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How to Buy a House: The House Buying Process Explained

Martha Lott
Written by Martha Lott
30th January 2019 (Last updated on Tuesday 6th August 2019)

Buying a house will be the biggest purchase most of us will ever make in our lifetimes, so it’s vital to get the buying a house process right. Many people may not know where to begin, so we’ve created this guide to ensure that you’re familiar and confident with the steps on how to buy a house.

From setting a realistic budget, arranging a mortgage in principle, finding a conveyancer and exchanging contracts, Compare My Move cover everything you need to know about the house buying process. We can also help you out along the way. We will compare conveyancers so you don't have to.

Buying a house can seem daunting, with many of us not knowing where to start our search. Compare My Move are going to show you the steps to buying a house, guiding you through everything in 6 easy steps.   

It’s important to remember that how long it takes to buy a house will vary depending on your personal situation and circumstances of the property purchase. If you’re in a property chain, the process will take longer than if you’re not part of a chain.

8 Steps to Buying a House

1. Set a Budget 2. Mortgage in Principle 3. View Properties 4. Make an Offer 5. Find a Conveyancer 6. Property Survey 7. Exchange Contracts 8. Completion Day Questions to Ask When Buying a House Save Money When you Buy a House

1. Set a Budget

Setting a budget of how much you want to spend on your house purchase is essential to keeping costs down. Your budget should include all the costs of buying a house, such as the house deposit, estate agent fees, surveying, conveyancing, removal costs and stamp duty.

It’s very important to factor in the deposit you’ll need to secure the property as it can take up quite a large chunk of your budget. You may be thinking, "Well, how much deposit do I need to buy a house?" The answer is usually between 5% and 20% of the cost of the property. The more deposit you put down, the better mortgage offers you'll have access to. In most cases, the deposit can be a large amount of money so it’s advised to start saving early or look into government schemes like the Help to Buy ISA.

2. Mortgage in Principle

Once you’ve set a realistic budget, the next step of how to buy a house is to apply for a mortgage. This should be done at the beginning of the process before even finding a property as getting accepted for a mortgage can take anywhere from 18-40 days.

You can apply for a mortgage with your bank or building society or with a mortgage broker. Depending on your financial situation and the price of the property and deposit, you will have different types of mortgages and rates to choose from.

3. View Properties

You should have a rough idea of an area you want to live in along with the type of property and facilities that are in local reach when you apply for a mortgage. However, once you’ve applied for the mortgage, your search for houses should get serious.

You’ll have more chance of success when making an offer on a house if you have a mortgage agreed in principle, which is why we advise you to apply for a mortgage before choosing a house. Use a free moving house checklist to help when it comes to moving house.

4. Make an Offer

Our next step concerning how to buy a house is making an offer. The price that the house is on the market for is more often than not up for negotiating with the seller. You should make your first offer 5-10% lower than the asking price, downplaying how much you're willing to spend. Set yourself a maximum price that you're willing to offer to stop yourself paying too much. 

When you make an offer on a house and it's been accepted, you should ring the estate agent/seller and email so you have the offer in writing as proof in case anything was to go wrong.

5. Find a Conveyancer

Next, once your offer has been accepted, you will need to find a conveyancer to help you with the legal side of buying a house. Your conveyancer will sort out everything from enquiring about property searches to registering you as the new owner with the Land Registry. They will also be there to answer any questions you may have about how to buy a house or the process at hand. 

If after the local authority and property searches you want to change your mind about the purchase, you can back out. After exchanging contracts, you are legally tied to buying the house and unable to pull out of the transaction.

It’s recommended to compare conveyancers during your search, avoiding picking the first one you come across. For your peace of mind, a good conveyancer will be licensed conveyancers or conveyancing solicitors who are regulated by the CLC (Council of Licensed Conveyancers), SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), LSS (Law Society of Scotland) or the LSNI (Law Society of Northern Ireland).

6. Property Survey

You will also need a property survey to highlight any areas of concern within the property. It's even more important to have a survey if the house you're buying is significantly older as there will more than likely be some structural damage worth knowing about.

A survey will be able to tell you about any problems within the interior and exterior of the property, potentially saving you a lot of money by finding out sooner rather than once you've gone ahead with the purchase. You should also compare surveyors to get the best deal for your survey.

7. Exchange Contracts

The next section explaining how to buy a house, is concerning the exchange of contracts. If you're selling and buying a house at the same time, then your conveyancer will exchange contracts on your behalf with the seller’s conveyancer. After this has been done, you are officially purchasing the property and can’t back out of buying the house without losing your deposit.

You will usually exchange contracts between 7 and 28 days prior to completion day, although it is possible to exchange contracts and complete on the same day if you’re not part of a property chain.

8. Completion Day

Completion day will be the final day in the buying a house process. On completion day, you will become the legal owner of the property, finalising your purchase and your ownership becoming registered with the Land Registry.

It’s worth noting that you must pay Stamp Duty within 30 days of completion. However, if you’re a first time buyer you won’t have to pay Stamp Duty if the property you’re purchasing is under £300,000.

Questions to Ask When Buying a House

Buying a house is a life changing decision that you shouldn’t just jump into without knowing the important details. Having a property survey and conveyancing searches will give you vital information on the local area around the property, but it’s still essential you ask the estate agent these questions during the buying a house process.

1. Why is the owner selling?

Finding out why the owner is selling the house could tell you vital information that could affect your decision. If they are simply moving for a new start or a job relocation, there shouldn’t be a concern.

Ask the estate agent if there is a specific reason why the owner wants to sell the house. If there is a problem with the area, neighbours or house itself, this should be a warning and you may want to rethink that house and local area.

2. What is included in the sale?

Find out what exactly is included in the sale if you’re serious about purchasing the property. You will find out in the fittings and fixtures form once your offer has been accepted, but it’s really worth asking this question before you commit to anything.

3. What are the neighbours like?

If the seller has made a complaint about their neighbours or the other way around, they are legally obliged to let you know. This is worth finding out when you’re in the viewing stage and not once you’ve moved in.

4. How is the local area?

You will obviously do your own research about the area before deciding to move there, but your estate agent will have local knowledge of the area that you may have missed. Find out how the schools are, where is the nearest supermarket, doctors, dentists and so on.

5. How long has the property been on the market?

If the property has been on the market for a long time, there may be a reason that the seller/estate agent has not listed in the description. Ask the estate agent their opinion and do some research as to whether it’s over priced by comparing it to other properties on the street.

Save Money When you Buy a House

Now that you know how to buy a house and the steps included, it’s time to save money on your conveyancing process. Compare My Move can connect you with up to 4 licensed conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors in your area to help with your sale or purchase.

We only work with the best conveyancers in the business, and we’ll even help you save up to 70% on the cost of your conveyancing too.