A Practical Guide for First Time Buyers

You’ve found your dream new home, now what happens? This guide will explain everything from exchange of contracts to completion.

First-time buyers get their keys

Buying your first home is exciting

Congratulations on reserving your new Berkeley home. While it’s a really exciting time, there’s a lot of information to process when you’re stepping onto the property ladder for the first time and it can understandably be quite daunting. With this in mind, we’ve put together some useful information to help make each stage as stress-free as possible.

First Steps

Whether you’re planning to complete your purchase using cash or a mortgage, it’s important that you prepare well in advance. There are schemes available to help first-time buyers such as Help to Buy, which means you could put down a deposit for as little as 5% on a new build. For more information, check out our Help to Buy guide.

It’s a good idea to start thinking about finance at least 6-9 months before your estimated completion date, so approach a mortgage lender or financial advisor as soon as you’ve found your dream home if you haven’t already been speaking to one. They’ll help to get you a mortgage offer which is a formal written offer made by a bank or building society to lend an approved amount to purchase a home. 

You’ll also need to appoint a solicitor or conveyancer who will help sort out the legal paperwork and usually act as a middle person during the proceedings. 

Once you’ve reserved your home, which usually requires a deposit of around £1,000 (it varies depending on the size, type and price of property), you will be given access to an online portal called MyHome+. This will contain important documents, information about your new home and allow you to do things like choose your specifications and make upgrades. You should also receive instruction paperwork from your solicitor. We have a dedicated and experienced customer service team and will work with you to answer any questions you might have and keep you updated on the buying process. 

You’ll need to have information to hand so gather things like proof of ID, proof of address and evidence of source funds – it’s a good idea to make photocopies of each too. 

Next, complete the reservation paperwork with your sales consultant, providing the necessary documents and instruct your chosen solicitor to act on your behalf. Then we’ll review the documents and issue contracts. 

Going through legal documents

Berkeley’s solicitor will answer any questions you might have

What Happens Next?

Once you’ve completed and returned the initial instruction paperwork, you’ll likely need to make payment on account to your solicitor and will be asked for some of the documents we mentioned like proof of ID and address. 

Review the report that your solicitor will pass on to you. If you have any enquiries, now is the time to raise them with your solicitor. Berkeley’s solicitor will answer any questions you might have. 

Exchanging Contracts

When you’re happy, your solicitor will arrange to issue the contract for you to sign and request the deposit money from you. The cost of this deposit is typically 10% of the purchase cost (with Help to Buy it is 5%).

The contract is the legal agreement that sets out the main terms that have been agreed – for example: price, address, names etc. Berkeley will then give instruction to our solicitor giving authority to exchange contracts – this is known as exchange. You’ll need to give verbal authority to your solicitor to exchange too. This whole process can happen quite quickly, in around 28 days. 

A set dining table in a living area

You can start selecting colour schemes for the walls and floor

Once exchange of contracts takes place, you’re now legally committed to complete on the purchase of your new home. 

Now the fun really starts. You’ll be able to choose the finishing touches for your home, such as the colour choices for carpets and walls.

A Berkeley representative shows first-time buyers around

Once notice for completion is served you will be invited to visit your new home


For you to complete on your home, all monies need to have been transferred and documents distributed. When purchasing off-plan, the completion date is estimated at the point of reservation, but you will receive more specific timeframes as each stage of the build is completed.  

Once notice has been served you will have 10 working days to legally complete. You’ll be sent a completion statement by your solicitor and will need to transfer any remaining deposit, Stamp Duty, Land Tax, service charge advance and fees to your solicitor. Your solicitor will request funds from you and / or your lender. 

If you haven’t already, return your signed lease and any other documentation requested by your lender and solicitor. Once notice for completion is served you will be invited to attend a preoccupation visit of your home. 

Champagne in an ice bucket

Put the champagne on ice, it’s time to celebrate

Moving In

After your solicitor has confirmed you have legally completed, you can collect your keys. Congratulations you’re a homeowner! 

You will be invited to attend a handover appointment where you will be provided with all applicable keys and fobs. You’ll also be given a demonstration on how to operate the fittings and appliances in your new home. Meter readings will be taken, where you’ll now be responsible for all utility costs associated with the home. 

Following practical completion, your customer services team will be on hand to ensure that if there are any issues with your new home they are rectified in a timely and fair manner.  

Finally, it’s time to settle in and enjoy your new home. 

Why not read our tips on making moving day less stressful?