Buying a house is a complex process, but with the right preparation there is no reason why I can’t go smoothly. With this guide we look to shed some light on how to buy a house and clearly set out what you need to do from start to finish with links to more in-depth guides for each step of the way.
1. Get your finances together
Buying a house is probably the biggest financial commitment you will take on in your lifetime, so looking at your finances and the costs of buying a property shouldn’t be taken lightly.
- Understand the costs - a good understanding of the costs of buying a property is essential. It’s not just the property that will incur a cost, you will also need to pay mortgage fees, stamp duty, surveys, estate agent fees and more. Being aware of this right at the beginning will allow you to budget sensibly and prevent any nasty surprises further down the line.
- Save for a deposit - our guide on deposits provides lots of detail on why this is needed related to the different kinds of mortgages available.
- Check your credit score – there are several online services that will check your credit score for you, including one from Experian, however, you will have to pay certain parts of this service. Your credit score will affect what mortgage products are available to you, so it is important to understand what your score you have. If you find that your score is below what you are expecting, the Money Advice Service have produced a guide on improving your credit score.
- First time buyer support – if you are a first-time buyer you will have access to a number of financial schemes to help you on to the property ladder. You can find out what these are in our guide.
- Use a mortgage calculator – once you understand all of the costs for buying a property and have set aside a figure for your budget, you can use a mortgage calculator to get an idea of your property budget.
2. Get your paperwork together
When you buy a house, you will be asked to provide documents to prove your identity, address and where your money has come from. This is a legal requirement that estate agents, lawyers, and mortgage lenders have to perform to prevent money laundering. You will need either original documents or you will need to have them certified by a solicitor or at the post office.
Some examples of the documents you will be asked for:
- Proof of identity – passport, driving licence, EEA member state ID card.
- Proof of address – driving licence, bank or credit card statement, utility bill.
- Proof of source of funds – last three months’ payslips. P60 form, tax return.
These are the basic documents you are likely to need, but in some cases, you may be asked for more. For more information read our estate agent checks guide.
3. Do your research
Understanding the nuts and bolts of buying a house and preparing for each step of the process is the best way to ensure your house purchase goes smoothly. Our guide on speeding up your sale or purchase has some great tips to ensure that you’re prepared for some common obstacles.
You will also need to decide exactly what you are looking for in both your property and where you would like to live. You should think about lots of different criteria to help narrow down to precisely what are looking for, this will help your own property search and your estate agent’s too. Some example of what you should think about are:
- Buying a new build – new build properties can be appealing as they will be clean, energy efficient and come with a warranty.
- Buying property at auction – buying a property at auction can be a quicker process, however, it comes with it’s own set of considerations.
- Freehold or leasehold? – whatever property you end up buying will either be freehold or leasehold. A good understanding of what this means is essential so that you know if the property is right for you.
- Property size and type – Do you want to live in a flat or a house? How many bedrooms do you need now and in the future? Would you like a garden, garage, or conservatory? Spend plenty of time thinking specifically about the property you would like to live in.
- Location, location, location – location is the biggest influence on the price of property and you will need to know your budget and the type of property you need to realistically decide the location you would like to live in. If you are moving to a new area, think about the services, institutions and amenities that are important to you when deciding a location.
Some options to consider include:
- Shops and restaurants
- Parks and green space
- Healthcare, nearest hospital and GP surgery
- Transport links
- Distance from workplace
- Utilities. E.g. superfast broadband
4. Apply for a mortgage
In most cases you will need a mortgage to cover the overall cost of buying a property. There are lot’s of different types of mortgages, which one that will work best for you depends on your circumstances.
Our in depth mortgage guide explains everything you need to know about mortgages.
Once you have researched the mortgages available to you and you have spoken to mortgage lenders, you can apply for a ‘Mortgage in Principle’. Essentially, this is a commitment from your mortgage lender that they will lend to you once you have found a property.
The main benefit of having a mortgage in principle in place is to indicate to estate agents and vendors that you are a serious buyer with your finances prepared, giving you an advantage over rival buyers.
5. Find an estate agent
Once you have your finances sorted, paperwork prepared and you have a good idea of where you would like to live, it’s time to find an estate agent. When you are buying a property, you are free to register with as many estate agents as you like, however, not all estate agents are the same and some will be more effective than others.
6. Find a solicitor or conveyancer
Your solicitor will be vital for ensuring your property purchase stays on track and on time. We have produced a guide on how to choose a solicitor that’s right for you.
The best way to get a feel for a property is to ask the estate agent to arrange a viewing. This is an opportunity for you to take a closer look, go inside, and picture yourself living there. Normally, the estate agent will be with you, giving you an opportunity to ask any questions.
When you find a property you really like, you can arrange a second viewing to be more thorough, checking over the condition of the property and its fittings.
Money Supermarket has produced a guide on how to make the most of a second viewing.
VIEWINGS DURING COVID-19
As of 29 June, Government guidance for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland allow for physically distanced viewings that carefully adhere to public health guidance. It is vital that safety comes first, with the guidance reflecting that with several measures that need to be followed to conduct viewings safely:
- Viewings must only take place with serious buyers who are genuinely interested in the property.
- Initial viewings should be done online as virtual viewings. We have created a guide on how to conduct your own virtual viewings. Your estate agent can also assist you on this.
Our guide on viewings during COVID-19 has full details.
8. Making an offer
Buying a house is one of the biggest financial commitments you are likely to make in your lifetime, so there’s no doubt that making an offer on your dream home is both exciting and nerve-wracking.
Before you make an offer, make sure you have done thorough research on the property and it’s the local area. Our guide on what you need to do before making an offer can help with this.
Once you are ready you can put in an offer, however, it’s not as straightforward as you might think. Our guide on making an offer takes you through the process and explains the best way to communicate, how much to offer and what to do if your offer is rejected.
9. Get a property survey
Although it is not a legal requirement, it is likely your mortgage lender will require you to carry out a property survey. Regardless of this, it is advisable to get a thorough survey conducted on your property to help determine if there are any repairs needed on the property.
We have produced a guide on property surveys to explain in further detail.
10. Prepare for moving day
Moving home is hard work, giving yourself plenty of time to organise for the big day will help alleviate the stress and make it just that little bit more manageable.
11. Home insurance
Make sure that you have buildings insurance in place on your new home from the day you exchange contracts. Most mortgage providers will also make this a condition of lending.
12. Exchange and completion
Exchange of contracts is when the buyer and seller’s contracts are swapped between their solicitors. Once this happens your agreement to buy the property is legally binding – it’s rare that transactions fall through from this point. Your solicitor will now arrange for you to pay the seller and have your name added to the property deeds.
Completion normally takes place two weeks after exchange, however, this is flexible, and you can arrange a convenient date with the seller.
13. Making a complaint
If for any reason you are unhappy with the service provided by a company you have used during the house buying process, you have an opportunity to raise a complaint directly with them using their own complaints procedure.