First time buyer guide
house hunting.

Now you know the basics of getting a mortgage, it’s time to start house hunting. Here, we’ll tell you what to expect at each stage.


What you need to know

  • You’ll need to get an Agreement in Principle before applying for a mortgage
  • Buying the right home isn’t easy. Decide what property features are important to you, and what things you’re happy to settle for.
  • Check out the local area, things like shops and schools – we have a location finder to help
  • There’s so much to think about when viewing a property. It could help to take someone with you for a second opinion.

Want to talk it over?

You can speak to one of our mortgage advisers in person, or chat things over on the phone.

Call us on 0345 850 3705 (Mon-Fri 8am – 8pm, Sat 9am – 4pm) or you can book a branch appointment.

If you haven't already got an Agreement in Principle (AIP), you’ll need to get one before you start looking at properties, as it’s the first step to getting a mortgage.

It gives a better indication of how much you could borrow than the mortgage calculator. It will also show the maximum time period you have to pay it back.

This will give you an idea of the properties you can afford. Estate agents like to see an AIP. It shows that you're serious about buying.

It’s quick and easy to apply for an AIP

  • It should take about 15 minutes.
  • We’ll need to know your monthly income and outgoings, and your addresses for the last 3 years.
  • You don’t have to make a full mortgage application with us.

Applying won’t affect your credit rating

We'll do a soft credit check as part of the process. It won't affect your credit rating or your ability to borrow in the future, even if we can’t give you an AIP this time. Only you can see soft credit checks on your credit report.

An AIP is not a guarantee. You need to make a full mortgage application to confirm the amount you can borrow.

Apply for an Agreement in Principle

Once you’ve got your Agreement in Principle, you’ll have an idea of how much you can afford to spend on your new home. Now it’s time to start looking.

Use property search sites

You can use property websites like Rightmove, Zoopla and OntheMarket to help you. These sites let you search by price, area, number of bedrooms, distance from other places, and more. You can also set up property alerts, so you’re told when new homes come on the market.

Think about the type of property you want. Are there many on the market? Do they stick around for long? Or are they bought quickly? These websites are great for keeping track of the local market.

Keep in mind: the asking price shown on a website is what the seller wants and not always what the property will actually sell for. Therefore, it’s worth viewing properties that are slightly higher than your budget, as you may be able to negotiate it for a lower price.

Get friendly with your estate agent

Some properties will be sold before being listed online. That’s why it's important to get on with your local estate agent. They’ll be able to tell you about a suitable property as soon as it comes on the market.

Let them know the type of property you want and your budget. A good estate agent will be honest and tell you how realistic it is, how long it could take, and how many other buyers you might be up against.

Estate agents deal with lots of buyers every day. Be friendly and make sure your agent knows that you’re serious about buying. Your Agreement in Principle will help show this. And if they know you’re serious, they may even start doing the house hunting for you.

Things to ask yourself:

  • How many bedrooms do I need?
  • Do I want a separate kitchen and dining room?
  • How many bathrooms?
  • Do I want a downstairs toilet?
  • Do I need parking?
  • What type of garden – shared or private, big or small?
  • How much money and time do I want to spend redecorating?
  • You also need to be prepared to wait, as it’s unlikely you’ll find the house of your dreams straight away. Keep looking, but remember to be flexible and realistic with what you need.

Try house hunting in other areas too. It's good to know what your money can get you elsewhere.

You might have found the house of your dreams, but there’s more to think about than how good the property looks. The neighbourhood it’s in is a big consideration.

  • How near is it to the shops?
  • Does the area have good transport links?
  • What will the commute to work be like?
  • Is the property near a pub or takeaway that might get loud at night?
  • Is crime a problem in the area?
  • If you have children, or are planning to have some, is there a good school nearby?

Our location finder tool will help you:

  • Discover local schools, restaurants, train stations, doctor’s surgeries, and gyms.
  • Learn about crime rates, average house prices, and even Ofsted ratings.

Use our Location finder

Booking your first house viewings is one of the biggest milestones for a first time buyer.

While you’re deciding where to put your TV or hang your paintings, there are a few other bits you need to look for to make sure it really is the right home for you.

Sometimes it’s the less obvious things that end up making the biggest impact on your home life. Here are five key things to consider when viewing a property:

1. Natural light

The position of a house affects how much natural light gets in. This can have an impact on your heating bills as well as your frame of mind.

A south-facing home will make the most of natural light and warmth. While a north-facing one may keep your house cooler – not so great in winter, but beneficial in summer. A north-facing home can be bright if the main living space is at the back and there are lots of windows.

2. Location, location, location

You might have found the house of your dreams, but there’s more to think about than how good the property looks. The neighbourhood it’s in is a big consideration.

  • How near is it to the shops?
  • Does the area have good transport links?
  • What will the commute to work be like?
  • Is the property near a pub or takeaway that might get loud at night?
  • Is crime a problem in the area?
  • If you have children, or are planning to have some, is there a good school nearby?

View our tips on finding the right location

3. Parking spaces

Parking wars with your neighbours can be stressful. If the house you’re viewing doesn’t come with a garage or off-street parking, check how much space there is on the road. A good tip is to go and look at the parking situation in the evening and at a weekend when you’ll get a better idea of what parking is really like.

You should also look if there are any parking restrictions near the property. If so, it may impact you and any future visitors or guests you have. Do you need a permit to park and, if so, how much will it cost?

4. Mobile coverage

If you’re not planning to use a landline, mobile signal will be an important thing to consider.

When looking round a house, check how much signal you get in each room, and try to make a call.

5. Storage Space

Once you’ve bought a house, you’ll start to mount up more and more stuff. Does the home you’re looking at have lots of space? Are there good places to keep things like your vacuum and spare bedding?

Storage space in newly built homes can be even more lacking. Check if there’s room to build in cupboards or shelving.

Make sure you know exactly what fixtures and fittings are being left as part of the sale – if in doubt, ask your conveyancer.

For more help, read our article on House Viewing Tips and tricks

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.


The next step

You’ve found the right home, so what’s the next step?


Agreement in Principle

It’s quick and easy to apply for an Agreement in Principle – find out how much you could borrow.