As buying a property is typically the biggest financial decision most people make, it’s important to do your research and understand the ins and outs of the homebuying process. This guide is a great place to start to prepare yourself to buy property in the UK.
1. Plan for the costs
Before you begin looking for properties, estimate what your moving costs will be and find out how much you can borrow. Start by getting an idea on the cost of buying a home, including fees and charges related to a mortgage, conveyancing, and valuation and property surveys. If you’re looking to buy a new build, you will typically need to pay a reservation fee once your offer has been accepted. And depending on the property cost or if you’re a first-time buyer, you might have to pay stamp duty as well.
Then, look into your own finances. How much can you put into a mortgage deposit? Some lenders offer mortgages with only a 5% deposit down payment, but a 25% deposit can offer access to some of the best deals. Keep in mind that the larger the deposit the more likely you’ll have access to mortgage deals with lower interest rates.
Once you know what you can afford to put into a deposit, it’s time to find out how much a mortgage provider will lend you. This depends on the amount of your deposit, in addition to your credit score and income. Securing an agreement in principle from a mortgage lender, which is a confirmation from the lender that in principle they’d be willing to lend you a certain amount, can be helpful. This can speed up the buying process later on and can show you’re a serious buyer.
2. Research where you want to buy
It’s important to spend a good amount of time researching where you want to buy, especially if you’re moving to a new area. Look at school catchment areas, regeneration and development projects, transport links, flood risks and crime statistics. It could even be helpful spending the night in a local Airbnb or bed and breakfast to check out the local facilities and experience what it’s like to be a local.
Searching on property portals, like Zoopla and Rightmove, can help you get an idea of what kind of property you can afford in a specific area. Once you’ve narrowed down the area you’d like to buy a property in, register your interest with local estate agents and property developers. Property portals also allow you to sign up for alerts when new properties come to the market.
3. View properties in person
You’ll likely find yourself spending hours browsing for homes on property portals, but it’s important to view properties in person as well. This can give you a better look into their potential or lack thereof. If you find a property you like, it can also be helpful to view it on multiple occasions at different times of the day. This can help you notice any potential problems that might be prevalent.
If you’re interested in buying an off-plan property, there are typically show homes you can view to help you better visualise what you’d be purchasing. It’s important to ask what would be included with the home and what the optional extra features and costs would be.
4. Make an offer on a property
Have you found the perfect property for you? Deciding what to offer can be one of the most stressful and difficult parts of the buying price. In the UK, it’s common to offer less than the asking price, but if there are other parties interested in the property, it may be necessary to offer above and beyond the asking price. Use websites like the Land Registry and property portals to find out what properties have recently sold for in the local area.
If you’re interested in purchasing a new build, you can typically buy these directly through the developer of the property. Salboy, a home builder and property developer, has a variety of new build properties available to homebuyers across the heart of Manchester and Salford.
When making an offer on a property, be sure to mention any benefits you possess as a homebuyer, like if you’re a chain-free buyer. If your offer is accepted, you then need to turn to securing a mortgage and hiring a conveyancer.
If your offer has been accepted on a new build, you will then need to pay a reservation fee, which typically ranges from £500 to £1,000. This is typically deducted from the property price once the sale has completed. However, the fee is non-refundable if you choose to pull out.
5. Decide on a mortgage type and apply
Think about the kind of mortgage you want to apply for and how long you want the mortgage term to be. Once you’ve made your decision, apply for your chosen mortgage. After completing the application, you should receive the mortgage offer within 18 to 40 days, and it’s usually valid for six months.
It’s important to note that mortgage lenders are typically stricter when getting a mortgage for a new build home. Lenders often put limits on the maximum property value they’ll offer a loan on a new build. You also may have to get the mortgage offer extended as months and sometimes years go between contract exchange and completion with new builds.
6. Hire a conveyancer or solicitor
You’ll need to hire a conveyancer or solicitor to handle the legal work of transferring the property’s ownership. The conveyancing process includes liaising with your mortgage lender and the seller’s estate agent or the property developer and their conveyancer, in addition to conducting searches, creating and checking contracts, dealing with the Land Registry, paying stamp duty if it’s owed and transferring money from you to the seller or developer.
When buying a new build, the conveyancing process is a little different, so it can be helpful hiring a solicitor or conveyancer with experience in that area as the majority of house builders give buyers four weeks to move from reserving a property to exchanging contracts.
Conveyancing fees that are fixed-fee typically range from £500 to £1,500. This often depends on the property cost and the complexity of the transaction. The fees are typically more expensive for leasehold properties.
7. Have valuation and property surveys undertaken
Mortgage lenders are likely to arrange a valuation survey in order to verify the property is worth what you are being lent for it. This doesn’t provide details on the property condition. Property surveys, such as a building survey, condition report and a HomeBuyer report, can equip you with extensive information about the condition of the property, so you can be made aware of any issues before officially purchasing it.
With off-plan properties, valuations and surveys won’t be able to take place until the build has reached a certain stage. And the advantage of buying a new-build is that repairs should be minimal for at least the first few years.
New homes in the UK typically come with 10-year warranties, which is taken out by a property developer or builder and covers structural damage and defects of foundations, walls and roofs. New builds typically have guarantees as well, which covers a buyer if the developer or building company stops trading for bankruptcy, liquidation, receivership or other similar reasons.
8. Exchange contracts
Once the contracts are exchanged, you are legally locked into buying the property. Before signing the contract, be sure to go through it with your solicitor and make sure all of the details and information are correct.
At this stage, double-check that you know what the seller has agreed to leave in the property upon completion or what fixtures and fittings are included in the build. Make sure all of your questions have been answered. Now, you’ll pay your deposit, and your mortgage lender may require you to begin insuring the property.
9. Completion – Time to move in!
This is the big day! On the day of completion, your money will be transferred to the seller or developer, and you’ll receive the keys to your new property. Now, you can move in, enjoy your new home and pop the bubbly!