Getting a mortgage - First time buyer

The mortgage process explained

5 min read

Our handy guide helps to explain all about the mortgage process. Covering when you should apply, interest rates, stages in the application process and more.

  • Abigail Bolton Senior Digital Website and Content Marketing Executive
    Abigail Bolton

    SEO Specialist and Senior Copywriter

    Published March 20th 2024

a man looking at the process to get a mortgage so he can buy his first home

Using a mortgage to buy a house, is a long-term financial commitment. In order to choose the right deal for you now and in the future, you need to understand interest rates and fees. You’ll also need to consider your current circumstances and if they’re likely to change. To help you get to grips with the main factors you need to review when getting a mortgage, we’ve put together this complete guide to explain the mortgage process.

In this guide:

When to apply for a mortgage?

You can’t buy your new home without securing a mortgage, but you can’t get a mortgage until you’re ready to buy the property. We know this sounds complicated, so if you still don’t understand after reading the information below, you can call our Move Specialists who will be happy to answer any further questions you may have.

To avoid stress and disappointment when making an offer on your dream home, you should apply for a mortgage, or at least your mortgage in principle, as soon as you start looking for properties, or even before.

Starting your mortgage application before you go house-hunting helps you to find out how much you can borrow so you can focus your search on properties within your budget. Plus, having your finances in order means you’ll get a head start over other potential buyers and avoid any issues or delays when buying your new home.

How long does it take for mortgage approval?

The application process is straightforward, however you’ll still need to wait a few weeks before it’s complete – as your lender will run affordability checks to prove you’re able to repay them.

What are the different mortgage interest rates?

There are many types of mortgage interest rates, including discounted, tracker, standard and variable rate, but the main two are:

  • Fixed rate: Your mortgage interest rate and monthly payments will stay the same for the entire period of your deal, regardless of the market interest rates. After a certain number of years – usually between two and five – when you reach the end of your fixed term you can either remortgage to get a better deal or you’ll move to the standard variable rate (SVR) which is usually higher than your previous rate.

  • Variable rate: Your mortgage interest rate can change at any time. This means your payments will also fluctuate; you can benefit if your rate drops, but you’ll have to pay more if it goes up.

Find out more about different types of mortgages

Person reflecting on mortgage repayments after the latest base rate update

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What mortgage can I afford?

To find out how much you can afford to borrow, you need to understand how lenders work out the amount you qualify for. They run affordability checks to review your income and outgoings, and take into consideration the size of your deposit. Checks might be slightly different for each lender, however the aim is the same – they need to ensure you’re a reliable borrower who’ll be able to repay them.

What are the common fees when applying for a mortgage?

There are always fees and costs you need to take into consideration when arranging a mortgage and buying a house. Find out more about these:

  • Arrangement fee – also known as product fee. This is the amount you need to pay for the mortgage product you’re applying for.

  • Booking fee – you’ll be charged a booking fee to secure your deal. Depending on the size of your mortgage this might be included in the arrangement fee.

  • Valuation fee – your mortgage provider will carry out a property valuation to make sure it’s worth the amount you want to borrow.

  • Telegraphic transfer fee – is the fee you pay to your lender to transfer the money to your solicitor or conveyancer.

  • Mortgage account fee – covers the lender’s administration costs for arranging the whole mortgage process.

  • Mortgage broker fee – some mortgage brokers charge a fee for their services.

How to get a mortgage

After finding a mortgage deal you can afford taking into consideration mortgage fees and costs, you’re ready to confidently complete your application. To make sure it’s successful you also need to ensure you have a good credit score and your finances are in order. An FCA registered mortgage broker or financial advisor could lead you through the process, while a conveyancer or solicitor will help you with the legal side of buying a home.

Stages in the mortgage application

Applying for a mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP)?

An AIP is the first step and is an indication of how much you could borrow. Your lenders will provide you with a written estimate after reviewing your credit score and assessing your financial status. You can complete the application process online, over the phone or in-branch and get your statement on the same day, showing sellers you’re a serious buyer.

Find out more about how to get a mortgage agreement in principle

Applying for a mortgage

Once you’ve made an offer and it’s accepted, you can proceed with turning your pre-approval into an official mortgage offer; you just need to complete a full mortgage application.

If you’ve already got your AIP, you’ll have a head start as you’ve already covered much of the application. In the loan processing stage, you’ll need to provide evidence of your income, identity, and current address. An underwriter will verify your information and consider your application, but timings vary from lender to lender.

Getting your mortgage offer

If your mortgage application is successful, you’ll receive an offer from the lender. You’ll then need to read through your contract’s terms and make sure everything is clear. Since you’re making a big commitment, you need to minimise the risk of any unpleasant surprises – so make sure you’re happy with the mortgage product you’re getting, and you’ll be able to cover any rate fluctuations during your contract’s duration.

First-time buyer mortgage advice

Want to get on the property ladder? Securing a mortgage might be challenging for first-time buyers, as lenders might not have enough information to understand if you can repay them. Having a good credit history and proven track record of paying bills on time and repaying your loans is key for a successful application.

Also keep in mind that there are more ways to fund your purchase, such as government schemes and other initiatives. Here are just a few examples:

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