Our Guide to Buying, Remortgaging and Protecting Your Home
Updated: Aug 31
Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in your lifetime, and it can sometimes seem a daunting prospect. That’s why we have produced this guide to help you understand what you need to think about and the steps you need to take when buying your home and remortgaging. You’ll find a range of information, from what a mortgage is to the costs involved. There’s also a useful step-by-step planner and important information on how to protect your home and family.
Your mortgage advisor is ready to help too. They’re available to provide practical advice at every stage and save you time shopping around for a mortgage that best suits your needs and circumstances.
Your advisor will give advice on a comprehensive range of first charge mortgages, but cannot give advice on secured loans, bridging finance or commercial lending. If you require advice in any of these areas, please ask and they will be able to put you in touch with a suitable specialist firm.
To download this guide in PDF form, click here.
WHAT IS A MORTGAGE?
When you buy your home, you will most likely take out a loan - a mortgage - to pay for it. The mortgage is secured against your home. If you don’t keep up your mortgage payments your mortgage provider, or lender, may be able to sell your home to recover the money that you owe.
Whenever the property is sold, as the lender has a ‘first charge’ - or in Scotland, a ‘standard security’ - the mortgage must be paid back first. With your home as security, the lender is usually able to offer you a lower interest rate than you find with other types of loans.
If you change your mortgage to a new lender (remortgaging) you may benefit from a better mortgage rate. Some lenders also offer to pay the legal costs and valuation fees associated with remortgaging. The process for remortgaging your home can take around 4 to 12 weeks, as the new lender will want to make similar checks to when you bought your home originally. Your current lender may charge you exit fees when you leave your current mortgage, which may include an early repayment charge.
PROTECTING YOUR HOME AND YOUR FAMILY.
Buying a home is a big commitment, so it’s important to arrange with your advisor for the right insurance cover for you and your family. That way you can help to ensure your mortgage will continue to be paid, should the worst ever happen.
If you’re remortgaging or moving home, it’s a good time to review your existing insurance arrangements to make sure you have sufficient cover.
THE COSTS OF BUYING YOUR HOME.
Most mortgage lenders will charge you an application or an arrangement fee.
As well as paying a solicitor or licensed conveyancer for the work that they do, you’ll have to pay the cost of land registry charges and local search fees. If your lender has their own solicitor acting for them, you may have to pay their fees as well.
This is a tax paid by you when you buy a property worth over £125,00 or more. The amount that you pay will depend on the value of the property you’re buying. For more information on the payment thresholds and the rates for properties, see the Government's information on stamp duty land tax.
Valuation and Survey Fees:
You may need to pay for a valuation or survey. The amount you pay will depend on the type of valuation or survey you choose.
Mortgage Advice Fees:
Some advisors may charge a fee for the advice that they give you. Your advisor will explain any fees they may charge and confirm this in writing. In some instances, an advisor fee may be charged even if your mortgage doesn’t go ahead.
We recommend you complete the following table with your advisor to help you work out what you may have to pay when buying your home.
This table should only be used as a rough guide and in some cases, the expenses may be more than the amounts agreed between you and your advisor. For example, if you’re also selling a home, there will be other costs such as estate agents fees. Also, if you have an existing mortgage, your current lender may charge you exit fees when you leave your current mortgage, which may include an early repayment charge. Please note: this chart is for an indication of your “upfront” costs. In addition to these, you will need to take into account the regular costs of the mortgage and insurance payments.
Risk: if you add any fees to your loan, interest will be charged on these amounts during the term of the mortgage. Some fees will not be refunded even if your mortgage doesn’t go ahead.
HOW MUCH CAN I BORROW?
How much you can borrow depends on:
Your income, outgoings, and any expected changes to these.
Your credit history.
Whether you’re able or prepared to make changes to your lifestyle that may reduce your other outgoings.
How much deposit you can afford.
You will need to find out how much you can borrow before making an offer on a property. Some lenders will work out how much they’ll lend you before you find a property - this is called an approval-in-principle (also known as a decision-in-principle). This will help you know the maximum offer you can make on a property and will also speed up the mortgage process.
Lenders usually base their calculations on your guaranteed earnings such as basic pay, but most will also consider some or all of any regular overtime or bonuses. They’ll usually want to see proof of your income.
If you have existing debts, it may be possible for you to add these to your mortgage rather than continue with your existing repayment arrangements. This is not a suitable option for everyone and you will need to carefully consider this with your advisor. When you add loans to your mortgage, it is important that you understand the risks:
Adding short-term loans to your mortgage means you will repay them over a longer-term. This is because unsecured loans are generally paid back over a shorter term than mortgage loans. So, whilst the interest rate on your mortgage may be lower than you currently pay on your loans, by adding them to your mortgage you’re likely to pay more on them overall. Therefore, it may not be appropriate to consolidate your small or short-term debts.
Your existing debts might not be secured on your property. By adding them to your mortgage, they become secured on your property.
Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up the repayments on your mortgage.
If you’re having difficulty paying your loans, it’s worth speaking to your creditors to see if you can negotiate better terms before considering adding them to your mortgage.
If you need to borrow more money in the future, it may be possible to do this by way of a further advance. Your advisor will have more information on this if you’re interested.
HOW LONG WILL MY MORTGAGE LAST?
Mortgages usually have a term of between 5 and 40 years. A mortgage should normally be for the shortest term you can afford as this keeps the overall cost down. A longer than necessary term means you’ll pay more interest to your lender.
It is always advisable for your mortgage term to end before you retire, as your mortgage may not be affordable using your retirement income.
WAYS TO REPAY YOUR MORTGAGE.
There are two styles of mortgage repayment - ‘Repayment’ and ‘Interest Only’.
With a repayment mortgage, your monthly payments to the lender go towards reducing the amount you owe as well as repaying the interest that they charge. This means that each month you’re paying off a small part of your mortgage.
It’s a clearer approach - you can see your mortgage getting smaller and provided you maintain the required payments, you also have the certainty that your mortgage will be repaid at the end of the term.
Initially, the majority of your payments go towards interest on your mortgage, which means in the early years, the amount you owe won’t reduce by very much.
Interest Only Mortgages:
With an interest-only mortgage, you only pay the interest charged on your loan, so you’re not actually reducing the loan itself. You’ll need to have some other arrangement or plan in place to repay your loan at the end of the term. For example - investments, savings plan, downsizing (where you sell your property and buy a cheaper one using the equity to repay your loan), making lump sum payments or changing to a repayment mortgage plan.
Please note: the diagram below is for illustrative purposes only and assumes a fixed rate of interest over the term of the mortgage. In reality, interest rates fluctuate.
If the savings or investment plan you choose performs well, then you could pay off your mortgage earlier compared to a repayment mortgage. At the full mortgage term, there may be a lump sum available after the mortgage has been repaid.
Very few investments or savings plans are guaranteed to repay your mortgage in full. At the end of the mortgage term, you’re responsible for repaying the mortgage in full. If your savings or investment plan does not cover the full amount, you’ll be responsible for paying the difference. Your mortgage lender can demand repayment, and they’ll charge you interest on any outstanding balance until it’s repaid.
Lump-sum payments or changing to a repayments mortgage may not be possible if your circumstances change and you can no longer afford the increased amounts. Downsizing is not a guaranteed method of repaying your loan as, even if you have enough equity now, house prices could fall and may leave insufficient equity to repay the loan. It is not advisable to rely on house prices increasing as this might not happen.
Some people may hope to rely on inheritance. However, there are several risks associated with this: people can change their Wills and, therefore, your inheritance is not guaranteed; the amount you receive may be different to what you expect; you may not have inherited by the time your mortgage term ends or you retire and there can be a delay in receiving funds from an estate. Many lenders will only accept certain plans to repay an interest-only mortgage. Your advisor will be able to guide you.
It may be suitable for you to pay your mortgage by a combination of repayment and interest only.
HOW IS INTEREST CHARGED AND PAID?
Standard Variable Rate:
This is a standard interest rate that a lender will set, and can go up or down in line with market rates (such as the Bank of England’s base rate).
You have more flexibility and can usually repay your mortgage without any early repayment charges.
Your monthly payments can go up and down and this can make budgeting difficult.
Standard variable rate mortgages are not usually the lowest interest rates lenders offer.
Some lenders offer mortgages where the initial interest rate is set at an amount below their standard variable rate for a set period of time. At the end of your discount rate period, your lender will usually change your interest rate to their standard variable rate (SVR). It’s a good idea to review your mortgage at this stage because the lender’s SVR may not be the best deal around.
Your payments should cost you less in the early years, when money may be tight. But you must be confident that you can afford the payments when the discount ends.
Your monthly payments can go up or down which can make budgeting difficult.
If you want to repay the loan early, there could be early repayment charges.
With a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly payment won’t change for a set period. At the end of your fixed rate, your lender will usually change your interest rate to their standard variable rate (SVR). It’s a good idea to review your mortgage at this stage because the lender’s SVR may not be the best deal around.
You know the exact amount you’ll need to pay each month, which makes budgeting easier.
Your monthly payment will stay the same during the fixed period, even if other interest rates increase.
Your monthly payment will stay the same during the fixed period, even if the other interest rates decrease.
If you want to repay your loan early, there could be early repayment charges.
There are lots of different interest rate options offered by lenders to suit many different purposes. Below is our guide to the most popular ones. The initial lump sum that you put into buying your home (not including the money you’re borrowing) is known as the ‘deposit’. The bigger your deposit, the more likely you are to get a better interest rate.
With a tracker mortgage, the interest rate charged by your lender is linked to a rate such as the Bank of England base rate. This means that your payments can go up or down.
The rate you pay tracks another headline rate (for example, the Bank of England base rate or the lender’s base rate). If the headline rate changes, your tracker rate changes by the same amount. So normally your interest rate will be following trends in the marketplace.
Some lenders impose a collar which means the interest rate won’t fall below a certain level, even if the rate it’s tracking continues to reduce.
Your monthly payments can go up or down which can make budgeting difficult.
If you want to repay the loan early, there could be early repayment charges.
With an offset mortgage, your main current and/or savings accounts are linked to your mortgage and are usually held with the mortgage lender. Each month, the amount you owe on your mortgage is reduced by the amount in these accounts before working out the interest due on the loan. This means that as your current account and saving balances go up, you will pay less mortgage interest. As they go down, you will pay more. Linked accounts that are used to reduce the mortgage interest payments do not attract any interest.
These products allow flexibility and can encourage you to save.
Mortgage payments can be reduced as the level of savings increase, or you may be able to continue paying the same and pay your mortgage off early.
You usually pay tax on your savings. However, if your savings are automatically used to offset your mortgage, you won’t pay income tax on these savings - this is particularly beneficial if you’re a higher rate taxpayer.
These types of mortgages are normally only suitable if you have savings over a certain level.
Capped Rate or Capped and Collared Rate:
With this type of mortgage, the interest rate is linked to your lender’s standard variable rate but with a guarantee that it won’t go above a set level (called the ‘cap’) for a set period, but equally won’t go below a set level (called the ‘collar’) for an agreed period of time. It is possible to have a capped rate without a collar.
You know the maximum and minimum you’ll pay for a set period of time making budgeting easier.
These products are useful if you want the security of knowing that your payments can’t rise above the set level (the cap), but could still benefit if rates fall during the set period.
Even if other rates fall, your interest rate for the set period will not go down below the level of the ‘collar’.
If you want to repay the loan early, there could be early repayment charges.
WHICH LENDER IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Your advisor is on hand to talk you through many different lenders and the range of products they offer. However, in some circumstances your choice of lenders may be restricted.
Overlooked by the high street:
Some lenders might not lend to you if your personal circumstances are out of the ordinary or you have a poor credit history - but there are lenders that can help you in these situations. They take individual circumstances into account when assessing an application. Ask your advisor for more information.
Be realistic about what you can afford; You must never overestimate your earnings to help you buy a property. If you don’t have enough income to meet the repayments, you could risk losing your home and having a bad credit record. It is a criminal offence to deliberately give false information to your mortgage advisor or lender to obtain a mortgage.
COMMON FEATURES OF A MORTGAGE
Facts when buying a home
Here are some useful terms and facts. The specific features of your mortgage are shown in your Key Facts Illustration (KFI), which your advisor will give you. This is an important document which you must read as it highlights any conditions that apply to your mortgage.
Arrears & Repossesion
If at any time you are unable to meet your mortgage payments, you should speak to your lender straight away. Repossesing a property is generally a last resort - your lender will try to reach an arrangement with you to enable you to keep your home. If your lender sells your property after repossessing it, you’ll be responsible for any shortfall including fees associated with the sale.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
As well as telling you the rate at which they will charge you interest, lenders must also calculate the APR of your mortgage. This is the total cost of the loan, including interest and fees shown as a percentage rate. The APR is intended to help you compare different types of mortgages from different lenders. In calculating the APR, lenders assume you’ll pay the mortgage for the full term. All lenders will tell you what their APR is before you sign up with them. Generally, the lower the APR, the better the deal, assuming you stay on the same mortgage product throughout the term of your mortgage.
With a cash back mortgage, your lender pays you a lump sum when you complete your mortgage. The cash back can be a fixed amount or can be worked out as a percentage of your mortgage. You should be aware that if you move to another lender in the early years, in other words within the early repayment charge period, then you’ll have to repay some or all of the cash back received.
When you apply for a mortgage (or any sort of credit) the lender will usually ‘credit score’ your application. This helps them decide whether to accept your application, the amount of money they’re prepared to lend to you and what rate of interest you’ll pay.
Credit scoring works by awarding points based on your circumstances. Each lender has their own scoring system. You’ll generally score more points if you’ve been in your job longer, own your own home and have paid all of your loans on time in the past. Having a good credit history will improve your chances of getting the best rate mortgage.
You can get your individual credit report by contacting Experian (www.experian.co.uk) or Equifax (www.equifax.co.uk). This will help you understand your credit file and what aspects lenders use to make a credit decision.
Early Repayment Charge
This is a charge that you may have to pay if you want to pay off your mortgage before the end of a set period. Some charges may apply only for as long as the set period lasts. In other cases, they can extend beyond this.
Some lenders offer arrangements that include the cost of completing the legal work involved in arranging a mortgage and buying a home. These arrangements vary but they all reduce the amount you’ll need to pay at the outset.
Higher Lending Charge
Lenders sometimes charge a fee if your mortgage is a high percentage of the property’s value. This fee is used by your lender to buy insurance that protects them if they repossess your property and sell your home for less than the amount outstanding on your mortgage. This insurance does not protect you. You would still be responsible for any shortfall after the sale of your property.
Energy Performance Certificates
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are required by law for all homes bought, sold, or rented. They give information on how to make your home more energy efficient and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If you’re a landlord or homeowner and need to provide an EPC, you’ll need to contact an accredited domestic energy assessor. They will carry out the assessment and produce the certificate. You can use the energy performance certificate register website to search for an accredited domestic energy assessor, search online or look in the phone book.
Information on your home’s energy use and carbon dioxide emissions
A recommendation report with suggestions to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions
EPCs carry ratings that compare the current energy efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions with potential figures that your home could achieve if energy saving measures were put in place.
It’s using a grade from ‘A’ to ‘G’ where ‘A’ rating is the most efficient. The price of an EPC is set by the market and will depend on the size and location of your property. EPCs are valid for ten years.
For more information please go to:
Home Reports for Properties for Sale in Scotland
Houses for sale in Scotland now have to be marketed with a Home Report. This is a pack of three documents: a Single Survey, an Energy Report and a Property Questionnaire. The Home Report will be made available on request to prospective buyers of a home. The Single Survey contains an assessment by a surveyor of the condition of the home, a valuation and an accessibility audit for people with particular needs. The Energy Report contains an assessment by a surveyor of the energy efficiency of the home and its environmental impact. It also recommends ways to improve energy efficiency. The Property Questionnaire is completed by the seller of the home. It contains additional information about the home, such as Council Tax banding that will be useful to buyers. For more information please go to http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/BuyingSelling/Home-Report
When your mortgage is confirmed, your lender may agree to lend you a pre-agreed amount of extra money without having to go through a formal application process. This is known as a drawdown facility. You may also be able to borrow back the amount of any overpayments that you’ve previously made.
If the value of your property falls below the amount you owe on your mortgage, this is called ‘negative equity’. If this happens, and you need to sell your property, you’ll still be responsible for repaying the full amount of the mortgage.
Some lenders let you move your mortgage to a new property when you move house.
Most mortgages now offer you the option of increasing your monthly payments. When you do this, you’ll be paying an additional amount off your mortgage each month. Making overpayments can help you to repay your mortgage before the end of the term.
Underpayments & Payment Holidays
Some mortgages allow you to reduce the amount you pay each month, or to stop making monthly payments, if you’ve previously overpaid. Lenders only normally allow you to make underpayments or take payment holidays for a limited period. This can be useful if your income falls for a period of time. In both cases, you’ll be paying less than the normal monthly payments so the amount of your mortgage will increase.
Some lenders will give you a mortgage that allows you to borrow additional amounts on an unsecured basis. This means it’s not secured against your property. An unsecured loan generally costs more as the lender has no security that they can use to repay some or all of the loan if you’re not able to pay it back. The Consumer Credit Act covers unsecured borrowings.
Tax & Wills
In some circumstances, you may need to think about the tax implications of buying your property. Your adviser can’t give you any advice about the tax implications and if you’re unsure about this in any way you should get advice from a tax specialist.
When you buy a property, we strongly recommend that you ensure your Will is up to date. This means that your assets, including your property, are given out in line with your wishes.
Valuations & Surveys
There are three types of valuations and surveys – valuation reports, homebuyer’s reports and building surveys:
Basic valuation report – This is a basic report paid for by you, but completed by the valuer for your lender. Your lender will use this report to help them decide whether they’ll lend you the amount of money you need to buy your property.
Homebuyer’s report – This is a more detailed report that a surveyor completes for you. There’s an important difference between a basic valuation report and a homebuyer’s report. The valuation report belongs to the lender and the valuer completes the report for them. With a homebuyer’s report, the surveyor works for you and they’re responsible to you if they fail to spot things. Whilst this costs more than a basic valuation, you should consider asking for a homebuyer’s report as it will give you a lot more information about your property. It’s particularly useful if you’re buying an older property. Your lender will normally use the homebuyer’s report to help them decide whether to lend on your property, so you won’t normally need more than one report. Your lender can arrange this.
Building survey previously known as a full structural survey – This is the most detailed type of survey that’s completed by a surveyor working for you. The surveyor is responsible to you if they fail to spot things. Building surveys are normally asked for by those who are looking to buy:
an older property;
one which needs substantial refurbishment; or
where there have been structural problems in the past.
This has to be arranged by the buyer. Additional surveys or reports may be needed by your lender before they’ll make you a mortgage offer.
OTHER WAYS ONTO THE PROPERTY LADDER.
If you’re having difficulty getting onto the property ladder, here are some options you might like to consider:
Buying With Friends or Family
Buying with friends or other members of your family is one way of getting on the property ladder sooner. It also means that you’ll be living with people that you know and trust. That said, it’s still a sensible idea to get legal advice before choosing this option.
Government Home Ownership Schemes
There is a range of government backed schemes set up to help buyers onto the housing ladder. These include:
Right-to-buy - this allows council house tenants to buy their property if they’re eligible.
Right-to-acquire - this allows eligible housing association tenants to buy their property.
Social HomeBuy - this offers eligible housing association or council tenants the chance to buy a share of the market value of their current home.
You can get more information on all of these schemes from the government website - www.direct.gov.uk (please see the ‘Useful websites’ section)
If your lender doesn’t think you can afford a mortgage on your own, you could consider asking your parents or other close family members to be ‘guarantors’. A guarantor legally agrees to be responsible for the mortgage payments if you’re unable to make them. This is usually a short-term option and, if your lender agrees, you can get a guarantor removed at a later date if your circumstances change. Guarantors should get their own independent legal advice.
PROTECT YOUR FUTURE
Once you’ve had your mortgage approved, the next step is to think about protecting your home and family. The mortgage isn’t usually the only payment we need to make each month. What about covering everyday bills and expenses? Utility bills, food shopping, travel costs, childcare… the list could go on.
It is not a pleasant thought, but…
How would one partner cope financially with the death or critical illness of the other?
Could you copewith mmaintaining your current lifestyle?
Could you continue to raise your family?
In the current economic climate, it’s even more important to consider protecting yourself and your family. Protection products can help provide financial peace of mind when it’s needed most. They’re designed to provide you with a cash sum or monthly benefit (depending on the plan chosen). They are payable, for example, if you die or are diagnosed with a terminal or specified critical illness during the policy term and are eligible to claim.
Please note that none of our protection products have any cash in value at any time.
Depending on the products chosen, they could help you to:
Maintain your standard of living
Pay your monthly bills and meet your daily living costs
Pay off your debts
Afford to stay in your family home rather than have to downsize.
How Much Will it Cost Me?
Premiums are based on:
Other factors such as health and whether you smoke
Usually, the younger you are, the less you’ll pay.
We all want security for our future, a chance to maintain the financial stability we have worked so hard for. That’s why it’s so important to look ahead and plan for all eventualities.
Who Shall I Cover?
It’s also important to remember that it’s not just the main wage earner that you may need to consider when working out the right cover. What about the work a full-time house person does - how would you replace them if they were to die or be diagnosed with a critical illness?
In 2015 we conducted some research into the amount of time spent on domestic tasks by men and women in the home. The domestic value of work undertaken by men is £21,601 a year, and for women it’s £29,535.
What You Can Do to Get Covered
From time to time we all need to stop and think about our current finances and future needs, With the number of protection products available these days, this can be daunting for some. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing you were getting professional help to find your way to the right protection product? By reviewing your finances with a financial adviser, they could help you protect yourself and your partner’s/family’s future. As with all protection policies, limitations will apply.
How Can an Adviser Help You?
They’ll help to fully identify your protection needs and make recommendations that are specific to your circumstances.
They’ll answer any questions and concerns you may have.
They can continue to review your requirements on a regular basis, taking into account any changes to your commitments or lifestyle. For more help and advice