How to buy a house
A step by step guide on the process of how to buy a house in England and Wales.
Click the steps below to get started:
Getting clear on what you can afford is an important first step, especially if you are going to require a mortgage. To successfully complete this stage you need to take a detailed look at your current finances. What money do you have coming in and what money is going out.
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In today’s changing mortgage market it makes sense to be prepared before starting to look at properties.
If you are going to require a mortgage you might want to learn about what different types of mortgage there are. From fixed to variable rate, and repayment and interest only. The clearer you are the less daunting things will be.
Also, lending is no longer just about how much you earn, lenders look at your lifestyle, credit score, current borrowings and much more. If you are self-employed or have other circumstances this may also affect your ability to get a mortgage.
It may be worth considering financial help from a mortgage advisor or even getting pre-approved for a mortgage before viewing properties to show you are serious and to give yourself peace of mind that if you find the right property you are ready to go.
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Many first time buyers think about saving a deposit but forget there are many other costs associated with buying a property. We advise that you plan your move costs and ensure you have money saved to cover them. Example costs include stamp duty, legal costs, surveys, mortgage valuation costs, moving costs to name just a few!
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FINDING A PROPERTY
Location, location, location
Even if you have a clear idea of what you want to buy and where, it can pay to do your research so that you are armed with enough information to make a good decision when you make an offer.
Get to know the local property market in the areas that you are interested in buying, talk to the local estate agents and visit the areas at different times of the day.
Find out about the schools, community leisure facilities for the neighbourhood, you can even check out the crime rates and broadband speeds. Compare house prices in the area; is there an up and coming road, or one street that seems significantly cheaper than another? What is happening with house prices? How long have your favourite properties been on the market? Is there a deal to be had or are properties moving quickly and you need to act fast.
Use the research links below to help.
Are you ready to make an offer and haven’t managed to do your research yet? Check out our property information reports to save you time and potential future problems.
Is this property your next home?
Viewing can be an exciting time, but it’s easy to get caught up and forget some essential steps. When you find ‘the one’ scrutinise every aspect of it. This house is going to be your home, so you should love everything about it. Have a viewing checklist to remind you what you should be looking at, for example, condensation, cracks, brickwork, the boiler/central heating system, guttering etc.
Visit at different times of the day to give you a real feel for the area and your potential neighbours. What’s the commute to work like? Is public transport easily accessible? Think about whether this property will meet your needs in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time?
Strongly consider a second viewing to really check the property out before making an offer if the situation allows. Ask the estate agent questions to give you the best chance of working out your offer strategy.
A quick note with COVID-19 some estate agents and developers are restricting viewings to virtual viewings first and only to buyers who can show they are serious. So a top tip is to make sure your finances a clear before trying to go and see properties.
Check out the article below for a detailed viewing checklist to help you.
Ready to make an offer
It’s time to bring together all your local area research, all the answers about the seller’s situation from the viewing stage and your detailed viewing checklist with any problems found, to work out where you want to start with an offer. Using this information you can come up with a strategy for how to play the offer negotiation phase. If you skipped any of these steps, if there is time, go back and carry them out. Our quick property area information reports can help save you time.
Tip: Also, don’t forget to have one last review of your finances and calculate how much living in this new home will cost, especially if its bigger than your current house or has service charges and other ongoing expenses. If the boiler breaks or interest rates rise could you still afford the property? Do you have enough money for all the move costs saved and ready to go?
If everything is in place and you have covered the above steps its time to present yourself as the obvious choice by making an offer. An offer is not just about the amount you offer, but also you as an individual, your circumstances and your flexibility to match the sellers needs best.
How strong is your position?
- Are the funds in place to buy including all your move costs?
- Is your current property sold?
- Do you have a mortgage in principle or is your financial advisor happy?
- Are there any new surprises on your credit file?
- Are you flexible on your timings?
- Is your solicitor ready to start?
Put together a detailed offer in writing that makes it clear why you are best placed and serious about buying this property.
Once your offer is accepted it is full steam ahead. Go back to your financial advisor or mortgage company with the agreed offer and complete the mortgage application process.
Hire a solicitor or conveyancer
You will need the services of a solicitor or conveyancer to manage the legalities of buying your house. As soon as your offer is accepted, the estate agents managing the property sale will require the details of the solicitor acting on your behalf. If possible arrange this before making an offer.
They will also liaise with the vendor’s solicitors and do the legal work to transfer ownership to you and handle the transfer of money between all parties.
Valuations and surveys
Your mortgage provider will require a valuation of the property you are buying to confirm that they can lend against it. A mortgage valuation only looks at the property superficially as your lender will need confirmation that if you default on your mortgage payments, they will be able to sell the property to recoup their loan.
If the property is valued at less than what you have offered, then you will need to reduce your offer and/or withdraw from the purchase.
You should strongly consider arranging your own survey. There are several levels including a homebuyers report and a full structural survey often useful for older properties.
There will be lots of paperwork that follows. You will be required to check the various items sent to you by your solicitor / conveyancer such as the searches and details in the draft contract.
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Contracts are exchanged once the surveys are complete, your solicitor has conducted and is happy with the searches, a formal mortgage offer has been received, and your deposit is in place.
Once this stage is complete the sale will become legally binding.
Before you can exchange contracts there are some things to complete including signing the contract if you are the buyer, arranging buildings insurance on the new property and transferring a deposit to your solicitors / conveyancers.
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Before the sale can complete your solicitors will send you a completion statement. You will be required to ensure the funds which include other charges in addition to your deposit are in place before the completion date, so don’t leave this to the last minute.
You can now start planning your move including any removals.
You may want to obtain the details of the current utility suppliers through the estate agent.
On this date, you are officially buying a house! Your solicitor or conveyancer will manage the money and property deeds, and you will take ownership of your new home. The seller will have vacated by the agreed time of completion (usually midday), so you can collect the keys from the estate agent and move in.