Applying for a mortgage can be an intimidating process, but it doesn't have to be. The key is to understand the steps involved and to remain organised. With the right information and some preparation, you can make the mortgage application process much smoother. In this guide, we'll cover the mortgage application process timeline, from preparing to be mortgage-ready to exchanging contracts and moving in.

How to Prepare for a Mortgage Application

Before you even start an application, there are several steps you can take to get your finances in order and prepare for the process of mortgage application.

Contact a Mortgage Broker

An independent specialist mortgage broker such as John Charcol can review your situation, guide you through the entire mortgage process and get you ready to start your journey to homeownership. Contacting a mortgage broker early on is the simplest way to ensure a straightforward experience and avoid getting bogged down in the logistics. We’ll explain everything at each step.

We can help you in a number of ways.

We can:

  • Find the right mortgage deal - we have access to the whole mortgage market, so can help you find a deal that’s tailored to your needs. We can help you navigate the various fees, rates, and terms available and provide advice on the most suitable option
  • Explain all the fees and costs - we can explain all the fees associated with taking out a mortgage, such as arrangement fees and survey costs, and help you work out how much it's going to cost overall - so there won't be any unexpected surprises down the line
  • Improve your chances of getting approved - at John Charcol, we work with lenders who specialise in helping people with bad credit histories and complex circumstances. We know which lenders are likely to accept your mortgage application and can help you secure a loan even if your situation isn't ideal
  • Help you arrange mortgage protection, insurance and more – we have an in-house protection team who can organise bespoke protection cover to suit your circumstances. We can also find you suitable buildings and contents insurance, as well as organise removals, surveys and more

Review Your Credit Report

Good credit is essential for securing a mortgage loan with favourable rates, so it’s important to check your credit report beforehand. Look for any inaccuracies that may be dragging down your score and dispute them if necessary. Make sure you check all 3 major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – as they may have different information.

If your credit score isn't where you want it to be, you may need to take some time to improve it. You can do this in various ways.

  • Register on the electoral roll - this is a crucial step, as lenders use this to prove your identity and check that you live at the address stated on your application
  • Pay off existing debts - high levels of personal debt can be detrimental to your credit score, so work towards paying down any outstanding balances before applying for a mortgage
  • Clear any defaults - if you have any defaults or CCJs (County Court Judgments) listed on your credit report, it's important you try to settle these as soon as possible
  • Limit applications - every time you apply for a new loan, credit card, or other financial product, your credit score can be negatively affected. Try to limit applications ahead of making a mortgage application
  • Keep up with bill payments - paying bills and loan instalments on time is essential if you want to maintain a good credit score. Keep up with payments and set reminders or direct debits to help you stay on track and avoid potentially damaging late payments

If you have your eye on a property now but your credit score isn't where it needs to be, don't worry. Bad credit lenders can still offer mortgages, so you may be able to apply for a loan even if your score isn't perfect. Note that adverse credit mortgages tend to come with higher rates and deposit requirements.

Make sure you go through an independent, specialist mortgage broker such as John Charcol, as we have access to the whole market of mortgage products. This means we can help you find a lender that will be more likely to accept your application.

Get Your Finances in Order

Once you’ve reviewed and improved your credit score, it’s time to get your finances in order.

  • Ensure you have a steady income - lenders will want to see that you have a long term source of income, so make sure this is up-to-date and consistent. Typically, mortgage lenders will want to see at least 3 months’ worth of payslips. If you're self-employed, you will likely be asked to provide different evidence of your income, such as 1 – 2 years’ worth of accounts and tax returns
  • Cut back on spending - if you’re used to a certain lifestyle, it may be beneficial to scale back for the time being. Lenders will consider your outgoings when assessing your mortgage affordability, so it's best not to have too many regular expenses that could affect your chances of getting approved. This includes regular, moderate expenses such as subscription services, as well as larger ongoing costs such as car payments.Gambling excessively, although legal, is also frowned upon by lenders and can affect your chances of getting a mortgage
  • Make sure you have enough in deposit and some set aside for additional costs – You’ll need typically need at least 5% - 10% in deposit for a mortgage, so consider what you have saved when looking at properties and figuring out your budget. There will likely also be additional costs to consider when you move home, such as Stamp Duty, lender’s arrangement fees, solicitor costs, mortgage broker fees and moving costs

You can use this handy mortgage borrowing calculatorto help you work out how much you can borrow and this mortgage deposit calculator to see the amount you need to save for the kind of property you have in mind. You can also use our moving home best buys for an idea of the kinds of rates on the market and finally use this mortgage repayments calculator to see what your monthly payments could look like.

Gather the Documents You Need

Once your credit score and finances are in order, it's time to start gathering the documents needed for your mortgage application. These often include:

  • Proof of identity – passport or driver's license
  • Proof of address – utility bill or bank statement
  • Proof of income – payslips and P60s/tax returns/business accounts
  • Bank statements – over the past 3 - 6 months

Depending on your circumstances, some lenders may require additional documents such as share certificates, proof of gift funds, or evidence of other income.

Whether you decide to proceed with a mortgage broker or go direct, it's important that you start the process early and get everything in order before applying for a loan. That way, you can be sure of getting the best mortgage deal available and have a smooth journey towards homeownership.

The Mortgage Application Process UK

Now that you're ready to apply for a mortgage, it’s time to start the process. Here are the steps involved.

Get an Agreement in Principle (AIP)

Once you’re happy with the deal your mortgage adviser has found you, they’ll go about securing your Agreement in Principle. An Agreement in Principle or Decision in Principle is basically an agreement from the lender that they’ll loan you a certain amount of money based on the condition that the information you’ve provided them with is correct, information such as:

  • Personal details such as name, date or birth and address
  • Address history from the past 3 years
  • Information about your income
  • Information about your expenditure and existing credit agreements

Make an Offer on a Property

Once you’ve got your mortgage Agreement in Principle, you’ll be in a great position to make an offer on a property. If you haven’t started viewing properties yet then now’s a great time to start as you’ll have a better idea of the kind of mortgage deal you’ll be able to secure, and therefore what kind of property fits your budget.

Note that the offer you make will likely be conditional on a successful mortgage application, so if the lender doesn’t approve your loan, then the sale won't go ahead.

If your offer is accepted, you can move on to the next stage.

Appoint a Solicitor or Conveyancer

With your AIP secured, it's time to seek the assistance of a solicitor. To officially transfer ownership of the property from seller to buyer, you'll need them to confirm that:

  • The property value is equivalent or greater than what you're paying
  • There are no structural issues and all legalities have been addressed
  • You can afford it and know your rights/responsibilities

Later on, the solicitor or conveyance will formalise the contracts between both parties after verifying mortgage approval has been granted.

Make a Formal Application

Now that everything is in place, it’s time to submit a formal mortgage application. Your mortgage adviser will send you all the information you need on which documents to submit to the lender. Your client relationship manager will then check everything and submit certified copies, liaising with you and the lender. Finally, you adviser will submit the mortgage application on your behalf. This means that all you can do now is wait for them to complete essential checks as part of their underwriting process. They’ll also arrange a valuation on the property you want to buy. It may take 4 - 6 weeks for them to process your full application and issue a final decision. This can take longer or shorter depending on the complexity of your application and how busy the lender is.

After receiving an official mortgage offer from your lender, you're just one step away from exchanging contracts and finalising the process.


The solicitor or conveyancer you appointed will draw up contracts and organise the legal purchase of the property. You’ll also need to arrange buildings insurance at this stage and make sure it’s in place from exchange.

Exchange Contracts and Completion

Your solicitor and the seller's solicitor will exchange contracts. They’ll also make sure your deposit is put down at this stage and the mortgage funds are released. The purchase completes when money is transferred on an agreed-upon date. This is when you get the keys to your new home.

Move In

Once you’ve completed, the property is now officially yours. Now, it's just a matter of packing up and moving into your new home, knowing you successfully navigated the mortgage application process.

It's important to remember that the mortgage process can take some time, so it's vital to start early, properly prepare and remain patient. With careful planning and preparation, you can be sure your dream of homeownership will become a reality!

What Do I Do if My Mortgage Application Is Rejected?

If your mortgage application is rejected, don't be discouraged. A lender may reject your application for a variety of reasons, depending on their criteria. If you were rejected when going through the NatWest mortgage application process, Nationwide mortgage application process, or by any other high street lender, you're definitely not alone. It can be difficult to satisfy these lenders' strict criteria.

Fortunately, rejection doesn't necessarily mean you can't get a loan, it just means you need to look for another lender. Talk to a mortgage broker to find out which lenders may be the most suitable for your situation and apply again.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of securing a mortgage the next time around.

  • Use the services of an independent, specialist mortgage broker - at John Charcol, we can help you find the best deal on the market and improve your chances of success by introducing you to lenders with criteria that aligns with your situation. Each lender has their own criteria, so don't take rejection as a sign that you can't be approved. If your application is rejected, reach out for help and get back on track with the mortgage process
  • Save up for a bigger deposit - a larger deposit will lower your LTV (loan-to-value) and may help you get a better deal
  • Review your credit history - if there's something on your credit report that could be damaging your chances of getting a loan, work on improving your score by paying off any outstanding debts and ensuring all payments are made on time each month
  • Consider a joint borrower sole proprietor mortgage - if you're having trouble borrowing the amount you want because your income isn’t high enough, consider a joint borrower sole proprietor mortgage. This is where another person – often a family member – takes out the loan with you and has their income factored into the application, but doesn’t have their name on the title deeds

By following these steps and being assisted by the right advice, you can put yourself in a position to secure a mortgage and realise your dream of homeownership.

Take Your First Step

Now you know what to expect when you apply for a mortgage, you can get started. Talk to a mortgage adviser today on 0330 433 2927. We’ll guide you through the process and help you on your homeownership journey.