A step-by-step guide to buying property
Buying property can be a complicated process. This step-by-step guide has been designed to walk you through the process of buying property.
Before you start house-hunting, it’s a good idea to work out the amount you can afford to spend on buying a property and on your monthly mortgage payments. It’s never too early for you to start thinking about arranging a mortgage as this can be time-consuming. You can get a mortgage from a financial adviser, a mortgage broker or direct from a lender. Research which mortgage deals you can get. Price comparison web sites can be a great resource if you have the time to keep checking them.
Make sure you have a written 'in principle' mortgage offer from the start, as this can really speed things up once you have an offer accepted. Likewise, you'll be in a much stronger position if you find yourself in a bidding war with a buyer who doesn't have their financing in order.
A mortgage agreement in principle usually gives you around three months to find a property. This can take longer than you think so give yourself plenty of time to look at different homes.
The first step to finding the right property is to register with us either by calling us on 020 8303 5151 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can keep you informed of properties which meet your requirements.
Make sure you are clear detailing your requirements, but don't dismiss suggestions from agents, even if these suggestions seem different from your initial check list. Once registered, we will keep you updated with regular emails of new properties and telephone calls to see how your search is going. We always do our best to accompany you on any viewing so we can explain the area and answer any questions you may have. Remember, we are here to help.
Choosing your next property usually involves finding a balance between what you want, what you can afford, and what is available. Every individual’s requirements vary, but most buyers’ decisions will be influenced to some degree by budget, location and size. You can find more information here.
Once we have a clear understanding of your requirements you will receive a selection of properties that match your criteria. We can also keep you constantly up-to-date via email when the latest properties become available.
In order to secure a property we recommend an early viewing. When a new property becomes available, don't delay in arranging to see it. Good properties at the right price sell quickly in almost any market.
Try to be as flexible as possible when it comes to viewing times. Evenings and weekends may be best for you, but possibly not the seller. It might be worth taking a day or two off work and lining up multiple viewings. Be punctual for all your appointments, otherwise you risk missing your slot and annoying the seller, who is likely to have gone to some effort to get the property ready for you.
View the property three or four times and do so at different times of the day, so you get a real feel for what it is like. After the viewing, be sure to give the estate agent some honest feedback. That way, they get a better idea of what you will and won't accept. Keep an open mind though; very often, people end up buying something that is very different to the 'dream' home they imagined.
The successful purchase of a property can be dependent on the instruction of an efficient and experienced solicitor. It is a good idea to use a solicitor who knows the area that you're moving to and specialises in conveyancing. We recommend using a local firm who is familiar with the area.
By the time your offer has been accepted, you and the vendor should have appointed a solicitor. If you don’t have a solicitor then we can help you find one.
Once you are happy with a property then it is time to make an offer both orally and in writing stating any special conditions of the offer. You will need to let us know as soon as possible what price you are offering so we can pass the details on to the seller and they can start to consider.
When you make an offer, make sure you let the estate agent know your position, like how flexible you can be on moving dates and whether or not you have a mortgage offer (you may need to provide evidence of your mortgage agreed in principle).
If you really want the property, offer the asking price. If you make an offer lower, then you risk losing the property if it’s on at a good price. And try not to make very low offers that will no doubt be refused. You could end up annoying the seller and this might make future negotiations that bit harder.
Once your offer is accepted we will prepare a memorandum of sale and write to all parties to confirm the agreed price and any special conditions. You will now need to formally instruct your solicitor to proceed with the conveyancing process and your mortgage broker to proceed with your application. A delay in this stage can cause a seller to lose confidence.
There are no legal obligations on either side until contracts are signed.
Your solicitor has a lot of work to do, although it may seem as if little is happening. They will raise any enquiries on receipt of the draft contract from the seller's solicitor. Next they will request their own searches to the local council and environment agency to check whether there are any planning or local issues which might affect the property’s value. They will refer to the information already provided in the seller's pack, such as Fixtures and Fittings list and Sellers / Leaseholder Information Forms, title, lease etc., and raise any enquiries. They will agree on a date for exchange of contracts in consultation with you.
Our role is to ensure all parties are kept informed and liaise with both sides in the event of any problems arising. We will assist your solicitor and negotiate throughout the process, keeping you informed every step of the way.
A survey of the property will be booked by a surveyor on behalf of the mortgage lender to identify any problems and to verify the property's value as security for the mortgage. After the mortgage valuation report is received, a formal mortgage offer will be sent to you and your solicitor which you will need to sign before it is returned.
Few properties are problem free. If an issue is reported, let us know and we can arrange specialist reports and quotes at no cost to you. It may be that a seller is willing to fix any faults and we can address this on your behalf. Don't panic - surveys can seem depressing and usually, problems are not serious.
Your mortgage lender will require a valuation survey to make sure the property is worth the price you’re paying before they approve the mortgage. You can usually arrange for the same person to do a more detailed survey at the same time (this is recommended).
There are three types of survey:
- Home condition survey or valuation report: this is the most basic and cheapest survey and is required by a mortgage lender. It will show up any major problems but it won’t give you a full report.
- Homebuyer’s report: this is a more detailed report and highlights issues that might affect the value of the property, damp in the walls and any other urgent problems. This is a sufficient survey for most properties but for those in need of renovation, a full structural survey is recommended.
- Building or structural survey: this is the most thorough survey and worth paying for if the property is listed or old.
After the mortgage valuation report is received, a formal mortgage offer will be sent to you and your solicitor which you will need to sign before it is returned. The mortgage offer should be sent to your solicitor a week or 10 days after the survey date.
When all the enquiries have been answered to the buyer’s solicitor’s satisfaction and the solicitor has signed the contract, local authority search, mortgage offer and deposit money, they will be ready to exchange contracts.
Before signing the contract, go through it with your solicitor/conveyancer to check that all the details are correct. Make sure you are happy with what the sellers have agreed to leave in the property and that all your queries have been answered. Check you have read and understood the survey report and you are happy with it.
Once the contract has been signed by both parties the deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) will be telegraphically transferred or paid in the form of a banker's draft from your solicitor to the seller's solicitor. At this point, the deal is binding on both sides. Once you’ve exchanged contracts you’ll need buildings insurance in place to cover the structure of the property.
You will need to agree a date with your seller for completion. There may be a number of households in your chain all looking to move the same day so it will need some negotiation and be prepared to compromise to get a date everyone can make. If you’re using a removal company consider moving on between Monday and Thursday which is cheaper. The completion date is then set by mutual agreement and your solicitor or conveyancer will send you a report once all the above is done.
Completion is when your mortgage company sends the remainder of funds across to the solicitor and is ‘move-in’ day. Once they have received the money the transaction is complete and you can collect the keys to the property. You will have been told how you can obtain the keys. Once you move in check the house and make sure you have all the keys you need. Read all the utility meters (including the water meter if there is one).
There is typically a two to four week period between exchange of contracts and completion of the sale. Your solicitor will register the sale with the Land Registry for properties in England and Wales and pay the stamp duty you owe.
The transfer document and title deeds are now yours. Congratulations, you are now the legal owner of your new home!