How to get onto the property ladder

fa-homebuyers ["Mortgages Explained"]
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From government schemes to saving for a deposit, here’s how to take your first step on the journey to owning a home.

What is a property ladder?

A property ladder is a phrase people use to describe buying a home, then moving to a new one (and maybe moving again in the future). 

The idea is that you move up the “ladder”. As you can sell your old home, you may be able to afford a more expensive one in the future. Getting “onto the ladder” means buying your first home.

Set a mortgage deposit target

The first stage of getting on the property ladder is saving for a deposit. You will need to know how much you need to save. Try our deposit calculator to help.
The more money you pay upfront, the less you’ll have to borrow, and the less you’ll have to pay interest on. 

You may be able to get a mortgage with a deposit with a low percentage of the property value. A deposit of 10% or 15% (or more) could mean you’ll pay a lower interest rate.

It’s a good idea to check the prices of homes in the areas you’d like to live. This way you can get a feel for how much you might need to save and make a start.

Widen your search

The average house price in the UK was £291,000, according to ONS in September 2023. House prices vary widely, depending on where you want to live. Average house prices in:
London were £537,000
North East were £163,000
Yorkshire and the Humber were £210,156
West Midlands were £253,624
South East were £392,174
South West were £328,668
Scotland were £195,000
Wales were £215,000
See the average house price for area on the GOV website.

Buy with a partner 

Buying with a partner could mean you can borrow more. This could make it easier to save for a deposit. A lender will look at the total of both your incomes to decide how much you might be able to borrow.

A lender will also look at your partners finances. If a partner has debt or a poor credit history, this could make it harder to get a mortgage.

For example, you will need to decide whether you want to be:
‘Joint tenants’ (with equal rights to the whole property)
‘Tenants in common’ (where you own different shares in the home). 
Learn more about ownership on the Gov website.

Try to improve your credit score

A lender will look at your credit history when they decide whether to offer you a mortgage. Your credit score can tell you if have a good, average or poor credit history. 
You can check your credit score on one of three major credit agencies: 
If your score is lower than you thought it would be, you can take to try to improve your credit score.

Avoid missed payments and CCJs

Defaulting (which means missing payments) or having a County Court Judgement (CCJ) can damage your rating. These can show up on your credit history for years, so try to avoid them if you want to buy a home.

Build a credit history

No credit history at all means a lender can’t tell how good you are at repaying credit. 

A lender will want to see that you can borrow money and repay it. If there’s no evidence of this, it might impact your application. Be careful to only take out credit you can afford to pay back. 

Keep your credit use low
How much of the credit you have available that you are using will factor into your credit rating. 

For example, if you have a credit card with a high limit, but you’re only using a little bit here and there, this can improve your rating.

Register to vote

Registering to vote will help a lender confirm who you are. This will help when it comes to getting a mortgage. It can also help to improve your credit score.
If you’re a British citizen and over 16 (or over 14 in Scotland and Wales), you can get on the electoral register on the Government website.

Consider a mortgage scheme

If you’re finding it hard to save a deposit for a home, there are lots of schemes that could help: 
95% mortgage guarantee scheme – A government-backed mortgage scheme which gives lenders a guarantee, enabling them to offer 5% deposit mortgages. This scheme runs until June 2025.
Shared Ownership – You own a portion of a home (between 10% and 75%) and pay rent on the remaining share.  
The content on this page is for reference and is not financial advice.
For impartial financial advice, try MoneyHelper.