Everything you need to know about buying property

First time buyers


Use the fact that you're chain free to your advantage.

Many homeowners will prefer to deal with a buyer who is not in a chain as it lowers their risk. Expect to pay 5% less than someone who still has a property to sell (5% of a £300,00 property is £15,000 so always make sure you negotiate).

Don't trust or rely on the estate agent


The estate agent is working on behalf of the seller.

The seller pays the estate agent and the estate agent answers to the seller, not you. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the estate agent represents you equally or cares for you in anyway.

You may think that estate agents should be fair but in reality, they can suggest tactics to the homeowner that may push you into making a higher offer.

How much is the property worth?


Don't assume that the asking price is fair - do your own research.

Lots of properties go on the market for too much money and either don't sell or get reduced after a few months.

Read our guide on working out how much a property is worth for more information.

Getting a mortgage


Most people need a mortgage to buy a property. This is simply a loan that is secured on the property, this means that if you don't manage to keep up repayments, you are at risk of the lender selling your property.

There are a lot of lenders who provide mortgages, however it doesn't matter who provides your mortgage - you simply need to find the best interest rate with lowest fees (that you qualify for).

There are around 90 mortgage lenders in the UK - collectively offering around 11,000 mortgage products.

To get the best deal, you need to get impartial advice from a mortgage broker as it is almost impossible for you to go to each lender to find out about their mortgages directly.

You don't need to pay for a mortgage broker - there are plenty of brokers that will work for you for free (they are receive a commission payment directly from the lender).

Find a conveyancer


A conveyancer does all the legal checks needed when you buy and sell a property - things like ensuring that the seller really is entitled to sell the property and ensuring that your contract with the seller is written correctly.

They also update the property ownership records at HM Land Registry.

Some conveyancers offer a 'no move - no fee' arrangement. This means that if your sale doesn't complete for any reason, they won't charge you.

The conveyancing process can be slow and it gets more complicated the bigger the chain becomes (as everyone has to exchange contracts at the same time).

Not all conveyancers are equal. Some take on too much work and aren't able to complete it in a timely manner, this has the potential to cause the whole chain to collapse, meaning your purchase could fall through, so choose your conveyancer with care.

Your conveyancer prepares your contract with the seller - you need to have confidence that they are competent and won't miss anything as it could cost you a lot of money.

One last thing to be aware of - you really want your conveyancer to be on your lender's 'panel'. Basically what this means is that if your lender doesn't approve of your conveyancer, they will instruct their own conveyancer (you will still have to pay for yours). This is bad for you as it can take longer and cost you more money.

Find a surveyor


A surveyor will visit the property and look for potential issues that you may not have noticed.

You don't have to instruct a surveyor to check the property for you but we would recommend at a bare minimum you visit it with someone else you trust or possibly a builder.

There are a few types of survey to choose from. Which you decide to go for will depend partly on the property's age and condition and partly on your appetite for risk.

Some surveyors will also offer valuation advice.

The older the property, the more benefit you may get from getting a building survey rather than just a home buyers report.

A building survey will cost more money but will look at the property in greater detail, this may include going into the roof space, checking between floors and ceilings etc.

Keep in contact with the homeowner


Ask for the vendor's phone number and don't be afraid to get in touch.

A major reason property sales collapse is that one side loses confidence in the other.

The simplest way to reduce this risk is to talk to each other regularly so you know what is happening and why any delays are occurring.

It sounds simple, yet most buyers and sellers still rely on their agent or their conveyancer to do all the follow up work. In reality, if you want your sale to proceed successfully you should be in contact with vendor to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Unfortunately, about 30% of property sales in the UK fall through. This is a simple method that can improve the chance of your move going smoothly.

Exchange of contracts


In the run up to the exchange of contracts, the vendor will be asked to complete various forms to let you know what is and isn't included in the sale.

Before you have exchanged contracts either side can pull out of the deal, even if you don't want them to.

If the seller does pull out, it can mean you lose the money you spent on survyor and conveyancer fees (some conveyances offer a 'no move- no fee' arrangement).

Once you have exchanged contracts, neither side can change their minds without it costing them a substantial amount of money - after you have exchanged contracts you will be legally bound to purchase the property (and the homeowner legally bound to sell it to you).

Upon exchange of contracts, your conveyancer will set a completion date - this is when you will get the keys to your new home!

Beware of payment diversion scams!


Home buyers in the UK are being targeted by criminals to pay away considerable sums of money via what are called 'Payment Diversion Scams'.

Typically, the scammers infiltrate the solicitor's email account and once they've analysed the contents of the compromised account, they usually have enough information to write a convincing/legitimate-looking email to existing clients, requesting money to be paid (e.g. deposits for purchases) to accounts controlled by fraudsters.

If your solicitor/conveyancer emails you requesting an unexpected money transfer or changes their bank details, phone them to confirm that you have received a genuine email.

Even if they have phone you, ask to phone them back so you know you have definitely spoken to your conveyancer and not some fraudster.

Completion


This is when you can go and pick up the keys for your new home and move in!

When you exchange contracts, you also agree the completion date (usually your conveyancer will do this for you as the whole chain needs to move on the same day). Whilst the exciting bit is getting the keys for your new home, don't forget this is also the date when you need to leave your old home and have all your belongings removed.

You need to line up your removal company to ensure they are available on this date. Some removal companies will help pack and store some of your belongings before this date to ease the removal process on the day.

Typically you'd pick up the new keys from the homeowner's estate agent on the completion date at a set time.

See our step-by-step guide to buying property


Make sure you understand the property sales process and know what needs to happen and by when.