1. Set the budget
Decide how much you want to spend and try to stick as closely as possible to that figure. Always remember to factor in the acquisition costs, like SDLT, legal fees, mortgage costs (if applicable), and agent’s commission (if applicable)
2. See how much you can borrow
If you don’t have the cash to pay the full purchase price of the property you want to buy, then speak to a local mortgage advisor and go through the process. They understand what information the banks will require and they will help you structure the application. They will charge a fee ranging anywhere from £500 up to 1.5% of the loan value.
3. Start the search
There are several ways you can search, but the most widely used methods are via the property portals like Zoopla and Rightmove. You can also contact estate agents in the areas you’re interested in, as there are often properties on their books that haven’t made it to the portals or even their own websites, for that matter.
4. Arrange to view
Once you’ve shortlisted the properties you want to see, get in touch with the seller’s agent and make appointments to go and view them. Remember that pictures can be deceiving and sometimes make the property look worse than it is, as well as better.
5. Put in your offer
If you like the property, then negotiate with the selling agent to get to an agreed price by putting your offer in writing. Remember when buying a resale property that your offer isn’t binding on either party until you reach Exchange 9explained further on), so you can pull out, as the buyer, if something doesn’t add up, but the seller can do the same, most frequently by way of being Gazumped, which is when another buyer submits a more favourable offer. Remember to make your offer subject to a survey.
6. Sale Agreed
Once the vendor (seller) accepts the basic conditions of your offer, then the agent will notify you that the sale is agreed, subject to contract and you’ll receive a memorandum, to that effect
7. Arrange a solicitor
As a buyer, you are entitled to have your own solicitor (lawyer/attorney) who represents your interests. The conveyancing process is complicated, so it’s well worth the cost, but try and find a fixed-fee solicitor/conveyancer.
8. Get a survey done
You’ll want to know what condition the property is in, so it’s wise to arrange a professional to inspect it for you, by way of a survey. The cost can range anywhere from £400 to £1300, depending on your requirements, but it’s well worth it, as this can help you avoid a scenario where there’s a defect that you weren’t aware of, that could end up costing up to tens of thousands.
9. Complete the mortgage application
Speak to your mortgage advisor and select the loan option that best suits your requirements. It’s prudent to consider mortgage protection at this point, in case you ever find yourself in a situation where you can’t afford to keep up with the payments, as this will help avoid unnecessary stress on you and/or your family. Shop around and find one that offers the benefits you need for a reasonable price.
10. Mortgage valuation
The lender will want to establish that the property is worth more than their loan value, so they’ll send their own surveyor to the property, who will go out and inspect it and report back on the value.
11. Instructing your solicitor
Once you have confirmed your solicitor and given them the formal instruction to proceed, you’ll pay a deposit against the fees and the process will commence. The deposit can be anything up to around 10% of the total legal fee.
12. Drafting of contracts
The seller’s solicitor will draft the contract once they have received the title deed. Once the contract is drafted, the seller’s solicitor will send a copy to your solicitor.
13. Your solicitor’s role
Your solicitor will receive a contracts pack from the seller’s solicitor, which includes relevant information on the property. Your solicitor will go through the paperwork on your behalf, but you should make a point of going through it yourself, too. They’ll also conduct various searches to ensure that there’s nothing that may potentially affect its future value. The searches typically include Planning, Drainage and water, local searches, flood risk, Land Registry, Rights of Way, etc. Speak to your solicitor and see if you can negotiate a target completion date.
14. Confirm your mortgage
This is when you’ll receive your mortgage offer with all the terms and conditions of your loan so that you know what you’re in for.
15. Building and contents insurance
The process is almost complete, so it’s time to make sure that the value of your asset and its contents are protected. Get in touch with an insurer and make sure that you have cover for the building and contents. The moment the transactions completes, the building is your responsibility.
16. Signing contracts
Once your solicitor is ready, he/she will let you know that it’s time to sign and make sure that everyone’s coordinated in terms of moving dates, so that neither the occupant nor the vendor finds themselves without a roof over their heads.
17. Exchange of contracts
Once you’ve both signed the contracts, you’ve achieved exchange and both parties will have received a copy of the signed contract. At this point, your deposit gets paid over to the seller’s solicitor and everyone starts working towards completion, which is when ownership is transferred.
This is the effective date when the new property is registered in your name and the associated risks and benefits transfer to you, as purchaser.
If you’re an owner-occupier, then you’ll need to get all utility accounts moved into your name. In the event that you’re a buy-to-let Landlord, your tenant will need to do that and you’ll only be responsible for these bills during void periods, i.e. when the property is empty.
The monthly running costs will include water, electricity, gas, and Council Tax in the case of freehold and all the same as well as possible service charges and ground rent, in the case of leasehold.