Getting started

When buying property, the first thing to do is to determine your budget. If you will require a mortgage, this should be looked at as soon as possible so that you have an accurate guide as to how much you can spend on your new home. A mortgage broker or your bank will give you an Agreement In Principle (AIP) which confirms your buying power and may be required later when making an offer on a property.

If you already own a property, now is also the time to get it valued. House prices change constantly and, although you may have a rough idea of the value, an estate agent will check all local recent sales and compare all current similar properties available for sale in your area with yours, to give you the most accurate figure possible.

Property search

Once you have a good idea of what you can spend, it is time to see what is out there. Most agents advertise their properties on the major property portals, so this is a good place to start. Rightmove currently has the largest selection of properties for sale.

It is also worth registering your details with estate agents in the area you are searching in. This will involve giving them your contact details and an idea of what you would like to buy (i.e. a three-bedroom semi with a large garden in a specific town or village). This is important as it can take a few days for property particulars to appear on the websites and, before that happens, agents may call their registered clients so that they can be the first to view a new instruction.


It is highly recommended that you get out and view a few properties as soon as you can. This can be a really useful way of deciding what you want in your property, as well as identifying what you don’t want. For example, the idea of a large garden is often appealing, but when you stand at the end of a 100-metre lawn and realise that it could take over your weekends keeping it tidy, a smaller garden can suddenly look more favourable.

Once you have looked at a selection of properties, you can start to be more fussy and specific in your search. If you have registered with agents, update them with your requirements so that they can be more accurate in the information they send to you.

Now is also the time to get your property on the market – if you have one. Don’t wait until you have found the perfect new home before you start marketing yours, as you might miss out. Most sellers will only agree to take their property off the market for an acceptable offer that is made by someone who can proceed straight away. An offer made by someone who needs to sell their property before they can purchase is known as a ‘dependant offer’. Usually a property with a dependant offer on it would stay on the market in case someone proceedable came along who could start the process sooner.

Making an offer

Once you find the property you want, move quickly. Make a realistic offer based on what you can afford. Make sure the agent is aware of your position – a first time buyer or cash buyer with no property to sell may be looked at more favourably than someone in a chain *. The agent may want to see a copy of your mortgage AIP, and also contact your selling agent if you have a property to sell, so that they can put your offer forward to the vendor in the best possible light.

*A chain is when someone wants to buy a house using the proceeds of the sale of their house. Even if this house has a buyer, this increases the number of people involved and therefore it is more likely someone will pull out or not be able to proceed for some reason. Chains can sometimes involve five or even 10 properties, all of which are dependent on each other to be able to move successfully. At the very least, this adds more time and stress to a move.

The buying process

Once you have an offer accepted, you will need to instruct a solicitor or conveyancer to act on your behalf. You will also need to let your bank or mortgage broker know so that you can complete your mortgage application.

Buying a property generally takes anything from four weeks to four months. A key factor in this is the position of the vendor. If you are lucky enough to have found an empty property, or one where the owners are happy to move out whenever required, things can move more quickly. Often, however, the owners will need a little time to find a new property for themselves and, when they do, the speed of their move will depend upon whether that property is vacant or whether there will be a further purchase involved by the vendors of that one. This will continue until someone ‘breaks’ the chain by purchasing from someone who will not be buying onwards

Exchange and completion

Your mortgage processor will complete all the work necessary to offer you a mortgage. One key part of this is that they will want the property inspected to check it is suitable to lend on. Often, particularly with modern properties, the lender will only require a brief inspection to check the property is worth the agreed price. This is known as a Mortgage Valuation. If you want a more thorough inspection, including a check on the condition of the property, you will need to pay for a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey. Your lender or broker should advise you on this.

Whilst this is happening, your conveyancer will make contact with the vendor’s legal representative and begin making checks and enquiries about the property. This will include looking at the Title Deeds and all the property information provided by the current owner, as well as applying for Local Searches, which look at potential problems on the land or in the surrounding area, that might affect the property.

Once you have a mortgage offer and your solicitors are happy with all the information provided, a moving date can be agreed. It is then usual to exchange contracts, which is when the transaction becomes legally-binding. A deposit, which would normally be either 5% or 10% of the total purchase price, is handed over to the vendor’s solicitor and a moving (completion) date is fixed. This is often one or two weeks later, to allow time for confirming moving arrangements.

On the day of completion, the property becomes yours once the vendor’s solicitor has confirmed all monies have been received. This should happen around lunchtime. Your agent will call you once they have been notified and arrange for you to have the keys to your new home.

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