The complete guide to buying a house in 2024

Find out everything you need to know about the process of buying a house.

Buying a house might seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve broken it down and covered all the essential steps first-time buyers need to take to get on the property ladder.

How to buy a house

Here is a breakdown of all the buying a house stages:

There is a lot to consider before you start looking for a new home including if you can afford it.

Most people want to own their home, but it’s important to know the benefits and difficulties.



Owning your own home can give you more security than renting.

It’s comforting to know that you have a long-term place to live. It also means you cannot be evicted at short notice as long as you keep up with mortgage repayments.


When interest rates are low, owning a home can be much cheaper than renting.

The median monthly rent in England between April 2020 and March 2021 was £730.¹

The average monthly mortgage payment in early 2020 was around £750.²

A property is also seen by many as a long-term investment. In a rising market you could get a large return if you decide to sell.


With your own home you can:

  • buy the furniture you want

  • decorate it to your personal taste

  • make renovations without having to ask permission from a landlord first



Buying a home is a big financial commitment. Monthly repayments can be hard if your circumstances change. This is why it's important to have a financial plan.


There are lots of costs attached to owning a home such as insurance and maintenance. If the boiler breaks, you’ll have to cover it.


Some people are not ready to commit to owning a home.

It might not be the right time to buy a home if you're not sure you're ready or your job is not stable.

The bigger your deposit, the more likely it is that you'll be able to get a large mortgage and a lower interest rate.

The size of your deposit is relative to the total cost of the home you might buy. You can get an estimate using a mortgage calculator.

This will let you see how much you may be able to borrow based on your income and outgoings. As well as the deposit you think you could save up.

There are other upfront costs that will come up buy a house.

Make sure you’re prepared for:

  • solicitor fees

  • surveys

  • mortgage fees

  • stamp duty (first time buyers are exempt on purchases under £300,000)

  • land registry fees

  • removals

  • possible home improvements such as painting, curtains or blinds, furniture

Before you start to view properties and make offers, it can help to have a mortgage in principle.

This will show estate agents that you’re a serious buyer and that a lender is happy to lend you what you need.

Start thinking about where you want to buy, what your priorities are, and what the market is like.

You can begin by looking online or in local papers.

You can also start meeting estate agents to ask any questions you have. Then begin viewing homes in the areas you’re interested in.

Ask for Home Information Packs (HIPs) of the homes you want to view. These have basic information about the property.

It’s good to begin by looking at a range of homes, even those that may not be a good fit.

This will help you understand what you can expect to get for your money and also what you definitely do or do not want.

When viewing a property look at:

  • the layout: Is it functional for your planned use? Are the shape or size of the rooms going to be an issue?

  • damage: Are there any signs or structural issues like large cracks in walls? Any signs of leaks and dampness?

  • doors and windows: Will they need replacing and cost you more later on?

  • updates: Have there been any updates made to the house?

  • plumbing, electrics and insulation: Are these working well? How long have then been in place?

Think about looking at a handful of homes at once. This way you do not get too invested in one home without having a suitable option to compare it to.

Once you've looked at lots of houses, ruled some out and have one or two options, it's time to view them again.

Ask someone you trust to go with you to be a second pair of eyes. They can help you work out if the property is worth going for.

If you're not sure, go back and view it again while still looking around at other properties. Then make a final decision that you’re confident with.

Once you’ve explored the market, viewed some properties, and found your home, you’ll need to make an offer.

You can make an offer through the estate agent.

The next step is to line up a mortgage offer so that you can pay for your new home.

It's tempting to go to your bank or existing lender for a new deal as it's familiar. But it could be better to explore your options by going to a broker who can scan the market for a suitable deal.

Mortgage brokers, like, can source deals unavailable elsewhere. They can also give you impartial advice and help you through the mortgage process.

This step could also be done before step 8: Get a mortgage.

If your offer has been accepted, and you’ve got a mortgage offer from a lender, the next step is to arrange for a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal process to transfer ownership of the property to you. 

The solicitor or conveyancer will carry out searches with the local authority to make sure there are no fundamental problems with the property.

Many mortgage brokers, including, will be able to arrange a conveyancer for you.

You can also find your own conveyancer, but make sure you ask your mortgage lender first - each mortgage lender has a list of approved conveyancers.

At this point it’s a good idea to get a full survey. Your lender is likely to have done a basic survey at the beginning.

The survey will tell you what you need to know about the property and any potential problems.

You can choose to have a private survey done once you make an offer and have a basic valuation done. You need to do this before you exchange contracts.

Once your survey is complete, you can start to negotiate any final details that need to be agreed. This could be the completion date or items such as white goods that the seller has said they’ll leave behind.

Your solicitor or conveyancer will put the terms of the transfer in writing. They'll then tell the land registry that they’re transferring the property’s ownership to you.

They’ll also speak with the mortgage lender to ensure the mortgage is ready for completion.

Before exchanging contracts, you must pay the deposit on your new home.

The move-in date and the time between exchanging contracts and completion can take from a day to a few months.

This depends on what stage the people buying your property and moving out of your new property are at. This is often referred to as the ‘chain’.

Buying a house timeline

How long it takes to buy a home, from property search to completion, can vary from a few months to as long as a year or more. Here’s a breakdown of the timescales you might expect:

You should have bank statements for the previous 3 months of your current account. This is to show your income and outgoings.

Many people use banking apps and online banking, but you should still be able to download and print the relevant statements.

You'll be asked to show your payslips from the past 3 months as proof of income.

You'll be asked for a certified copy of your passport or driving license for identification.

If you do not know how to certify your copies, your adviser can help you. You can usually have your ID certified at the Post Office.

Any ID documents you use should be in date.

You should provide some kind of bill as proof of address.

Bills you could use include:

  • Tax bill

  • Utility bill

  • Bank statements

These should be from within the last 3 months.

A saving statement or bank statement will be required to show proof of deposit.

Gifted deposits

You will need to fill in a 'Confirmation of Gifted Deposit' form as well as supply 3 months of bank statements from the person gifting the deposit.

You may also be asked to show proof of:

  • any additional income, like bonuses, commission and/or overtime

  • income you do not earn, such as maintenance, tax credits and child benefit

  • evidence of right to reside, such as visas or residency cards

If you’re self employed (as a sole trader/Limited Company Director/Partnerships/LLP), you’ll be asked to show:

  • 2 to 3 years SA302s

  • 2 to 3 years of accounts

  • Some lenders might also ask you for 3 months of business bank statements.

Bank statements



Proof of address

Proof of deposit

Other documents

Documents for self employed applicants

You should have bank statements for the previous 3 months of your current account. This is to show your income and outgoings.

Many people use banking apps and online banking, but you should still be able to download and print the relevant statements.

The cost of buying a house

Buying a home comes with many additional costs and fees you must budget for. Here’s a breakdown of all the costs you should be aware of:

Solicitors fees

The fees solicitors charge can range from £750 to £1,500, depending on where in the country you’re buying and how much work is involved. 

You also need to include disbursements, which can make the cost much higher. Common disbursements include:

  • Bankruptcy search - £2 to £4 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Land Registry office copies - £4 to £8

  • Electronic ID verification - £2 to £18 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Local authority searches - £100 to £200

  • Water and drainage search - £30 to £40

  • Environmental search - £30 to £35

  • Telegraphic transfer fee - £25 to £45

  • Mortgage handling fee - £60 to £80

  • HMLR final search - £3 to £7

  • Land Registry Charge - £20 to £910

You'll need to pay the fees to your solicitor, and it covers handling all the legal parts of the completion. The price also includes their time, registrations, and costs from start to finish.

You usually have to pay for local searches upfront. You'll pay this throughout the process as and when you're charged.

Mortgage fees

There are several fees you could face when taking out your mortgage. These include:

  • Arrangement fee: This is sometimes called a ‘product fee’ and is what you pay the lender for setting up the mortgage. These can cost around £1,000 but vary depending on the product and the lender.

  • Application fee: Also known as a ‘booking fee’, this is charged while your application goes through. It won’t be refunded if you choose not to take the mortgage out.

  • Valuation fee: This covers the cost of the lender’s survey on the property you want to buy. The cost of the fee varies, and some lenders do not charge a valuation fee at all. 

Once you have started paying your mortgage, there are other charges you could face, like:

  • Missed payment fees: Some lenders might charge a fee if your account is in arrears. The penalty depends on each lender’s rules.

  • Early repayment charges: This might not always apply. Check the rules with each mortgage provider, especially if you want to make early repayments. Often, the charges range from 1 to 5% of the value of the early repayment.

  • Exit or closure fees: This is a fee you may need to pay your lender when you pay off your mortgage, even if you’re not repaying it early. This administration fee to pay for the closure of the mortgage can cost between £75 and £300.

Stamp duty

Stamp duty land tax (SDTL) is a tax you might have to pay when you buy a property in England or Northern Ireland.

You pay stamp duty on properties that cost more than £250,000 unless you’re a first-time buyer. If you are a first-time buyer, you don’t pay stamp duty on properties up to £425,000 and a lower rate on properties up to £625,000. 

Use our stamp duty calculator to help you work out how much stamp duty you might need to pay.

Buying a house FAQs

The full process can take around six months, from viewing properties to completion. However, this can vary depending on your circumstances and the circumstances of the person you’re buying from.

How long it takes can depend on things like the size of the property chain, any issues that arise, and the state of your finances.

It's possible to buy a home in two to three months if:

  • you're a first-time buyer

  • your finances and documents are all in order

  • you're not in a chain

The property chain is the group of house purchases that are connected to your purchase. 

If you’re a first-time buyer, you’re at the start of the chain, but you might need to wait for the seller to buy their next property before your purchase can complete. 

This is an example of being in a chain, and the end of the chain will be somebody selling their home but not buying another, e.g. a retiree moving in with family. 

The longer the chain, the longer it might take for your house purchase to complete. Being chain-free is attractive to sellers and can give you a better chance of having your offer accepted.

Gazumping is when another buyer outbids you on the home you’re buying - even after the lender has accepted your offer. It means you miss out on the property even though you might have spent money on things like surveys and searches. 

It usually happens if the seller receives a higher offer or a new buyer can complete the purchase faster. 

Gazumping is legal in England, and until you sign contracts, there is no legal agreement between you and the seller. 

Contracts are not exchanged until late in the home-buying process. Homes are often on the market for weeks while they’re ‘Under Offer (UO)’ or ‘Sold Subject to Contract’ (STC).

At this point, it’s legal for someone else to make a higher offer.

It is possible to buy with no deposit, but you will need a 100% LTV mortgage, which are very rare.

Few lenders offer 0% deposit mortgages, so you may need to save up a deposit to get onto the property ladder. 95% LTV mortgages are more common, but to get a wider choice of products, you need to look at 90% LTV or even 80% LTV mortgages.

It is possible to get a mortgage if you have a low credit score, but your options are limited. 

Lenders will check your credit rating as part of the application process, and if your score is low, they may reject you, ask you to provide a larger deposit, or offer you a higher interest rate.

If you’re worried about your credit score, check it and take steps to improve it before you start your application. 

Speaking to one of our expert mortgage advisors is a good way to find a mortgage if you have poor credit. They can talk you through your situation and help you find lenders most likely to lend to you.

The process for buying a new build property is broadly the same as any other home purchase.

You may need to put down a larger deposit because some lenders don’t offer high LTV mortgages like 90% or 95% for newly built properties. 

One advantage of buying a new build is that it can have a much smaller chain because you’re buying from a developer. If you’re a first-time buyer, there will only be you and the developer in the chain, which means the process can be relatively quick.

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You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you remortgage. Your savings will depend on personal circumstances.

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For buy-to-let landlords, there's no guarantee that it will be possible to arrange continuous letting of a property, nor that rental income will be sufficient to meet the cost of the mortgage.