Coronavirus Read our latest advice

We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Applying for a mortgage

Not sure how the mortgage application process works? You're not alone. Find out the steps you need to take when applying for a mortgage

In this article
Coronavirus (COVID-19) mortgages update Video: how to get a mortgage
Before you apply for a mortgage Step-by-step guide to mortgage applications

Coronavirus (COVID-19) mortgages update

The current deadline for mortgage payment holiday applications, which allow homeowners to defer payments for up to six months, is 31 January 2021. You can find out more with the following articles:

For the latest updates and advice, visit the Which? coronavirus information hub.

Video: how to get a mortgage

Before you apply for a mortgage

1. Work out your budget

You don't need to have chosen a specific property at this stage, but you do need to have a price range in mind. Use property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla to see how much properties cost in the area where you would like to buy.

You'll need to have saved at least 5% of the property's price as a deposit in order to get a mortgage (don't forget to factor in the other costs of buying a house when working out how much you've got to play with).

To work out whether you'd be able to borrow enough to cover the rest of the property price, use our mortgage borrowing calculator.


Find out more: how to save for a mortgage deposit – our guide to building up healthy savings 

2. Think about whether you're mortgage-ready

Ask yourself: would you be an attractive prospect to a mortgage lender if you applied now?

Although lenders have different criteria, they will all expect you to have a good credit score. If you have a poor credit history, or no history of using credit at all, you will need to spend some time improving this before applying for a mortgage.

A couple of ways to do this include making sure you're on the electoral roll whenever you move somewhere new, and having products such as credit cards that you pay off in full and on time to prove you can manage your money responsibly.

It also helps if you are in steady employment, with a regular income. If you've recently changed jobs it may be a good idea to wait until you've been in the role for at least six months before applying. 

Find out more: how to improve your mortgage chances

Step-by-step guide to mortgage applications

Step 1: Find a mortgage 

If you're ready to buy, you need to find the right mortgage deal for you. There are lots of things to consider, including the type of mortgage that will best work for you and how long a deal you should go for.

A mortgage broker can help you to make these decisions. They can give advice on which providers are most likely to accept your application and what type of product will best fit your requirements. 

Getting professional mortgage advice is an especially good idea if you are a first-time buyer, and have never taken out a mortgage before. 

Ask your broker to calculate the total cost of your mortgage, explaining all the charges and fees - along with any conditional charges and fees such as early repayment policies.

You can also find mortgage deals yourself by shopping around online or speaking directly to different lenders.

Whatever you do, don't just apply to your current bank without shopping around - it could cost you thousands more over the term of the mortgage.

Find out more: how to choose a mortgage broker

Step 2: Prepare documents for your mortgage application 

In order to apply for a mortgage, you'll need to provide:

  • Proof of ID
  • Details of your employment
  • Up to six months of bank statements

Only certain documents will be accepted, and you'll need originals rather than scanned or printed versions (the exception to this is bank statements - printouts of online statements are generally accepted). 

For proof of identity, you're required to show either your passport or photo driving licence.

Note that having an old address on your driving licence can lead to complications, and you may have to provide much more documentation to prove your address. To avoid this, try to make sure all documentation is up to date.

You'll need two documents as proof of address. These can be a bank statement, utility bill, council tax bill or credit card statement. All of these documents must be dated within the last three months - older documents will not be accepted. 

You should check that any documentation you provide has your name spelt correctly and consistently. Anything addressed to 'Steven' rather than 'Stephen', for instance, is unlikely to be accepted as evidence. The same applies if you change your surname after getting married.

You'll also need to provide details of your outgoings, with bank and credit card statements from the last three to six months, any car finance or hire purchase agreements, details of any loans, plus a list of other regular payments and expenditure like travel or childcare.

Your bank statements should also show proof of how you've built up your deposit. Lenders may ask you to explain what they consider to be any unusual transactions, and evidence will be needed to back those up. If you've been given the deposit as a gift, you'll need a letter from whoever gave you the money.

It's also worth having your P60 from your employer and at least three months' worth of payslips.

If you're self-employed it's a little more tricky. You'll need details of your tax assessments and your accounts from the last three years, including the current tax year.

This may mean you'll have to submit your tax return earlier than usual if, say, you're applying for a mortgage in October but wouldn't usually submit your return until the following January.

In order to provide proof, you'll need statements from an accountant, tax return form SA302, plus supporting information such as bank statements and receipts.

Find out more: mortgages for self-employed buyers

Step 3: Consider getting a mortgage decision in principle

Once you've found a mortgage deal that suits your circumstances, you might want to get a 'decision in principle', also referred to as an agreement in principle or AIP.

As the name suggests, it involves a lender agreeing - in principle - to give you a mortgage, subject to final checks and approval of the property you intend to buy. 

Getting a decision in principle usually involves a credit check, so we'd advise only doing this when formally applying for the mortgage, or if an estate agent asks for one to check you're serious about buying a property.

If you experience the latter, try to obtain the decision in principle with a lender who runs a soft credit check, as it's best to keep the number of hard credit checks to a minimum. Your broker can help you with this.

Each lender is different, but a decision in principle will typically last for six to nine months. If your property search takes longer than you planned, you may need to get a new decision in principle.

Step 4: Make a formal mortgage application

Once you've had your offer on a property accepted, you should formally apply for a mortgage with your lender.

If you're using a mortgage broker, they will arrange this for you. 

The mortgage lender will conduct a valuation on the property you intend to buy. This confirms to them that the property is worth what you intend to pay for it. 

The lender will also do a thorough check of the paperwork you have provided and your credit record. This search will appear on your credit file. 

If a lender turns you down at this stage, it's worth trying to find out why, and potentially waiting a while before applying to another lender. Making several mortgage applications very close together could significantly damage your credit score. 

If a lender is happy with your application, it will make you a formal mortgage offer. Mortgage offers are usually valid for six months, whereas remortgage offers are only valid for three months (but this varies between lenders).

Generally, you should expect to receive your mortgage offer within 18-40 days of finishing the application.

The process could take longer if there's an issue with the valuation, the lender's processing centre is busier than usual, additional information or documents are needed, or if your application is particularly complicated.

Once you have a formal mortgage offer, your conveyancer will arrange for the mortgage funds to be transferred from your mortgage lender to the person you are buying the property from on the day of completion

Find out more: mortgage lender reviews