The Property Buying Process

What do you need from your new home?

It’s all too easy to get carried away when you’re looking for a new home, looking beyond what you really need, to what you can really afford. Although our emotions can’t help but play a big part, it’s important to use your head and be realistic. However, it doesn’t hurt to dream and you may just be surprised to find that your new home does include that hot tub you’ve always longed for!

The first priority is to decide what you really need from your new home. Imagine you are renting and what you’d be looking for as a minimum. It could be as simple as a bedroom for you and each of the kids, a kitchen large enough to eat in, a big enough garden for the kids and dog to run around in and off-street parking.

Then list the features you’d ideally have: a spare guest room with en-suite, an office, a double garage and a state-of-the-art kitchen and so on.

Firstly, start looking at properties within your budget and how they fit or could be adapted to your needs or ideals. Is there a separate outbuilding for example that you could convert into that much wanted office? Is there a surplus utility room you could knock through to create a bigger kitchen? Keep a broad mind and look at all the options. Unless you have hundreds of thousands of pounds to spare, you may find you have to compromise on certain aspects. In fact around 25% of buyers change their mind about what they want once they start looking at properties!

What type of property are you looking for?

As part of deciding what type of home you’re looking for, you may want to think about types of property that you love or want to rule out. Keep an open mind as you may end up being guided by your requirements. For example, if you need to accommodate an elderly person who can’t manage stairs, a bungalow may turn out to be the only option. You may find that, in reality, what seems like a dream type of property actually turns out to be completely impractical, and that quaint, old, beamed cottage that seems so idyllic, simply doesn’t offer the size of rooms that a more modern house does.

Buying a newly built home

Think about buying a newly built property where you may be able to influence the planning and layout at the early stages to incorporate some of your requirements.

There are many benefits to buying a new home.

One great comfort is that there is a certain amount of added security that you don’t get when you’re buying a second-hand home. Once you’ve paid your deposit, exchange follows quickly. You’re also at the end of the chain so you’re not waiting for a seller to move and some developers make it even easier by offering a part-exchange deal for your property. They can help with finance too by offering deals to offset moving costs, and some also arrange mortgage facilities for a development which can help buyers borrow a higher amount.

If presentation is important, you’ll appreciate the modern fixtures and fittings and newly decorated appearance of a new home. Added to that are the modern-day conveniences of downstairs’ cloakrooms, en-suites and utility rooms. As mentioned, if you buy early enough off plan (before your new home is actually built), you may be able to have some input into the design and detail. You may also get a new fitted kitchen, bathroom and flooring included in the purchase.

However, buying a new built home is not without its downsides. Snags are a common feature of new-build homes and a surveyor will be able to make a full and independent report of the faults. Be prepared to wait for the builders to sort these out.

Builders are running businesses so not surprisingly they want to maximise on the space available. Don’t be surprised if rooms are smaller. Clever use of smaller than average furniture and the removal of doors in the show home can make space deceptive. If you’re buying off plan, it may be harder to visualise the actual space.

Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re living on a building site for the first few months, especially if you move into one of the early phases of a development.

Further Considerations

Whilst we can tell you how to buy a house or how to buy a property, we can’t tell you the best time to buy a house as that depends purely on you and your personal and financial circumstances. Only you can decide when the time is right for you.

When you buy a house or buy a property in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, this is the process:

  • Firstly when you decide you want to buy a house or flat, you, you and your friend/partner will need to decide where you want to buy property. You should list what sort of amenities you need nearby and what your requirements are from the property.
  • You must tot up all the money you have at your disposal for use as a deposit. Don’t forget to account for house-purchasing and set up costs.
  • At the same time, contact a good mortgage broker or advisor, they will help you choose the right mortgage. They will help you with your application and you will receive a ‘decision in principle’ on the amount you can borrow to buy a house or flat.
  • Search on line on the property portals covering UK property and also register with estate agents in the area you want to live.
  • Locate a property solicitor to carry out the legal aspects of the house-buying process. This is known as conveyancing, and your solicitor must also draw up any agreements if you are buying a house with a friend. This is vital – never leave it to chance whether you are buying with a friend or partner. If you are buying with a civil partner or spouse, there are automatic agreements in place which will give rights to each partner in the event of a split. However unromantic it sounds, always make sure you are aware of your legal situation now, should you split up in future.
  • Start looking at properties that fit the bill and are within your budget. Don’t waste time looking at UK properties that don’t meet your basic needs or you can’t afford.
  • Make an offer to buy the property based on what you have seen and information contained in the home information pack. The estate agent will arrange the home information pack (HIP) on behalf of the vendor; from January 1, 2008, a property cannot be marketed until the HIP is ready.
  • If the person or house-builder accepts your offer and conditions, ask the estate agent (if there is one) to take the property off the market.
  • Instruct your solicitor to act on your behalf and give him the details of the property location, and the vendor’s estate agent.
  • Your conveyancing solicitor will contact the vendor’s property solicitor requesting title deeds to the property. He will start contractual proceedings.
  • Find a surveyor and ask for a home-buyers report or a survey to be carried out. A full structural survey will give more information, but is not a legal requirement and it is up to you whether you consider it a good use of money. Remember that if you do not have a full structural survey you will have no comeback should asbestos, dry rot or subsidence be found later.
  • The mortgage lender will carry out an independent valuation of the property, and you will be required to pay for a mortgage survey.
  • Your mortgage lender, on sight of the property valuation and data backing up your application agrees to lend you the money for the property.
  • You should then send a copy of your survey report to your solicitor. He will give you his view on it and you may want to discuss his findings. You may be able to ask for a slight reduction on the price or some remedial work to be carried out pre-sale.
  • The solicitor will check the property, carry out his local authority searches – which you may want to add to – and find out if any alterations to the property have been made. This would be the time to negotiate a price for fixtures and fittings. Your solicitor will finalise the details in the contract of sale/purchase with the vendor’s solicitor and confirm mortgage details with your mortgage lender.
  • You then pay a deposit into your solicitor’s account. He holds it there until exchange of contracts.
  • On the day of exchange of contracts, your solicitor exchanges contracts with the seller’s solicitor and sends your deposit over. A date for completion (when you can accept the key and move in), which will have been proposed before-hand is agreed upon. If you buy a new house, there is no chain and this step of agreeing a date is much easier than when a chain is involved.
  • Your solicitor will liaise with your mortgage lender to ensure the mortgage is available for the completion date.
  • Your solicitor will prepare the property transfer deed, which is signed by you and the seller and lodged with the seller’s solicitor until completion.
  • The mortgage lender transfers the money into your solicitor’s account ready for completion.
  • On completion day, the day you can move in, your solicitor transfers the money to the sellers’ solicitor in return for the transfer deed, Land Registry certificate and the keys. The sale is then completed.
  • Your solicitor arranges for the transfer deed to be stamped, pays the stamp duty and sends the transfer deed to the Land Registry to record you as the owner.
  • Your solicitor passes the deed to your mortgage lender to act as security for the loan and then he will send you the bill for his services and costs.

If you buy a house at auction the process is shortened. You are committed to the sale as soon as your bid is made in the auction house. Find out more about buying a house at auction.

Our information does not cover how to buy a house UK wide as the process is different in Scotland.

If you want to buy a council house you will need to contact your landlord but the legal process is much the same.

If you are buying a flat or apartment, as opposed to a freehold house, be aware that on top of your mortgage and utility payments and council tax, you will also have to pay service and maintenance charges.

Failure to pay these could result in your lease being forfeited. Leases are long, complicated documents which constitute an agreement between you, the leaseholder, and the freeholder. When you buy a property with a lease, you are not buying a property but a length of tenure. Usually this will be 125 years, but could be 999 years.

If buying a flat, try to choose one which comes with a share of the freehold, as this means you own a share in the building, and that the residents own the property between them. Read the lease very carefully before you buy, as it is a legally enforceable document, and there may be clauses telling you what kind of flooring you can use, whether you can legally sublet, keep pets or when you are allowed to play music or hang out washing, for instance. You could be taken to court for infringements of the lease.

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