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First-time buyer FAQ

Buying a house can be a stressful process. The transaction involves countless pieces of paper and the process is usually long and tedious.

Our first-time buyer FAQ covers everything you need to know about the UK property market.

If you’re a first-time buyer, you’re also welcome to stop by our offices for a chat if you have any more questions.

  1. How can I find the right deal for me?
  2. Are there any schemes to help first-time buyers?
  3. Is it more difficult for a foreign national to secure a mortgage in the UK?
  4. How much deposit do I need to put down on my first home?
  5. What is stamp duty land tax?
  6. How much can I borrow?
  7. How long should I let my mortgage run for?
  8. What else will lenders want to know?
  9. Can I buy with someone else to keep costs down?
  10. What types of viable mortgage are there?
  11. Can I get an interest-only mortgage?
  12. Does Sable International charge me to do research?
  13. Does Sable International charge me a success fee?

1. How can I find the right deal for me?

There are thousands of mortgages from over 40 different lenders in the UK property market. In London, you typically have to outbid approximately seven other potential buyers to secure a property.

An experienced mortgage adviser should help direct you on making a decision that’s both competitive and suited to your circumstances.

2. Are there any schemes to help first-time buyers?

Yes, there are several schemes for first-time buyers, including the UK government’s popular Help to Buy scheme.

Housing associations also provide shared ownership schemes, where you buy a "share" of your home and pay rent for the remaining part.

3. Is it more difficult for a foreign national to secure a mortgage in the UK?

Yes, although this does depend on how long you’ve been in the UK. On paper, many foreign nationals appear to be "mortgageable" based on their experience, credit history and credentials, but are hard-pressed to secure a mortgage without a British passport.

Many foreign nationals also work on a contract basis, which makes it considerably tougher for them to get bank loans. For this reason, our mortgage division assists these individuals by approaching select lenders on their behalf.

4. How much deposit do I need to put down on my first home?

The minimum deposit that lenders accept is typically 5% of the property’s value. But these mortgages have a very high credit score requirement and all other aspects of the case have to fit lender criteria. They are hard to come by.

Most people start with at least a 10% deposit. The rates at this level are also more affordable and the product choice larger.

The more you can afford to put down, the more mortgage options you’ll have access to. Our research will outline the cost impact of putting down a higher or lower deposit, how your deposit amount will affect your mortgage options and how your deposit will affect the costs you incur over time.

5. What is stamp duty land tax?

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) needs to be paid on all property transactions. The tax is payable on sales and depends on the contracted purchase price of the property. This table shows which SDLT rates are payable on different property values:

Purchase price/lease premium or transfer value SDLT rate
Up to £125,000 Zero
Over £125,000 to £250,000 1%
Over £250,000 to £500,000 3%
Over £500,000 to £1 million 4%
Over £1 million to £2 million 5%
Over £2 million 7%
Over £2 million (purchased by certain persons, including corporate bodies) 15%

6. Are there any other costs involved?

Yes. In addition to stamp duty, your mortgage typically has an arrangement fee which can vary between 0% and 2% of the loan amount.

Most mortgage products come with a £999 arrangement fee.

This arrangement fee can be added to the loan, but it’s worth noting that you are then paying interest on this fee over a 25-year mortgage term.

Other costs to bear in mind include legal costs and a survey of the property.

7. How much can I borrow?

This depends on how much you earn and how much deposit you can put down on your home.

Lenders use affordability models that consider a very wide range of different factors. As such, income multiples can be misleading. Part of our research and advice process is to help you understand what your mortgage ceiling will be in lots of different scenarios.

8. How long should I let my mortgage run for?

This is governed by your age, expected retirement date and what you can afford. Most of our clients choose a mortgage that’s realistically repayable over 25 years. However, you can always choose a longer-term mortgage. Remember, the longer your mortgage lasts, the more interest you’ll end up paying.

9. What else will lenders want to know?

Almost everything. Lenders take a long look at your income, including type, amount, history, future sustainability and credit history. They also consider other mortgages you might have and the source of the deposit. They will also closely examine your bank statements to ensure they can verify all other information provided in the application.

10. Can I buy with someone else to keep costs down?

Of course. As long as you both have good credit history, enough income and a deposit to secure your mortgage, sharing the costs with a second party is always an option.

It’s important to ensure you know how the property will be split between the two of you, especially if one of you is paying more towards the deposit.

You have two options when buying with someone else:

  1. Joint tenancy: If you have chosen a joint tenancy, the part owned by you will automatically pass to the other person if you die.
  2. Tenants in common: Here, the property can be divided up as you choose. Your share will then be passed on to your estate if you die. This option has the advantage of allowing you to elect how rental income affects your tax return.

We can advise you on the impact of these two different options for your situation.

11. What type of viable mortgages are there?

Tracker mortgages tend to be the most popular variable mortgage deals. They follow or "track" the Bank of England base rate (plus a set percentage). There are other variable rate mortgages that track the bank’s base rate, the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or a product reference rate.

Banks also offer fixed-rate mortgages of varying durations - two years through to ten years. The pricing of the various fixed rate durations is sensitive to the interest rate outlook. Other mortgage types include capped and collared mortgages, but these are less popular.

12. Can I get an interest-only mortgage?

Probably not. Interest-only is very much disappearing from the mortgage landscape in the UK. Where it is available is in circumstances where the loan-to-value (LTV) is at 50% and below or the property has substantial equity and the borrower has a very high income. In addition, where significant investments are held that could repay the loan, we are often able to arrange an interest-only mortgage. For most folks, however, they should be prepared to have a repayment mortgage.

13. Does Sable International charge me to do my research?

Yes. If we consider your mortgage to be a "standard" case, we’ll charge you a research fee of £195. A "standard" case is one where we don’t need come to a specific agreement with an underwriter at a lender regarding your case.

Where your case is outside lending policy, for example requiring a specific agreement with an underwriter, involves multiple scenarios or an aspect of commercial or non-resident lending, then our non-standard research fee of £375 applies.

Our clients have provided very positive feedback on our research outputs. We consider this research essential to the planning process of buying a UK property.

Our research fees are the only fees you pay us up-front. If we determine that you aren’t eligible for a mortgage, we won’t charge you a cent. In addition, the research fee is only charged once. We don’t re-charge you if we need to refresh or alter the options as you consider different properties. Once you’ve paid one research fee, our commitment is to get you to the finish line and into your home.

14. Does Sable International charge me a success fee?

Generally, no. Most lenders pay us between 0.3% and 0.35% of the loan amount as a success fee. We will only charge a top-up if the payment from the lender is below £750. In that case, we charge the difference between what the lender is charged and £750.

The above applies to non-resident mortgages, but we do charge an additional document handling fee of £200 on receipt of the full application with all the attached documents. These mortgages have a significant compliance burden and this additional charge covers that additional work.

Commercial mortgage success fees are charged on a bespoke basis.

Sable International is one of the leading foreign national and contractor mortgage specialists in London, helping non-residents and self-employed contractors obtain competitive mortgages since 2006.

At Sable International, we offer you advice – not just brokerage. Without the right advice, it’s all too easy to lose your chosen property thanks to a failed mortgage application. We help to make sure you get that mortgage for your dream property. And because a mortgage is often the largest debt you’ll ever have, we make sure our advice takes into account your overall financial position.

Contact our mortgages team

Phone us: +44 (0) 20 7759 7519

South Africa

Cape Town

Regent Square
Doncaster Road
Kenilworth 7708 +27 (0) 21 657 2120


25 Richefond Circle
Umhlanga 4320 +27 (0) 31 536 8843

United Kingdom


Castlewood House
77/91 New Oxford Street
WC1A 1DG +44 (0) 20 7759 7514


5-7 Selsdon Road
South Croydon
CR2 6PU +44 (0) 20 7759 7581



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VIC 3141 +613 (0) 8651 4500

Sable International is a trading name of 1st Contact Money Limited (company number 07070528), registered in England and Wales. We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FCA no. 517570), the Financial Services Conduct Authority in South Africa (1st Contact Money [PTY] Ltd - FSP no. 41900) and hold an Australian Financial Services License issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (1st Contact Group - AFS License number 335 126).

Our United Kingdom business, Sable Private Wealth Management Ltd, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our Companies House registration number is 222501. Our authorisation can be checked on the FCA register here: Our South African business, Sable Private Wealth (Pty) Ltd, is an authorised FSP, regulated by the Financial Services Conduct Authority under licence number 48122.

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