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Advice for getting onto the property ladder

If you’re looking to buy your first home, you may have been saving towards a deposit for a long time. Getting onto the property ladder usually involves a lot of budgeting and saving but the payoff can be huge. Owning your own home can feel incredible and it can be a great investment.

There are several schemes that have been set up by the Government to help first time buyers like yourself. Utilising them could give you more money in your pot for little to no effort.
This is good news as not only could you potentially become a homeowner sooner than you thought but it could allow you to save a bigger deposit, giving you access to better mortgage rates.


Are you maximising your deposit savings? If you open a Help to Buy ISA, you’ll get a 25% bonus, so an extra 25p for every £1 you save. The maximum total bonus value you can get is £3,000. As long as you’re under forty, another option could be to open a Lifetime ISA, which also gives you a 25% bonus, up to a maximum bonus of £1,000 a year.

You might decide to have both types of ISA but you’re only allowed to open one ISA account per financial year. ISAs are for individuals so if you’re buying with a partner they can have their own ISAs and you could pool your resources later.

If you’re planning on buying a new build home then you’ll be eligible for a Help to Buy equity loan of up to 20%, or 40% if buying in London.

There will be no interest on the equity loan for five years, and you will only need a minimum deposit of 5%. 

If owning your own home seems unaffordable you may want to explore the government’s Shared Ownership schemes which involves owning part of your home and paying rent on the rest.

Other ways to reach your deposit saving goals sooner include:

  • Moving back in with your parents rather than renting.
  • Taking in a lodger (if your tenancy allows).
  • Renting somewhere cheaper.
  • Getting a second job.
  • Setting up a direct debit into a savings account or ISA so that you treat saving as another bill.
  • Cutting unnecessary spending (e.g. café visits and takeaways)
  • Opting for a cheaper holiday or no holiday at all until you get your new home.
  • Selling your car and buying a cheaper model or car sharing instead.
  • Getting a contribution towards your deposit from your parents or another family member. 


Do you know how much you’ll be able to borrow? It might be more or less than you think so for a clear idea, you may want to book an appointment with a mortgage advisor. They are the experts when it comes to mortgages and can provide invaluable advice. They’ll look in detail at your financial situation and scour the market to find the best mortgage deals for you. This could save you a great deal of time and effort.

Typically mortgages last for 20 – 25 years but many first-time buyers prefer a 35-year term as it allows them to make smaller monthly payments. This does increase the amount of interest payable but overpayments can help reduce this or you can reduce the number of years more drastically on your next mortgage when you may be earning more money to account for the higher repayments. 

Your mortgage advisor will be able to help you get a decision in principle from a mortgage provider. 

This is a certificate that you can show estate agents/vendors when you make an offer to prove that you’re a serious buyer. 

Once you’ve had an offer accepted and are ready to proceed your mortgage advisor will go through the whole application process with you.

To boost your chances of being accepted for a mortgage:

  • Pay off any debts.
  • Show that you’re responsible with money by making all of your payments on time.
  • Never get a payday loan.
  • Stay out of your overdraft.
  • Avoid applying for any other financial products in the six months before you apply.
  • Close any credit accounts you don’t use.
  • Check what information the credit reference agencies hold on you and get any errors corrected.
  • Apply for a notice of disassociation if you’ve been financially linked to someone else on your credit file.

Fees and charges

Getting on the property ladder involves you saving more than just your deposit as there are various fees and charges that you need to be aware of.  Some of the fees associated with your mortgage can be added to it (you would be charged interest on this) but others need to be paid upfront.

With a typical mortgage you’ll need to pay:

  • Arrangement fee (£0 - £2,500) –  is the fee for the mortgage product. Sometimes it’s called the completion fee and can usually be added to the total mortgage amount, although this will increase the amount you owe and your monthly repayments.
  • Booking fee (£0 - £200) – is a charge simply for applying for a mortgage – some lenders will include as part of the arrangement while others will only apply it for mortgages over a certain threshold. 

  • CHAPS fee (£25 - £50) – pays for your solicitor to transfer money to your mortgage provider.
  • Mortgage account fee (£100 - £300) – is payable to the lender to set up your mortgage.
  • Mortgage broker fee (£0 - £500) – will be paid to your mortgage broker, if you choose to hire one, for finding and negotiating the terms of your mortgage.
  • Valuation fee (£50 - £1,500) – covers the valuation undertaken by the mortgage lender.

Legal fees will cost in the region of £500-£1,500 and you’ll usually need to pay surveyor fees which vary depending on the type of survey you opt for. If the property you’re buying is below £300,000 you won’t have to pay Stamp Duty  in England. However, if it’s over this, you’ll pay Stamp Duty on the remaining value with the amount rising as the property value increases.

Mortgage providers insist on you having buildings insurance but it’s advisable that you also take out contents insurance to protect your possessions. If you’ll be using a removals company on moving in day, you’ll have to budget for this cost too.

Despite all the sacrifices you may have to make as you save towards your first property, you’ll be so happy you managed it when you get your keys and can start turning your house into a home.

This guide to negative equity was produced in collaboration with L&C, the UK’s leading fee-free mortgage experts.

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