Buying property

A step-by-step guide

Deposit

Work out what you can afford for a deposit.

This is money that you have in savings that you can use toward the purchase of the property.

Banks have more confidence in lending you money when you have a larger deposit as you are able to contribute towards the purchase price (it lowers their risk).

With a bigger deposit, you should be able to obtain a lower interest rate on your mortgage.

Initial mortgage enquiry

Speak to a mortgage broker for free to find out what you can borrow (you can ask them to provide you with a 'decision in principle' - this is also sometimes known as an 'agreement in principle').

Having a decision in principle lets estate agents know that you are serious about buying and can afford the properties you are looking at (they may ask to see it).

Shortlist

Shortlist property you like.

Use the property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla to find properties that are for sale.

Instruct an agent

Now you have an idea of what you can afford and what you're looking for, it is time to put your property on the market (if you have one!).

Most people choose to sell using an estate agent as they can help with all sorts of things, from floorplans and photos to viewings and price negotiation.

Viewings

Go back to your shortlisted properties, you will need to contact the estate agents to book viewings.

Some buyers know exactly what they're after and are very specific, others are happy for the local agent to make recommendations, either way most people look at quite a few properties before finding the one that they end up buying.

Allow about 30 minutes to look around each property - if you're booking multiple viewings in one day, remember to also give yourself a chance to get from one property to the next.

Questions

After viewing a property, if you like it, you're bound to have more questions for the owner or the agent.

It's handy to find out what the seller intends to include in the sale if you're thinking of making an offer.

In addition to this, you may want to make enquiries about the lease and ground rent (if it's a flat) or any warranties that are on appliances (like the boiler), if they have been replaced recently.

Second opinion

Arrange to have a second viewing (try to take someone else with you so you can get their opinion on the property).

What to offer?

Work out what you think the property is worth - this may be less than the property is advertised for.

View sold prices

Top tip: Don't be afraid to offer less than the asking price.

Making an offer

Making an offer isn't a one time shot. Remember you can make as many offers as you like.

The estate agent is legally obliged to pass on all offers that are made so don't let them put you off making a low initial offer.

Buying property is the biggest purchase you will ever make, so take your time to negotiate to get it at the right price.

Offer accepted

Once the seller accepts your offer, remember that this is a non-binding agreement (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - Scotland is slightly different).

You may hear the terms:

  • subject to contract,
  • verbally agreed,
  • non-binding,
  • not legally binding.

They all mean the same thing - the offer is accepted but either party (i.e. the buyer/you or the seller) may still walk away without financial penalty.

The point at which the offer is truly accepted in a legal sense is when you 'exchange contracts'. This is after your solicitor (also known as a conveyancer) has checked the property details and ensured that the person selling it actually owns it.

Surveys

Instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey (you don't have to get your own survey, but it is highly recommended and most buyers do).

The survey is to find out if there are any issues with the property that you didn't notice, like damp or rot, as well as produce a report on the general condition of the property.

Lots of surveyors belong to a professional body, such as the Royal Institure of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Ideally you should use an acredited surveyor.

Survey shows no issues (that you weren't already aware of).

Finalise your mortgage

Let your mortgage broker know you've had an offer accepted (they'll now ask for more details and do a credit check on you to make sure you've told them everything about your finances).

Conveyancing

Instruct a conveyancer (they will check that the seller really owns the property and prepare your contract with the seller).

Some conveyancers are fully qualified solicitors (a conveyancing solicitor), others are not (a conveyancer may be a licensed conveyancer but not a solicitor).

Conveyancing solicitors are fully trained in legal services but specialise in conveyancing.

Higher value property transactions tend to be worked on by conveyancing solictors rather than licensed conveyancers.

Removal quotes

It's time to start getting quotes from removal teams.

You won't be able to book a fixed date yet as you won't have your completion date but it is good to be organised.

Exchange of contracts

Exchange of contracts is the legal process of making the verbal agreement to buy the property into a legal contract to buy.

After exchange of contracts, neither party can back out of the sale (at any point before this, either party can).

Part of the process your conveyancer helps with when working on your contract is negotiating the completion date.

The completion date is when you finally get the keys to your new home and can move in.

Insurance

As soon as you exchange contracts, you are contractually obliged to go through with the purchase (on the completion date).

It is essential that you insure your new home immediately, as if something catastrophic were to happen to it (e.g. a fire destroyed it), you would still be liable to pay for the property.

If you are taking out a mortgage, your lender will normally request to see proof that you have insured it as well.

Book your removal team

Now you have exchanged contracts, you will know your completion date - this is when you pick up your new keys and can move in!

You don't have to move in on the completion date but most people do. Book your removal team as early as possible to get the best price.

Completion

Completion is when you get the keys to your new home and can move in!

Learn what the basic terms used by estate agents really mean in our jargon free property buying guide.

No non-sense guide to buying property