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8 things to do before applying for a mortgage

About to apply for your first mortgage and not sure how to prepare? Check these off your list to boost your chances of success.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


Getting a mortgage could be the difference between bagging your first home and continuing to rent for the rest of your life.

There are a few crucial factors that can make the difference between whether a bank will lend you a mortgage or not.

So, what do you need to do before you can get a mortgage? Here's how to put yourself in the best position for a lender to say 'Yes'.

1. Find out how much you could borrow for a mortgage

Doing the maths for a mortgage can become a bit of a headache, but that's where our mortgage calculator comes in.

Just input some basic info like the price of the property you want to buy, the interest rate and the term of the mortgage.

It'll give you an idea of which homes might be in your price range and how much deposit you'll need to aim for.

Mortgage calculator

Work out what your monthly mortgage payments could be with our mortgage calculator.

2. Sort out any existing debt

If you’re in debt already, it can negatively affect what banks will lend to you for a mortgage.

When deciding what you can borrow for a mortgage, a bank or a building society uses a mixture of 'income multiples' and affordability. 

Here’s our guide to what you can borrow for a mortgage.

As well as multiplying your income by up to 4.5 times, a potential lender will look at what you can afford to repay each month.

Your affordability is worked out by looking at your income and your outgoings every month.

That includes looking at your necessary expenses, like household bills, childcare and school fees, alongside the fun ones, including gym memberships, eating out and socialising.

But it also takes into account existing debts, such as any loans, credit card payments and overdrafts.

The result? The less debt you have, the more you can borrow. 

It’s worth getting all your finances into the best possible shape so you improve your chances of getting a good mortgage offer.

That might mean paying off a credit card balance or a personal loan. It might also mean cutting back on spending to keep your balance looking healthy each month.

3. Check your credit score

A good credit score is very important if you want a mortgage. 

A credit score lets lenders know how reliable you are when it comes to borrowing money. 

To see where you stand before applying, you can get a copy of your report from an agency such as Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.

The sooner you do this, the better. If there are errors, you can get them corrected. 

If you have a poor score it will give you the chance to take steps to improve it.

Common flags on your credit report include missing information, entries you don’t recognise, or just inaccuracies.

For example, you might find a County Court Judgment (CCJ) that is still on your report, even though you’ve settled the debt in the allocated time.

Simple ways to boost your credit score include registering to vote, paying bills on time and repaying your credit card in full each month.

Closing down any credit accounts you are no longer using can also help.

4. Apply for a Mortgage Agreement in Principle

You can test the waters of how much you can borrow by asking for what is known as a mortgage agreement in principle (AIP).

An AIP is essentially a letter from a bank or building society. It states the kind of loan amount you might get, based on an initial assessment of your circumstances. It’s free to get an AIP.

Typically, an AIP will last between 60 and 90 days. If it expires before you need it, you can always reapply. 

But remember, an AIP is only an estimate. It's not a formal mortgage offer and the lender who issued it can still decline to give you one.

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5. Contact a broker to get all your options

You can apply for mortgages directly from high street lenders by filling in forms online. But you might want the reassurance of speaking to an expert in the form of a broker. 

Your broker will compare mortgages across the whole of the market and help you to find the best deal.

They will work with you to find the best rates and fees for your individual situation. And they'll know which lenders will be more likely to accept your application.

Brokers can also have access to exclusive deals that are not available directly from banks and building societies.

This can be particularly useful if your circumstances are a bit complicated. Sometimes high street lenders can be very strict with their application criteria.

So, if you’re self-employed, have a poor credit history, or are an older mortgage applicant, going through a broker can give you better options.

Find out more about mortgage brokers and why you might need one

Mojo Mortgages is Zoopla's trusted online broker

6. Do your own mortgage research

If you’re looking for your own deal without a broker, there are plenty of good mortgage comparison sites to look at.

If you do go via a broker, you can still back up their findings with your own research. 

Check out the latest mortgage deals online at Moneyfacts.

Research won’t cost you a penny and will help you make sure you’re getting the best possible mortgage for you.

7. Get your paperwork organised in advance

Whether digital or hard copy, there are lots of documents you’ll need for your mortgage application. 

You'll need a photo ID and up to six months of bank statements.

And you'll need to demonstrate that you earn a regular income.

If you're employed, you can do this by providing your payslips.

If you're self-employed, you'll need to show the lender your business accounts, signed off by an accountant, as well as your tax returns.

It's best to work on the basis that you'll need to provide three years’ worth of accounts, although two may be sufficient.

8. Double-check the rates before you sign up

A mortgage rate is the amount of interest you pay on the loan. It’s the money you’re charged to borrow the money, so to speak.

The lower the interest rate on your loan, the cheaper your deal over the term of the mortgage.

Getting the right rate on your mortgage is very important. A few percentage points difference can translate into thousands of pounds a year on such a large loan.

That said, it’s not just about cost. You need to make the right choice on the type of mortgage that best suits you, as this can directly impact on your future choices and flexibility.

That means deciding whether to go for a fixed-rate deal, a tracker or interest only.

Confused? Here’s our guide to the different mortgage options.

Want to know whether to fix or track? Here are the pros and cons of both.

There's no need to feel an obligation to the lender that issued your agreement in principle. 

You’re free to scour the whole market. Do it now, and then again when you come to remortgage.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.