Buying property

Buyers Guide

Be it your first studio flat or a step up the ladder to a four-bedroom detached house, buying a home can be an exciting but often stressful time.

  • Working out what you can afford
  • Before you buy your first property
  • How much deposit do you need?
  • Are you eligible for Help to Buy?
  • What's the total cost of buying a house?
  • Could your parents help you buy a property? What do you know about home-buying?

Looking for your new home

You will need to consider what aspects of a property are most important to you:

  • Number of bedrooms / bathrooms.
  • Parking provisions.
  • Separate kitchen and dining room.
  • Private garden.
  • Conservatory.
  • How much time/money you may want to spend redecorating etc.

Tell your agent exactly what type of property you are looking for and the elements that you could possibly compromise on. Also inform them what you don't want and whether you have a mortgage agreed in principle.

Once the seller has accepted your offer, ask them to take it off the market. They don't have to agree to this, but doing so will shut out other potential buyers. Now you need to move fast - the seller will want to see progress so try to avoid any unnecessary delays in getting the surveys and other legal work done. Complete the lender's application form and send them the documents they require - this will include proof of your ID, evidence of your earnings, proof of your address over the last few months and your bank statements, so have these ready.

The lender will arrange for a valuation to be done on the property. If you are lucky enough to not need a mortgage, you don't have to get a survey done, though buying a property without one is not advisable and risky. If you are buying an older property, one that needs repairs or just for your own peace of mind, you could consider getting a more detailed survey done than the basic lender's valuation. Ask your estate agent or a surveyor at for a quote.

The lender will use the surveyor's Valuation Report and other information you provided to calculate how much it will allow you to borrow by way of mortgage secured on the property.

Making on offer

Once your offer has been accepted you must advise your Mortgage Company or Lender of the deal and arrange for a survey to be carried out. There are 3 types of surveys: The first is the cheapest option, about £300-£400 and the most basic which is a Mortgage Valuation survey. It just confirms that the price you’ve paid for the property is consistent with the current market value in the area. This then enables the Mortgage Lender to agree to the funding of the money against your property.

The second is a Homebuyer’s survey, about £450-£600 it will check the property for anything that may be at fault or look suspicious and jeopardise the value or integrity of the house. This is fairly thorough and is probably the most popular. The third and most expensive is a full structural survey about £600-£1,500; this covers the entire property and checks the structural integrity in depth, as well as the recommended fixes for any problems or faults which have come to light. If you are buying a property that is particularly old or in need of repair or restoration this may be necessary.

But for most houses that are built from the 1900’s onwards a Homebuyer’s survey should cover everything you need.

Choose at least three conveyancers' quotes well before you start looking for property. Ask friends, family and your estate agent for recommendations.

Tell your conveyancer if you want answers to any specific questions in advance.

Let them know when you would like to exchange contracts and complete. Tell them you will require regular updates of how the purchase is progressing.

Try to negotiate a no sale - no fee deal, so if the deal falls through you don't pay anything.

Check and compare quotes carefully making sure they are like for like. Decide if you also want the conveyancer to arrange an Environmental Search, which will give information such as flood risk, radon levels and local mines in the area.

You can also help to keep the process moving ahead by:

  • Giving the conveyancer some basic information to get started; things like your mortgage lender details, the seller's details, proof of your ID and any specific questions you would like them to ask the seller.
  • Completing mortgage application forms and responding to solicitors' queries as soon as you can. Use registered post or deliver documents by hand to save time.
  • Checking seller's responses to questions carefully.
  • Asking your conveyancer if you don't understand anything.

It can take anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks from the day your offer is accepted to getting all the paperwork completed and queries answered, even where there is no chain.

Exchange of Contracts - Completion of Purchase

If there are no problems or delays, then you should receive the contract to sign and complete the sale.

Before signing the contract, go through it with your solicitor to check that all the details are correct.

Make sure you’re happy with what the sellers have agreed to leave in the property and that all your queries have been answered.

At this stage, you and the seller are committed to the sale. The seller might also ask you to pay a holding deposit – typically £500-£1000 to show serious intent.

Once you’ve exchanged contracts you’ll need buildings insurance in place to cover the structure of the property.

Make sure you have arranged to have everything connected in the new home like the TV, internet, etc. and your insurance should now be in place. The rest of the funds for the purchase of the property will be transferred on this day. The money needs to be received by the party you’re purchasing from before the keys can be released to you. It can take a few hours so be prepared to wait around. When it has completed call your Estate Agent to check where to pick up the keys.

Moving in

Congratulations! You have now bought your home. Ensure you’ve got your Removal Company or friends ready in order to help you make the move. Check the meter readings when you arrive and have your essentials packed in a box so they’re to hand, like kettles, coffee and tea bags to sustain your army of movers.