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Buying a Property

Guide to buying

Find out the process when buying a home in the UK, including working out your budget and applying for a mortgage. This process typically takes between two to three months and there are a number of steps that need to be followed.

Step 1 - Looking for the right property and finding an agent 

Firstly, decide on what you are looking for and where you are going to look, for example:

-         What type of property you want, i.e. flat, detached house, semi-terraced house, terraced house

-         Where you want to live – you should consider the area

-         How many bedrooms you need 

Step 2 - Applying for a mortgage or organizing finances

Next you will need to think about what you can afford and how you are funding your purchase. You will also need to budget and plan for one-off costs like a deposit, solicitor fees and stamp duty as well as regular ongoing costs such as mortgage payments, service charge, utility bills.

If you need to borrow money in order to buy a home, you can apply for a mortgage. Most lenders will give you an idea of what they are willing to lend you and may produce a certificate or statement to say that ‘in principle’ they would lend a certain amount to a particular prospective borrower, this is called a ‘Decision in Principle’ (DIP) or Agreement in Principle (AIP).

Once finances are in place, you will need to find a property. Begin your house hunt. Let your agent know what you are looking for, visit properties and ensure you understand the details of the property, for example, whether the property is leasehold or freehold.

Step 3 - Putting forward an offer

When you have found a property, make an offer ensuring you are in a strong position with finances in place. You must decide on how much you want to pay including fixtures and fittings, you will make the offer through the agent. You may be asked to lodge your deposit with your solicitor to show you are committed to the sale. Seal the deal – once the offer is accepted the process really begins.

If you are getting a mortgage you will need to speak to your broker or lender and ask them to apply for the full mortgage. You will need to get a formal mortgage offer before being able to exchange contracts. If you are a cash buyer, you will need to provide proof of funds. 

Step 4 - Conveyancing

Next step is to arrange for your chosen solicitor to carry out legal work for the conveyancing this is the legal process of transferring a property from one person to another. The licensed conveyancer deals with all of the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local searches as well the exchange of money and contracts. It is advised that you choose someone who is a good communicator and reliable. 

If you are getting a mortgage your lender will require a mortgage valuation conducted by a surveyor. This is not a proper survey as it is only looks at the property very superficially. If you would like a more detailed survey you can either upgrade to a full survey or commission a separate survey. The surveyor will check to see if there are any potential issues you may face on your purchase. 

Your solicitor/conveyancer will keep you updated on their progress, once all of the searches have been received they will update you and if all is well you will agree a completion date with the seller, this is the date you collect the keys so need to be agreed between both yourself and the seller.

Step 5 - Exchange and Completion 

Once the above has been satisfied and you are in receipt of your mortgage offer (if necessary) you will need to sign and exchange the contracts with the seller. At this point you will need to pay the deposit for the house and you will need buildings insurance to cover the structure of the property. An exchange is a legally binding contract between you and the seller. If you decide to withdraw from the purchase at this stage, you will forfeit your deposit money.

Now you are at the final stage and ready to complete. Completion is when you pay for the property and take ownership by registering the sale with the Land Registry through your solicitor. Your solicitor will arrange for funds to be in place at the point of completion. On the day of completion, the money and deeds for the property are transferred between each side’s conveyancer. At this time the seller has to vacate the property and you are able to collect the keys, normally from the agent.