expanded Step one

Step one: do your research

We've got some handy hints to help you on your way to getting the keys to your own front door. From the first penny saved to the last box unpacked.

First things first

There's lots to think about if you want to get on the property ladder. And you need to think about some of it months before you start looking for your new home. The earlier you get the essentials out the way, the quicker you'll get your new set of keys.

1. Not sure how much we might lend?

Our mortgage calculator will help. Fill in the details to see what you can borrow and how much your monthly payments will be. This calculator isn’t a guarantee of how much we’ll lend – or even if we’ll lend – we’ll need to take lots more information from you when you apply to give you a decision in principle.

2. Check your credit report

This gives mortgage companies a snapshot of your finances – like what you owe or if you're behind on your payments. It's really important you check yours. You'll get an idea of whether mortgage companies will lend to you. And you can correct any errors before they start checking your score. MoneySavingExpert.com has a handy guide about what and how to check.

3. Save, save, save

The more deposit you have, the lower the mortgage interest rate you might get. One of our mortgages requires a deposit of at least 10%. And there are lots of other costs to factor in, like Stamp Duty (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland) and legal fees. So make sure you've got enough to cover it.

If you're struggling to get the money together, the government might be able to lend a hand. There are lots of mortgage schemes to help you buy your first home. MoneySavingExpert.com has all the details.

4. Get a decision in principle

When you've got the money together, you'll need a decision in principle (DIP). That's how we let you know how much we might lend you. We'll do a 'soft' credit check to see if you're eligible, and ask for some information about your finances.

The amount in the decision in principle is not a definite. It just gives you an idea of what you could borrow so you can start looking with a figure in mind. It also shows estate agents and sellers you’re serious about your search. The amount could change when you complete the full mortgage application.

You need to call us on 0345 111 8010 ** to get a decision in principle. You’re not committing to doing anything – and we’ll save your details for when you want to go on to the next stage.

Are you registered to vote?

Make sure you’re on the electoral roll. Mortgage companies use it to check your identity, so you might not be able to get a mortgage if you’re not listed.

Your local electoral registration office can tell you if you’re on the list if you’re not sure.

Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites. Links to external websites may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions.

Location, location... location?

We've all seen the weary house hunters on TV. They've seen 80 properties. Found their dream home in the wrong place. Or gone for a modern box when they wanted a cottage.

We don't want that for you. Try to work out what you're looking for before you start. Be flexible, and realistic about what you can afford. And decide if there's anything you just won't compromise on.

  • What. Flat? House? Semi-detached? Garden? A renovation or a new build?
  • How big. Is the size you need the same as the size you want? Can you afford the size you want?
  • Where. Near work? Family and friends? Good local nearby? Explore your favourite area – can you afford it? Check out other areas for more options.

Check all the property sites

There are plenty of online sites to choose from. Plus, local estate agents will send you property updates so ask them to add you to the list.

Make friends with your estate agents

  • Meet them face-to-face. Tell them what you're after and what position you're in.
  • Don't wait for them to call you. Talk to them regularly about what they've got on their books – and maybe get a heads up about what's coming soon.
  • Only look at what you can afford. It'll save time in the long run and your agent will know you're serious about your move.

When you've got a viewing

  • Take someone else along. Not just for moral support – they might spot things you miss.
  • Ask as many questions as you can.
  • Don't rush. If you like the property, take time to explore it – and the area. Buying your first home is a big decision, so make the most of your viewing.

Step two

Find out more

Step two: get a mortgage

There are a lot of stages to getting a mortgage. And whether you get one depends on a lot of different things, from your finances to the survey results.

If you know what to expect, you can make sure you're ready, and prevent any problems before they start.

To make sure we lend responsibly, we'll ask you for information about you and your finances. That's so we know you're not stretching yourself with your mortgage. If you've got everything ready, you can get things moving more quickly.

We need to know:

  • details of your deposit
  • your address for the last three years
  • details about your job
  • your yearly income including any bonuses and overtime
  • what you spend every month (like any loan and credit card payments)
  • what your household spends every month (on things like food, energy, water and travel)
  • details of the property you want to buy (only if you've got one in mind).

What to dig out before you apply

When you apply, we'll ask to see things like:

  • three months of payslips – they must be your most recent ones and the most recent must be dated within the last 35 days
  • your latest P60 from your employer
  • your last three months of bank statements for your current account
  • statements or other proof for any benefits you get (no more than three months old)
  • proof of your name and address – like your passport, bank statements or utility bills
  • proof that any deposit which was a gift doesn't need to be paid back. This could be a letter from the person who gave it to you confirming this.

For a full list of the documents we may ask for, and what format we'll accept, please read our Guide to Confirming Income and Identity (PDF, 172KB).

Are you self-employed?

As well as the relevant things from the list above, you'll need to show us your business bank statements for the last 3 years and one of these:

  • Your accountant’s certificates signed by a suitably qualified accountant
  • SA302s and tax year overviews for the last 3 years
  • The financial statements for your business for the last 3 years – the most recent year’s statement should be signed by a suitably qualified accountant (within the last 18 months).

So, you've worked out what you can borrow and got your decision in principle (DIP). You've thought about what you want to buy and started looking. When you've found 'the one', here's what should happen next.

1. Make an offer they can't refuse

If you want to make an offer, speak to your estate agent – they'll let you know how their process works.

It can be hard to pitch your offer at the right level. The asking price is a guide but that doesn't mean you can't get it for less, or that you won't have to pay more.

A few things to help:

  • Squeeze your estate agent for information – like what price the seller is looking for and how much interest there is. But remember they get commission from the sale.
  • Look at other similar properties in the area and what they've gone for recently.
  • Think about the seller's situation – are they in a chain, do they want to move quickly?

The most important thing is to decide what you can afford and what you'd be happy paying for the property.

Your first offer might not be your best but make sure you know what your best is and stick to it.

Tip: sell yourself. Make sure the seller knows:

  • you're chain free
  • how flexible you can be on moving dates
  • your finances are sorted
  • you're ready to move.

2. Find a solicitor or conveyancer

Once your offer's been accepted, it's time to choose your solicitor or conveyancer from our panel. They will handle the legal side for you. It's a good idea to a compare rates, and make sure you know what you're paying and when, before you go ahead.

Once you've chosen who to go with, they'll start the searches on the property to make sure there are no problems. They'll also liaise with the seller's solicitor to get the ball rolling. If you have any questions about the property, let them know upfront so they can get answers for you.

They'll also find out what's included in the sale with a fixtures and fittings form, which is included in the contract you sign later.

3. Get your mortgage sorted

Speak to one of our qualified mortgage advisers on 0345 111 8010 ** and let them know you want to go ahead with your mortgage.

When our adviser calls you for your appointment, it can take up to two hours to go through everything, so give yourself plenty of time. You'll also need to have all your documents (PDF, 172KB) to hand.

They'll give you advice and run through all your mortgage options over the phone, and recommend the best one for you. Then they'll take you through the application if you're ready.

Your solicitor will check the mortgage offer and once they have confirmed that everything is in order, we'll get the money ready for completion. We'll then send your welcome letter when everything is done and dusted.

Other mortgage companies will have a similar process, but double check so you know exactly what you need to do.

4. Arrange a valuation to avoid any nasty surprises

We will look to arrange a valuation of the property to confirm what it's worth and make sure there are no major defects that affect the price. This will help us decide what to lend you.

It's a good idea to get a more detailed survey done on the property too. That way you know exactly what you're getting and there'll be no nasty surprises down the line.

If the surveyor spots any problems or anything that needs fixing, get a specialist to quote for the work. Then see if the seller will accept a lower amount to allow for it.

5. Exchange contracts – no turning back from here

When your solicitor or conveyancer has everything they need, you can exchange contracts.

You'll need to pay your deposit to your conveyancer or solicitor at this point, so they can pay it for you.

You may need to take out buildings insurance – your solicitor or conveyancer will let you know – just in case anything happens to the property before you move in.

Then you'll need to sign the contract and set a date to complete.

Once you and the seller have both signed (or exchanged contracts), you've legally agreed to buy their property. There's no turning back. So make sure you're 100% happy to go ahead before you sign.

6. Complete and get your hands on the keys

When you've exchanged, your solicitor or conveyancer will ask you to sign the mortgage deed. That's so they can transfer the property to you..

They'll arrange for the money from Sainsbury's Bank to be ready on the day you complete. They'll also ask you for the rest of the balance if you're paying any more in cash, and the money to pay the Stamp Duty.

On the day of completion, once all the money has changed hands, they'll let you know when you're the proud owner of your home.

Then you can finally collect the keys from the agents and start unpacking your new life.

1. Get a solicitor

Ask family and friends for recommendations. Compare rates, and make sure you know what you're paying when, before you go ahead.

Once you've chosen who to go with, they'll handle the legal side of things for you. From putting in your offer and doing searches on the property to checking the contract and transferring the money.

When you've found a property you like, your solicitor will either put an offer in or put in a note of interest with the seller's agent. A note of interest makes sure you are kept in the loop about any changes or when the closing date is for making an offer.

2. Check the surveys to avoid any nasty surprises

  • Before the seller can market the property, they have to obtain a Home Report. Check it through carefully so you know what you're getting. You'll see if there are any repairs needed and get a good idea of running costs for the property.
  • Later on, you might also want to think about getting your own independent valuation done. The surveyor for the Home Report has a duty of care to both you and the seller. It's up to you if you want to rely on their findings.
  • You'll have to pay for an independent valuation. So you may want to wait to see if you get the property before you commit to one. You can always make your offer subject to survey.

3. Make an offer they can't refuse

If you want to make an offer, the most important thing is to decide what you can afford and what you'd be happy paying for the property. But you also need to think about:

  • what other similar properties in the area are going for
  • how many other people are offering on the property
  • anything else you want to include in the sale, like fixtures and fittings.

You may want to make your offer subject to survey if you're going to arrange your own survey later on. You should get your conveyancer to advise you on this.

Your solicitor will submit your offer in a formal letter. If there are lots of other bids, the seller's solicitor will look at them all at the same time – on the closing date – and ring your solicitor to let you know if you've got it.

Tip: sell yourself

Make sure the seller knows:

  • you're chain free
  • how flexible you can be on moving dates
  • that your finances are sorted
  • you're ready to move.

4. Check the paperwork

If your offer is accepted, the seller's solicitor will send all the relevant paperwork to yours, to get the ball rolling. The paperwork will include the title deeds and property searches. The seller's solicitor will also send either a written acceptance, or more likely a written qualified acceptance, which means the property is yours if everyone can agree on the details of the sale. The two solicitors will also arrange a date to complete the sale – or the date of entry.

If you want to do your own survey, it's a good idea to do it now. Then make sure you're happy with what the valuer finds.

5. Get your mortgage sorted

Speak to one of our qualified mortgage advisers on 0345 111 8010 ** and let them know you want to go ahead with your mortgage.

When our adviser calls you for your appointment, it can take up to two hours to go through everything, so give yourself plenty of time. You'll also need to have all your documents to hand – these are detailed above in the section "What you need to apply".

They'll give you advice and run through all your mortgage options over the phone, and recommend the best one for you. Then they'll take you through the application if you're ready.

When we have everything we need, we'll arrange a valuation of the property you want to buy. If our underwriters are happy to lend you the money based on the valuation, we'll send you a mortgage offer.

Your solicitor will check the mortgage offer and once they have confirmed that everything is in order, we'll get the money ready for completion. We'll then send your welcome letter when everything is done and dusted.

Other mortgage companies will have a similar process, but double check so you know exactly what you need to do.

6. Agree the contract – no turning back from here

Once you're happy with the details of the contract to buy your new property, your solicitor will send a letter concluding the deal. This is called the conclusion of missives.

When that's done, there's no turning back. You are legally committed to buying the property.

You may have to pay a holding deposit to secure the property but that's quite rare.

You also need to get buildings insurance for your new property and go through all the details of the title burdens – the conditions of the title deeds. These can be about putting the bins out in the right way or how you can use or change the property.

7. Complete and get your hands on the keys

When everything is ready to go, the seller's solicitor will ask us for the money, ready for the day of entry. If you're paying any more in cash, you need to give it to your solicitor so they can pay it for you.

You'll also need to give your solicitor the money for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax so they can pay this for you.

On the day, once all the money has changed hands, your solicitor will let you know when you're the proud owner of your very own home.

Then you can finally collect the keys from the agents and start unpacking your new life.

The best laid plans...

Like the weather on a bank holiday, things don't always go to plan. So it's good to be prepared. And we're on hand to help when you need us.

Here are a few things that could put a spanner in the works when you're applying for your first mortgage.

Credit check fail

Sainsbury's Bank will do a credit check when you apply. So before you start, look to put any errors right on your credit report and see if there's anything else on there that could trip you up. Just one late payment could make all the difference – even if it was years ago.

MoneySavingExpert.com has a handy guide about how and what to check.

Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites. Links to external websites may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions.

Valuations and surveys

It's really important to get an accurate valuation on your property. If you don't, and the value is different when we value it, it can affect the size of the mortgage you can get and how much you pay every month.

Other surveys on the property might flag up damage you hadn't seen before (or even the dreaded Japanese knotweed) which needs to be dealt with.

If this happens, you might need to renegotiate the price so you can get the mortgage you need or afford to get any work done – if you still want to buy the property.

Step three

Find out more

Step three - the big move

When you've got your completion date in the diary, you can start to plan for a stress-free moving day. From telling the council to booking movers, there's plenty you can do to make settling in to the new place that bit easier.

Tell people you're moving

You'd be surprised at the number of people and companies you need to tell. Here's our handy moving checklist (PDF, 100KB) so you can tick them off as you go along.

Have a clear out

There's usually a pile at the back of the cupboard for the charity shop. Maybe even enough for a car boot sale. If there is, it's best to get rid of it all before you move. You won't have to move it to the new pad and you might make a few pounds in the process.

Go furniture shopping

If you're going to buy any new furniture, you might want to consider ordering now and arranging for it to arrive at the new address just after you've moved in.

Book the movers

You might be able to rope in your family and friends to help you move. But if you've already got a lot of big furniture, it might be worth booking movers – this could be someone with a van who will help you transport your stuff or professional movers. Here’s some things to think about when booking movers:

  • Get a few quotes to compare so you have an idea of what it should cost.
  • Lots of people move at the weekend. So if you can move during the week instead, you could save money.
  • Make sure your movers include insurance for your belongings in transit – or see if you can get your own.
  • Give the movers a plan of where you want the boxes and furniture to go when they get to your new home. It'll save you shifting the bed yourself when it's time for your first night in the new place.

Get packing

  • Start packing the non-essentials – books, DVDs, the travel souvenirs you can live without for a few weeks.
  • Don't over-pack your boxes – someone's got to lift them (plus you don't want any box-splitting incidents on moving day).
  • Label your boxes so you know which room they go in when you get to your new pad.

Collect the spare keys

Get your spares off friends and neighbours and give them to your estate agents.

Don't forget your toothbrush

Put the things you're likely to need first – kettle, mugs and tea, even a takeout menu – in a separate bag or box so you can get to them easily.

Read the meters

Jot down the readings just before you leave your old place and when you get to your new home. Then your energy company can give you accurate bills from the start.

A clean start

Start as you mean to go on. For a dust-free start in your new home, clean it from top to bottom before you move your things in.

The mortgage is secured on your home. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Lending subject to status.