Guide to home buying

Step 1: Find out how much you can afford

Before you start looking for your new home, use our mortgage calculator to find out what your monthly mortgage repayments might be or get in touch for a more detailed assessment.

If you make an appointment we can:

  • Look at your income, financial commitments and other outgoings
  • Take into consideration how much of a deposit you've saved or how much equity you have in your existing home
  • Give you printed examples of what your monthly repayments might be on various mortgage amounts

Quick Tip: Take a look at our mortgage repayment calculator to help work out how much of a mortgage you could afford.

Step 2: Start looking

Once you have a good idea of how much you can afford, you can start looking properly.

Make a list of what’s most important to you and put your requirements in order as buying a home usually involves some sort of compromise.

Here's a few things to consider:

  • How many bedrooms would you like?
  • Would you prefer to have a garage?
  • Are you interested in a garden?
  • Do you have a preference for a new build or older property?
  • Would you like to live in town or a more rural location?

Your local estate agent should be able to tell you what properties are available to suit your requirements and budget. Local newspapers usually have a weekly property section and you'll also find most properties listed on property websites.

Quick Tip: Your estate agent may be able to recommend up-and-coming areas nearby. You may get a little bit more for your money if your preferred areas are out of reach financially.

Step 3: Find somewhere you like and make an offer

Remember your offer could be lower than the asking price - the price the seller asks for is not always the one they finally accept.

However if there's been a lot of interest in your chosen property, it could be wise to make an offer close to the asking price. Your estate agent can advise you.

Once your offer is accepted it will be confirmed in writing. Remember - the property isn't officially yours until legally binding contracts are exchanged and the money has been paid over.

Quick Tip: Watch out for ‘gazumping’. This is where a seller agrees to sell to you but later accepts a better offer. It can be frustrating and costly, but isn’t illegal. It’s best to move on, literally, as a better property could be waiting for you around the corner.

Step 4: Offer accepted? Arrange your mortgage

Once you've found the perfect place it's important to move fast.

Mortgages can take a few weeks to sort out. We can arrange an appointment with a Mortgage Specialist or one of our mobile mortgage managers who will keep things moving as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Find out what documents you should bring with you.

Quick Tip: It is important to bring all the documents we ask for - it'll help your application to go as smoothly as possible.

Step 5: Choose a solicitor

You’ll need a solicitor to help you buy your home and the best way to choose one may be to get some personal recommendations, so ask friends and family.

  • Carry out the conveyancing - the legal process of transferring a property from one person to another
  • Investigate the legal aspects - identifying the boundaries and what's included in the sale
  • Carry out a 'search' - to find anything which could undermine the properties value
  • Advise on and handle the offer you make to the sellers
  • Make sure the sale is completed once contracts are exchanged.

Most solicitors charge a fee (this is usually a percentage of the sale price). It's important to get a quote beforehand.

Once you have a solicitor, we'll get things moving with your mortgage. Once it's approved, we'll send the mortgage offer documents through to you and your solicitor for you to read and sign.

Quick Tip: If something isn't completely clear, don't be afraid to ask your solicitor. Many of the documents you'll be asked to read and sign will be written in unfamiliar legal language.

Step 6: Decide if you want to get a structural survey

Before signing the contract it is really important to have independent checks made on the property.

A valuation is designed to give an idea of the property's condition and how much it is worth. Ulster Bank currently offer a free standard valuation on our new mortgages. Only one free valuation per customer applies.

In each case a valuer will be nominated from Ulster Bank’s valuation panel to carry out a valuation for the Bank. However, you may arrange directly with a surveyor to have a structural survey carried out, this is a lot more thorough and would highlights any problems with the property.  You may also choose to carry out your own valuation of the property for your own purposes.

You will need to have an Building Energy Certificate issued - this highlights how efficient the property is at using energy.

Quick Tip: Spending a little extra on a full structural survey now could save you thousands in the future, as it may highlight potential problems such as dry rot and damp. If problems do come to light, you could negotiate with the vendor to put them right or reduce your offer by the amount it would take to get them sorted. You would also be within your rights to withdraw your offer, (although you won’t get your money back on your survey).

Step 7: Arrange cover

With almost any mortgage you’ll always need to have buildings and life insurance to protect you and cover your new home. Whilst Contents insurance is optional, it is important to protect your belongings.

Life cover

It’s important that you have the right level of cover to protect your home and family should anything happen to you.

The type of life cover you’ll need depends on how much you’ve borrowed, for how long and what sort of mortgage you have. You don’t have to buy it from us.

Your Mortgage Specialist will be able to provide you with more details.

Home insurance

There are three types - buildings, contents and extra cover for things you take outside your home, like jewellery and laptops. 

Like most mortgage providers, we normally ask you to arrange buildings insurance as a condition of the mortgage, your Mortgage Specialist will be able to provide you with more details

Quick Tips: While we don’t like to think about these things, life cover would provide a lump sum of money to pay off the balance of your mortgage should the unexpected happen. Remember the amount of buildings cover you choose is based on the ‘rebuilding’ cost and not on the value of your home. There’s no need to pay over the odds.

Step 8: Exchange contracts

Almost there.

Providing there are no problems with the survey, the solicitors on both sides will draw up formal contracts for you and the seller to sign. These are legally binding so make sure you’re happy to go ahead.

On the day agreed by both parties we’ll release the mortgage funds to your solicitor who in turn will transfer them to the seller’s solicitor. At the point the funds are transferred, the property is yours.

Quick Tip: You may decide to hold off booking your removals or making any other arrangements that will incur expense until contracts have been exchanged by your conveyancer.

Step 9: Move in

Moving day is exciting but it can be a long and stressful day too, so booking a professional removal firm to help might be a good idea - especially if you have a lot of possessions to shift. Don't forget, lots of people besides friends and family need to know your address:

  • Contact the electricity, gas and telephone companies beforehand so your connected from the start
  • Let your bank, building society and credit card companies know
  • Make sure your cable or satellite company knows when your moving
  • Tell your car insurance company and your local Motor Tax Office - it may affect your payments
  • Register with a new doctor and dentist if you need to
  • Ask An Post to redirect your mail


When do my mortgage payments start?

When making your application, you can choose the date each month your mortgage payment is taken.

Quick Tip: Fill luggage and rucksacks with clothing, sheets, towels - everything you might need to have to hand for the first night or two. You don't want to be searching through 30 boxes to find a mug and a kettle when you're desperate for a cup of tea.

Ready to talk to us?

Read this important information about our mortgages.