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How to get a mortgage

Mortgage applications can be complex, but a bit of research and preparation can help the process go much more smoothly. Below we explain exactly what you need to do to apply for a mortgage.

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First-time buyer mortgages

According to the latest UK first-time buyer statistics, there were 874,000 recent first-time buyers in England alone in 2022-23. Learn about getting a mortgage as a first-time buyer and how to find the right deal for you

What do I need to apply for a mortgage?

To apply for a mortgage, you should have:

1. A deposit

The very first step is to save up a house deposit, as this will take much longer than the rest of the process. At an absolute minimum, you'll need to save 5% of the cost of the property you want to buy, but the bigger the deposit you put down, the better access you'll have to rates and deals. In 2023-23, the average deposit in the UK was £53,414, according to first-time buyer statistics.

2. Checked your affordability

It's worth being roughly aware of what size of mortgage you can afford so you can budget accordingly. Lenders will typically lend you around 4.5 times your annual income, but they also take your spending habits into account.

Our mortgage calculator can give you an idea of what you might be able to borrow based on your income and the amount of deposit you currently have saved.

At the same time, make sure to check your credit score as lenders will also review this when it comes to your affordability. While bad credit doesn't necessarily mean you won't be accepted for a mortgage, it can limit the deals available to you. So, take steps to improve your credit score if necessary.

3. An agreement-in-principle (AIP)

Also known as a mortgage-in-principle or decision-in-principle, this document outlines what a bank or building society would be willing to lend you if you applied for a mortgage with them. A mortgage broker or lender can normally provide one to you once you've given them some details.

This doesn't guarantee your application will be accepted, but it does make it easier to know what your budget is for a home and makes the application process easier. Estate agents may also ask to see this document to check you are serious about buying a home.

4. Mortgage application documents

Once you've had an offer on a property accepted, you can begin the formal mortgage application. As part of this, lenders will require a number of documents from you. Here's what you need:

  • Proof of ID - passport, photo driving licence, national identity card or bio-metric residence card

  • Proof of address - bank statement, credit card bill, utility bill, or mortgage statement dated within the last three months, or council tax bill, HMRC coding letter (the one showing your tax code), benefit entitlement letter, state pension letter, or tenancy agreement dated within the last 12 months

  • Proof of income (employed) - three to 12 months worth of payslips and bank statements, as the length needed can vary by lender. Some lenders will be willing to consider a letter from a manager or HR department if you don’t receive payslips, however, this is at their discretion and it’s much better to have payslips if possible. Three months of bank statements will also be needed

  • Proof of income (self-employed) - 12 to 36 months worth of your full accounts (signed-off by a certified accountant) and end of year tax calculations (used to be known as SA302 forms) for the same duration. A tax year over

    view for the most recent year can also be helpful. You will also need to provide bank statements covering any personal and business accounts

  • Proof of deposit - this will depend on how you obtained your deposit, but may include savings account or investment statements, proof of sale for any items that may have been sold towards your deposit - such as a car or property, a certificate of inheritance or a signed letter from the provider of a gifted deposit

Some lenders and brokers allow you to upload your documents online which can save a lot of time when it comes to the mortgage application process. Make sure you download and upload them in the correct format to save any unnecessary delays.

5. A mortgage broker

While you can apply for a mortgage yourself, it's often advisable to use a mortgage broker. They can review your circumstances and make sure you apply for deals you're more likely to be accepted for.

There are different types of mortgage broker, and depending on which you use they may be limited to products from certain lenders. An independent or whole-of-market broker can compare mortgages from across the market to find the right deal for you.

Our broker partner Mojo takes the hassle out of applying for a mortgage - get free expert advice and they'll find you the best deal from across the market.

How much money do you need for a mortgage?

The largest sum of money you’ll need to find is the deposit, which will be at least 5% of the cost of the property you’re looking to buy. If you can afford to save 10-15% towards your first home, however, this can make a huge difference to the lender’s decision.

For example, to buy a house that costs £250,000 you would need

  • £12,500 for a 5% deposit

  • £25,000 for a 10% deposit 

  • £37,500 for a 15% deposit

  • £50,000 for a 20% deposit

You will also need to have enough income to cover the monthly mortgage repayments. Most lenders calculate your loan size based on four to four and a half times your annual income. If you apply jointly, your income will be assessed slightly differently and this will vary by lender.

Typically, lenders either your combined income multiplied by a slightly lower number, perhaps three and a half, or use four and a half times the highest earner’s income plus the lowest earner’s income. 

For example, to borrow £200,000  

  • An individual would need to have an income of between £44,444 and £50,000

  • A couple would need to have a joint income of around £57,143  - although this will depend on how they calculate your combined income 

Of course, in reality, the income will need to be higher than this, as lenders will need to take your other outgoings into consideration when calculating how much you can afford to repay. Some lenders also have a minimum income needed for any mortgage, regardless of loan size, which is generally £20,000-£25,000.

With the cost of living and house prices at an all time high, it can be very difficult for first time buyers to meet the deposit and affordability criteria of a mortgage, however, there are a range of home ownership schemes to help people get a foot on the property ladder.

Compare mortgages with Uswitch

Find the mortgage that's right for you

How to get a mortgage FAQs

What documents do I need for a mortgage?

You'll need to provide a number of documents as part of the application process.

This is because the lender wants to see proof of:

  • Who you are

  • Where you live

  • What you can afford

  • Where your deposit came from

For that reason, you'll need to provide:

  • Photo ID (such as a passport or driving licence),

  • An official document which has your address (such as a bank statement or utility bill),

  • Payslips and bank statements to show your income (if you're self-employed, you'll need to to show your accounts and end of year tax calculations)

  • Documents that show how you saved your deposit, depending how you did (savings accounts statements for example)

Do I need a mortgage broker to apply for a mortgage?

A free independent mortgage broker can compare mortgages on your behalf to ensure that you can get the best deal available, without you having to look through a list of every lender in the UK.

They can also make the application process go more smoothly because of their existing relationship with lenders, and provide you with knowledge and guidance that you might not get elsewhere.

That said, using a mortgage broker is not essential and you can approach most lenders directly to make an application. However, if your application is likely to be more complex, for example, if you are self-employed, a broker can be very helpful in finding the right type of lender to suit your needs. 

What do I need to apply for a self-employed mortgage?

As you can see from the above list, the majority of documentation required by a self-employed borrower is exactly the same as any other mortgage applicant, however, how you will need to supply a more detailed and longer history of your income.

This means that you will need to have been trading as self-employed in your current role for at least 12 months in order to apply for a mortgage. There are some minor exceptions, such as newly qualified doctors, but this generally applies across the board. 

Depending on the type of self-employed income you earn, there will be a slight variation in the type of documents you need to provide, and the lenders that are willing to consider your application. For example, some lenders will not accept contractors at all, but there are specialist lenders that do. 

It’s also possible that different lenders will calculate your affordability differently, for example, if you’re a limited company director, some lenders will use your net profits and dividends, whereas others will be willing to look at your net business profit instead of dividends.

How do lenders check if I can afford a mortgage?

Lenders will check if you can afford a mortgage by looking at your income, but also your outgoings.

They typically lend around 4.5 times your annual salary. However, they also review your regular spending habits and may adjust this if they think you may not be able to afford the monthly payments.

That's why it's a good idea to review your outgoings and see if you can reduce these in advance of applying for a mortgage.

How do I check my mortgage eligibility?

To check your mortgage eligibility before speaking to a broker or lender, it can be worth using online mortgage calculator. You can put in a few details and find out how much you can borrow or what your repayments would be.

However, online calculators can only provide an estimate, and won't be too useful if you have complex financial circumstances (bad credit, for example).

To find out exactly what you're eligible for, it's always advisable to speak to a broker who can look at your circumstances and give you an accurate picture of what you can borrow, and what deals you might be able to get.