The ultimate guide for first-time buyers

Buying your first property is an exciting but daunting experience. So to give you peace of mind you’re making the right decision, here’s what you need to know before launching into the property market.


You will presumably have a rough idea of the kind of property you want and its whereabouts. And whether you are prepared to buy a do-it-upper or the convenience of a new build.

But before you start making a shortlist, you need to know whether you can get on the property ladder. Start by working out how much deposit you can afford. The calculation should be the amount you have saved up, less an amount sufficient to cover all fees and expenses relating to the purchase.

Expenses and fees include conveyancing, a building survey, removals, furnishings, and (on properties over £300,000) stamp duty. At the very least allow £4,000.

The minimum deposit required by banks and building societies is usually 10% of the purchase price. They will also look at your annual income when assessing the maximum amount they are prepared to lend (at present the formula is just under five times pre-tax annual wages).


Let’s look at an example. You (or you and your partner) earn a total of £40,000 a year before tax. You are looking to buy a property for £200,000. Most lenders will grant a maximum mortgage, based on this earnings declaration, of £190,000. Your minimum deposit (10% of £200,000 purchase price) is £20,000. Your borrowing, therefore, is the purchase price (£200,000) less 10% deposit (£20,000), equals £180,000. Repayments, if you have a 25-year mortgage, will likely be up to £900 per month at present.

If it looks like your income and deposit are good enough to get you a mortgage, go online and search “mortgage calculator” and fill in the forms to get provisional offers from several banks/building societies of your choice.

For provisional offers to become firm offers you will need to answer more questions and provide proof of the details you have given.

Property search

With a firm mortgage offer in the bag, have a look on Rightmove and Zoopla for properties that meet your criteria, and book plenty of viewings so that you get a good feel for the market.

Let’s assume you find a property which ticks all the important boxes with an asking price of £200,000. Here’s what to do next.


  • Is it a seller’s market? In which case the property will probably make the asking price and there will be little room for negotiation.
  • Has the property been on the market for several months? If so, it is probably overpriced, and a lower offer of say £180,000 would not be out of place.
  • Does it need a lot of re-decorating or refurbishment? Make an offer of say £195,000 subject to building survey findings.
  • If the property is a flat and subject to property maintenance charges for common areas, can you afford the extra expense?
  • Have the vendors found a place to buy? If not, are you prepared to wait potentially a long time before you can complete?
  • Are the vendors in a hurry to move? If so, since you have nothing to sell, you can play the quick sale card and hopefully get £5,000 to £10,000 off the asking price.
  • Finally, consider how long you will live in this property. If, for example, it has one bedroom and you are hoping to start a family in the next couple of years, maybe it’s not such a good idea.

Completing the deal

Your offer is accepted, so now you are looking to complete and move in as soon as possible. First thing, get the property checked out by a local building surveyor to make sure there are no hidden problems.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a property in Sussex or surrounding areas, we can advise on any work which urgently needs doing and give an estimated cost of said works.

If the property needs a new roof, unless the vendor is prepared to pay for the work, it’s usually best to bite the bullet, pull out and look elsewhere.

Having established that the roof and everything else in the property is basically sound, appoint a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to do the legal stuff and to complete the deal. They will do all manner of searches to make sure there are no previously unseen skeletons in the cupboard.

It takes a few weeks, but finally you will exchange contracts (agree a mutually convenient completion date, and pay 10% of the purchase price, forfeitable to the vendor if subsequently you pull out of the sale).

All that now remains is to pack and move. Congratulations.

Get in touch

If you’re a first-time buyer who requires a HomeBuyer Survey RICS Level 2 or Full Building Survey RICS Level 3, get in touch with our team today. We’d be glad to help.