Guide to Buying a House

The thought of buying your first home can feel unbelievably exciting but terrifying all at the same time! We’ve put together this guide to buying a house to take away some of that fear. From how much it costs, to how long it will take and the process involved; we’ve got it all covered. Don’t forget that you’ll never be on your own when buying a house, your agent whether its us or someone else, will be with you every step of the way.

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House Buying Process

There are some key steps to buying a house and understanding these will make the whole process a lot easier!

  • Find out what you can afford.
  • You need to understand what you can afford before you can start the fun part of looking at properties. There are various calculators available online to give you a ballpark figure to get you started but ultimately you will need to sit down with a mortgage advisor to fully understand what you can borrow.

  • Make a shortlist.
  • Once you have an idea of what you can afford you can start looking at properties for sale on property portals or estate agents websites to make a shortlist of properties that you love.

  • Start viewings.
  • Next to you have to view the properties on your shortlist in person to see if they really do tick the boxes that are important to you.

  • Sort out your mortgage.
  • Before you can make an offer, you will need to see a mortgage advisor and choose a mortgage that works for you and your circumstances. At this stage, you will be given a ‘mortgage in principle’ which is kept valid for a set number of days and lets everyone know that you are serious and likely to be able to actually buy the house in question.

  • Make an offer.
  • Once you’ve found your perfect home, you need to make an offer with the estate agent! Obviously you need to bear in mind the asking price when making an offer but there are all sorts of circumstances that could make this price negotiable so decide on what the property would be worth to you and how much you can readily afford.

  • Choose your conveyancer.
  • This is when to instruct a solicitor to actually progress the legal process of buying a house. Your estate agent may have a relationship with a firm already that you can use or you can find one yourself.

  • Survey.
  • A survey is needed now so your mortgage provider, and you, can be sure that the property is worth at least what you have offered.

  • Finalise your mortgage.
  • Time to go back to your mortgage advisor to finalise your mortgage and arrange suitable buildings and life insurance

  • Agree a completion date.
  • Now that everything is in place, it’s time to negotiate a suitable exchange and completion date that suits everyone in the chain.

Exchange contracts and complete. Your conveyancing firm will be busy completing all of the legal aspects of your move in the lead up to this point and you will have filled in many forms! Once the contracts are exchanged, you can breathe a sigh of relief as it’s much less likely to fall through after this point. Completion could be a week or so later or it could even be the same day and this is when the same is complete and legally binding and you can pick up the keys to your new house!

How long does it take to buy a house?

Buying a house can be full of unknowns and timing is certainly one of those! How long do searches take? How long does it take to buy a house with no chain? What happens if the sale falls through? On average, 3-6 months is a good guideline to buy a house from start to finish but really it all depends on how many people are in the chain and how complicated each of their situations are.

Cost of buying a house

It’s important to understand the upfront costs of buying a house to make sure you have enough money saved to be able to complete the purchase.

The lowest deposit would be around 5% but the average first time buyer has a 15% deposit. Generally speaking, the higher your deposit the better the mortgage rates you will have access to.

This will vary depending on which conveyancing company you choose but you can expect to pay between £800 and £1,500 plus VAT. You may also need to pay for searches which will cost around £300.

If you are a first time buyer then you get a discount and don’t have to pay stamp duty on the first £300,000 providing your property is bought for less than £500,000. Stamp duty between £300,001 and £500,000 is 5%. If it is not your first home then Stamp duty applies from £125,000 and the rate goes up depending on the property price.

Other costs to consider include surveys which would depend on which survey type you choose and there may be a valuation fee depending on the type of mortgage.

The mortgage application process can take about a month if your requirements are relatively straight forward. The mortgage application process begins with you speaking to a mortgage advisor to discuss your financial situation and selecting a suitable product. Your application then goes through a process to determine whether the lender deems you a suitable candidate to be able to pay the mortgage back and whether the property you are buying is worth the amount of money you want to borrow for it.

What do look for when buying a house

It’s very easy to get carried away when viewing houses so the first thing to do would be to write a list of what would be important to you in a new house. Keep this list in mind when viewing properties online so you don’t end up lost in a rabbit hole of houses that ultimately wouldn’t work for you. You may realise once looking that what you want changes or that you need to be more realistic but that’s fine, it’s still better to have that list! In terms of what to look for when viewing a house, consider the things that you can’t always tell from a photo; is the parking access suitable? Is there too much road noise? Can you smell any damp or see any mould? Does anything look like it is in need of repair such as the roof, are there large cracks in the walls? Is the garden overlooked? None of these things have to mean you shouldn’t buy the house but it’s good to be aware of them so you can consider how much they might cost to resolve or if you can live with it as it is.

Making an offer on a house*

Once you’ve found a property that you want to buy, the next step is to make an offer. Consider what you believe the house to be worth to you. The asking price is a good guide but the circumstances of either you or the buyer could affect the price you are willing to pay or the price the sellers are willing to accept. You may also decide that given the amount of work needed, you realistically can only afford to offer a certain amount. Equally if there has been a lot of interest in the property and you know it would be perfect for you, you may choose to offer slightly over the asking price to give you an edge over the competition! Once you have negotiated and had an offer accepted, the property will be listed as sold subject to contract. Ideally your own property will also have had an offer accepted for the sale to get to this point. This means that the property you have offered on will have its marketing status changed online and on the board itself to alert others to the fact that an offer has been accepted. An offer being accepted doesn’t mean that the property is safely yours, there’s still a long process to go of legal and financial checks that could still unravel the sale. You or someone else in the chain could also change your mind and therefore break the chain so you need to wait for contracts to be exchanged (after the legal and financial checks etc) to have any sense of security. At this point, pulling out of the sale would incur a penalty so it’s less likely but not impossible. The sale being completed triggering money being transferred and you actually getting the keys is the point when you can breathe a sigh of relief and move in!

*The information included in this paragraph does not apply to Scotland

If you need advice about buying a property or indeed anything else property related, don’t hesitate to contact your nearest Belvoir office who would be very happy to help.

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