Buying your first home? Walk this way

Let’s face it, buying your first home is a big step. As well as the financial side of things to think about, even just the process of buying can seem confusing.

With so many different people involved and all that paperwork, it can be hard to know where to start.

But it can also be fun. Finding your perfect place, and planning how you’ll furnish and decorate it is really exciting.

So don’t worry, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, help is at hand in the form of this handy online guide.     

1. Work out what you can afford

How much money will I need?
How much can you spend on a property?
How much can you spend on a property every month?
Save for a deposit
Work out how much you need to buy a home
Finding a mortgage
Buying with friends

How much money will I need?

As a first time buyer, you might not have a large bundle of cash to buy a new home. It’s more likely you’ll need a mortgage.

A mortgage is where you agree to give us your home to sell if you are not able to repay the loan we make to you. You pay the loan back over a set amount of time by making affordable monthly repayments.

It’s important to keep up your repayments – if you don't your home could be repossessed. So before you start house hunting, work out how much you’re willing and able to afford.


How much can you spend on a property?

How much could you borrow?

Working this out might be easier than you think. You could use our online calculator to get an rough idea of how much you might be able to borrow. Or to get a better indication we can provide a Mortgage Promise.

A mortgage promise will help you search for a property in your price range. It may also help you negotiate with the seller because they know you can get a loan.

Of course our Mortgage Promise is only a guide and you will need to make a full application and get advise from a mortgage expert on whether we have a mortgage that is suitable for you. 

How much can you spend on a mortgage every month?
While it might be tempting to take out the maximum mortgage possible, you’ve got to be sure you can cover all your monthly bills and have enough left each month to enjoy life.

This checklist will help you work out what you can afford each month and the most you can spend on a home.


Save for a deposit

It’s important to make sure your savings can cover the costs of buying your first home. As well as the deposit there are other costs in buying a property and taking out a mortgage. Here are some typical ones that apply.

There are other upfront costs to think about too

It’s important to get the full picture of what buying your new home will cost. As well as the deposit and purchase price, there will be other one-off fees that will be added to your new mortgage.

House buying costsWhat's involved
Legal fee A conveyancer carries out all of the legal work involved in buying a property.
Valuation fee The lender arranges a mortgage valuation on the property to help them decide whether they’ll offer you a mortgage.
Survey fee For added peace of mind, a survey goes further – checking the building is sound and highlighting major problems.
Disbursement fees The conveyancer pays these to other third parties on your behalf, so he can obtain searches on the property.
Stamp duty land tax A government tax charged on land and property transactions in the UK. There are different rates for different types of property and values of transaction.
Product fee Lenders sometimes charge a product fee as part of a mortgage deal. It helps to keep the interest rate on the initial deal lower than it would have been if a fee had not been payable.
Mortgage account fee The fee is to cover the setting up, routine maintenance and closing down of the mortgage account.
Higher Lending Charge A Higher Lending Charge enables the mortgage lender to consider applications for loans which represent a high percentage of the value or purchase price of the property. Lending a higher percentage involves a greater risk for the mortgage lender. By collecting a Higher Lending Charge, mortgage lenders protect themselves against that risk. Halifax doesn't currently charge for this.
Removal costs You may need a removal firm or to hire a van to move your belongings to your new home. Getting family and friends to help instead is an alternative way to save money.
Buildings insurance Buildings insurance covers you financially against damage to the structure of your home. This includes permanent fixtures and fittings against loss or damage by an insurable peril such as fire or flood.
Protection for you and your family Critical Illness and/or Life Cover can pay out a lump sum if you die or become critically ill. Giving you peace of mind that if things don’t go as planned then you or your family won’t have to worry about the mortgage or losing your home.
10% contingency For peace of mind it's worth having additional savings to cover any unexpected costs.


By now you should have done your homework, with help from one of our mortgage specialists, and be able to complete the equation below to work out how much you need to buy a home.

An indicative view on how much you could spend on a property

Mortgage loan amount + (size of deposit – your house buying costs) = amount you could buy a property for


Finding a mortgage

Unless you've found a house you want to buy, don't worry about choosing a mortgage just yet. But if you want to get ahead and do your research now, see Applying for a mortgage.

Let's be honest

Understanding mortgages can be tricky to start with, so please pop in to your local branch or call 08457 50 37 05 to speak to one of our mortgage specialists. They can really help you to work through your options.

Extra help onto the property ladder

Borrowing such a large amount of money can seem daunting and is out of reach for some people. The good news is there are plenty of alternative ways to buy a home. 

"I'm worried I won't be accepted for a mortgage”

We approve 9 out of 10 first time buyer mortgage applications (Based on internal Halifax application data from 01/10/2012 to 31/01/2013).  Our mortgage specialists will tell you what we look at when we consider your mortgage application, how you can improve your chances of success and what you'll need to do if your application is approved or declined. For more information take a look at our first time buyer pledge.


Buying with friends

Some lenders, such as Halifax, will allow applications from up to four people on one mortgage. They’ll consider the highest two incomes when working out how much you could borrow.

There are many factors you’ll need to consider, so it’s worth speaking to a conveyancer. They can advise and draw up legal documents for you.

Shared ownership

Shared ownership schemes are usually offered by registered social landlords or local authorities. With this type of purchase you buy a share of the property and pay a reduced rent for the rest to the registered social landlord or the local authority.

Shared equity

This can take various form. Usually you own 100% of the property but pay a reduced amount to the builder, for example 75% of the property value. The builder then owns a 25% stake in the property and registers this interest in your property at the Land Registry.

Top Tip:

For more information about shared ownership and equity, why not visit

Tailored repayment term

If you take out a repayment mortgage its possible to spread  repayments over a  term of up to 40 years.

The longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. However, it will take you longer to pay off the loan so you will pay more interest. You can ask to change this term at a later date if you want to pay the mortgage off earlier and you can afford the higher monthly payments.

Other low cost ways to buy

There aren’t many on the market, but you could buy a property at a fraction of its value if you buy at auction or following repossession.

Bear in mind it's probably been vacant for a while and could need a lot of work doing – perhaps so much that you won’t be able to get a mortgage on it until the necessary repairs are complete.

So do your research and get as much information as possible before you buy. Because with an auctioned property, once your offer is accepted you can't back out.


Next - 2. Start looking

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

Work out how much you need to buy a home

2. Start looking

Which area do we want to live in?
Start your search
What’s up & coming, or gone?
Want to buy brand new?
Freehold and leasehold. What’s the difference?

Which area do you want to live in?

When you're choosing a new home there’s a lot of basic stuff you need to ask yourself. Such as:

  • where do you want to live?
  • how much space do you need?
  • how much work are you able (or willing) to do on the property?
  • what kind of niggles can you live with, and what would drive you mad?

Your priorities might shift once you start looking, but it helps to write down the basics, before you begin. This checklist will help you keep track of the different areas and properties.

Why not print off several copies? As you explore different areas you can note down your impressions while they’re still fresh in your mind.


Start your search

A good place to start is by contacting estate agents in the area. And there are also some useful websites that can tell you lots about areas and properties before you even set foot in them.

FindaProperty is one example, while PropertySnake, Globrix and Rightmove provide alerts when an asking price is reduced.

And Rightmove’s Draw a Search lets you draw with your mouse over an on-screen map and define the exact location you’re looking in. It then brings up relevant properties and their details for that area.

Nestoria and Zoopla add data on the neighbourhood to display local schools and pubs as well as crime statistics.

Put your postcode into the Environment Agency website and it will show you areas that are liable to flooding or if the ground underneath might be contaminated.

What’s more, you can see the outside of almost all homes in the UK now, thanks to Google Earth.


What’s up & coming, or gone?

Not sure where your dream place to live is? Consider looking into which area is 'up and coming‘ and whether now is a good time to buy there. Or, whether it’s better to wait and see how it develops.

Striking a balance can be hard. Affording a home in a nice area can mean compromising on the size of property. If this is your situation, don’t lose heart. There are plenty of other first time buyers in the same boat.

Look at a map and check the outer edges of your favourite location. Because once a good area is established it tends to ripple out attracting people, just like you, to buy there.

Going to see properties

When you see somewhere you like you should arrange a viewing, usually with an estate agent, the seller or both.

Whoever is there, it’s important not to feel rushed or pressured. Take your time and ask all the questions you want. And do some initial research.

Ask friends and family who own their own homes about their experiences and what to look for.

Searching tips:

  • View with a friend – they may spot something you don’t.
  • Take notes – this viewing checklist may help. And if you're visiting lots of properties you could take photos as a visual reminder.
  • A tape measure might come in useful too. Properties can be pared back to make a room look deceptively big. Equally clutter could make a good space feel small.
  • Don't be blinded – decoration is easy to remedy, other things aren't.
  • Don’t ignore any pungent odours. They could indicate damp, which can be a serious problem. Or they could be from pets or smokers, which can be sorted by fitting new carpets.
  • Have a second viewing at a different time on another day – things like neighbour noise, light and traffic can vary dramatically.
  • Create a good first impression with the seller. You could be competing with other buyers, so it’s best not to bombard them with questions. Save these for when you talk to the estate agent.


Want to buy brand new?

Then you may be buying ‘off plan’. This means that you decide to buy before your home is finished, after looking at the drawings or a show home.


  • the property you want to buy is likely to be different from the show home
  • the room sizes may be smaller than those in the show home, so look closely at the plans
  • ask the developer how many houses will be on the finished site and what the timescales are to complete the work. Are any additional facilities being added (such as playgrounds)? And what, if any, properties will be allocated to social housing?
  • read the small print in the developer’s specification, to check the finishes are what you want
  • make sure that your property comes with a building standards warranty that is acceptable to your mortgage lender, such as a National House Building Council (NHBC) Certificate or a Premier Guarantee.


Freehold and leasehold. What’s the difference?

Remember to check if the property is freehold or leasehold. Most properties in England and Wales are freehold but many flats and some houses are leasehold.


If the property is freehold, then you own the property and the land it's built on.


If the property is leasehold, then you own a temporary right to the property and the land it's built on. Leases can last for decades or centuries. There is usually an annual charge for the lease, called a ground rent. 

Buying a leasehold property?

Then you need to understand all the implications and obligations. Your conveyancer will need to do some extra work, which may mean a higher fee.


Next – 3. Put in an offer

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

3. Put in an offer

How to successfully negotiate

Finally found the home of your dreams? Then it’s time to take the plunge and put in an offer. Unless it’s a private sale, only talk to the estate agent – not the seller at this stage.

When it comes to negotiating, there’s no one, fool-proof method. But remember the asking price is what the seller hopes to get, not necessarily what they will get. And as a first time buyer you may be able to move quickly. This could be more important to the seller than a slightly higher offer. 

Making the offer

When it comes to price, avoid putting in your best offer straightaway. Give yourself room to manoeuvre.

And bear in mind that the longer the property stays un-sold, the more likely the seller will drop the price.

Try not to worry if your first offer is turned down. You can still increase it if you want, or can afford to.

What to ask yourself when making an offer:

  • How much do you want the property?
  • How much can you afford and are other people interested?
  • Does it need a lot of work doing to it?
  • Has it been on the market long?

What are sealed bids and gazumping?

You’ll probably hear these terms quite a lot if you’re house hunting in a competitive market.

But don’t worry too much. Once you understand what they are you’ll be better placed to deal with them.

Sealed bids

Also called 'best and final' offers. These come up when more than one asking price offer has been made on a property.

Bear in mind the property won’t necessarily go to the highest bidder. It could go to the buyer that the estate agent, seller and seller's conveyancer think is in a better position.

So you need to be ready to buy which, as a first time buyer you’re more likely to be, as you’re not relying on selling a property first.


This is where the seller has accepted your offer for their property, allows you to proceed and then accepts a higher offer from a third party.

It’s pretty uncommon but if it does happen it can pull the rug out from beneath your feet. It works the other way too. Some buyers ask the vendor to drop their price during contract negotiations – this is known as gazundering.

Remember, the deal's still on the table until contracts are signed and sealed.

What happens once your offer has been accepted?
Firstly, congratulations! No doubt you'll feel excited, and also a little apprehensive too. After you’ve discussed things in person with the estate agent, they’ll usually write a letter confirming:

  • everything you consider relevant to the deal, e.g. fixtures and fittings, and
  • how you will pay for the property (such as your mortgage).

It's a good idea to have everything in writing from the start to make sure your offer is taken seriously.

Next - 4. Applying for a mortgage

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

4. Applying for a mortgage

Decide how to pay back your mortgage 
Choose a mortgage type
Decide how long you want your mortgage for
Fee or no fee
Completing your application
How your mortgage application is assessed
How to improve your chances of being approved
Get the survey and legal work underway

Decide how to pay back your mortgage

Every month, your payments go towards reducing the amount you owe as well as paying off the interest charges. This means that each month you are paying off a small part of your loan.

Your monthly payment pays only the interest charges on your loan - you don't pay off any of the loan amount.

With an interest-only mortgage, you will need to know from the start how you are going to find a lump sum to repay the loan at the end of the term.


An interest-only mortgage is riskier than a repayment mortgage. This is because:

  • in most cases, there’s no guarantee your repayment plan will fully repay your outstanding loan at the end of the mortgage term.
  • it's your responsibility to ensure you have enough money in place or you may have to sell your home to repay the mortgage.

What we’ll do:

  • We will ask for proof of your repayment vehicle before agreeing an interest-only loan.
  • From time to time we may ask you to show that your plans are on track to repay the loan.
  • If we spot a problem, we may get in touch to discuss your options, such as changing some (or all) of the mortgage to a repayment mortgage.

We’re here to help and take you through all the mortgage options available. However, Halifax can’t offer advice regarding repayment plans. So for this you should talk to an independent financial adviser.

Choose a mortgage type

We have different types of mortgage products with different types of interest rates. Here are two popular product types that are on offer.

Type of product Pros Cons
Fixed rate
This fixes your interest rate for a specified period of time and won’t change until an agreed date.
You’ll enjoy certainty and peace of mind during your fixed rate period. You know your interest rate won’t change during the fixed rate period, meaning that even if interest rates increase during that period, your rate won’t be affected. Rates are usually higher than tracker products and you will not benefit from any falls in the interest rate during the fixed rate period. If you wanted to switch to another mortgage deal during the fixed rate period you'll probably have to pay a penalty, called an Early Repayment Charge.
Tracker rate
Typically this moves in line with the Bank of England Bank rate. So it will be the same as, or a percentage above or below the bank rate, until an agreed date. So the tracker rate you pay can go up or down.
Whenever the Bank of England Bank rate falls, you’re guaranteed to benefit from the full effect of any rate cut. If the Bank of England Bank rate rises, your payments go up with it. In some cases you may have to pay a penalty (an Early Repayment Charge) if you want to switch to another mortgage deal during the tracker rate period.


Some of the mortgage products also offer 'cashback' as an incentive. This means you will get a cash lump sum upon completion (usually paid to your conveyancer). You may, however, be charged  a higher rate of interest.

What's an APR?

An APR is a calculation of the cost of borrowing over the life of the loan. All lenders use the same calculation, so it makes it easier to compare deals from different lenders.


Decide how long you want your mortgage for

Mortgage terms of up to 40 years are available. How long the mortgage lasts will affect your monthly payments and the total cost of your mortgage.

You can request to change your mortgage term at any point during the life of the mortgage.

Get a quote

We can give you a quote. This is called a Key Facts Illustration (KFI) and sets out details of the mortgage product you're interested in.

All mortgage lenders are required to provide a KFI in the same format. So it's easier for you to compare different mortgage deals.

It’s important to choose the mortgage that is right for you. We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available. Simply pop in to one of our branches, call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist, or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back.


Fee or no fee?

Most mortgages come with a mortgage product fee attached.

As a rule of thumb, you get a lower initial mortgage rate in return for paying a higher fee. Or a lower fee (and in some circumstances, no fee) for a higher initial mortgage rate.

If you do have to pay a product fee, it could be added to your new mortgage. You can then either:

  • pay the fee off immediately
  • leave it on your mortgage to spread the cost over the life of your mortgage. Bear in mind that interest will be charged on it as part of your main mortgage. 

Completing your application

Your offer has been accepted and you know the kind of mortgage and insurance you want. Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty and make your application. Our mortgage specialists can help you complete the forms, over the phone or in your local branch.


Get your information together:

What you'll be asked for What you may need to provide
Proof of your identity
  • At least one government-issued document like a UK passport or full driving licence
  • At least one supporting document, like a council tax or utility bill or if you are in rented accommodation, a bank statement.
Rent history (if this applies) Bank statement showing your last twelve monthly payments
Previous addresses Details of any other addresses you’ve lived at in the last three years
Insurance and protection details (if this applies)

Current household insurance documents and life and/or critical illness policies

Insurers will ask you some questions about your medical history, so it’s worth thinking about this in advance

Your credit commitments

Any information on:

  • loans
  • hire purchase agreements
  • credit card and store cards
  • overdrafts.
Your standard earned income

If you’re employed:

  • Last three months’ payslips

If you’re self-employed:

  • Your accounts for the last three years; or
  • Your accounts for the last two years plus your projections; or
  • Your last three years’ tax assessments, your accountant’s name and address and your personal bank statements for the last six months.
Other income

Any information on:

  • Working Tax Credits
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Foster Care Allowance
  • Disability Benefits
  • Town, Area or Car Allowance
  • Pension income
  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Overtime
  • Maintenance.


We will see you as self-employed if you:

  • have a shareholding in a company of 25% or over
  • have a partnership interest in a business, irrespective of the percentage of your shareholding
  • own your own franchise or
  • sub-contract and get your income from one or more contracts.


How your mortgage application is assessed

The point of all the form filling is to help us make sure your repayments don’t become a problem for you. To work this out, we will look at the information you have given, along with your credit history as well. 

  • How much spare income do you have to repay your mortgage?
  • Do you have a good credit profile?
  • Where does your deposit come from?
  • Are you the right age?
  • What is your work situation?
  • Is it the right kind of property?
  • Is the property worth the purchase price?

Find out more about how we assess your application.

Your Halifax mortgage specialist pledges to:

  • let you know the criteria we use to assess your application
  • provide you with a personalised mortgage promise for how much we can lend you – this won’t leave a lasting record on your credit profile
  • if your application is unsuccessful, we'll help you understand why
  • whether your application is successful or not, we'll provide you with an action plan to move things forward.

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available. Simply pop in to one of our branches, call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist, or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back.


How to improve your chances of being approved

Getting approved for a mortgage is tougher than it used to be, particularly if you’ve had trouble paying your bills in the past. So it’s worth doing everything you can to spruce up your credit profile. The better it is, the more likely your mortgage will be approved.

Here’s what you can do:

7 simple steps to a better credit profile

1.Got credit cards? Pay off more than the minimum payment, or in full if you can.
2. Cancel any credit card accounts you don’t use.
3. Keep your credit cards and debts to the bare minimum.
4. If you’ve missed payments, get your bills up to date.
5. Make sure any debts are registered to your correct name and current address.
6. Don't apply for too much credit in a short space of time, whether it be credit cards, loans, or mobile phone contracts.
7. Make sure you’re on the electoral register.

Top tip:

Stay on good terms with your landlord as the mortgage lender may ask them for a reference.


Get the survey and legal work underway

Arranging a valuation

Once you've completed your mortgage application, we'll want a professional opinion of the property's market value. This is done for us and is to make sure that it’s acceptable to us as security for the loan and worth enough to support the amount we’re lending you.

If you want additional peace of mind, a survey goes much further.

Choosing the right survey

There are two main types of survey to choose from: Survey and Valuation and the more comprehensive (and therefore more expensive) Building Survey (also known as a full structural survey). Building surveys do not provide a valuation of the property, so you will need to take into account the extra cost of a valuation report.

The table below outlines the differences to help you decide which one is right for you.

  Survey and Valuation Building Survey
What is it?   A survey of the property's condition for you and a basic valuation for us. A detailed survey of the structure, inside and out, which can be tailored to fit your needs.
What type of property is it suitable for?   Conventional properties up to 150 years old. Listed buildings, older or unusual buildings and properties that have been extensively renovated or require extensive work.
What does the survey look at?  Defects and problems that are serious or that may significantly affect the value. All accessible parts of the property, inside and out, and specific areas you’re concerned about.
What will it tell you about the property?   The general condition, including major faults that may affect the value, and should be sorted out before you sign a contract as well as likely issues that will require maintenance. It also provides an estimated cost for rebuilding the property which can be used when arranging your building insurance. All major and minor faults, estimated repair costs and whether any special reports are needed on specific problems, such as the roof or rising damp.
What won’t it tell you?   Any detailed issues with the property. The value of the property (unless you specifically request a valuation from the surveyor).
When should you have it done?     Before you sign the contract to buy. Before you sign the contract to buy.

Arranging the survey

The valuation will be carried out by an RICS (The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) qualified surveyor. If you want the peace of mind, we can arrange a survey through our own specialist surveying and valuation service or from one of our extensive panel of surveyors.

Colleys are our specialist valuation and surveying service who will instruct one of their RICS qualified surveyors. Simply pop in to one of our branches or call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist.

View footage of an actual survey taking place in a property to pick up more useful information.

The surveyor’s report

Once you get the report, read it thoroughly and don’t be alarmed. It’s very unusual to get a survey that says there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the property.

If the report flags up a serious issue, such as a damaged roof or damp problem, you need to think about whether you still want to go ahead.

If you do, then find out how much it will cost to sort out and whether you can use this to negotiate on price.


Next - 5. Get protected 

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

5. Get protected

Getting the right cover

Once the property is yours, it’s your responsibility to look after it. So you’ll want to make sure it’s covered if anything goes wrong.

Get your insurance sorted now and you can enjoy some welcome peace of mind, right from the word go.

What kind of home insurance do I need?

There are two types of home insurance: buildings insurance and home contents insurance. Here’s what they cover:

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance covers you financially against damage to the structure of your home from things like fire and floods – including permanent fixtures and fittings against loss or damage. All lenders will insist you take this out – it’s not optional.

When you choose your policy, check the level of cover as well as the cost. Buildings insurance covers you for the cost of rebuilding your home, rather than what you paid for it.

You can get an estimate of your rebuild cost from the Association of British Insurers.

Contents insurance

This covers your home contents against damage and theft - things like TV and audio equipment, clothing and furniture.

If you’re on a tight budget, it’s tempting to skip this. But consider carefully how much it would cost to replace everything in your home.

To avoid being under-insured list down everything you own and tot up the value, you might be surprised by how high it is. Get more information about the cover Halifax offer.

Make your home safer

Take these steps and as well as making your home more secure, they could lower your insurance premiums.

  • Install window locks
  • Join a neighbourhood watch scheme
  • Fit a fire and burglar alarm
  • Replace your locks.

Top tips for getting a great deal on your home insurance

Check to see if your insurer charges interest to pay your home insurance premium monthly.

Combining your buildings and contents policies together could save you money.

Protection for you and your family

Amid all the excitement of buying your first home, it’s worth thinking about how you or your loved ones would manage in the unfortunate event of one of you becoming critically ill or even passing away.

With the right kind of cover, you could receive a lump sum payment which could be put towards repaying any outstanding mortgage amount. As your mortgage is likely to be the biggest debt you’ll ever have, it’s worth protecting it.

The type of cover you could consider include:

  • Critical Illness with Life Cover
  • Critical Illness Cover on its own
  • Life Cover on its own.

Don't worry, your Halifax mortgage specialist will go through your insurance requirements with you when you are ready to complete your mortgage application.


Next - 6. The legal work

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

6. The legal work

Choosing a conveyancer

You'll usually be asked for conveyancer details when you apply for your mortgage.

It's not unusual for us, or any lender to ask that you choose a conveyancer from their approved list. So it's worth checking before you instruct work to begin and potentially waste money.

Solicitor or conveyancer?

If you use a solicitor, use one that specialises in conveyancing – the legal process involved when you're buying a property.

Whether you choose a solicitor or a conveyancer, it’s their job to:

  • guide you through the buying process
  • make sure you understand the details at every stage
  • speak to the seller’s conveyancer
  • liaise with your mortgage lender and the estate agent
  • sort out the legal paperwork and run any searches
  • arrange the exchange of contracts
  • agree a completion date.

It’s at this stage that any legal, financial or structural problems may come up. Your conveyancer is there to protect you.

So while it might seem to be slowing things down, have patience – it’s worth making sure everything is in order. There are some things you can do to help speed things along too.

We can help with the legals

Our Halifax Conveyancing Service puts you in touch with three approved conveyancing solicitors in your area so you can choose the one you want with confidence. You also get:

  • a fixed fee - you know exactly what you’ll be charged right from the outset
  • no move, no fee - if your move doesn’t go ahead for any reason, you don’t pay the legal fees (although you may have to pay the amounts paid to others, like search fees)
  • progress updates, 24/7 - you can check the progress of your move whenever you like online, by phone, text message or post - it's up to you!
  • quality service, managed for you - we only use specially selected conveyancers so you know you’re getting a great service.

To find out more, call us on 0845 727 3747 and ask to speak to a Halifax Mortgage Specialist, or pop into your local branch.

How you can help speed things along

  • Call the estate agent immediately and ask them for the contact details of the seller’s conveyancer to pass to your conveyancer.
  • Call your conveyancer and ask them to contact the seller’s conveyancer straight away.
  • Ask the estate agent to stop marketing the property and cancel any other viewings.
  • Be proactive. If there are any delays, don’t be afraid to talk to your conveyancer and the estate agent and ask what’s going on. 

Exchanging contracts

The survey’s come through and any issues with it have been resolved. Your conveyancer is happy with the contract, and everything’s got the green light. You’re on the home straight. Here’s what happens next:

  • Your conveyancer agrees a completion date with the seller’s conveyancer.
  • You sign and then exchange contracts.
  • You pay the deposit (normally 10% of the purchase price).

Contracts are not binding until contracts / missives have been exchanged.

Exchange to completion

The end is finally in sight. Now you’ve exchanged contracts, this final stage is all about actually transferring ownership from the seller to you.

  • Your conveyancer prepares and sends a completion statement, transfer deed and mortgage deed.
  • You read through and sign the transfer deed and the mortgage deed and return them to your conveyancer.
  • Your conveyancer arranges to obtain the mortgage money from your lender and then transfers the payment to the seller’s conveyancer in return for the transfer deed signed by the seller. The keys can then be released to you, usually through the estate agent.
  • Your conveyancer arranges for the transfer deed to be stamped. If the purchase price of the property you’re buying is worth over £125,000 you’ll pay a government tax called ‘Stamp Duty Land Tax’.
  • Your conveyancer will then send the transfer deed and the mortgage to the Land Registry to record you as the owner and to register the mortgage.

Congratulations – you did it! You now own your home.

 Next - 7. Moving in day

We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

7. Moving in day

Planning your move  
Settling in
Calculate your new household budget
How to save money and the environment
Prepare for the unexpected
What if you fall behind with mortgage payments?
Our help doesn’t stop here
Want to make changes to your mortgage?

Planning your move

Moving house is famously stressful but it needn’t be. This simple guide will help you take the bulk of the stress away, leaving you free to focus on the joy of having a home you can call your own.

Top tips for a smooth move

These moving tips may sound trivial, but it’s attention to detail that can make all the difference.

Finding a removal company

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations and shop around for written quotes.
  • Make sure the company provides insurance for any damage during the move.
  • Make sure they’re a member of the British Association of Removers too.

Doing the move yourself

It may be hard graft, but DIY moving also saves you a fair bit. Just make sure:

  • Your home insurance covers you for the move. If not, consider arranging separate cover.
  • Hiring a van? Shop around for quotes and check the mileage allowance is high enough and that you’re covered for any vehicle damage.


  • When you label each packing box, be crystal clear about how you name each room. “John’s bedroom” won’t mean anything to the movers, but “Front right bedroom” will.
  • Keep your stereo speakers away from your TV – the speakers contain magnets that can damage it.
  • If you’re doing the move yourself, keep the boxes light enough for you to carry safely.
  • Use our handy checklist to keep track of what’s in which box and where it should go.

Create a moving pack

There’s nothing more frustrating than turning up at the house with a team of thirsty removal men, and realising you’ve packed the kettle and tea back at the old place.

So put together a moving pack, and you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips. Here’s a list of the essentials: 

  • Kettle
  • Mugs, milk, tea, sugar, biscuits, bottles of drinking water
  • Glasses
  • Torch and light bulbs
  • Cleaning equipment: bin liners, cloths, rubber gloves, detergent and a vacuum cleaner
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic tools
  • Pen and paper for meter reading

How to have a smooth move

Before you collect your keys, a little bit of planning will go a long way and save you a lot of stress too. This useful checklist will make it easier to tackle the big move.

Who to notify about your new address

Before you move, it’s a good idea to notify your various service providers, as well as family and friends.

This checklist will remind you who to get in touch with.


Settling in

Make your home your own 

Congratulations – you've moved into your new home! It will probably take a while to sink in that this place is really yours.

You might also be completely unfamiliar with the area. So get out and about. Take a note of the nearby street names, train stations, bus stops, local shops and markets, schools, libraries and social places.

Here are some tips on finding the right places to go, the best decorators, the best schools, recycling day etc:

  • Chat to neighbours and local shopkeepers. It’s always good to build up relationships with people living nearby so you can help each other out when needed. Being new is the perfect excuse for saying ‘hello’, it could even mark the start of a good friendship.
  • Pick up detailed information about events and services from local newspapers and websites such as
  • Ask your mortgage specialist, conveyancer or estate agent for their personal experiences.


Calculate your new household budget

You should already have worked out your household budget when you first applied for your mortgage. If you haven’t, this checklist will help you.

But things change. And now that you’ve moved in you’ll need to look at your monthly costs again to make sure you’re comfortably on track.

Don’t forget to include all the other upfront expenses such as decorating materials, new furniture, furnishings and equipment.


How to save money and the environment

As a first time buyer, you might not have too much spare cash floating about, particularly in the first few months. But there are lots of easy ways to economise and live a greener life.

These include:

  • Cut down on your waste – reduce, reuse and recycle.
  • Save energy – turning the thermostat down, even by one degree, makes a difference.
  • Save water – only use what you need.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances, rather than just ‘cheap’ ones.
  • Be carbon conscious when renovating and fixing up your home. There are often government grants for projects which increase your home’s energy efficiency, such as draught-proofing or roof insulation.
  • Rent a room out to earn some extra income (you would need our consent before doing this).


Prepare for the unexpected

However well you plan your life, things outside your control will always happen. That’s why preparing for worst-case scenarios is so important.

If you were made unemployed for instance, having a mortgage payment protection plan is one way that could help cover your mortgage repayments.

Or, if you were unable to work for a period due to an accident or long-term illness, an income protection plan could help maintain your lifestyle by providing you with a monthly income.

It’s also worth considering a life assurance or critical illness plan.


What if you fall behind with mortgage payments?

Don’t panic and bury your head in the sand. At the first sign of trouble, get in touch with us, your lender. We may offer to:

  • give you a payment holiday
  • accept reduced payments from you in the short term
  • agree to change or lengthen the term of your loan
  • convert a ‘repayment’ to an ‘interest only’ mortgage, where the monthly payments will be smaller.

Remember though, deferring a payment can lead to you paying more interest in the long run. So make sure you investigate all your options carefully and understand the consequences.


Our help doesn't stop here

We can still help out, even after you’ve moved in to your new home.

For example, you might want to discuss whether you can borrow more on your existing mortgage to pay for unexpected repairs or make home improvements.

Typically, we will only allow you to borrow for certain reasons and only after you've had your mortgage open for a certain amount of time (usually at least six months). Plus you'll have to meet all the usual lending criteria set at that time.

We’ll also let you know when your current mortgage deal is coming to an end. You may then have the option to choose another deal.

The Halifax Mortgage Review

If your mortgage is with Halifax you can come for a free mortgage review any time you choose. Our mortgage specialists will be happy to talk things through and check that you’re getting the most out of your mortgage.

Pop into branch to find out more and to book your free Halifax Mortgage Review. Or call us on 08457 50 37 05.


Want to make changes to your mortgage?

There might be a time when altering your monthly payments could make things easier for you to manage. Or you’d like to save money on interest by paying your mortgage off sooner.

Of course, we’ll need to agree to any changes you want to make, but these are the main things you can do with your mortgage:

Change the term

When you first take out a mortgage it will be for an agreed term. But you can change this to a longer term with lower monthly payments, or a shorter term with higher monthly payments if your mortgage is on a repayment basis.

Changing the term on a interest-only mortgage will not affect the monthly mortgage payment.

Paying off more with Regular or Lump-sum overpayments

The quicker you pay back your mortgage, the less interest you will be charged overall.

You may have to pay an Early Repayment Charge if you are making overpayments during an Early Repayment Charge period.

To find out if your mortgage is subject to an Early Repayment Charge and any concession that may apply please refer to your latest mortgage offer documentation or call us on 0845 602 9717.

If you want to make a lump sum payment or arrange a regular overpayment call us on 0845 602 9717.

If your mortgage rate is not subject to an Early Repayment Charge you can make unlimited overpayments.


We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back

Buying in Scotland

Buying a property in Scotland?   
Buying a property from offer to completion, step by step
Helping you onto the ladder

Buying a property in Scotland?

Chances are you already know things are different. So to help you, here’s a look at what to expect and the home-buying process, step by step.

A solicitor and estate agent, all in one

Most solicitors in Scotland are usually also estate agents. Groups of solicitors in a particular area will advertise property collectively through Solicitors’ Property Centres.

You do get estate agents in Scotland too, but they have a smaller share of the market.

Home Report packs

In Scotland a seller must prepare a Home Report pack. If you’re a serious buyer, you’ll be given a copy. It tells you about the condition and value of the property, and it’s made up of three parts:

What it isWho does itWhat is it for
Property Questionnaire The seller Gives you information about Council Tax banding and other costs.
Energy Report A surveyor Assesses the energy efficiency of the home and its environmental impact. It also recommends ways to improve its energy efficiency.
Single Survey A surveyor Tells you about the condition of the property, gives you a valuation and an accessibility audit for people with particular needs.

Surveys – is the Single Survey enough?

Even though there’s the Single Survey, a mortgage lender may insist you pay for another valuation. If the property is old or the Single Survey flags up some issues, consider getting a building survey done as well.


Buying a property from offer to completion, step by step

You’ve seen a property you like – now what?

Step 1: Noting an interest

When you want to make an offer your solicitor may recommend ‘noting an interest’.

This puts you under no obligation. It just means the seller’s solicitor or estate agent will let you know if anyone else is interested.

Step 2: Making an offer

In Scotland, the seller invites offers through a sealed bids system. That means anyone wanting to buy puts in a bid in writing that the other bidders can’t see.

Your solicitor does this for you, and your offer will include a price, date of entry, and a series of conditions regarding the property.

When deciding what offer to make, you’ll need to take into account how many other bidders you’re up against.

But remember, sellers don’t always go for the best price. They’ll also be interested in how soon you can move. Therefore, it is essential that your mortgage has been fully approved prior to this stage.

Top tip:

When you make your bid, try to avoid a round figure and put in an odd amount, like £100,111. That way you won’t tie with other bidders.

Step 3: From negotiation to contract

If your bid is successful, the seller's solicitor will reply in writing with their conditions. This exchange of letters – or ‘missives’ – continues until everyone’s happy with the conditions.

The final missive is a binding contract. This means neither you nor the seller can back out without having to pay compensation.

Your deposit

Your solicitor will hold your deposit in a special account, where it will earn interest until the sale.

It’s usually transferred 7-10 days before you get the keys, but this varies. Estate agents aren’t allowed to hold deposits.

Step 4: The final steps

Your solicitor now prepares several documents. These include a ‘Disposition’ which will transfer ownership of the property to you.

You need to make sure your solicitor gets all the funds he needs ahead of the settlement to cover the whole purchase price, any stamp duty and title registration.

Step 5: Completion

It’s the date of entry. Your solicitor sends the funds to the seller’s solicitor.

Your solicitor in turn receives the signed Disposition, other documents and the keys to your new home (unless you've arranged to collect the keys on a different day).


Helping you onto the ladder

If you live in Scotland, you can take advantage of the Government’s Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT). It’s specifically for first-time buyers who would otherwise be unable to buy.

It includes four different schemes:

The schemeWhat it’s for
New Supply Shared Equity Scheme  Newly built properties (usually from a housing association)
Open Market Shared Equity pilot
scheme (also known as HOMESTAKE) 
Buying properties on the open market

Rural Home Ownership Grants (RHOGs) 

To help towards the costs of building or renovating a home in a rural area
Shared ownership  You own a ‘share’ in a property with a registered social landlord, and you pay them rent for the remainder


We’re here to help and talk you through all the options available

  • Simply pop in to one of our branches,
  • Call us on 08458 50 37 05 and speak to a mortgage specialist,
  • or use our call back form and one of our mortgage specialists will call you back


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