The Self-Employed Mortgage Guide

illustration of The Self-Employed Mortgage Guide

Being self-employed, your income isn’t as straightforward as it would be if you were on a salary. Sometimes it might change month to month. But this shouldn’t mean you struggle to get a mortgage. Often, self-employed people earn MORE money than if they were on a salary, which should mean you’re more attractive to mortgage lenders. But a lot of mortgage lenders just aren’t set up to deal with complex incomes. 

There are around four million* self-employed people in the UK, so it's not fair that self-employed mortgages should be more difficult. That's why we specialise in getting mortgages for people who don’t fit the typical mortgage applicant mould.

*Statista 2021

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This Guide will explore your options for getting a mortgage as a self-employed person, and what you'll need for a self-employed mortgage application.

Can I get a mortgage if I’m self-employed?

Yes you can get a mortgage if you're self-employed! Getting a mortgage as a self-employed person can be more difficult because you have to prove you have a reliable, regular and stable income. But you still have the same right to get a good mortgage deal like everyone else. You'll probably just need to apply to a mortgage lender that knows all about self-employed applicants.

If you’re self-employed and want to know how much you could borrow on a mortgage, then use our Self-Employed Mortgage Calculator

Being self-employed can fall into many different categories; freelancer, contractor, sole trader or maybe even a company director. There’s a few different factors to consider depending what kind of self-employed category you’re in. But lenders will categorise you as self-employed if it’s your main source of income, or you own more than 20 to 25% of a business. 

Contractor mortgages

Independent contractors are classed as self-employed because they sell their expertise or services to an organisation under a contract basis. Independent contractors are not formal employees of the company they’re working for. But they do sign a contract with the company that specifies a job description or scope of work they’ll be carrying out in a particular time period, for example, a three month contract. 

Popular contractor professions include I.T specialists, project managers, user experience designers and researchers. 

It can be difficult to get a mortgage when you're a contractor, even though it shouldn’t be because you earn good money. That’s because mortgage lenders favour people who have neat incomes from being paid a salary, and earn the same every month. Contractors often have varying income – earning while they’re on a contract, and not earning if they go through a period of time where they’re not working. They also might get paid different amounts depending on the job and contract. 

If you're looking for a mortgage as a contractor, you don't need to provide years and years of accounts. It's possible to get a mortgage based on your day rate, even if you're new to contracting. When it comes to mortgages for contractors. the more money you can put down for a deposit, the lower your interest rate will be. However, it’s possible to put down a small deposit as a contractor e.g. 5%, and be assessed for a mortgage without seeming like you’re high-risk. But often it’s only specialist lenders who’ll do this, and they're usually only accessible through self-employed mortgage brokers - like us!  

Read more about mortgages for contractors or make an enquiry if you're ready to find out your options.

The most suitable mortgage lenders for contractors

1.  Halifax

Halifax accepts applications from all occupations and doesn’t require a minimum income for contractors. They’ll even consider overseas contractors without permanent residency. Halifax calculates income on a current day rate over 48 weeks.

2.  Bluestone

Bluestone is one of our specialist partners who try to and try to solve long-term problems with quick solutions. They have a flexible lending criteria for contractors accepting income calculations based on your current day rate over the last 48 weeks. Plus, they allow a six  month gap in earning if you’ve been contracting for 2 years or more. 

3.   Kensington

Kensington is flexible towards contractors who have gaps in their work history. They’re also very understanding if you have bad credit. They calculate your income based on what your day rate average is for the past year. That’s super helpful if you’re a contractor, so you don’t have to give three year’s worth of bank statements.

 4.   Leeds Building Society

Leeds Building Society can also be quite flexible when it comes to contractors with employment gaps. They accept up to a 6-week gap between contracts and require a lower minimum income than most lenders. They also offer exclusive offset rates just for contractors. Income is calculated upon actual weeks and rates worked over 12 months.

Freelancer mortgages

A freelancer is someone who’s self-employed and hired to work for different companies short-term, on different projects. 

There are over two million freelancers in the UK. People who freelance like to work flexibly and choose their work and hours. Some examples of the kinds of people who freelance are: writers, journalists and graphic designers. 

Mortgages for freelancers and employed people are technically the same products. The only difference is how your application is treated by a lender.

When you apply for a mortgage, a lender will assess your employment history, credit history and income. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll have fluctuating income each month and year, which can make your mortgage application  difficult but not impossible. 

The fluctuating nature of a freelancer’s income can make lenders worried about what a freelancer can afford, and if they’ll go through a period of not working, and therefore not be able to pay their mortgage. It’s easier for lenders to assess a full-time employed person’s annual salary than it is to assess a freelancer’s income. So, a freelancer will need to put a bit more effort into proving their income than someone who’s full-time employed.

Freelance work can vary a lot. So lenders will assess your application according to your latest income and the way you freelance. It’s important for freelancers to show lenders that their income is guaranteed and likely to stay stable or increase. Lenders always try to avoid situations where they offer a freelancer a mortgage and then that person has little or no freelance work coming in. As a freelancer applying for a mortgage, you’ll need to show that your income is stable and you can afford your mortgage repayments.

When mortgage lenders consider freelancers, they’ll usually ask for accounts or tax returns. What you give them to show your income depends on how your freelancing work is structured. 

If you’re a sole trader, you’ll require a tax return in the form of an SA302 from HMRC. If your freelancing work is under a limited company, you’ll need accounts signed off by a qualified accountant.

Most mortgage lenders want at least three year’s worth of income history, but some might consider you if you’ve been freelancing for one year. They’ll always want enough ‘proof’ of income to make them feel happy to lend to you. Things like having contracts for future work could boost your application. You'll need an income history for at least a year, but a few more years will strengthen your application. A freelance worker with years of experience and proof of income from this kind of employment will be  in a better position than someone who has just started freelancing recently.

When it comes to how much a freelancer can borrow on a mortgage, it depends on a few different things. It depends on how much you make, the type of property you want to buy and if you have any credit issues. All of these factors will affect the total value of the mortgage you can take out. 

Read more about mortgages for freelancers or make an enquiry if you're ready to find out your options.

Sole trader mortgages

A sole trader is a self-employed person who owns and runs their own business as an individual. Sole traders are personally liable for their business's debts and their personal assets may be at risk if creditors cannot be paid. Examples of types of sole traders include: plumbers, decorators, plasterers and hairdressers. It can be difficult for sole traders to get mortgages because lenders find self-employed incomes difficult to understand if they don’t specialise in the area. 

If you’re a sole trader, you’ll usually need at least 12 months of trading history to get accepted for a mortgage. Most mortgage lenders like to see the last three year’s trading history. Lenders will need to calculate your affordability and they will do this by assessing your trading history.  Affordability means how much you can afford to borrow on a mortgage, based on your income, outgoings and credit score. The more income you’ve declared and can prove, the more lenders will be willing to offer you a mortgage. 

For more mortgage-related terms like ‘affordability’, check out our Glossary. And also check out our Mortgages for Sole Traders page for more info about getting a mortgage. 

Lenders will want to see evidence of your income. Specifically, they’ll want to know your net profit and they get this usually by seeing your SA302. Your SA302 is an income report you’ll fill in for HMRC as part of your self-assessment. Sometimes, they will accept a tax calculation from your account. Income reports will need to be supported by a tax year overview from HMRC.

Proof of income for sole traders can be: 

  • Bank statements

  • Reference from a qualified accountant

  • Tax returns

  • SA302 form

Once a lender has your proof of income, they can then match this with their lending criteria to make sure they’re lending responsibly and you will be able to make the monthly repayments.

Read more about mortgages for sole traders and partnerships or make an enquiry if you're ready to find out your options.

Limited company director mortgages

Limited company directors are people who direct a business on behalf of its shareholders. They’re considered to be self-employed because they're legally responsible for the management of running a limited company.

Getting a mortgage when you’re a limited company director can be complex for many reasons. Read our Mortgages for Company Directors page for plenty of info. 

Maybe your company is new and you haven’t been trading for long. If you don’t have three year’s worth of accounts, it means you’ll have less lenders willing to offer you a mortgage. It will help if you’ve been trading for at least three years. Anything over three years and most lenders will be happy to lend to you. 

If you’ve been trading for less than a year, then you’ll have less mortgage lenders willing to offer you a mortgage. But there are plenty of specialist lenders who will consider you even if you haven’t been trading for three years.

Another thing that can make getting a mortgage as a limited company director more difficult is knowing how to prove your income and what can be classed as income. For example, you could have retained profit and want to use that as a source of income. Read our Mortgages using Retained Profits page for more info. 

As a business owner, you might not have withdrawn all your profits and want to use those retained profits to get a mortgage. Annoyingly, some lenders refuse to accept retained profits as income. If you want to use your retained profits to get a mortgage, read our page Mortgages using Retained Profit for more information, or get in touch with us to start an inquiry.  

The deposit you’ll need as a company director will vary depending on your unique situation. If you have good credit and have been trading for over 2 years then you could only need a 5% deposit. Having a bigger deposit will always give you more options but isn’t achievable for everyone. 

Read more about mortgages for Company Directors or make an enquiry if you're ready to find out your options.

Buying a house with a commission-based income

People who work in sales tend to earn a basic salary and then receive commission or bonuses depending on how many sales they’ve closed. Other industries such as recruitment also have performance-based incentives and are rewarded by commissions and bonuses.  

Sometimes this can cause a problem when you’re applying for a mortgage because most lenders don’t like unpredictable incomes. Instead, they like a mortgage borrower’s income to be as consistent as possible. If you’re worried this might be the case for you, you could try to keep your income as consistent as you can for a period of three months. That way, you can show three month’s worth of payslips that show the same (or similar amount).

If you’re earning commission, and want it to count towards your income, a lot of lenders will want you to have been earning the commission for at least 2-3 years before they’ll consider it formally. Some lenders just want to see the commission is a regular payment over 12 months. Specialist lenders will consider commission even if it’s just after a few months.

It’s important to remember that some lenders will calculate the commission income as an average over the 2 years. So, if your commission income is more today than it was last year, this could reduce the amount the lender will consider. If your income has reduced recently then lenders are likely to cap the amount they consider lending to the current month or your recent history. 

If you earn a commission-based income, it’s always a good idea to work with a specialist mortgage advisor who can help you present your your income to a lender. They’ll know the right option for you after analysing your earnings. 

Read more about using bonuses and commission on a mortgage application or make an enquiry if you're ready to find out your options.

Can I self-certify my mortgage?

No, you can’t self-certify your mortgage. A self-certified mortgage was a type of mortgage that let people apply for a mortgage without having to prove their income. These mortgages were popular with self-employed people who found it more difficult to prove their income than salaried employees. 

Self-certified mortgages are no longer available and were removed from the market by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in 2014. So you can’t self-certify your mortgage as a self-employed person anymore, but there are still many options available to help you buy a house. 

A great solution if you’re worried about proving income is to work with a self-employed mortgage broker (like us!). Our Mortgage Experts know the right self-employed mortgage lenders to approach, and how to create a great mortgage application so it has the maximum chance of being accepted. 

How long do you have to be self-employed to get a mortgage? 

You can get a mortgage as a self-employed person at any time. But you’ll have more options and more mortgage lenders open to you the longer you’ve been self-employed. 

Most lenders will ask for three years' worth of accounts, but it’s possible to get a mortgage even if you’ve just gone self-employed. Though in this case you'll need to apply to a specialist self-employed mortgage company, especially if you don’t have any accounts yet.

These specialist lenders aren't usually available to you directly as a borrower - you'll need to fnd a self-employed mortgage broker. Our Mortgage Experts deal with self-employed mortgages every day, so if you need help, chat to us.

Here’s a few different scenarios, and what you’ll need to do to get a mortgage: 

Mortgages with no accounts

Despite what you might've been told, it IS possible to get a self-employed mortgage without any accounts. It'll be be more challenging, but doesn't mean it can't be done.

Generally, you need to have a minimum of 12 months trading history for a self-employed mortgage. The majority of mortgage companies want to see three years' worth of trading history. But there are specialist self-employed mortgage lenders who'll look at your application on a case by cases basis. For example, some specialist lenders will accept SA302 tax calculations as long as you have solid projections and can show them you’re trustworthy.

Whatever your circumstances are, mortgage lenders will need some proof of income. They need to see proof to calculate your mortgage affordability. You can prove your income by showing them your own accounts or by getting your accountant to help you. Your accountant can vouch for your projected future income. The more income evidence you can give them the more likely it’ll be that you’ll be approved for a mortgage.

Self-employed mortgage lenders all do things differently, so it's best to get expert advice before applying for a mortgage.

Mortgages when self-employed for six months or less

If you’ve been self-employed for six months or less, most mainstream mortgage lenders have a policy not to lend to you. 

It’s only specialist lenders who’ll consider you with less than three year’s worth of self-employed accounts.

Our specialist lender partner Kensington is the only lender who might offer you a mortgage if you have less than 12 months' trading history. They might consider applications if you’ve been trading for a minimum of nine months, as long as you have an accountant’s verification. 

Specialist lenders like Kensington are mainly available through specialist self-employed mortgage brokers. If you’ve just gone self-employed and have six months or less income history, but still want a mortgage, get in touch and one of our Mortgage Experts will find out your options.

Mortgages when self-employed for one year or less

If you’ve been self-employed for a year or less then you can still be accepted for a mortgage, but it’s likely you’ll have fewer options than if you had more self-employed accounts. Most lenders have criteria that means they won’t lend to you as a self-employed person if you don’t have a certain number of year’s worth of accounts to show them. But some will, as long as you can provide certain information to prove your self-employment income.

The way you’ll have to prove your income will differ depending on what kind of self-employment you’re in. 

This is what most mortgage lenders want to see:

  • If you’re self-employed and operate as a sole trader, you’ll generally need to have a minimum of one year’s finalised accounts to get accepted by most mortgage lenders. 

  • If you’re a contractor or freelancer working through a limited company then you’ll need your current contract and contracts from the past 12 months. 

  • If you’re a limited company director then you’ll need to provide your latest year’s company accounts or personal Self-Assessment tax return as a minimum.

But if you don’t have a year’s worth of accounts, you still have options. You can get a mortgage from a specialist lender who will look at your case on a more personal level, rather than what their lending criteria looks like. 

Specialist self-employed lenders are usually only available through specialist mortgage brokers. If you’ve just gone self-employed and have six months or less income history, but still want a mortgage, get in touch and one of our Mortgage Experts will find out your options.

Mortgages when self-employed for two years or less

If you’re self-employed and have two years' worth of accounts, you can apply for a mortgage and will have more options and lenders open to accepting your self-employed mortgage application than if you have one year’s worth or accounts or less. 

When you apply for a self-employed mortgage you will need two or more years’ certified accounts. You’ll also need SA302 forms or a tax year overview (from HMRC) for the past two or three years.

Mortgages for self-employed first time buyers

If you’re self-employed and a first-time buyer, your mortgage application can be more complex than if you were a first-time buyer in full-time employment. Having a good credit rating will absolutely help you as a self-employed first-time buyer. So will having a longer trading history. 

Making sure your finances are in order and being able to provide a good deposit will also help you to have as many options open to you as possible. Most lenders will ask for a sizable deposit of 10% of the total home price. For example, if the home you’re eyeing up costs £500,000 then lenders will ask for a deposit of £50,000. This means you’ll be taking out a mortgage in the region of £450,000 plus interest.

If you’re a first-time buyer, are self-employed and have any kind of credit issues, check out our Mortgages for bad credit first-time buyers page for more info. Having bad credit can complicate your mortgage application, because a lot of mortgage lenders don’t like the complexity that comes with credit issues. But, you still have options and can still own your own home.

It's a good idea to work with a specialist self-employed mortgage broker who can help you get a mortgage deal with a specialist lender. Make an enquiry to speak to one of our Mortgage Experts.

What kind of income do I need for a self-employed mortgage? 

This depends on a few different factors. The amount you need to earn to afford a mortgage completely depends on things like:

  • The price of the property you want to buy

  • What kind of work you do

  • Whether you have any credit issues

If you’re self-employed and are registered as a sole trader or you’re a freelancer, a lender will analyse your earnings by looking at the net profit of your business over recent years. 

If you’re set up as a limited company, a lender will look at your salary and dividends or share of net profit. If you’re a contractor, then your annualised day rate will be taken into consideration.

Use our Self-Employed Mortgage Calculator to get an idea of how much you could borrow on a mortgage.

What kind of a mortgage broker do I need if I’m self-employed?

If you're self-employed, you might struggle to get a mortgage from a high street bank or mainstream mortgage lender. Most mortgage lenders don’t like complexity, and favour people who have a straightforward easy-to-understand income. Because of this, specialist mortgage lenders are likely to be your best bet for getting a mortgage when you’re self-employed. So working with a self-employment specialist broker can help. 

A specialist self-employed mortgage broker (like us!) will know which banks and building societies to approach to get you the right mortgage deal. Our Mortgage Experts help self-employed people every day to get the mortgages they deserve.

Get in touch to find out your options.

How do I get a mortgage when I am self-employed?

To get a mortgage as a self-employed person, you’ll need to give lenders evidence of your  income. Lenders need to be able to know you can afford your mortgage before they lend you the money.

To prove your income when you apply for a self-employed mortgage, you’ll usually be asked for the following:

  • Two or more years’ certified accounts

  • SA302 forms or a tax year overview (from HMRC) for the past two or three years

  • Contractors need to provide evidence of upcoming contracts

  • Company directors need to provide evidence of dividend payments or retained profits

When it comes to self-employed mortgage applicants, mortgage companies prefer accounts prepared by a qualified chartered accountant. Having an accountant gives your self-employment validation, and makes you look more reliable and trustworthy to lenders. Lenders will likely focus on your average profit over the past few years.

You usually also need to give lenders these documents to prove your identity:

  • Passport

  • Driving licence

  • Council tax bill

  • Utility bills dated within three months

  • Six month’s worth of bank statements

Do mortgage lenders use gross or net income if you’re self-employed? 

How your income is assessed by lenders depends on your type of self-employment. For sole traders and partnerships, lenders take net profits as income. For limited companies, lenders look at salary and dividends.

How much can I borrow on a mortgage if I’m self-employed?

If you’re self-employed and meet the mortgage lender’s criteria then usually you can borrow 4.5 times your annual income. The maximum most mortgage lenders would let you borrow is 4.5 times, but some lenders will consider offering 5 times your income and a small number of specialist lenders will offer 6 times your income.

Again, it all depends on the lender, so it's best to work with a self-employed mortgage broker who can find the right one to apply to.

What documents do I need for a self-employed mortgage?

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to give your mortgage lender more documents than a full-time employed person would. You’ll need to give them your SA302 form which is  a statement given by HMRC which provides evidence of your earnings. An SA302 form is HMRC’s visual presentation of someone's Income Tax for that year. You’ll be given a SA302 form following the submission of your Self-Assessment tax return.

Paperwork you’ll need for a mortgage:

  •   Two or more years’ certified accounts

  •   SA302 forms or a tax year overview (from HMRC) for the past two or three years

  •   Evidence of upcoming contracts

  •   Company directors need to provide evidence of dividend payments or retained profits

You’ll also need to give lenders copies of these documents:

  •  Passport

  •  Driving licence

  •  Council tax bill

  •  Utility bills dated within three months

  •  Six month’s worth of bank statements

Lenders might also ask for:

  • Household bills

  • Travel and commuting costs

  • Childcare

  • Holidays

  • Socialising

  • Hobbies

  • Credit card and store card repayments

  • Loan repayments

  • Car finance agreements

  • Catalogue credit accounts

How do I prove I’m self-employed to a mortgage lender?

To prove you’re self-employed, a lender will want to see proof of your self-employment income.

They’ll usually ask you for the following documents: 

  • Two or more years’ certified accounts

  • SA302 forms or a tax year overview (from HMRC) for the past two or three years

  • Contractors need to provide evidence of upcoming contracts

  • Company directors need to provide evidence of dividend payments or retained profits 

Who is the right mortgage lender for self-employed people? 

The right mortgage lenders for self-employed people are lenders who don’t mind looking at a person’s income on a case-by-case basis. 

Quite often, mortgage lenders aren’t set up to deal with applications from self-employed people who have complicated incomes from self-employment. The majority of lenders prefer easy cases from people with a good credit history, and a simple 9-5 job and an annual salary. 

There are plenty of specialist lenders who are better set up to deal with self-employed mortgage applications. Specialist lenders like:

These specialist lenders are all partners of ours. Most specialist lenders and the mortgage deals they can give you are only available via specialist mortgage brokers, and that’s where we can help. Our brokers are all specialists in self-employed or bad credit mortgage cases. Get in touch to find out your options.  

Can I remortgage if I'm self-employed?

Being self-employed does not stop you from remortgaging. A self-employed remortgage is the same as any other remortgage, you'll just need to properly prove your income. Read our Complete Guide to Remortgaging for more info. 

You’ll need to provide:

  •  SA302 Tax Calculation forms

  •  Accounts records

10 mortgage lenders who offer self-employed mortgages

Below are some mortgage lenders who offer self-employed mortgages. These aren't the ones ones to choose from, so it's best to get advice from a Mortgage Expert who can find the right lender for you.

  1. Kensington
    Kensington provides mortgages for self-employed people and is a super flexible specialist lender. They’re not as strict with their lending criteria as other lenders and don’t believe in automated mortgages, just like us. Kensington is one of our trusted specialist partners. We work closely with them to make mortgages possible for people who have been turned down elsewhere. 

  2. Vida Home Loans
    Vida Home Loans is a specialist lender, which means they assess people on a case-by-case basis and use experienced underwriters to get the best deal for you, whatever your situation. Like us, Vida doesn't believe automation is the way forward when it comes to mortgages. We don’t believe in the ‘computer says no’ approach and partner with specialist lenders like Vida to make sure both your Mortgage Expert and your mortgage lender fully understands your situation. 

  3. Bluestone
    Bluestone offers mortgages based on your circumstances, which makes them a great option for the self-employed and those with bad credit. Bluestone will accept 1 year’s worth trading history if you’re self-employed. If you are a contractor with employment gaps, Bluestone is an option for you. Bluestone will accept 6-month employment gaps if you’ve been contracting for two years.  

    If you have bad credit then Bluestone could also be the lender for you. Bluestone will ignore any CCJs or defaults under £300. A default is when you don’t pay a bill. Bluestone is a really flexible and understanding lender. They’re one of our partners because they’re specialists in getting mortgages for people with bad credit, especially CCJs. 

  4. Aldermore
    Aldermore offers mortgages to a wide variety of self-employed individuals. They lend to contractors, limited company directors, sole traders and tradespeople. They will also look at retained profits when assessing your income.

  5. Halifax
    Halifax is experienced in getting mortgages for self-employed people such as contractors, sole traders and directors of limited companies.

  6. Metro Bank
    Metro Bank offers mortgages to self-employed people and has their own definition for self-employed. Metro Bank class you as self-employed if you own more than 25% of a business and this includes PAYE Directors that hold more than 25%.

  7. Virgin Money
    Virgin Money has clear guidelines for self-employed mortgage applicants. Virgin Money considers you to be self-employed if you have a shareholding of 20% or more in a business or have a shareholding in a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP0.) 

  8.  Clydesdale Bank
    Clydesdale Bank offers mortgages to self-employed people and requires proof of income and you will need to provide certain documents. You will need to provide at least two years’ accounts, a track of regular work and good credit history. You will need a registered accountant and be able to provide a good-sized deposit.

  9. Leeds Building Society
    Leeds Building Society offers mortgages to self-employed people like directors of limited companies, contractors and sole traders.

  10. NatWest
    NatWest will view you as self-employed if you currently own a 20% share or more in a business that contributes the majority of your income. To meet NatWest’s mortgage requirements, you will need to provide proof of your income over the last two years.

Does being self-employed affect my credit rating?

Being self-employed doesn’t impact your credit score. Although, the fluctuations in your income could be a factor if a lack of income leads you into credit issues. If you miss payments or make late payments, this will negatively affect your credit score. A lower score will reduce your borrowing options. 

To keep your credit in good shape before you apply for a mortgage, check out our guide to improving credit before a mortgage application.

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