10 steps to buying your first home

A property insiders guide for first-time buyers. Here are ten steps to buying your first home in UK...

Steps to buying a house for the first-time:

- How much money do you need to buy a house? 
- Register with your local agent
- Get your mortgage in principle
- Make an offer
- Arrange a mortgage
- Instruct a property lawyer (conveyancer)
- Get a survey
- Arrange your insurance
- Set the completion date and exchange contracts
- Completion
- What other costs are associated with buying a property?

To help you find your way through the home buying process, we’ve created this step-by-step insider’s guide, including some of the essential information and costs you’ll need to know about how to get started.

So, without further ado, here we go.

1. How much money do you need to buy a house?

Typically, you would need a minimum of a 5% deposit, although your ideal deposit would be at least 10%. So, if you’ve saved £10,000, then you could look for a house valued at up to £200,000 (subject to affordability checks). You also need to factor in a range of additional costs like stamp duty, solicitor fees, mortgage fees, survey costs and buildings insurance.

This may sound like a lot to keep in mind, but there’s no need to worry, as we’re here to help you throughout this entire process. Additionally, at the end of this article, we’ve included a list of costs that are associated with the buying process .

2. Register with your local agent

Now is the time to start looking for your new home. Ensure that you include all your requirements in your property search, and make use of our branch teams, who are there to make your buying process as simple and as smooth as possible – they have many years of experience to help you along the way. Plan plenty of property viewings. Do your research and get to know the local market. If you need a little extra advice on up-and-coming areas, talk to your agent.

There’s no time like the present, start your property search now.

When looking for a property, you may want to avoid a buyer chain, as this could slow down your moving process. A property chain is a queue of homebuyers and sellers connected by their need for one another to complete their sale/purchase in order to complete their own. The best way to avoid chain delays is by purchasing a home that has no upward chains. Newly built homes don’t have buyer chains and some existing homes also don’t, so it’s a good idea to ask during a viewing whether the property will be in a chain.

Read our full guide on what a property chain is and how to break it here.

3. Get your mortgage agreement in principle

A mortgage agreement in principle can also be referred to as a decision in principle and is an estimate of how much you could potentially borrow from a bank or building society. It will help you search for a property in your price range and may also help you negotiate a better price with the seller because they know you can get a mortgage. Bear in mind it’s not a formal mortgage offer and is subject to status and lender criteria.

Want to increase your chances of getting a mortgage? Here are our top tips:

  • Check and improve your credit report in advance
  • Try to limit/avoid taking on any debt
  • Pay your bills on time to show lenders you can meet your financial commitments (which will give them confidence you can meet your monthly mortgage payments)
  • Avoid using an overdraft as this could have the opposite effect to the above point
  • Register to vote as your information will be recorded on the electoral report which helps lenders to confirm your details such as name and address
  • Separate your accounts from ex-partners and housemates. Their financial activity could affect yours
  • Cut back on spending – your statements will be analysed

And, if you want a helping hand finding the right type of mortgage for you, our associated company, Countrywide Mortgage Services, can help with that. They have access to thousands of mortgage deals from our panel of high street banks and specialist lenders and can help guide you through the mortgage market.

At this point, you may find it beneficial to regularly check in with your mortgage adviser on how your property search is going. Not only will they be able to offer you the best mortgage deal for your circumstances from our panel of lenders, they are also trained to help you find the property of your dreams.

Countrywide Mortgage Services offer you three types of service:

  • Help to find: After you’ve provided them with information on your dream property, they’ll do the searching for you.
  • Information: Receive information and advice on the house buying process, from start to finish, including the right lenders and a full explanation of costs.
  • Comparison: Ideal for customers who have already found their next home and want to secure the best mortgage for their circumstances.

Visit our mortgages section to find out more, or arrange an appointment today for a no-obligation chat with a mortgage expert.

4. Make an offer – and get it accepted

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for and had your mortgage agreed in principle, it’s time to make an offer. Think carefully about what you would be willing to pay, if you go too low, you risk not being seen as a serious buyer, so make sure your offer is realistic. Equally, don’t go in too high and miss the mark completely. Remember, your dedicated estate agent will be on hand to guide you through the process. You’ve found out your offer has been accepted? Fantastic! Relax, and take a deep breath. It’s about to get serious.

Once your offer has been accepted, there could still be a chance of being gazumped. Gazumping happens when another buyer makes a higher offer that is accepted by the seller.

Visit our recent blog on Gazumping to find out more.

5. Arrange a mortgage

Once your offer is accepted, it’s time to arrange your mortgage. Remember that your mortgage agreement in principle (from step 3) usually expires after 30 or 90 days (depending on the lender - some expire earlier) so it’s worth checking what’s new to the market and seeing if you can find a better deal.

6. Instruct a property lawyer (conveyancer)

Now that you've had your offer accepted and confirmed your mortgage, it's time to think about who you want to handle the legal side of things. A property lawyer/conveyancer will, for example, take charge of conducting searches, liaising with the seller’s property lawyer, inspecting the seller’s documents, dealing with the Land Registry. This role is pivotal to keeping your house purchase on track. Find out more about how to choose your property lawyer here.

Have a look at our Countrywide Home Conveyancing services, which just so happen to be one of the largest transactional conveyancing companies in the UK.

7. Get a survey

At the same time that you instruct a conveyancer, we recommend giving yourself the peace of mind by having a survey conducted. Surveys provide you with an overview and insight of your potential home and its surroundings.

To provide you with an example of the types of survey that exist, here are three survey types we offer: The Level One Countrywide HomeFact® Report, RICS Home Survey Level 2 (previously known as the HomeBuyer Report), RICS Home Survey Level 2 (survey and valuation), RICS Home Survey Level 3 are your main options. If you’re wondering about which survey suits you best, take a look at our product section containing survey information for a simple breakdown of each.

8. Arrange your insurance

From buildings to contents insurance, you’ll want to ensure that your new home is protected. If you’re taking out a mortgage, you’ll most likely already have arranged your buildings insurance, as it’s usually a condition on most mortgage offers. Like all types of insurance, buildings insurance protects you against unforeseen circumstances that could happen as soon as the contracts are exchanged (which is the time from when you’re legally bound to buy to property).

You may want to consider other insurance options available to you, that insure yourself, your family, your property and the contents within it. Explore your insurance options here.*

9. Set the completion date and exchange contracts

This is the date that you’ll finally move into your new home. Completion usually takes place between one and four weeks after you’ve exchanged contracts. During this time, it might be an idea to find a trustworthy removals company to help get you moving.

You’re almost there! When your property lawyer and the seller's property lawyer swap signed copies of the contract, you’ve effectively exchanged contracts. Time to celebrate, you’re about to complete on your dream home.

You’re almost there! When your solicitor and the seller's solicitor swap signed copies of the contract, you’ve effectively exchanged contacts. Time to put the champagne on ice and celebrate, you’re about to complete on your first home.

10. Completion

You did it. You’re officially a new homeowner – collect the keys and let yourself in! Now, time to bribe your friends with pizza and get them to work on the decorating.

Excited to buy, but haven’t found your perfect place yet?

Now that we’ve covered the steps to buying your home, let’s talk about some of the costs that are associated with buying a property. In this way, you can avoid any unwanted surprises along the way.

What other costs are associated with buying a property?

Stamp Duty:

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), usually referred to as Stamp Duty, is a form of tax that you pay when you buy land or property above a certain value. It is an additional cost that is calculated based on the purchase price. If you’re a first-time buyer in England and Scotland, you’ll be happy to hear that the Government has introduced a Stamp Duty relief, available until 31 March 2025.^ Find out more about this here.

Note that the Stamp Duty in England varies to the Land Transaction Tax in Wales and the  Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland. Read more about English Stamp Duty and the different tax bands here.


Above, we already touched on the fact that your property lawyer/conveyancer will perform property searches on your behalf to help ensure that you, as a buyer, have all the information you need to feel secure in your property purchase. Depending on the council, the property and its environment, costs will vary, which is why it’s important to talk to a specialist to get a more accurate estimate.

Request a quote today


Some mortgage lenders offer free surveys, but you may want to consider other options that help to ensure you know as much as possible about the state of the property you're buying. All surveys should be completed by an accredited surveyor from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

There are four different types of survey:  

  • Level One Countrywide HomeFact® Report
  • RICS Home Survey Level 2, previously known as the HomeBuyer Report
  • RICS Home Survey Level 2 (survey and valuation)
  • RICS Home Survey Level 3

To get a better understanding of each survey or get an instant quote, visit our in-depth explanation or surveys here.

Mortgage fees

There are usually two main types of mortgage-related fees - Broker fees and Lender fees.

Our Countrywide Mortgage Consultant will discuss any relevant fees with you before you choose to proceed. When arranging a mortgage through Countrywide, the following fees apply:

  • Broker fee: a one-off fee payable to Countrywide Mortgage Services, for lifetime membership to our mortgage services, which comes with a number of benefits
  • Administration fee: payable to Countrywide Mortgage Services, for handling all the administration on your mortgage application

Although some lenders do offer fee-free mortgages, others may come with associated costs The total fees payable will depend on your chosen lender, but may include:

  • Arrangement fee: paid to the lender for arranging your mortgage. Can be added to the loan in some cases.
  • Booking or reservation fee: often charged upfront, it reserves the mortgage you have been offered while your application is being processed.
Moving costs

Last, but certainly not least, you can’t forget about any moving costs you may need to take into account, including hiring a company to help you move or the time it may take to do it all yourself. There are professionals who will be able to safely and securely pack and move your belongings. Depending on who you use, this could come with the added benefit of being insured for any potential damage that could occur during your move.

Still haven’t found your dream home? We can help.

Correct at time of publishing – 03.04.2024


Stamp Duty Land Tax
Land and Buildings Transaction Tax
Changes to main residential rates and bands for Land Transaction Tax





Countrywide Mortgage Services and Countrywide Insurance Services are trading names of Countrywide Principal Services Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Firm Registration Number 301684). Registered Office: Countrywide House, 6 Caldecotte Lake Business Park, Caldecotte Lake Drive, Milton Keynes, MK7 8JT. Registered in England no. 01707341. MS/CW/7332/04.24