Buying a property can be a long and complex process, but there are certain steps you can follow to make it as smooth as possible. If you are selling a property, you will also need to follow the steps detailed in the Selling a Property area of this website.
1. If you require a mortgage, you should find out how much you can borrow, as this will affect the price you can afford to pay for a property. Other costs to take into consideration when buying a house include the survey and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), as well as legal fees, search fees and registration fees.
Once your offer has been accepted
2. The estate agents will issue the agreed details of all parties (Memorandum of Sale), containing the agreed price and any timescales or contents that have been agreed as a condition of sale, to both you and the seller, as well as to your respective solicitors.
3. The seller’s solicitors will draft the contract and send it to us for approval, together with copies of the deeds and the completed property information forms, which detail all fixtures and fittings.
4. We will check all the documents, raise any enquiries about the property or documents with the buyer's solicitors, and conduct all necessary searches on the property, including a local authority search and a water and drainage search. Let us know if you have any specific queries regarding the property (eg private roadways, building works).
5. We will send you a copy of the plan of the property, together with the forms, for confirmation that you are happy with them.
6. If you haven’t done so already, you should make an appointment to see your financial advisor to arrange your mortgage.
7. We recommend that you instruct a surveyor to check the structure and condition of the property before you buy. Please arrange for a copy of the survey report to be sent to us when available. The valuation report prepared by the lender only contains brief details of the property and has limited scope (see Surveys below). It is up to you to satisfy yourself about the condition of the property before you buy. It is unlikely you will have a comeback against the seller if there are problems later.
8. Once any enquiries have been answered and we have received the requested searches, we will approve the contract, which will then be sent to you for signing together with a report on the deeds and the enquiry results.
9. When you return the contract, we shall also need a deposit. This is usually 10% of the purchase price (sometimes 5% is agreed).
10. The mortgage offer will be received by both you and us. We will read through any special conditions and arrange for you to sign the mortgage deed.
Exchange of contracts
11. Until exchange of contracts, there is no binding agreement between you and the seller. If one of you decides to withdraw then you are able to do so. Once exchange of contracts has taken place, both you and the seller are committed to complete the transaction on the date agreed.
12. You will now need to book your removal firm.
13. We will send you a financial statement detailing the balance required to complete, together with a SDLT form for checking and signing.
14. We will request the mortgage funds from your lender and ask that you transfer any balance so that it is cleared in our account the day prior to completion. If we are buying and selling for you, we will transfer any proceeds from the sale of your existing house on the day of completion.
15 On the day of completion, you should read the meters for gas and electricity, and telephone the readings through to the relevant companies.
16. We will send the funds to the seller’s solicitors, pay the SDLT on your behalf and deduct our fee. Completion usually happens around 1.00pm, but it is dependent upon the lenders and the number of parties in the chain.
17. Once the money has been received by the seller's solicitors, you will be able to pick up your keys at the estate agents.
18. We will receive the deeds from the seller’s solicitors and will send a registration application to the Land Registry to complete the formalities.
19. Once registration has been completed, we will send a copy of the deeds to your lender and the originals to you. We can keep the deeds at our offices or forward them elsewhere if you wish.
It is a general rule when buying a property that any problem after you buy is your problem! Hence, the importance of a survey for identifying any potential problems with a property before you buy it. There are several different types of survey, which differ in their cost and level of detail: a full structural survey; a home buyer’s report or similar; and a valuation report or “Home Condition Report”.
1. Valuation Report
A valuation report is usually prepared for mortgage purposes. It contains brief details of the type of property, its age and type of construction, together with general observations about the apparent state of repair.
A valuation report has limited scope and will only provide a very basic assessment of the property’s condition. The report is prepared for the benefit of the lender and so if the surveyor overlooks something you will not usually have a claim against them for compensation. You may be able to pay an additional fee to the lender to upgrade the survey to either a home buyer’s report or a full structural survey.
2. Home buyer’s report
This is more detailed than the valuation report. The report will usually provide a description of the construction and condition of the property, including the roof, guttering and loft (where accessible). This report gives a fairly detailed assessment of the property, including checking for damp and advising where alterations may have been carried out. The surveyor will not, however, move furniture or take up floor coverings, which may limit what can be checked.
3. Full Structural Survey
This details in greater depth any defects that are found and indicates the need for repairs or future maintenance. This report is likely to be appropriate for properties that are quite old, have been poorly maintained or are of unusual construction. A copy of a full structural survey is likely to be sent to us direct.