repayments on a shorter loan of 25 years might be unaffordable.   

There are various types of mortgage. Interest only mortgages mean you only pay off the interest on the loan, not the capital. You pay back the loan part in one go when you sell the property or the loan term ends. Variable rate mortgages can go up and down depending on the economy. The interest, and so the amount you pay back, varies each month. Fixed rate mortgages involve paying off the same amount each month all the way through the term of the loan. And tracker mortgages follow or ‘track’ the Bank of England base interest rate plus a set percentage on top.

Finding a Mortgage

Here’s some more valuable first time buyer mortgage help. More or less every high street bank and building society in the UK offers mortgages, as do online banks. There’s a bewildering selection of mortgage lenders as a result, and that means you need to carry out careful research before making a decision. Luckily there’s support. The easiest way to compare mortgage rates and types from multiple sources in one go is to use a mortgage comparison website. As long as you’re fully aware of the potential pitfalls and understand the financial language, that’s fine. They also provide all sorts of good advice for potential borrowers.

If you have a lot of questions to ask, don’t feel confident in your own abilities and don’t understand financial jargon, you might prefer to hand it over to an expert. In that case, find a good independent fee-free broker or mortgage advisor. Some can recommend products from the entire mortgage market, others can only recommend mortgages from a limited group of providers, but they’ll all find you the best deal for your circumstances.  

Mortgage estimates give first time buyers a really useful picture of whether you can afford your monthly payments. There’s more. When you get an agreement in principle for a mortgage from a lender before finding a property to buy, estate agents will take you more seriously.

How Much Deposit is Needed

Almost every mortgage deal requires a deposit. This reassures the lender you’re serious about your finances and can handle them well. The usual minimum deposit is 5% of the property value, and your mortgage makes up the remaining 95%. It’s useful to know paying a bigger deposit reduces your borrowing and slashes your repayments. It’s obviously worth saving as much as you can.

It’s good to know most lenders provide excellent help and guidance if you’re struggling to save for a deposit. You can also tap into services like Stepladder, digital savings platforms designed to support the saving process and help you hit saving goals.   

The Cost of Buying a Home

Your mortgage is only part of the story. There’s a long list of other costs to take into account, so make sure you have the funds to pay them. You should carefully pin down and budget for the other costs of buying a home:

  •         Property survey fees – a survey establishes the condition of the place you’re buying, and can be anything from a relatively simple house buyers survey to a detailed survey examining and reporting back on every aspect of the property
  •         Property valuation fees – It’s always wise to have a professional valuation to make sure the price is right
  •         Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) if you’re buying in England and Northern Ireland
  •         Land Transaction Tax (LTT) if you’re buying in Wales
  •         The Land Registry fee – which pays to have your ownership registered legally
  •         Local authority searches – to check there’s no development or other work due that will affect your property
  •         Mortgage broker or lender fees 
  •         Solicitor’s fees
  •         Removals expenses
  •         VAT
  •         The final bills from your current home


Life itself costs money too, so make sure you accurately assess and budget for Council Tax and water bills, Ground Rent and service charges if you’ve bought a leasehold property. Plus buildings and contents insurance, heating bills, and any other costs you might be faced with after you’ve moved in.

Finding the Right Property – Freehold or Leasehold

Now you’re prepared with the relevant first time buyer mortgage advice, UK property is your oyster. It’s time to actually start the search. You can use a variety of methods to find your dream property, as well as the usual way via estate agents. Visit the websites of home building companies with new builds on offer. They often have superb bargains for first time buyers and should always come with a Buildmark Warranty. Your local newspaper property pages will be a rich source, as are online property resources.  

Make sure you know the difference between freehold property and leasehold property. With freehold you own the property and the land it’s built on, and you can own it for as long as you want. Leasehold means you own the property for a set period only, and you don’t own the land it’s built on.

These days, with energy costs sky high and likely to keep increasing, energy performance certificates are your best friend. It’s very helpful to know whether the place will cost a small fortune to heat or is well insulated and economical to run. Sometimes an older building will have a very low rating that can’t easily be improved simply because of the way it has been built. Other times you can improve a low rating with a little work. Either way it’s good to know where you stand before making an offer.

Help for First Time Buyers

How about first time home buyer government help? There are several useful schemes designed to help first time buyers, including first time buyer help from government sources like The Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, which helps increase the supply of mortgages for borrowers with only a 5% deposit. It’s handy for first time buyers to help with deposit payments.

Another government first time buyer help to buy scheme is called the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme. It lends first time buyers a percentage of the purchase price of a new build home. The Shared Ownership scheme is a part buy, part rent scheme that lets people buy a share of between 10-75% of a new build home and pay rent on the rest. First Homes supports first time buyers and key workers with 30% discounted homes. And Right to Buy helps council house tenants buy their homes.

Ready, steady… buy!

Now you know what you need to do and learn to make the first time buyer experience an enjoyable, exciting and productive one. We wish you the best of luck finding your first ever dream home!