Speak to a lender or financial advisor

First of all you need to know what you can afford

Visit a mortgage lender directly or go to a financial advisor to find out how much they are willing to offer.

A lender will give you an Agreement in Principle (sometimes called an Intention to Lend). This means that you can start looking at properties within your budget.

Sometimes the mortgage offer may not be enough to buy the home that you want. There are other routes to home ownership that you can consider.

Routes to home ownership


Find your new home

You can do this at any time but it’s helpful to have an idea of your budget before you start house hunting

The most common way to search for properties is through estate agents and using online property websites. It is important that you choose the right home that meets your requirements now, but also think about how your needs might change in the future.

Ask yourself the following questions to help narrow your search. You could also draw up a list of the pros and cons and prioritise what’s most important – it’s likely that you will have to compromise on something.

  • Do I know where I want to live or am I willing to look further afield to find the right property at the right price?
  • Is it important to be close to family and friends?
  • What facilities or services are in the local area? For example, how far is it to the nearest supermarket?
  • Would I be happy with my commute to work?
  • What are the local road networks like?

  • What type of property am I looking for: a detached, semi-detached, townhouse/terrace, a bungalow or an apartment?
  • How many bedrooms do I need?
  • What size of a garden would I like?
  • Is parking important?
  • Do I need a garage?
  • Have I viewed the property more than once to get a feel for the area and at different times of the day?


Complete a property checklist

When viewing a property take your time to have a good look around, both inside and outside, and don’t be afraid to ask questions

Use the checklists below to make sure the property meets your requirements. You can also download our checklist by clicking here.

  • How many rooms and bedrooms are there?
  • Is there enough space for my requirements, for my furniture and for storage?
  • Think about practical things like where will I store my vacuum cleaner and is there space to hang up coats.
Kitchen and bathroom(s)
  • What is the standard in the kitchen and bathroom(s)?
  • Do they require any repairs or need to be replaced?
  • What type of heating is installed?
  • How old is the system?
  • Are all the radiators working?
  • When was the boiler last serviced?
  • Are the necessary certificates available i.e. gas safety certificate?
  • When was the property last rewired? Is there a certificate?
Windows and doors
  • Are the windows and doors in good condition with no leaks or
    drafts and do they all open and close properly?
  • Do any chimneys work and if so when were they last swept?
  • Are there any gas fires and if so do they have a current gas safety certificate?
Extensions and alterations
  • Has any work been done to the home such as alterations, extensions or repair work?
  • If yes, does the work have/need planning permission or building control approvals?
  • Are there any certificates or guarantees for the work?
Energy efficiency
  • Ask for a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property. To view our guide to EPCS click here.
Is the property an apartment?
  • Are there any common areas such as internal hallways, corridors, stairwells and lifts?
  • Who maintains these areas?
  • Is there a service charge, and if so, how much is it?
  • Does the management company insure the property?

  • Does the garden meet my requirements?
  • Do I have my own driveway or parking spaces? Or is the parking shared?
  • Is the exterior in good condition?
  • Check the following: driveway, paths, hedges, fences, walls, fascias, drains, guttering, windows, and paintwork.
Shared/common areas
  • Are there any shared areas such as lawns, gardens, play areas, roadways and paths?
  • Is there a management company to look after these areas or are there other arrangements in place?
  • Is there a service charge, and if so, how much is it?
Is the property an apartment?
  • Services such as sewers and drains and any waste disposal services are also likely to be shared. There may also be facilities for all apartment owners such as security, maintenance and cleaning services to deal with the shared areas. You should check out the position here.

  • Ensure the property comes with a structural warranty.
  • This usually provides warranty and insurance protection for newly built properties for up to 10 years.
  • Make sure you receive a specification as to how your home will be finished and check that everything has been included during construction and at the completion stage.
Turnkey package
  • A turnkey package means that everything is included in the purchase price and usually this includes kitchen, bathroom(s), floor coverings and internal painting.
  • Sometimes a builder provides a PC sum (prime cost sum). This is a monetary allowance towards fitting out the property i.e. kitchen and bathroom.
  • With either option, check what is included in the price or what you have to pay extra for.
Kitchen and bathroom(s)
  • In some cases the builder/developer will allow you to pick your kitchen, bathroom, floor coverings and other fixtures and fittings from a list of suppliers. You should check out the position here.
  • Check if you want any extras such as additional electrical sockets or an outside water tap. Usually this will incur an additional cost.
  • Ask if the interior of the property will be painted and if you have any choices to make.
  • Ask how the exterior surfaces such as paths and driveways will be finished i.e. tarmac or paving.
  • Ask if the boundary of your home includes any fencing, walls or hedges.
  • Ask how the garden will be finished i.e. will it be seeded or turfed.
The neighbouring area
  • If your home is part of a larger development or in an area with vacant land, check what will be built in the surrounding area in the future.
Snagging list
  • Once you move in have a good look around to make sure everything is as you expect.
  • Draw up a list of any issues and give this to your builder.


Agree a sale

Once you find the home that you want you can place an offer and agree to the sale.

Before you do, you should consider the following:

  • Is the asking price for the property realistic?
  • Is the home value for money compared with other properties in the area?
  • Check out the saleability of homes in the area. How quickly do they sell and in what price range?

If you are buying a new build property you may need to put down a holding deposit. This is usually about £500.

Once you have agreed a sale you will need to appoint a solicitor to do the legal aspects of buying your home. The estate agent will ask you for the name of your solicitor and they will send a sales advice note to both you and the vendor, and each of the solicitors involved.


Choose a solicitor

Once you agree to buy a property you will need to appoint a solicitor

Sometimes people choose solicitors based on recommendations from family or friends. If you need help in appointing a solicitor you can view the Law Society NI Solicitor Directory here. You can ask solicitors for an outline of their costs.

Your solicitor will ask you:

  • For full details of the property you wish to buy.
  • How the property is being financed (this includes any deposit, mortgage or Help to Buy ISA).
  • The names of everyone involved including your lender and any financial advisor.

Your solicitor will then:

  • Check the legal documents which relate to the property (title deeds) and explain everything to you. They will make you aware of anything unusual about the property you are buying.
  • Show you the map of your new home and ask you to confirm that the boundaries are correct.
  • Ask you to confirm a fixtures and fittings list to be included in the sale, if necessary.
  • Carry out financial searches against you i.e. bankruptcy and a search in the Enforcement of Judgements Office. These are for the benefit of the mortgage company.
  • Give you details of any management company charges you will have to pay as the owner of your home.
  • Carry out property searches and explain these to you.
  • Obtain a valuation/survey of the property. There are three types of survey: mortgage valuation, homebuyer report and a full structural survey.
  • Give you the opportunity to ask questions and ensure that you are happy to proceed with the purchase.


Apply for your mortgage

Once the property is sale agreed you can go back to your lender or financial advisor and complete the mortgage application

You can revisit – ‘Financing your move’ to find out more on mortgages.

The two stages below summarise the mortgage application process after you receive an Agreement in Principle.

1. Application

  • To complete the assessment process your lender will need evidence of your income, what you spend on things like household bills, other financial commitments and any deposit you’re putting down.
  • Usually they will require payslips and/or bank statements that cover the previous three months, or if you are self-employed, up to two years of accounts.
  • Your lender will then assess your application fully to ensure that you can meet the repayments.

2. Valuation and Offer

  • Your lender will then carry out an independent valuation to check that the property is priced correctly and is mortgageable – this means checking that there are no major defects that could affect the property’s value and that the price is in keeping with similar properties in the area.
  • Once the valuation has been completed, your bank or building society will write to you and your solicitor with confirmation of a mortgage offer.


Sign the contract

Signing the contract means that you are legally committing to buying your home

Once you and the vendor have signed the contract you can no longer pull out of a house sale without major consequences. The timeframe between signing the contract and the sale completing can vary.

  • If you are buying an existing property it is common to sign the contract a number of weeks before the completion date.
  • If you are buying a new build property it is common to sign the contract several weeks or sometimes months in advance. Your developer/builder may insist on a contract being signed before fitting out the property to your specification. On signing the contract the developer/builder may also request that a 5-10% deposit is paid.

On signing the contract you will need to agree a completion date. At this stage you also need to arrange the necessary buildings insurance; it is recommended that your insurance policy is valid from the date you sign your contract. Your lender will ask for proof of your insurance before they release the mortgage funds.

Your solicitor will then ask you to sign mortgage deeds; they will explain everything to you and answer any questions you may have.


Pre completion

There are a number of things you need to tick off prior to your completion date:

  • Arrange insurance for your new home
  • Close your Help to Buy ISA (if applicable)
  • Pack up your belongings and get ready to move
  • Book a removals van or company
  • Arrange to set-up or move any utilities such as electricity, gas, phone and broadband
  • Transfer funds to your solicitor

Prior to completion your solicitor will provide you with a breakdown of all costs. This will include:

  • Your deposit (plus any extras that you may have requested if you are buying a new build)
  • Solicitor fees
  • Stamp duty (if applicable)
  • Estate agent fees (if applicable)

A few days before your completion date you will need to transfer these funds to your solicitor. Your solicitor will combine your funds with the mortgage funds and will then transfer all monies to the seller’s solicitor.



On your moving day:

  • Ask what the arrangements are for receiving the keys to your new home. These are usually collected from the estate agent or builder.
  • Read any electricity or gas meters on the day you move in. Take note of the reading and arrange for the service(s) to be transferred to your name.
  • Make sure that all fittings and fixtures which are to be left in the home are left. Tell your solicitor as soon as possible if they are not.


Post completion

Once you move in:

  • Make a list of matters where you need to change your address.
  • Inform Land and Property Services (LPS) that you are the ratepayer on your new home. You can do this here.
  • If you have moved into a new property, make sure to check that everything is as it should be. Any issues or faults are commonly known as ‘snags’. You can draw up a snagging list to be addressed by the builder.

What should I do now?

Congratulations on becoming a home owner. Now read our hints and tips on after you buy.

After you buy