First-time buyer checklist

First time buyers signing contract

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of buying your first home. It’s an important milestone in many people’s lives, bringing the excitement of fresh beginnings and new adventures.

However, buying a house is also a process which involves careful planning, thorough research, and attention to detail. In other words, before embarking on this exciting journey, it’s essential to be well-prepared to help minimise stress so you know what to expect and when.

 To help you navigate through the process of purchasing a home, we’ve put together a list of first-time home buyer tips, including all the important information you should know before stepping onto the property ladder.

Jump to:

Review your financial situation
Consult a mortgage advisor
Define your house needs and preferences
Start house-hunting
Submit a mortgage application
Appoint a solicitor
Conduct a home survey
Exchange & Completion

1. Review your financial situation 

Assessing your financial situation is a critical first step in the home buying process, providing you with a clear understanding of your readiness to buy a home and helping you set realistic goals. It’s important  to get some professional advice from an independent financial advisor before making a big financial commitment, like buying your first home.

First time buyers reviewing financial situation

While helping you calculate your income and repayment abilities, financial planning also comes in handy when mapping out the essential costs of buying a property, including:


The deposit is one of the biggest costs you’ll encounter when buying your first home, as the deposit amount needs to be in your bank account before you can proceed with a purchase. 
Counted as a percentage of the total purchase price, the specific amount of the deposit you need can vary, depending on factors like the agreed price of the property you’re buying, your credit history, the lender's requirements, and the type of mortgage you choose. If you are using a home buying scheme, such as Shared Ownership, to purchase your home, this will also affect the deposit amount that you’ll need to have.  Purchasing through Shared Ownership means your deposit is based on a percentage of the share you are buying, not based on the full value of the property, so it’s usually significantly lower when compared to buying 100% of a home.

Common mortgage and home buying costs 

Alongside the money for the deposit, it’s important you make yourself aware of all the additional costs related to taking out a mortgage and the process of buying a property. These may include, for instance:

  • Mortgage broker fee
  • Mortgage set-up fee
  • Mortgage arrangement fee or booking fee
  • Mortgage account fee
  • Valuation and survey fee
  • Stamp duty
  • Legal costs

Furnishing your home

Furnishing your new home is one of the more enjoyable duties in the home buying process. However, home essentials come hand in hand with lots of additional costs and can shake up your budget. From furniture and electronic devices to decorating supplies, the expenses can add up quickly, so you might find it useful to set up a separate fund for them.

Emergency fund

While reviewing your financial situation, don’t forget to establish an emergency fund for any unexpected expenses you might have during and after the property purchase. Having backup savings will give you peace of mind, making sure you can handle unforeseen home repairs or other emergencies.

2. Consult a mortgage advisor

Appointing a mortgage advisor is one of the crucial first-time home buyer tips, as it’s important to get a professional assessment of your financial situation before starting the actual property hunt.
With their extensive knowledge of the financial market and the preferences of individual lenders, independent, whole-of-market mortgage advisors can review your income, credit history and existing debts and help you determine the most suitable mortgage options.

first time buyers talking to a mortgage advisor

A mortgage advisor can also assist you in obtaining pre-approval for a mortgage, also known as an Agreement in Principle, or AIP, which is a valuable tool when buying a home, as it demonstrates to sellers that you’re a serious and qualified buyer. The advisor can provide tailored advice for your specific situation and help you achieve your goals.

3. Define your house needs and preferences

Once you've finished your financial assessments and have a clear understanding of your budget and mortgage options, it's time to define your housing needs. This step involves listing down your preferences and priorities to narrow down the types of properties and neighbourhoods that best suit your lifestyle and long-term goals. 

first time buyers looking online

These are some of the factors you might want to consider when starting your dream home search:
Property type
Consider the type of property that aligns with your lifestyle and budget. Are you looking for a cosy apartment, a modern townhouse or a detached house with a garden? What property types are available within your budget? 
Size and layout
Determine the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need. This often depends on your family size, future plans, and personal preferences.
Specific features
Identify some of the home features that are non-negotiable for you, such as off-street or allocated parking, a garden or other outdoor space, or a garage. 
Location and neighbourhood
And finally, based on your commuting needs and proximity to work, schools and essential services, choose the most suitable location for your future home. Remember to also review the safety of your selected area, as well as accessible amenities, such as parks, shopping centres and leisure facilities.

4. Start house-hunting 

Finding a dream home might take longer than you'd expect. However, make sure you allow yourself enough time to consider every aspect of the viewed property and try not to rush the decision-making process. 
One of the best ways to look for your dream home is to start with an online search, selecting only the properties that meet your criteria. Once you have a list of homes that pique your interest, schedule in-person viewings to properly explore the properties as well as neighbourhoods. 
When viewing the properties, think about the level of maintenance you're comfortable with. Older homes may have character but could require more upkeep, while newer homes and brand new housing developments might be more low-maintenance. 

5. Submit a mortgage application 

first time buyers shaking hands submitting mortgage application

Once you’ve found your desired home, made an offer on it and had this accepted by the seller, it’s time to move on to the next crucial step of the process – applying for a mortgage. 
From choosing a lender and gathering the necessary documentation to submitting the evidence, the mortgage application is a complex process, and it’s crucial to seek professioanl advice from a mortgage advisor or broker.

As part of your mortgage application process, you’ll be asked to provide a range of supporting documents proving your ability to repay the loan. These pieces of evidence commonly include:

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of address documents, such as utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Payslips
  • Evidence of where your deposit is coming from

If you’re self-employed, you’ll usually also need:

  • Self-assessed tax return forms
  • Tax year overviews
  • An accountant’s certificate

6. Appoint a solicitor

Once your offer on the property has been accepted, it’s important to appoint a conveyancing solicitor to do the professional work needed on the legal side of the purchase. 

The qualified solicitor or conveyancing firm will carry out property searches and check for any planning restrictions and environmental concerns, making sure the property has all the necessary approvals and permissions to satisfy the lender. In addition, the legal specialist will also review the contract before you exchange (at which point you are legally committed to buy the property) and handle all the financial aspects of the transaction, so that the property successfully transfers ownership in the eyes of the law.  

7. Conduct a home survey

After submitting your mortgage application, conducting a home survey is a crucial step before signing the contract and a basic survey is usually required by the lender. Many buyers choose to have a more in-depth survey done, called a structural survey, which looks in much more detail at the property to identify any serious structural problems that may be present.
A home survey is a critical step to get a closer look at the condition of the property you want to buy. By hiring an accredited surveyor, you can identify any potential issues and defects of the property that may not be visible at first but might have a negative impact on the home’s value as remedial work will be needed to fix it. This can help if you want to negotiate the price with the seller. 

8. Exchange & Completion

When your lender, solicitor and the seller are all happy to proceed, you’ll exhange contracts, which means you and the seller are both now legally committed to complete the transaction. You’ll also set a propsed date for completion.

Completion is a final stage of your home buying process, as the transfer of ownership paperwork is finalised and the money all changes hands, which is handled by your solicitor and lender. 
If all of the steps with buying your first property go to plan, it should take a few months from start to finish before you have the keys to your new home (on completion day) and can start a brand new chapter of life.

magnified glass looking at homes to buy

In conclusion

Buying a house may feel like a daunting prospect and the process can seem very long and challenging at times, but the effort is undoubtedly worth it. With careful planning, financial diligence, and professional guidance, you can soon find yourself living in your very own home.

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