Our step-by-step guide to buying your first home
There’s lots to think about when you buy your first home. Use our step-by-step guide to help you be prepared and know what to expect.
If you need to start by understanding what a mortgage is, our Introduction to mortgages explains how we talk about them. It answers things like, what is a mortgage term, fixed and tracker rates, and loan to value.
In this guide:
- Step 1. Work out how much you can borrow
- Step 2. Your deposit
- Step 3. Get a Decision in Principle
- Step 4. Apply for a mortgage with us
- Step 5. What happens when you apply for a mortgage
- Step 6. Receiving your mortgage offer
- Step 7. Exchange contracts and completion day
- Step 8. Making your first mortgage payment
- How to buy your first home video
Step 1. Work out how much you can borrow and what you can afford
How much can I borrow?
Use our mortgage calculator to get a rough idea of what you could borrow, and what your monthly payments might be, in just minutes.
It will ask for your main income details, a rough idea of the property value and your deposit amount.
How much you can afford?
Look at your income, or what you get paid, against your outgoings like bills, regular spend and other debts to work out how much money you'd have left each month.
Ask yourself if you have enough to cover a monthly mortgage payment.
You'll also need to consider other extra costs when buying a home like mortgage product fees, legal fees, property surveys, stamp duty and home moving companies.
You can check out stamp duty costs and rules on the Gov.uk website (opens in a new window).
We can help if you need to borrow more
We can offer different ways to help you. Borrow up to 20% more on pre-owned properties with our Helping Hand mortgage. Or you might be able to get a mortgage through an Affordable home scheme. Conditions apply.
2. Your deposit
The size of your deposit affects how much of a mortgage loan you’ll need. For most first time buyer mortgages, you need a deposit of at least 5% of the price of the property you want to buy.
We’re the largest mortgage provider to offer 95% Loan to Value (LTV) mortgages without using the Government’s mortgage guarantee scheme.
The bigger the deposit, the better access you’ll have to lower rates, and lower monthly payments.
If your deposit has been gifted to you
Your deposit may have been given to you as a gift.
When you apply for a mortgage with us, we ask you where your deposit is coming from, for example, your own savings or if a relative has given it to you as a gift.
For gifted deposits over £10,000 you’ll need to fill in a form as part of our application process.
Step 3. Get a Decision in Principle
You’ve worked out how much you can borrow and have your deposit. Now you can get a Decision in Principle and start looking at properties.
A Decision in Principle confirms what we’re prepared to lend you and lasts for 90 days. It also lets estate agents know you are ready to buy.
When you apply for a Decision in Principle we’ll do a soft credit check. Soft credit checks do not affect your credit rating. They do not appear to lenders on your credit report and will not affect your ability to apply for borrowing in the future.
You can apply online and it can take about 20 minutes to complete.
A Decision in Principle is not a mortgage offer. Once you’ve found a property you like, and had your offer accepted, you’ll be ready for the next step - apply for a mortgage.
Step 4. Apply for a mortgage with us
After the exciting time of finding your dream home and having your offer accepted, it’s time to apply for a full mortgage with us.
You can choose to apply for a mortgage with or without advice.
You need to get a Decision in Principle with us first before you can apply for a full mortgage.
If you are completing a Decision in Principle online, and you want to apply for your mortgage with advice, you have an option of booking an appointment with our Mortgage Advisers via our chat.
Apply with advice
One of our Mortgage Advisers will help you through the application process, and they'll give free advice on which mortgage will best meet your needs.
You can apply with advice by phoning us and booking an appointment with one of our Mortgage Advisers on 0345 609 25 30 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Saturday, 8.30am to 4pm. Closed Sundays and bank holidays). Our appointments can be done through a phone or video call.
They'll also help you to understand what information and documents you'll need to provide when applying including what you need if you’re self-employed or a contractor.
Apply without advice online
If you don't want advice or help with your application, you need to be sure you're ready to take responsibility for choosing a mortgage deal that's right for your situation. If you're comfortable applying without advice, you can apply online.
If you choose to apply online but decide at any point that you'd like advice, you can always stop where you are and call us. Our contact details will be in the application.
Our mortgage rates and fees
If you apply with advice, our mortgage advisers will show you rate options available based on your financial position. They’ll also explain the mortgage fees.
If you apply without advice online, you’ll be able to see and choose from our mortgage rates including the fee information, during your online application.
Step 5. What happens when you apply for a mortgage
When you apply for a mortgage with us, we'll ask to see documents to help confirm information about you, and to check that you’re able to afford your monthly mortgage payments.
What we’ll ask from you
We’ll ask for financial documents like bank statements, payslips and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) documents if you’re self-employed.
For the full list of documents, including those for non-UK / Irish nationals, please see our application proofs guide.
We’ll run a full credit check. At this stage, because this is a formal mortgage loan application, it will leave a footprint on your credit file.
If you're making an offer on a property in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you’ll be asked to either provide your conveyancers details, or to choose Nationwide’s conveyancing service.
A conveyancer handles all of the legal work required to complete the purchase of your home.
You can either appoint your own conveyancer, or use Nationwide’s conveyancing service - PDF 68KB (opens in a new window).
You can find a conveyancer by contacting either:
Remember to get a quote for conveyancing first before appointing anyone.
We’ll do a mortgage valuation as part of your application with us.
They're to check the property you want to buy is worth the price you're going to pay.
We don’t charge for the valuation, and it doesn’t cover the condition of the property, so you may choose to have either a Home Survey Level 2 (also called a Homebuyers Report), or Home Survey Level 3. These are more thorough surveys which will cost extra. Regional variances apply for home surveys.
You can find full details on what mortgage valuations and home surveys cover on our mortgage valuation and home survey page.
Step 6. Receiving your mortgage offer
Once you've received your mortgage offer in the post, you’re almost there before the mortgage term begins and the house is yours.
There’ll be contract paperwork from us that you’ll need to read, check everything is correct and sign.
Get insurance to protect you and your home
You’ll need to have building insurance in place from your completion date. It covers you financially for damage to your home.
At the end of your mortgage application, we’ll provide you with the option to get a quote for Nationwide home insurance but you can look to get a quote from another provider if you prefer.
If you decide to get your home insurance with us, you can choose to get a quote for:
- buildings insurance
- contents insurance, or
- combined buildings and contents insurance.
Life Insurance & Critical Illness Cover
You should also consider protection for you and your family should the worst happen.
Step 7. Exchange contracts and completion day
When the legal work is finished and contracts are signed, your solicitor will exchange them with the seller’s solicitor, pay your deposit and agree the completion date.
There is normally a transfer fee charged by your solicitor to send the seller the deposit money.
We’ll then send you a text message as soon as we receive a date for the mortgage funds to be sent. This may be a few days before you complete the purchase, to make sure the money is ready.
We'll only contact you by text if you have given us permission to do so.
On completion day, your seller receives the money from your solicitor, and you'll get the keys to your new home from your estate agent.
Step 8. Making your first mortgage payment
Within seven working days from when you complete on your mortgage, we’ll write to let you know how much your first mortgage payment is, and when it's due to be paid.
This will usually be more than your regular monthly payment, as it includes interest for the days between the date you moved in and the end of that month – plus your standard monthly payment for the following month.
How to buy your first home video
Watch our video that takes you through the process of buying a house.
Thinking of buying your first home?
Not sure what to do and when to do it?
We've made this film to explain the basics of homebuying to you,
and the order that everything happens.
It's a good idea to work out what you can afford
before you begin house hunting.
Using an online mortgage calculator like ours,
you can find out how much you could borrow.
It uses information such as your income
and how much you've saved for a deposit.
Once you've found out what you might be able to borrow
and what it will cost you every month,
it's a good idea to get a 'Decision in Principle'.
This will tell you what a lender is prepared to lend you
before you go on to apply for a full mortgage.
Estate agents often ask to see one before arranging viewings for you.
Once you have your Decision in Principle,
you can begin house hunting.
Finding your first home can happen very quickly...
or it can take ages!
You'll know what you want from your first home.
But you may need to compromise here and there.
But you will find your dream home eventually.
And then you can move on to the next step.
You've found your dream home.
You've made an offer, and the offer has been accepted.
Now's the time to complete your full mortgage application
with your chosen lender or mortgage broker.
Just so you know, lenders like us will only offer mortgages
from our own range.
A mortgage broker can offer you mortgages
from a variety of different lenders,
potentially giving you more choice.
Although many brokers charge a fee for their services.
With a full mortgage application, you and any other applicants
will be asked for more detailed information about your finances,
and about the property you want to buy.
You'll also need to have a solicitor
or a conveyancing company to handle the legal bit.
Your lender will want to make sure the home you're buying
is worth what you want to borrow.
This is called a mortgage valuation.
It's also worth considering paying for a more detailed home survey.
These surveys will check the condition of the home
before you buy it.
They'll tell you about any existing problems,
or potential problems that might cost you in the future.
If everything goes well, you'll receive
your official mortgage offer from your chosen lender.
It means that you can now take the next step.
Conveyancing is the legal name for the process
that transfers ownership of a property
from one person to another.
Conveyancing can be done by a solicitor
or a specialist conveyancing company.
You'll be charged fees for the conveyancing process.
They are usually fixed and you can get a quote beforehand.
Once all the legal searches have been completed
and contracts prepared,
dates will be agreed with your solicitor and the seller's solicitor
to exchange contracts and complete the sale.
And finally, after weeks or possibly months, you've completed,
the money has been paid, and you can move into your first home.
And that's it!
A simple guide to buying your first home.
Good luck with your own homebuying journey.
And if you need any help or any advice along the way,
we're here for you.
If you have any questions about Nationwide mortgages, or want to book an appointment with one of our mortgage advisers, we’re happy to help.
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Saturday 8.30am to 4pm.
Closed Sundays and bank holidays
Mortgages are subject to underwriting and criteria. Minimum age 18, UK residents only.