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House Buying Guide

A step-by-step house buying guide to getting you moving

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1. Register with an estate agent

Decide on which location and areas you wish to move to, registering with an estate agent should give valuable advice to the local areas, housing stock and values, equally gaining an understanding of which areas you may wish to avoid. Next have an idea of the type of property you are looking for and all the must haves and must not haves, explaining the reason for the move and key information, such as timeframes and circumstances will help an estate agent tailor a property search specifically to your needs. Once this has been established you will have a clear idea as to what this property will cost to find. Also remember to discuss moving costs, such as legal fees, surveys and stamp duty.

2. Finances

Having your finances in place will enable you to have confidence that you can afford the properties you wish to view, if needing a mortgage establish what size deposit you will need and what the monthly repayments are going to be alongside and associated costs such as arrangement fees for mortgage brokers or lenders. If funds are coming from the sale of your existing property, then having a realistic and honest value of your property allows you to budget for all the moving costs involved (stamp duty, conveyancing, surveys, estate agent fees, insurances).

3. Viewing properties

When selecting your properties to view, be sure to do your research, before, during and after the viewings and have a preselected list of questions and checks. It is always recommended to view a property at least twice before making an offer. Have an independent pair of eyes (such as family or friends) look over the property as they may notice something you haven’t.

4. Make an offer

When ready to make an offer, make sure as a buyer you are in the best possible position. Having everything in place and ready to go gives confidence to the estate agent and seller and a mortgage agreed in principle (AIP), chosen solicitors and proof of funds (for deposit or if a cash purchaser) will enable this. Also, reconfirm with the estate agent, the sellers onward position and or timeframes. Agree any fixtures or fittings to be included and ensure this is all documented in the estate agents’ letters. (By law estate agents need to put all offers in writing within 24 hours of you making an offer.)

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5. Offer accepted 

The exciting part, congratulations! But this is where the hard work starts. Notify your solicitor, mortgage adviser and selling agent (if applicable). If you are involved in a chain, ensure your estate agent has notified all the agents within the chain and passed on key information such as timeframes etc. A memorandum of sale should be sent to you by the selling agent which will also be sent to your solicitor, seller’s solicitor and the vendor of the property you are purchasing. By law all estate agents have to obtain proof of identity for AML checks (anti-money laundering) and you will be required to provide the estate agent with proof of ID and funds.

6. Surveyors

If you are wanting a survey, this is the time to appoint a surveyor, ensure you have advised the estate agent so that they can inform their seller. There are different types of surveys you can have. It is recommended to shop around to compare survey quotes.

7. Engage solicitors / conveyancers 

Once your solicitor is appointed, you can complete and finalise your mortgage application (if applicable) and the lender will then arrange a valuation to confirm that the property is worth the amount you have agreed to purchase at. Meanwhile the solicitors are behind the scenes completing all the legal aspects of the deal. Once the conveyancing process has begun, solicitors will confirm details of the property and perform searches of Land Registry and Local Authority information. Your mortgage confirmation should come around this time.

8. Sales progression 

This is one of the most important aspects of the process. Good communication is vital here as sales can break down from a lack of communication between seller, buyer, estate agents and solicitors. A good estate agent will ensure that all concerned are kept regularly up-to-date (each week) with the key milestones in the conveyancing process and will help solve or notify issues that may occur. This is particularly important where chains are involved. This is where choosing a good estate agent to handle your sale is imperative.

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9. Removals

If using a removal company, or a man with a van, ensure they have the correct insurances in place. Be careful of booking and paying for removal companies until you have a confirmed date from your solicitor and shop around as quotes may vary.

See our guide to moving house.

10. Exchange contracts 

Once dates for completion have been discussed and agreed you can now look into insurances (buildings insurance), you’ll now need these so you can complete your contracts. After signing the contract and paying the deposit, you can be ready to exchange with pre-agreed moving dates with the seller and removals firms. On completion day your solicitor will then pay the balance of the purchase price. Once this is cleared, the keys will be released to you. Remember to speak with the estate agent and or sellers, to agree where the keys will be collected from.

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