Thinking about purchasing a residential property? We understand that there’s a lot to consider and, chances are, it may feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide on the process of buying a house. Whether you’re buying a house for the first time or have been on the property ladder for quite a while and require a refresh, with our comprehensive checklist for buying a house, you’ll be fully prepared for what lies ahead, breezing through the house-buying process with relative ease.
The ten-step process of buying a house
Unfortunately, buying a house is one of those essential life skills never taught when you’re in school. Nevertheless, knowing what you should be doing and when could save you a lot of money.
The process of buying a house naturally differs from person to person, with those already on the property ladder having additional factors, such as the wider property chain, to consider. That said, there are a few key steps that anyone thinking of buying a house should follow to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.
✅ Step one: Secure your finances.
Unless you plan on purchasing your next home in cash, you will need to look into your theoretical ability to borrow money before taking any further steps. A mortgage in principle is essentially a letter from a mortgage lender stating the amount they would be willing to lend you, based on your current financial circumstances. These agreements are not binding and simply serve as a guide.
✅ Step two: Consider area and budget.
One of the first things you’ll want to consider when moving house is where you want to move to. What kind of property can you see yourself living in? Are you likely to need additional rooms in the near future? Knowing what you’re looking for in a house can help to ease the process, as can determining which areas you would be willing to live in before arranging any viewings.
Of course, you may have to compromise on certain factors to obtain the home of your dreams at an affordable price – but it will all be worth it in the end. Being aware of things you’re not willing to let go of is all part of the planning process. However, it’s important to ensure that you’re not holding onto non-essential features if this means budging on other, significant factors like distance from your workplace or proximity to local schools. With the support of a good estate agent, however, it is entirely possible that you’ll find exactly what you want, where you want it, at the right price.
✅ Step three: Go house hunting.
Finally, the fun part – looking for your next house! We’d highly recommend browsing the properties available through a reliable estate agent that knows the areas you are looking at well, as this will ensure you’re looking at promising properties likely to fulfil your expectations. During your viewings, ask any questions you think might be relevant and make a note of anything you forgot to mention at the time to get further feedback from the seller later on. If you’re not sure, our list of questions to ask when buying a house below is a good place to start.
✅ Step four: Put in an offer.
So, you’ve found the perfect property and are ready to take the plunge. Don’t get carried away just yet – you still need to make an offer. Deciding on the amount to put forward could make or break your purchase, so it’s important to consider things carefully before moving forward. Whilst lower offers, if accepted, would save you a lot of money, it’s not always worth risking the property of your dreams if you think there will be high competition. On the other hand, more unusual properties, homes that have been on the market for a long time and houses owned by people desperate to sell tend to be easier to negotiate for.
In any case, you will need to inform your estate agent in order to make an offer. They will put this forward for you in writing and guide you through the negotiation process. A good estate agent will advise you on your offer first, ensuring that you have made a reasonable proposition. Lower offers may be accepted more easily if you suggest an acceptable completion date and are able to act quickly.
Be aware, however, that there are several different ways of making an offer. Whilst you should generally start low (5% to 10% less than the asking price) with open negotiations, with sealed bids – where the seller will choose the highest of all the bids presented to them in a sealed envelope – it works best if you offer more than what the seller asked for. Some sellers may also ask you to pay a holding deposit to prove that you are serious about the purchase, although this isn’t always the case.
✅ Step five: Your offer is accepted.
As soon as your offer has been accepted, it’s a good idea to ask the seller to take their property off the market. Your estate agent should be able to request this on your behalf and the seller should be willing to comply if they are serious about the sale.
It is important to remember that, even when accepted, your offer will not be legally binding if you reside in England or Wales. Your purchase will only be finalised once you have exchanged contracts, which is why you will often hear the term SSTC (sold subject to contract) thrown around.
Although it tends to happen less often when represented by a good estate agent, the seller may still let you down by accepting a higher offer from another buyer at this stage. This is known as “gazumping” and unfortunately, the only way out of this situation, if you’re still keen to buy their house, is to offer them an even larger sum. Asking the seller to remove their property from the market can help to safeguard you from this to some extent, which is why we, once again, recommend speaking to your estate agent.
✅ Step six: Apply for a mortgage (if required).
If you are planning on taking out a mortgage, as most people will, now is the time to make a formal application. We highly recommend speaking to an independent financial advisor before making your choice, as a mortgage is a huge commitment. Emma’s Properties is also here to advise you as best we can along the way, ensuring that the agreement you sign is as beneficial to you as it possibly can be.
If you would like to learn more about potentially living mortgage free, you might like to read our blog on how to buy a house without a mortgage.
✅ Step seven: Get a solicitor.
Appointing a solicitor is perhaps one of the most important steps you will take when buying a house. They will handle all your contracts and give legal advice that could save you from potentially costly pitfalls. They are also able to deal with any land registry queries you may have, also overseeing the transfer of money once it’s time to make payment.
We understand that the solicitor’s role in the house-buying process can often feel confusing, which is why we’ve gone into further detail on how they can help in the “Questions to ask when buying a house” section below.
✅ Step eight: Survey your property.
Property surveys are designed to determine the value of the property you are about to buy. A good property survey will accurately assess the potential cost of any repairs that will need to be carried out, for example, any roof work, basement waterproofing or general structural repairs.
Although you are not legally obliged to conduct a property survey before you buy, we would highly recommend getting one done, as the money you initially invest could potentially save you thousands in the long run. There are many different types of property survey, but a full level-three structural survey will provide you with the greatest peace of mind.
Hopefully, your survey will come back positive and you will be able to proceed with the purchase as planned. However, if it reveals a myriad of defects you were previously unaware of, you may wish to renegotiate your offer price at this stage. Emma’s Properties will support you with this.
✅ Step nine: Settle on a completion date.
Once everything else is in place, you will need to agree on a mutually beneficial completion date. It is often worth remaining as flexible as you can on this, as sellers that are keen to move quickly may appreciate you being able to act swiftly. If you’re already on the property chain, we understand that this may be a bit more difficult. Whatever the case, Emma’s Properties is here to represent you and talk to the seller to come to an agreement that works well for all parties involved.
Once your completion date rolls around, you will need to exchange both keys and contracts. Once again, we recommend appointing a solicitor to assist with this.
✅ Step ten: Move in.
Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a new home!
Questions to ask when buying a house
We hope that our checklist for buying a house helped to put your mind at ease. Hopefully, you’re now ready to start your own property journey. If you would like to learn more about the process of buying a house, however, you can always contact us for further information.
Alternatively, if you’re interested in learning what to ask when buying a house, take a look at some of our FAQs below.
The costs of buying a house
Naturally, one of the things people worry most about when it comes to buying a house is money. The questions below should help to shed a little light on the economic side of the house-buying process.
How much deposit to buy a house?
Ultimately, the amount you will need to save as a deposit depends on your individual circumstances. How much is the property you are planning to buy worth? How much are mortgage lenders willing to offer? How much financial risk are you willing to take on – and for how long? Even the health of the property market at the time will have an impact. As such, we would always recommend seeking independent financial advice at the start of your journey, in addition to securing a mortgage in principle.
Are there any alternative ways to buy a house?
There are many different ways to buy a house without a mortgage. You can read more about living mortgage-free in our blog here. You may also wish to find out more about buying a house with a friend or buying a house through your company. Many people even look into setting up a limited liability company to buy a house. Whilst we can’t say which option would be best for you, we would recommend speaking to a financial advisor if any of these options spark your interest.
Can I buy a house with bad credit?
A bad credit score doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. You can also take out an independent loan and there are several mortgage providers out there that specialise in lending to people with bad credit. The only thing to watch out for is higher interest rates as a result. You may also have to pay a larger deposit. To learn more, speak to a trusted financial advisor.
Hidden costs when buying a house UK
Regardless of whether you’re buying a house for the first time or have been through the process dozens of times, there are so many costs to take into consideration that things can often take you by surprise. Don’t forget to consider the following:
• Solicitors’ fees: A good solicitor is a wise investment. Find out more below.
• Surveying and valuation: These expenses could save you a lot in the long run.
• Stamp duty: Perhaps the most significant additional cost in the house-buying process, it’s important to anticipate your stamp duty payment. First-time buyers may be exempt.
• Removal costs: Don’t forget any costs associated with actually moving. Plus, it’s wise to save a little for any unexpected extras.
• Your deposit: This is often required on top of any mortgage arrangement fees.
• Financial advice: Seeking professional help with your finances can make all the difference.
As a general guideline, we would recommend saving an extra 15% of the asking price to tide you over.
Fees for buying a house
If you are taking out a mortgage, you will need to pay mortgage arrangement fees. You may also have solicitors’ fees to cover.
Tax when buying a house
Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) will need to be paid on any property you buy over a certain price threshold. It’s payable to HMRC within 14 days of completion (after contract exchange). Your solicitor should be able to help with this.
Legal fees for buying a house
Hopefully, the only legal representation you will need in the process of buying a house is a solicitor. They will help you negotiate contracts, oversee monetary transfers and help with any other transactions. If you do experience further legal issues, however, you may need a lawyer. This can often be prevented by seeking appropriate advice from surveyors and solicitors at the start of the process.
Do I need a solicitor to buy a house?
As you can see from our advice above, whilst not legally essential, your solicitor will play a key role in throughout the process of buying a house.
What does a solicitor do when buying a house?
Whilst a conveyancer will only assist with the transfer of ownership, a solicitor will assist with each and every aspect of buying a home. They usually get involved as soon as you have made an offer, drafting contracts and suggesting terms of engagement (including details on what exactly you are purchasing and what items will be left within the home).
Your solicitor will also raise any queries on your behalf and negotiate better terms for you, for example, if your property survey reveals many defects. They can also perform legal property searches with your local authority and land registry, to ensure that there are no outstanding legal issues connected with your new home.
Finally, your solicitor will draw up your end contract and oversee the exchange. They will also take charge of your deposit. They will continue to work with you after you receive your keys, ensuring that everything has been resolved legally, including your stamp duty.
What documents do solicitors need when buying a house?
You will need to discuss exact requirements with your solicitor. Here are a few essential documents they might work with:
- Property title deeds
- A copy of your lease
- An inventory
- Warranty (for new builds or homes built less than ten years ago)
- Stamp duty invoice
- Energy performance certificate
Is now a good time to buy a house?
In a fluctuating financial climate, you may be wondering if now is a good time to buy a house. Luckily for you, we’ve already written a blog to guide you. Read more here.
How long does it take to buy a house?
On average, it takes six months to buy a house. However, the process of buying a house will vary from person to person. Things could move much more quickly depending on the market. Likewise, if you are part of a larger property chain, things could take a little longer.
Ready to start looking for your next home?
Find your dream house with Emma’s Properties. We’re a small, friendly and approachable company with the expertise required to support you throughout each stage of the house-buying process.