First-Time Buyers: Who to Speak to About What


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House prices are on their way up (they rose 1.1% annually this April, according to the latest Halifax house price index) and the base rate could be on its way down in the next few months. As a result, we may be looking at lower mortgage rates and a return in confidence to the UK housing market later this year.

Even with a more positive outlook on the horizon, the home-buying process can still be lengthy and complex. If you’re looking to get on the property ladder this year, there are plenty of specialists who can help at every stage. Here’s our breakdown of who can help with what.

Estate agents

Most of us will have had dealings with an estate agent or two, even before searching for our first home. These guys connect the dots between you and the property seller. Not only will they find properties for you to view, and take you on the viewings, they’ll help manage offer negotiations and a lot of the back and forth leading up to exchanging and completing on your property. We don’t always get to choose the estate agent that comes with our dream property, but where you can make sure you’re working with someone you like and trust, who communicates promptly.

Local agents may offer more nuanced expertise. And ask around – anyone who’s rented or bought a home will have some (often strong) opinions on their estate agent.

Mortgage broker/adviser

A mortgage broker is the middleman between you and mortgage lenders. They’ll use their expertise to find the right mortgage product for you, at the best rate, and apply on your behalf. Mortgage brokers will charge a fee in a variety of ways: a one-off fee, a percentage of the loan or commission from the mortgage provider. They should be upfront about this in advance.

A mortgage broker isn’t essential and you might prefer to research lenders and make the applications yourself. Alternatively, you could look into online mortgage brokers like Habito.

Mortgage brokers or advisers must complete a Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice (CeMAP), which is a qualification approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Unless you have very specific requirements, ideally you want a full-market broker, which means they have access to the majority of mortgage products available on the market.

For me, having a real human expert to hand was invaluable. My broker became almost like a home-buying counsellor throughout the process (give the guy a raise!), able to answer my very specific questions and support with those expected issues that always seem to crop up.

Mortgage provider/lender

Your mortgage provider or lender is the bank or financial institution that’s lending you the money to buy your property. Some will be household banking names like NatWest, Lloyds or Nationwide, while others will be independent or specialist lenders like Pepper Money or Precise Mortgages.

You can chat to your mortgage provider about anything relating to your mortgage, whether it’s your application status, changing your mortgage amount, terms and more. Depending on your provider, this may be over the phone, email, live chat or via an online mortgage portal. Check in advance to make sure you’re happy with the communications offered. A friend of mine found her provider’s online portal very inflexible when she needed to change her mortgage amount. If you have a mortgage broker, they’ll likely have these conversations on your behalf.


Once you have an offer on a property accepted, you need to assemble a legal team to do all the background checks and officially transfer ownership of the property to you. This involves instructing (a fancy word for asking a legal professional to represent you) a conveyancer or solicitor.

When it comes to home-buying both do the same thing. A conveyancer is exclusively trained to handle the legal stuff behind transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another. In the UK, conveyancers must be regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). Solicitors practise law more generally, which may include conveyancing and so can also help in this process. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Your conveyancer/solicitor will run background checks on you (get those 3 months of payslips ready), the property and the sellers. Prepare to read a whole bunch of paperwork and have infinite conversations about fire safety reports, environmental surveys and [insert any possible thing you can think of here]. Any questions you have about exchanging, completing or anything that doesn’t involve your mortgage product, these are the guys to check in with.

Typically, a conveyancer is cheaper than a solicitor. When shopping around for the right legal team for you, ask if they have any kind of “no completion, no fee” clause, so you only have to fork out if you actually get the keys!


A surveyor will conduct a property survey, which is a report on the condition of the property. You don’t have to do one (although in some cases your mortgage provider may require it), but since you’re dropping potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds on your new home, what’s a little more to make sure it doesn’t collapse as soon as you put your keys in the front door?

The survey can be as detailed as your budget allows, and you should consider any building quirks when researching surveyors. For example, since my flat has a loft extension, I chose a surveyor who offered a drone survey of the roof to check it had been completed to a high standard.

You don’t need formal qualifications or training to work as a surveyor in the UK. Chartered Surveyors, however, are trained to the highest standard with qualifications accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Your mortgage provider may conduct a survey of the property in order to approve your mortgage. Typically, this is more of a valuation report than a survey, so it’s still worth having an independent in-depth survey done yourself.

ISA provider

If you have funds in a lifetime ISA or help to buy ISA, for example, and you’re able to put them towards the purchase of your first home, you will need to contact your provider directly to inform them that you are looking to withdraw your funds. Your conveyancer/solicitor will receive and handle the funds on your behalf, but you may need to contact your ISA provider to get the necessary information to pass on to your legal team. It’s important to follow the official withdrawal process so you don’t lose out on any government bonuses you’ve earned.


Despite millions of properties being bought every year, something unexpected always crops up during the home-buying process. In these circumstances, take a breath and follow the next logical step. If you have a mortgage broker, conveyancer or solicitor, check in with them. Contact your provider if it relates to a money product you have. Or sit and talk it out over a cuppa with a trusted friend or family member.

About the author

Louise Bastock is an editor at Finder, specialising in a broad range of personal finance topics, from financial wellness to first-time buyers. As video manager, she’s also responsible for presenting and producing the UK’s video content across multiple channels, including YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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