Buying a home is exciting, but it can also be a drawn-out and complicated process. There is no reason to be intimidated, however; the process may be long, but it is also logical and methodical and there is professional help available for the most complicated parts.
Securing a Mortgage
The first step will be to agree a mortgage with a lender. This should ideally be done before you start looking seriously at properties, as this allows you to make an offer with confidence and put you in a stronger position for negotiating. Start by checking out the deals that are available for properties in your price range and with your size of deposit (the best deals usually require a deposit of at least 15%). This is best done by comparing mortgage deals online, then approaching the lender offering the best deal to make an application.
Find a Property
The next step is to start looking for your perfect property. In one sense this is the most straightforward step; look online for properties that interest you, and then call the relevant estate agent to arrange a viewing. However, despite its apparent simplicity this step is not without its pitfalls. The biggest danger is getting carried away, falling in love with the first good property you see, and then offering the full asking price even though it was a bit high. Try to reign in your natural enthusiasm, making a calm and reasoned decision – ideally after viewing several properties – and it is almost always worth making a (reasonable) offer before settling for paying the asking price.
After an offer on a property has been accepted, it is time for the conveyancing to begin. This is the set of legal and administrative processes that formally transfer ownership of the property from one person to another, and you will almost certainly want to hire a professional solicitor to handle this side of things. Conveyancing includes making searches with relevant agencies to ensure that there is nothing ominous happening in the local area that you should be aware of, liaising with the seller’s solicitors to check over the contracts, paying relevant fees, and finally registering your purchase of the property with the Land Registry. During this time, you will also pay a deposit. After this, you will not be able to pull out without losing that deposit and potentially facing legal action.
Your completion date, after which you can take possession of the property and move in when you like, will usually be set around two weeks after contracts have been exchanged. This should give you enough time to arrange everything for the physical move after the deal has been “set in stone” through the contracts. You do not strictly have to move in on your completion date, unless this is also the date you have to leave your old property by, so if there is any work that needs to be done before moving in you might want to do this first. It can be a good idea to stagger dates. Moving in after the previous occupier has moved out rather than on the same day will simplify things, and not officially leaving your old property on the very day you move out can give you more flexibility for things like cleaning, as well as potentially being very useful if there is a delay such as a problem with the removal company.