for borrowers

Buying your home; step-by-step

The Cambridge guide to buying a home

Buying a home involves many steps. Knowing what lies ahead is invaluable in ensuring that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Our step-by-step guide below is designed to help you along the home-buyer’s journey; from what to look for and how to apply for a mortgage, all the way through to collecting your keys and moving in. For information about Home Ownership schemes for first time buyers, download our guide.

Remember, the home-buying process is different for everyone so always be ready to respond to particular circumstances as they arise. If your first step to buying a home is to check out this guide, then you've already made a great start and will no doubt help you along your way to becoming a homeowner.

If you can't find the answer to a question you have in our step-by-step guide or if you would like to discuss your mortgage requirements with one of our friendly Mortgage Advisers then don't hesitate to get in touch.


The journey explained, step-by-step

This guide is ideal for those who just need a reminder of the property buying process. If you would like to discuss anything to do with buying a property then please feel free to contact us.


Ready to buy a house?

Step 1: Mortgage appointment

Start by booking an appointment to discuss your situation with one of our expert Mortgage Advisers. At your meeting you’ll discuss your income and expenditure, work out the type of house you can afford with the deposit you have saved as well as your potential monthly repayment amounts.


Step 2 – Decision in Principle

Your Mortgage Adviser will recommend a mortgage suited to your needs and circumstances. In some cases they may provide you with a ‘Decision in Principle’ to take away. This isn’t a final offer but confirms that your mortgage could be approved.


Step 3: Start house hunting

Look online, in the local press and visit your local estate agent. When you find the home you’re looking for, visit it more than once and take notes and pictures if you can. It’s also a good idea to take a friend or relative with you, as they may notice things you don’t.

Don't be taken in by marketing techniques such as the smell of freshly brewed coffee or a quick coat of paint – some things really are a cover up so it pays to look closely. 


Step 4: Make an offer

Once you’ve decided you want to buy, tell the Estate Agent how much you’re willing to pay. Remember that you don’t have to offer the asking price. Negotiate! Ask what fixtures and fittings are included, such as carpets, curtains and light fittings. If your offer is declined, don’t be discouraged as you may be able to negotiate further. If it’s accepted, ask the Estate Agent to take the property off the market.


Step 5: Appoint a Solicitor

You will need a Solicitor to complete the legal requirements during the mortgage application and house buying process. At the Cambridge we operate an Approved Solicitor Panel. This panel is made up of Solicitors from across East Anglia and other parts of England to act on your behalf.

If you appoint a firm that is not on our panel, we will require our own partner solicitor to act on our behalf. You will be responsible for our legal fees in addition to your own legal fees.

Your Mortgage Adviser will be happy to help you find a solicitor.


Step 6: Apply for your mortgage

Once you have confirmed that you would like to proceed, your Mortgage Adviser will arrange for you to complete the application. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to provide your personal documents so that information can be verified such as your identity and income of all the applicants involved.

Find out more about applying for a mortgage with The Cambridge.


Step 7: Protection for your home and family

The Cambridge Building Society have partnered with Prudential Financial Planning (PFP) to offer advice to ensure you have peace of mind that your family is protected in the event of death or serious illness.

Your Mortgage Adviser can arrange an appointment with a consultant from Prudential Financial Planning at a time that’s convenient for you either in branch or over the phone.

To ensure you receive the cover that’s right for you, PFP work with a carefully selected panel of insurance providers to meet your needs.

Prudential Financial Planning advisers are qualified and experienced in financial planning and can advise on a range of carefully selected products from Prudential and other providers. This is known as a restricted advice service.

The Cambridge will introduce you to Prudential Financial Planning, and we will receive a fee if you proceed with a recommendation. This will not affect the charges that apply to any recommendation you choose to accept. Your adviser will give you more details about this when you meet.


Step 8: Get a property valuation and survey

When we lend you money for your home we want to make sure that you’re paying a fair price and that we’re lending you the right amount. We are required by law to have a valuation of every property mortgaged with us, therefore we will normally carry out a valuation of a property before we offer a mortgage – we call this a Standard Valuation.

A home costs a lot of money, you could be living in it for a long time and you might have plans to develop it one day. When purchasing a property we always recommend that you have a more detailed survey, this is important to check that you’re not going to incur any nasty surprises or development costs and can achieve what you want with your home. For this we recommend a Homebuyer or Building Survey.

We partner with Legal and General Surveying Services to provide valuations and surveys on-site, we’ll pass your details to them and they’ll contact you directly.


A Standard Valuation

A standard valuation is for us, we use it to determine the current market value of the property.  

We will initiate the standard valuation once your mortgage application has been assessed. Legal and General Surveying Services will work with you and where applicable the seller of the property, to establish a date and time that works best. During the valuation each room in the house will be looked at, reviewing and checking the areas that are accessible, this will then be reported back to us. It's unlikely that the valuer will need to move furniture or carpets and they wouldn’t normally need to look in the loft, the report will highlight any areas of concern for the purposes of your mortgage and if this happens we may recommend that a specialist report is required.

The basic valuation costs vary depending on the estimated value of your property, take a look at our Tariff of Mortgage Charges for the full list of fees.

Some of our mortgage products have free standard valuations, the product details will explain whether you need to pay for a valuation and how much it will be based on the property price.


Homebuyer Survey

A Homebuyer Survey is conducted by a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) professional, during this survey an in-depth visual inspection of the property will provide you with an experts’ account of the condition and will highlight any problems to you via clear and easy to understand traffic light ratings.

The Homebuyer Survey and report;

  • is only suitable if you have a conventional property built within the last 150 years
  • will help you make a decision on whether the property is as you’d hoped and reasonably priced
  • includes reviewing services like central heating, electric, plumbing etc. – they’ll be looked at and commented on – they won’t be tested though
  • accessible and visible areas will be checked and commented on including a loft space where this is accessible
  • focuses on areas that could be a problem or defect, however this doesn’t include structural aspects or recommendations to fix any problems

We strongly recommend that you have a Homebuyer Survey when you’re buying a property. The report is solely for your use, the cost includes the Standard Valuation which we need for your mortgage.


Building Survey

A Building Survey provides you with a very comprehensive report on the structural integrity of the property. A technical examination is conducted which may include tests on services and even underfloor and concealed areas where permission is granted by the seller.

A Building Survey is suitable for all residential properties including listed buildings, those that have been extended or altered significantly or are in a state of disrepair. The report will provide advice on existing or potential problems and the types of works that can help fix this before purchasing a property.

The report is solely for your use, the cost includes the Standard Valuation which we need for your mortgage.


New Builds Warranty Schemes

If the property you're buying has been built or converted for use as a dwelling within the past ten years, or is to be occupied for the first time, you must ensure that it was built or converted under a new home warranty scheme. We accept the following warranty schemes:

  • NHBC (National House Building Council)
  • LABC (Local Authority Building Control)
  • Premier Guarantee
  • BLP (Buildings Defect Insurance)
  • Build Zone
  • Checkmate (Castle 10)
  • CRL

  • Existing Zurich policy - where the security is covered by an existing Zurich policy this will continue to be honoured (Zurich stopped offering policies in 2009)


Step 9: Solicitor searches

It’s likely that between step 8 and 10 that it will go fairly quiet to allow Solicitors to organise the required searches. These include local authority and Environment Agency searches, as well as informing Land Registry that the ownership of the property will be transferred to you.


Step 10: Nearing the finish

Once checks are completed by the mortgage provider and they are happy with the formal property valuation, you’ll be sent a ‘mortgage offer’. The mortgage offer is a formal contract document confirming that your loan has been agreed and includes a full breakdown of the mortgage costs and terms.

Your legal representative will take you through the contract, ask you to sign and pay your deposit, legal fees and any other charges. Contracts can then be exchanged.


Step 11: Completion

After exchange of contracts you will have to wait around two weeks (more in some cases) before you can complete the legal transfer of home ownership. On completion day, all that’s left to do is collect your keys and move in.

Congratulations: you are now the proud owner of a new home!



Prudential is a trading name of Prudential Financial Planning Ltd, registered in England and Wales. Registered office at 10 Fenchurch Avenue, London EC3M 5AG. Registered number 5739054. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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