First time home buyer advice

Whether it’s the unfamiliar jargon or the huge sums of money at stake, it’s only natural to feel out of your depth at some point throughout the home-buying process – especially if it's your first time.

However, help is at hand with our essential first time buyer guide. You’ll find everything you need to know – from how to get started with the home-buying process to the timeline of events after your offer is accepted. We even have a property jargon buster to help you to translate those perplexing property-speak words ahead of time.

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Getting started with the home-buying process

1. First things first, register with an estate agent

Your estate agent will fast become your best friend throughout the buying process. They’re here to guide you through the buying process, answering your questions and will act as your go-between with the seller, giving you one less thing to worry about.

When you register with Pittis, we’ll listen to your requirements and advise you of the best possible matches plus some alternative options that could suit you just as well. Our local knowledge is second to none – so even if you’re new to the area, we’ll guide you through the local schools, transport and general feel of the area.

2. Look online for your new home

Did you know that 95% of property searches begin online? While nothing is better than seeing your next home in person, browsing through property listings online can help you to create a shortlist of houses or flats you’d like to see.

We list all of our properties on Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation and On The Market – making these websites an excellent place to start. What’s more, you can even experience a virtual tour for some listings on our website, allowing you to fully explore every nook and cranny from the comfort of your couch.

3. Secure your mortgage

It’s usually a good idea to secure a mortgage agreement in principle ahead of your viewings. This way, your seller will know that you’re already in a great position to progress with the sale.

To make things easier for you, in every major branch of Pittis, we have an in-house Mortgage Advisor who can guide you through your options and even find the most suitable mortgage for you.

4. Book some viewings

Nothing beats seeing your new home in person so we suggest that you book a viewing as soon as you’ve decided that you like what you see online. Get in quickly as some properties can be sold almost as soon as they’re put on the market.

5. Make an offer

So, you’ve found the one – now the fun really begins. Decide what you’d like to offer and then get in touch with your seller’s estate agent.

6. Open a file with a conveyancer

While you’re having your offer mulled over, be proactive and instruct a solicitor or conveyancer. They’ll handle the legal side of the sale, from the searches and title deeds to the exchange of contracts. We have our own conveyancing team who offer their services at a fixed fee, with nothing to pay until you reach completion. So, if the worst should happen and your sale were to fall through, you wouldn’t have to pay for their services.

Buying a house timeline

Week 1-2: Draft contracts

The seller or vendor’s solicitor will now draw up a draft contract and send this to your solicitor, who will then raise preliminary enquiries and make a Land Registry search to prove Title ownership of the property.

Week 2-5: Searches

Your solicitor will carry out a search with the Local Authority which will reveal any planning consents granted for the property and any other relevant local issues. These cover

  • Local authority searches
  • Drainage searches
  • Environmental searches

Any questions that come from this search are sent to the seller’s solicitors for further clarification.

Week 2-5: Survey & valuation

Before agreeing to lend you money, your mortgage lender will require a valuation. Put simply, they want to make sure that the property is worth what you’re going to pay and that they will make a return on their investment.

A survey on the other hand is done by a chartered surveyor and is predominantly for the benefit of the buyer to help them make a more informed decision about the property they’re planning to purchase. Though not compulsory, it’s a sensible action and can give you leverage for negotiation with seller if they find a problem.

There are generally three kinds of survey you can choose from:

  • Snagging survey – Priced up to £300. Usually used for new builds, this could identify problems for the developer to fix before you move in.
  • Homebuyer’s survey – Priced between £300-£500. Suitable for properties aged 50 years or under. Can be conducted at the same time as your valuation, to save money.
  • Full structural survey – Priced up to £1000. This is a far more detailed report, covering everything that you should know about your new home. An absolute must if the property is older or listed.

Bear in mind, the surveyor can only check what they see. If access to the attic/basement aren’t possible without lifting up carpets or doing structural damage, they’re not permitted to do this without the seller’s permission.

Our friends at Anderson & Associates can advise you on the survey that would be right for you. Ask about this in-branch.

Week 5-6: Contracts approved

Once your solicitor is satisfied with all results from the searches, survey and preliminary enquiries, the contract can be approved.

Week 5-6: Formal mortgage offer

This document will be sent to your solicitor for you to sign. Once signed and returned, the mortgage is in place and you are ready to exchange contracts.

Week 6-8: Exchange of contracts

The contract is signed by both you and the seller. The deposit (usually between 5-10% of the purchase price), is transferred or paid by the buyer’s solicitor in the form of a banker’s draft. At this stage the transaction is now legally binding and completion dates are set.

Week 8-10: Completion

This is the date agreed by the seller and the buyer. On completion day, the balance of payment is transferred from your solicitor’s account to the seller’s solicitor’s account. Your solicitor will notify you when you have completed and then you can move into your new home.

Property Jargon Buster

Worried what you’re agreeing to when you don’t strictly understand it? Here are some of the most common terms you'll be faced with: 

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

APR is a popular term in relation to your mortgage. In short, the APR will give you an idea of the overall cost of a loan by taking into account the interest rate, repayment terms and any other fees. As a rule, the lower the APR, the better the deal.

Building Survey

Sometimes called a full structural survey, this is a thorough inspection of a property carried out by a chartered surveyor. The surveyor will then produce a report with any issues that may have been detected to make sure there is full disclosure for all parties.

Chartered Surveyor

A Chartered Surveyor is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which means they are professionally qualified to carry out a building survey on your property.

Fixed-rate Mortgage

This basically means that you pay a fixed rate of interest on your mortgage for an agreed period of time. After this period ends, you will possibly end up paying a variable rate of interest, decided by your mortgage lender unless you decide to switch providers.


If you buy the freehold of a property you own it outright – which also means that you are responsible for all the maintenance and repairs of the building and land.


As odd as it sounds, gazumping is actually an industry term for when a seller accepts a higher offer from a third party before contracts are exchanged.

Interest-only Mortgage

An interest-only mortgage means that the monthly payments to your mortgage provider will only cover the interest on the loan. The three main types are ISA (see below), endowment and pension scheme.


As opposed to freehold, if you buy the lease on a property you are essentially renting from the freeholder for an agreed length of time. The lease will lay out the terms, including its length, and state responsibilities for maintenance and repair. 

Loan to Value (LTV)

LTV is the ratio of the value of your mortgage compared to the value of your house and will be expressed as a percentage. For example, if a property is worth £600,000 and your mortgage amount is £300,000 the LTV is 50%.

Negative Equity

This is bad news – this is the result when the value of your house falls to less than the value of the mortgage you have taken out. In basic terms, you would be unable to repay your mortgage by selling the property and, therefore, unable to move.

Repayment Mortgage

With a repayment mortgage, you will make monthly payments to your mortgage lender for an agreed period, until you have paid back both the loan and interest.


A mortgage is secured against your home – if you don’t repay it, your lender may seek to retrieve the money by selling your home themselves. 

Subject to Contract

This is one to keep a look out for – if you see these words, it means your agreement is not yet legally binding. By choosing an expert property solicitor you can make sure their eyes are fully on the legalities.

Title Deeds

These are the legal documents relating to the ownership of a property and they set out anything that affects this ownership, such as boundaries and rights of way. 

Tracker Mortgage

Not as intrusive as it sounds, this is a mortgage with a variable rate. What makes them different from other mortgages it that they ‘track’ another rate, most commonly the Bank of England.

Under Offer

If a property is under offer this means that the seller has accepted an offer from a buyer, but contracts haven’t yet been exchanged.

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