Return to home

First-time buyers, a guide to buying your first home

Buying your first home is incredibly exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. We understand that everyone’s in different situations, some might be ready to put a deposit down whilst others could have started saving today.

Well, whatever stage or situation you’re in, we’re here to help.

We’ve put together a complete guide for first-time buyers that has everything you need to know.

Plant And Chair

As a first-time buyer taking your first steps onto the property ladder is a big leap. And it can be confusing – with processes to follow and jargon to grasp, we break it all down here in this first-time buyer’s guide.

What defines a first-time buyer and am I eligible?

You’d think that the clue would be in the name. But it’s not quite this straightforward. To be eligible to be a first-time buyer you need to have never purchased a property, nor ever owned one. For example, if you inherited or were gifted a property, but had never purchased one, you are not eligible to be a first-time buyer.

If you are purchasing a property with another person, then you both need to be classed as first-time buyers to be eligible for incentives or schemes.

If you’re not eligible to be a first-time buyer, this guide will still walk you through purchasing a property for the first time.

 Let’s get into everything you need to consider when it comes to purchasing your first property.


Can you afford to buy a house?

The first thing you need to ask yourself as a first-time buyer is, can I afford to buy a home?

The average cost of buying a home in the UK is £33k. But everyone’s situation is unique. Factors like location, property type and size will all sway costs. Conveyancing, surveys, removals, insurance – costs pile up fast. But forewarned is forearmed.

You’ll also need to secure a mortgage. You’ll get a mortgage from a bank or building society, which will lend you the remaining funds required to purchase a property after your deposit. Let’s say you’re buying a £200,000 home, and you have a 10% deposit (£20,0000), you’d need to borrow the other 90% (£180,000) from a lender.

It also makes sense to get a Mortgage in Principle (MIP) before house hunting, this may also be called an Agreement in Principle or something similar. A MIP will give you a good indication of how much you’ll likely be able to borrow before you apply for a mortgage. Estate agents will likely ask if you have a MIP so they can advise on properties within your budget.

To get an MIP, simply contact or visit lender websites, most will offer a free service. Or you can talk to your mortgage broker if you are using one.

Coffe Table

Select what type of mortgage you’re going to take out

We get it, mortgages can seem complex, especially for a first-time buyer. Let’s break down the two main options: fixed-rate and variable-rate.

With a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly repayments stay the same for an agreed period of usually 2-5 years. It brings a sense of reliability – no nasty surprises. If interest rates rise or fall during that time, your repayments won’t change.

Variable-rate mortgages move up and down with interest rates. This flexibility can work in your favour if rates fall, meaning lower monthly payments. But it does bring uncertainty – your repayments could also increase if rates rise.

So which path is best? Well, let’s think ahead here. If current rates are high but forecasts suggest they’ll drop, a variable rate could allow you to benefit later. However, if clear budgeting is your top priority, fixed rates bring payment stability that many like to rely on.

How can I improve my chances of getting a mortgage?

Securing a mortgage can be tough, and it can be a daunting process for first-time buyers. If you’re worried about securing a mortgage, here are some things that might help improve your chances:

Check and improve your credit score

There is no hard and fast figure for what your credit score needs to be to secure a mortgage. But in general, the higher the better.

If you need to improve your credit score, make sure to pay your bills on time and be actively using credit. If you rarely or never use credit, it is going to be difficult for anyone to judge how much they can trust you to repay a mortgage.

You can check your credit score at some of the main credit agencies, including Experian and Equifax.

Reduce debt

Lenders will check your debt-to-income ratio. Make sure to keep credit card balances low and pay off any existing loans. Try to avoid taking out any additional credit or debts before applying for a mortgage if you can.

We understand that this is easier said than done. Everyone is in a unique situation, some may be able to pay off their debts easier than others. Remain consistent and keep chipping away at it regardless of your situation.

Save up a big deposit

Most lenders are going to require a down payment of 10% or more. The higher the deposit you have, the better the mortgage deal you’ll be able to get.

Some lenders offer 5% deposit mortgages, but these offers are likely to have the highest interest rates and the criteria to be eligible can be quite strict.

Keep your income steady

Having a stable job and income history reassures lenders that you are going to be able to make mortgage repayments. Bonus or side income can also increase your chances of securing a mortgage.

Set realistic expectations

If you don’t have a big deposit, a great credit score, or are not a high earner, you’re not going to be able to take out a mortgage worth £500,000.

Set a more realistic expectation, and remember that this is your first home, it’s likely not going to be your last. Getting on the property ladder is becoming increasingly difficult, it might mean you need to be more flexible.

If you’re rejected – freeze

Being rejected by a mortgage lender can be disheartening. So much so that you want to try and instantly rectify it by applying with another lender.

Too many applications will damage your credit score, and consistently applying could lead to more rejections due to the amount of recent searches into your credit history.

Instead, if you’re rejected check your credit file again, and ask yourself could I have missed something. What can I do to rectify any issues?

Do I need a mortgage broker?

Securing a mortgage without help as a first-time buyer can feel like an uphill climb. But take a breath – support is out there. An independent mortgage broker can be your guide through the mortgage maze while helping you save time and money.

But with so many brokers out there, how do you pick the right one? Here are some tips to help you choose the right mortgage broker for you:

  • Ask friends, family, or anyone else you know if they have used a reliable one before.
  • Look online, see if they have any reviews on Google or other platforms like Trustpilot.
  • Book meetings or calls, and ask them about their experience working with first-time buyers and the budget you’ve got in mind.
  • Search around, don’t settle for the first one you speak to. Compare fees, availability, experience, and communication to get an idea of what suits you best.

Pros of using a mortgage broker

  • Brokers have a wide knowledge of the market and plenty of experience helping people secure the best mortgage for their situation. 
  • They have access to loan deals that aren’t widely available or available directly from lenders.
  • Will likely save you time when looking for a mortgage and know what lenders to avoid.
  • You may even find it easier to secure a mortgage if your broker has a good relationship with lenders.

Cons of using a mortgage broker

  • Some lenders do not work with brokers, meaning you could miss out on better deals simply because they do not have access to them.
  • Communication will be between the lender and the broker, meaning that you won’t be able to build a relationship directly with your lender. All communication will go through your broker. 
  • You might have to pay a broker fee, depending on how the broker is set up. 
  • Some brokers may push you towards certain lenders because of their relationship, try to make sure you always come first.
Front Door

What are the other costs of buying a home?

We know that saving up for a deposit can feel like an endless marathon. But before leaping into house-hunting, let’s talk about budget. Some additional costs come with purchasing a property that you might not be aware of as a first-time buyer.

Let’s take a look into some of those extra cost you need to factor in when purchasing your first home:

1. Conveyancing fees

You’re going to need a conveyancer to deal with the legal duty of purchasing a property.

Expect to pay between £800 and £2,000 depending on the property that you are purchasing.

Get an instant quote from Eden.

2. Disbursements

These include any expenses related to your property purchase that your conveyancer incurs or pays on your behalf. Including:

  • Land registry fees: For registering property ownership and deeds (£90 - £140)
  • Search fees: For conducting local authority, water/draining, and environmental searches (£250)
  • Identity/verification checks: Your conveyancer needs to make sure that you are you, and you have the right to buy a property in the UK, this also protects against money laundering and fraud (£20 -£30)
  • Bank transfer fees: There is a small fee to transfer large amounts of money, something that your conveyancer will manage (£20 -£25 per transaction)

Depending on your property purchase, you may also incur additional costs for things like a gifted deposit, Help to Buy supplement, or Lifetime ISA supplement. Your conveyancer will be able to break all this down for you.

3. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

SDLT is tax paid when purchasing a property in England above a certain price threshold.

First-time buyers have a higher threshold, and you may not have to pay any if your property is priced below a certain amount.

We’ll go into more detail about SDLT shortly.

In Wales, land tax is called Land Transaction Tax (LTT). It works slightly differently from SDLT in England, there is no specific relief for first-time buyers, but the first £225,000 of your property purchase in Wales has an LTT rate of 0% for any home buyer.

4. Surveys

A survey is an inspection by a qualified surveyor to evaluate the condition of a home for potential issues, defects, and repairs.

There are different types of surveys, with some being more thorough than others, making them more expensive. The property value and location will also impact the cost of your survey.

You can expect to pay around £400 - £1500 for a survey depending on these factors. Remember that a survey is separate from a mortgage valuation.

5. Mortgage valuation

A mortgage valuation is charged by whoever your lender is. They want to make sure that the property is worth what you are paying for it. The price you’ll be paying will depend on the size, type, and price of the property.

You can expect to pay between £100-£600.

6. Mortgage fee

Sometimes known as an ‘arrangement fee’. This is the cost that your lender will charge you for setting up your mortgage. The fee is typically between £0 and £2,500.

It’s common to add this fee to the mortgage total, meaning it may not be an upfront cost.

7. Mortgage broker

A mortgage broker is your middleman, connecting you with lenders to find your ideal home loan.

Some brokers earn commissions from lenders, while others charge fees to borrowers, or both. If fees apply, expect to pay between £150-£600, depending on their model and your mortgage details.

8. Building insurance

As part of securing your mortgage, your lender will require you to take out building insurance. Building insurance covers damage against your property such as fires, floods, or storm damage.

Building insurance is an annual fee and will cost between £100 - £400 per year depending on your property type and size.

9. Removal costs

Most often, people will pack up their home themselves, and pay for removals to transport their belongings. Removals can cost anywhere from £350 up to £2,000+ depending on the amount of belongings and where you are moving to.

As a first-time buyer, you might not have a house full of belongings to move, you may be able to do it yourself by renting a van or having family help.


Do I need to pay stamp duty as a first-time buyer?

One of the biggest perks that comes with being a first-time buyer in England is that the threshold for stamp duty is much higher compared to existing property owners.

You’ll only need to pay stamp duty if the purchase price of your new home is above £425,000. See below for a full breakdown:


It’s important to note that from March 2025 the stamp duty threshold will be changing. The 0% rate will fall from £425,000 to £300,000, and stamp duty relief will end at £500,000 rather than £625,000.

Learn more about SDLT here.

What help is out there for first-time buyers?

Buying your first home can be equally as exciting as it is overwhelming. However, some government initiatives are designed to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder.

Government schemes to help first-time buyers

Lifetime Individual Savings Account (LISA)

You can use a LISA to buy your first home or save for later in life. If you are using it to buy a home, the property value can be a maximum of £450,000.

You can open a LISA between the ages of 18 – 39 and must make your first payment into your account by the age of 40. You can put up to £4,000 each year in your LISA until you’re 50. The government will add a 25% bonus to your savings, up to a maximum of £1,000 a year.

If you’re buying with another first-time buyer who has a LISA, you can both use your LISA towards the same property.

It’s important to note that there’s a penalty for withdrawing money from your LISA for not putting it towards a deposit or withdrawing later in life before you are 60. You’ll also lose the government bonus for withdrawing.

Learn more about LISA’s here.

Footstool And Laptop

Help to Buy ISA

Help to Buy was created to help first-time buyers like yourself save up for a house deposit.

If you opened a Help to Buy ISA before November 30th 2019, you can keep saving into it until November 2029, with an extra year after that to claim your government bonus. You can no longer open a Help to Buy account.

Here’s how it works: The government will top up any contributions to the account by 25%, up to the contribution limit of £12,000. You are allowed to deposit £200 per month into your Help to Buy. For every £200 you save, the government will contribute £50. You can earn a maximum of £3,000 from the government if you save the contribution limit.

Buying with another first-time buyer who has a Help to Buy ISA? You both get to use your bonuses, so up to £6,000 towards your house deposit.

Learn more about Help to Buy ISA’s here.

There are also government schemes in Wales, whilst we can act on property sales and purchases in Wales, we do not act on the government’s help to buy schemes.

Help to buy – Wales

Help to Buy – Wales is a scheme designed to support buyers of new build homes. The scheme provides a shared equity loan to buyers. It supports the purchase of homes up to £300,000 (until March 2025) through a registered Help to Buy - Wales builder.

Help to Buy Wales is made up of 3 parts:

  • You have a deposit of at least 5%
  • The Welsh Government provides an equity loan for up to 20% of the property price
  • You secure a mortgage for the remaining balance

Learn more about Help to Buy Wales here.

Homebuy - Wales

Homebuy – Wales supports people who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy a property by providing an equity loan to help buy an existing property.

This scheme is more restrictive than others, you need to meet certain requirements to be accepted. It is not always available either, if this is the case, you could be put on a waiting list.

Learn more about Homebuy Wales here.

A step-by-step guide to buying your first home

With everything factored in above and you’ve got your deposit and MIP ready, the property search begins – exciting times! But avoid rushing big decisions in the first-time buyer euphoria.

To help, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to buying your first property:


1. What to consider when looking for your first home

You’ve probably already started browsing the market, but now that you’re ready to buy you can start taking it a little more seriously.

Be realistic with what you can afford and where you want to live. Remember, this is your first home, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be your last.

It’s great to start your search online in places like Rightmove and Zoopla, they can help you get a feel for the market and see what’s available.

Home wishes look different for everyone – buying with friends or a partner? Hoping to fill rooms with little ones soon? Wherever you’re at, your home will need to accommodate you for now, and at least the short-term future.

Ask yourself things like:

  • How many bedrooms or bathrooms do I need?
  • Do I need to be close to work or schools?
  • Do I want to be in a built-up area or somewhere more rural?
  • Is having a garage important?
  • What kind of garden do I need?

Break down your wishlist into “must-haves” and “wants”, it helps with clarity. Be honest – what’s non-negotiable for your day-to-day life? Flexibility will widen your options. And maybe you’re open to places that need a little TLC, also known as a “fixer-upper”.

Although fixer-uppers can be more work, it’s a great way for first-time buyers to add value to their property.

Plant Stand

What questions should I ask when viewing a property?

As a first-time buyer, this is likely to be the biggest purchase of your life so far. Make sure you ask plenty of questions at house viewings and find out as much as possible. If you don’t ask, you might not find out everything you need to.

Here’s some to start you off:

  • How old is the property? What updates/renovations have been done?
  • Are there any major repairs or replacements needed (roof, heating, electrical)?
  • What are the utilities costs on average (electricity, water, gas)?
  • Does the property have any history of water damage, flooding, or mould issues?
  • What amenities are included (appliances, fixtures)? What’s excluded?
  • What is the neighbourhood like in terms of noise, safety, and amenities?
  • How long has the property been on the market? Why are the sellers moving?
  • Have there been any major problems with pests or infestations?
  • What kind of insulation, windows, and climate control features are in place?
  • What internet/cable providers service the area?

Buying a home is exciting, but try to think long-term too, is the house going to be easy to sell in future? Where could you add value?

2. Make an offer and negotiate terms

You could view one property and fall in love, or you might view 20 and still not find “the one”. Either way, you’ll find the right home eventually, and when you do, it’s time to put in an offer.

This marks a major milestone for a first-time buyer. We get that it can be equally as exciting as it is nerve-wracking. Here’s some tips for when that moment comes:

  • Remain calm, and don’t let the excitement push you to overpay, or even offer the asking price. If there are no other bidders, you can offer below and see how the seller responds.
  • Do your research. Your estate agent should advise you on your offer. Do some digging yourself and check how much similar houses in the area previously sold for.
  • If you’re ready to move, make it clear. This can help sellers move their chain a long and may increase your chances.
  • If there’s a lot of interest in the property, you could make your first offer your best offer if you think it gives you the best chance and you want to avoid potentially long negotiations.
  • Have patience. It’s exciting, we know. But purchasing a house can take time, and you should take your time too. There’ll always be more chances if you need them.

Congratulations if they accept! The hard work has paid off. But if not, keep your spirits up and keep looking. 

If you want to learn more, check out our guide on how to make an offer on a house.

3. Apply for a mortgage

Once you’ve had your offer accepted, it’s time to apply for a mortgage. You will need to provide your lender with lots of information about you and your finances. To help, it’s best to be prepared to allow the process to run as smoothly as possible.

Get your documents ready ahead of time to avoid a last-minute scramble. Essential documents you’ll need to compromise include:

  • Payslips covering the last 3 months
  • Bank statements for the last 3-6 months
  • P60 form from your employer
  • Passport and/or driving license
  • Property listing of the home you’re purchasing
  • Proof of your national insurance number

You could be asked to provide more information about this, each situation varies. If you’re self-employed, you’ll likely need to demonstrate more details about your finances and work.


4. Instruct a conveyancer

Once you’ve had an offer accepted, you’ll need to instruct a conveyancer to act on your behalf to deal with the legal side of purchasing a property.

Your conveyancer will work with you from the moment you instruct them through to when you move in. It’s important to instruct a conveyancer you trust.

Between now and when you exchange contracts, your conveyancer will:

  • Perform ID checks on the client and source of funds
  • Review title deeds and prepare contract documents
  • Carry out searches (local, environmental, drainage etc.)
  • Make enquiries to the seller regarding the property
  • Advise client on survey/valuation needed
  • Go through the conditions of the mortgage offer
  • Explain the contract terms and clauses to the client
  • Negotiate terms between parties if needed
  • Answer the client's questions throughout the process
  • Set target dates for exchange once all info is gathered

Learn more about what a conveyancer is and what they do in our guide to conveyancing here.


Buyer beware

Buyer beware is a principle that places the responsibility on the buyer to thoroughly inspect a property and find out the information they need. There is no general responsibility for the seller to disclose physical problems with a property.

Your conveyancer should be able to advise you on how to best approach property purchasing, they will also be able to look into concerns or queries you have and declare them to you.

Trust Eden as your conveyancer

Put simply, we put you first. We understand the frustrations of conveyancing, Eden is about making conveyancing more simple, and less stressful.

We’ll take care of everything on the legal side for you, meaning you can focus on the exciting parts of your move.

We combine our legal expertise and in-house technology to make the process of buying or selling a house smooth and enjoyable.

Trust Eden as your conveyancer
Plant And Chair

5. Get a house survey

Your offer is accepted, and your conveyancer is delving into the legal intricacies of your property purchase, it’s the perfect moment to cast an expert eye on the home you’ll soon enough call yours.

House surveys serve as your property health check, peeling back the layers (not literally) to unveil any quirks or structural secrets.

While surveys aren’t required, any issues should be brought to light before you purchase the property. Unearthing hidden defects or damages could empower you to renegotiate or rethink your offer, ensuring you’re making an informed decision. A little extra insight could go a long way.

6. Research and book removal companies

For those stepping into living in their own property for the first time, the need for this step might not immediately dawn on you. Your collection of furniture and possessions may not be vast, making a DIY move or a van rental quite feasible.

But maybe you’ve been renting for a few years, or you’ve inherited a lot of belongings. If you’re in this situation you might want to look into booking a removal company to help with your move.

Keep in mind that the stars align on completion day, so scheduling your removals for the same date is crucial. Double-check their availability to ensure a seamless transition. The removal cost hinges on the number of items making the journey and the distance between your current and future home.

Homeoffice (1)

7. Exchange of contracts

Exchanging contracts is a key part of the property purchase journey. This is when signed contracts are swapped between the buyer’s and seller’s conveyancer. Key information is filled in, signed, and then returned.

You can breathe a sigh of relief now, the chances of your property purchase falling through are slim to none. You are now legally bound to purchase the property, as is the seller to sell.

It’s at this stage where you’ll pay your deposit (typically 10%) to the seller.

If either of you try to back out after this, it will be a breach of contract. The defaulting party would be at risk of either losing or returning the deposit.

8. Complete and move into your new home

Whether it’s taken you weeks, months, or years to get here, this is the day that you’ve been waiting for. It’s a day to cherish.

Completion day marks the finish line of your property purchasing journey. It’s the day when legal ownership officially transfers from the seller to the buyer, and you can move into your new home.

The sellers must be out by a set time on the day to facilitate your move-in time, which is usually around midday but can be whatever is agreed.

The money will be transferred to the seller’s conveyancer on the day, who will then tell the estate agent to release the keys, and that’s it, it’s time to get settled in.

Read our guide to completion day here.

To Do List

First-time buyer checklist

If you’d like to come back to this for a quick overview, we’ve put together a more straightforward first-time buyer checklist for you to refer to. Hopefully, this will come in handy:

Affording your first home

  • Calculate total costs - deposit, mortgage payments, fees
  • Get a mortgage agreement in principle
  • Decide on fixed or variable-rate mortgage

Improving mortgage chances

  • Check credit score and make improvements
  • Pay down existing debts
  • Grow deposit amount
  • Show steady employment history
  • Set realistic expectations on property price/mortgage amount

Budgeting for additional costs

  • Account for legal fees, searches, taxes
  • Factor in property survey(s)
  • Mortgage lender valuation charge
  • Mortgage arrangement fees
  • Building insurance
  • Removal company services

Leveraging first-time buyer tools

  • Increased stamp duty threshold
  • Government bonus on lifetime ISA contributions
  • Help to Buy ISA - monthly contributions eligible for bonus
  • Help to Buy Wales - assists with deposits and equity

Finding the right property

  • Research locations, prices, amenities
  • Define must-have vs nice-to-have features
  • Consider taking on a "fixer-upper"

Navigating the buying process

  • Select a knowledgeable estate agent
  • Make an offer and negotiate price/terms
  • Gather documents and apply for a mortgage
  • Hire a conveyancer for legal work
  • Get the property survey completed
  • Book removal company in advance
  • Formal exchange of contracts
  • Complete purchase and move-in
Desk (1)

First-class support for first-time buyers

At Eden, we support all our clients as much as they need. But know that our approach is particularly useful for first-time buyers who are experiencing this for the very first time.

You can contact your property lawyer through their dedicated number, email or the MyEden platform. We’ll always have time when you need us.

You’ll also have 24/7 access to the MyEden platform, where you can check in on your case whenever you like to see progress, action tasks, manage financials, and more.

Get an instant quote