Home Buying Guide

Buying a home is one of the most major decisions you will take in your life. It is a big step and there are many stages to follow before completion. With the right guidance, we hope that it will be a smooth experience for you and you achieve the dream of owning the property you want in the way that you want it.

Bear in mind, the whole process of finding and then buying a property can take a long time.

Choosing a property

This can be the most time consuming part of the process. There are so many questions to consider- what type of property do you want? Are you looking for an older property or a new build? Do you want a property that needs work to be done on it and one where you can redecorate it as you wish? Do you want a garden and a garage or both?  In what area? What can you afford? If you have kids or are planning to have kids you will want to know about schooling in the area? Transport links? Each person will have their own questions and priorities to think about. But it is important to choose wisely and carefully as buying property is a long term commitment. By narrowing down your search to the key necessities of what you want you will be making it easier for the estate agent to find you your dream home that ticks all the boxes.

Make sure you do your research.  Check what a property is likely to be worth. Do some research into the surrounding area, go to the local council website and find the council tax banding for the property in question and get the most from your viewings by preparing all of the important questions you want and need to ask, taking photos and measuring tape with you.

It is a competitive market, therefore you will want to try and build a rapport with two or three estate agents in the hope that they will keep you first in mind when any property that matches your requirements pops up.

What about the Mortgage?

It is important that you remain realistic with what you can afford because once you obtain a mortgage for a property you are bound to pay this loan off and you need to be able to keep up with the re-payments or the property will be re-possessed by your lender. In addition, you will not be able to sell your property without having firstly paid off your mortgage.

One option to think about is in securing a mortgage with a lender before you start the house searching process. This will place you in a stronger position once you do find the property you want to buy and will give you the upper hand in comparison to others who may want to bid for the same property but do not have a mortgage in place.

Your lender will want supporting documents before they provide you with a mortgage offer. This can include proof of your income, payslips, P60, proof of identity and information from credit referencing agencies. We will assist you to ensure that you collate all of the required documentation to pass on to the lender and ensure you have peace in mind in this matter.

Find a Solicitor/Conveyancer

Make sure you choose a qualified and experienced Solicitor and Conveyancer who will be able to provide you with the best possible legal advice and represent you throughout all of the stages.  Your Solicitor/Conveyancer will:

  • Obtain and check the deeds to confirm that the property belongs to the person who is selling it
  • Do all the proper searches on the property and check to see if there are any defects in the property
  • Prepare a fixtures and fittings and contents list to make sure everyone is clear as to what is to be included in the purchase price
  • Check to see if there are any up and coming planning issues in the area which may later affect the property value.
  • Advise and check the draft contract and agree a date for completion as well as seeing through the whole purchase up to the end.

Negotiating and Making an Offer

Once you have set your mind on a property, you will make an offer through your estate agent.  Where to pitch the offer will have to be carefully considered taking into consideration the current state of the property and if further works are needed to it. As a starting point, a first offer might be 10% below the asking price. Sellers who are not in a hurry to sell may hold out for a higher price and there may be a lot of competition from other bidders.

Acceptance of an offer and Exchange of Contracts

Yet once an offer has been accepted, then you will receive a confirmation from the estate agent and the property will be taken off the market. It is important to note that an acceptance of an offer is not legally binding until the buyer and seller exchange contracts. There is still much to do before then.

At this point you will need to arrange a survey to assess the property and its value –this will be required by the mortgage lender.

Once your solicitor and the seller’s solicitors have ironed out all of the final details including obtaining all of the answers to questions that you need answered, all local searches done, you have a formal mortgage offer which you have read and understood, arranging for Stamp Duty Land Tax to be paid and the title to be registered in the buyer’s name and also checked the draft contract and agreed on the date–then you are ready to exchange. Typically, on exchange of contracts you will put down 5-10% of the purchase price deposit down. Stamp Duty Land Tax will also need to be paid off.

Typically, it can take about 6-12 weeks from the day your offer is accepted up to completion. Exchanging contracts is usually the last stage in the legal process after which you cannot withdraw without losing your deposit and all legal costs incurred. A buyer may also face legal action from the seller. We would also advise that you have buildings insurance in place at this stage and also consider having life insurance to protect yourself.

Completion and Moving in

Completion usually takes place about two weeks after the contracts have been exchanged. On completion the remainder of the money will be transferred across to the seller’s solicitors. The buyer’s solicitor would usually arrange that the funds be transferred directly from the lender to the seller’s Solicitor. You can then collect the keys for your new home from the agent. You will then start to arrange for a removal firm to transfer your belongings to your new place on your completion date. Then re-direct your post, check who the utility providers are and change the bills in your name and put the council tax in your name.

After a hectic few weeks, sit back, relax and enjoy your new home.

Congratulations!