First time buying advice


A guide to buying your first property should always start with;


If you are thinking of moving to a New Area, make sure you have researched all the local amenities and that you are aware of the travel options to and from work/family/friends. It may be worth looking a little further from the city centre as you can often get more for your money, but don't forget to factor in the extra transport costs.

You should start with one or possibly two areas where you want to live. When you have registered with every estate agent covering the area(s) and seen everything in your price range, widen it to another area if you wish. By focusing in this way you might not find your perfect home immediately but you will develop a better knowledge of local prices and the neighbourhood. If you can't choose between three or four locations, leave yourself enough time to investigate them thoroughly. Walking around an area is by far the best way to find out what it's like. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of home am I looking for?
  • House, Flat or Studio?
  • Number of bedrooms?
  • New Build / Old Property / Conversion?
  • Newly Refurbished / In need of Repair / Complete Refurbishment?
  • Home office or children's playroom?
  • Garden or Terrace?
  • What about location?
  • How easy will it be for me to get to work?
  • How close are the shops, especially if you don't have a car?
  • How close are friends and family?
  • What are the local schools like?


Once you've decided on an area, it's best to work out your budget. You will need to have already saved a deposit, usually a minimum of 10% of the purchase price. When calculating your budget, it's important to be honest and realistic about your outgoings and what you can afford.

You also need to factor in Conveyancing Fees, Stamp Duty Land Tax(SDLT), Insurance Premiums, any Mortgage Arrangement Fees and the cost of a Survey or Valuation from the lenders. Conveyancing is the legal process for transferring the property title from one person to another. Stamp Duty Land Tax is a tax that is now calculated proportionately on the value of the property paid by purchasers from 2% for properties over £125,000, rising to 15% for properties purchased through a company and worth in excess of £2 million

Please click the following link, to see the current Stamp Duty Threshold in the UK new window.

SDLT rates for residential property

You'll pay:

Property Price SDLT rate
On the first £125,000 Zero (nothing)
On the next £125,000 (the portion from £125,001 to £250,000) 2%
On the next £675,000 (the portion from £250,001 to £925,000) 5%
On the next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million) 10%
On the rest (above £1.5 million) 12%

If you buy a property for £275,000, you'll pay £3,750 of SDLT. This is made up of:

  • Nothing on the first £125,000
  • £2,500 on the next £125,000
  • £1,250 on the remaining £25,000

Use the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) SDLT calculator new window to work out how much you'll pay.


It is Paramount to get a Mortgage Agreed in Principle First before committing with an Offer to any prospective property you find. This proves to the seller that you are serious and can afford to pay what you have offered.


We don't recommend that you create a huge list of 'must haves' to tick off before you even consider viewing a property as this approach could be quite limiting. If you do this, you could reject a house straight away because it hasn't got something on your list, whereas there might be potential to move things around, or some of the other features might make up for the one feature it's missing. A sensible approach is to create a much shorter list of 'must haves' and 'would like to haves'. On your 'must have' list there should only be three items, otherwise you're not going to focus on what's most important to you. Then, take some time to go and see as many properties in the area as possible which meet your three basic 'must haves'.

Here's a typical list: Must have:

  • Absolute maximum price you are prepared to pay and can afford.
  • Your Preferred Areas
  • Number of Bedrooms


  • Over what time period would the seller like to complete on the sale?
  • How negotiable is the price?
  • Is the Vendor in a Chain and if so, how long is the chain?
  • Will the property be taken off the market if the offer was accepted
  • Will viewings still take place if your offer was accepted

Whatever you agree will form part of your contract with the vendor. You may have to negotiate an extra sum for the items you want, or they may throw them in to seal the deal.


How much are you going to offer? If you are unsure you should ask your agent for advice. Be very careful about making really low offers. If you are really determined to buy the property, don't go in ridiculously low. The seller will lose confidence in you as a buyer and may not want to deal with you any more. You need to decide how much your absolute maximum budget is because if your original offer is rejected, it's very easy to get carried away. Stay grounded and be aware of your limits. If your maximum offer is still rejected, it will be very disappointing especially if you had your heart set on the property, but that is the way the market sometimes is so be prepared to start the process again as you may find another property 10 times better than the original one.


Once your offer has been accepted, you must instruct your solicitor and give their details to your estate agent. Appoint a solicitor who is fast, efficient and likely to deal with everything with the minimum of fuss. If you already have a family or business solicitor you are happy with, it's important to check that they're experienced when it comes to conveyancing before deciding to use them.

A personal recommendation from someone who has just bought a house is one of the best ways of finding a solicitor. Alternatively, your estate agent can tell you which local firms have the best reputations. It's worth getting a few quotes first.


Survey of the property will need to be organised. The following three different types of survey are carried out on behalf of mortgage lenders to help them establish the amount and terms of the loan:

  • 1. Valuation Report - Your mortgage lender will insist on having a valuation report before approving your loan. The report will take into account factors such as the condition and age of the house, the area, and what comparable properties are selling for locally. But that's all.
  • 2. Homebuyers Report - A Homebuyers Report and Valuation Report (HSVR) provides an overview of the condition of the property and points out any defects. It will also tell you whether the purchase price is reasonable. The property is only inspected on a fairly superficial level but most buyers tend to opt for a Homebuyers Report as it goes into more depth than a valuation report.
  • 3. Full Structural Survey - Also known as a building survey, this more detailed report is a necessity for any house over 50 years old. The surveyor will report on the construction, the state of the walls, foundations, roofs, plumbing, wiring, heating and woodwork. A building survey is normally required when a property is of an unusual construction or has had extensive alterations. If the property is old, in need of serious structural repair, or if you're planning a major conversion or renovation, a building survey would be a sensible option.
Page top