There are several key stages to take into account and this guide provides all the information you may need, from deciding your budget, to instructing a conveyancer.
1. Deciding your budget
Purchasing a property is a long-term financial commitment and you need to ensure that you set yourself a realistic purchasing budget. This should allow you to comfortably meet your monthly mortgage payments and your other financial outgoings. It is also advisable to allow yourself a monthly financial buffer to cover off any unexpected costs.
Most buyers purchase a property using a combination of their own money (the deposit) and borrowed funds (the mortgage). Your first step should be to calculate how much money you can comfortably borrow from a mortgage lender. Although it is very possible to source your own mortgage deal, a professional mortgage advisor will assess your individual circumstances, provide guidance on how much you are able to borrow and recommend specific products.
The amount your mortgage provider will be willing to lend will depend on a combination of the following factors:
- You and/or your partner's salary/income.
- The equity in your existing property (if you have one).
- The size of your deposit.
- Any outstanding debts or committed outgoings.
Your mortgage adviser will run through each of these criteria and calculate how much you are eligible to borrow. There are various mortgage products from a range of lenders and some will be more appropriate than others.
Once you have a mortgage figure in mind it may be tempting to assume that you can simply add this amount to your deposit and use this figure as your purchasing budget however, this is not the case. There are several other costs that need to be considered before a budget can be set. It is first vital to account for each of the following additional costs:
- Conveyancing legal fees.
- Searches and disbursements.
- Land Registry fee.
- Stamp duty
- Surveying costs.
- Mortgage arrangement fee.
- Mortgage advice fee
Calculating the approximate sum total of these extra costs and subtracting it from your combined mortgage and deposit will provide you with your final property budget.
- e.g. (deposit + mortgage) - (conveyancing costs, searches, Land Registry, stamp duty, survey and mortgage fees) = BUDGET
2. Finding your property
Once you have established a budget the next step is to investigate the property market. There are several ways to do this - the local press and estate agent windows are just two, however, the easiest and most time efficient way of researching the property market yourself is online.
Propertywide has details of over 100,000 properties for sale across the UK, all of which are updated on a daily basis. By creating an online account you will be able to personalise your search, watch key properties, and signup for alerts.
Before you begin your property search it is vital to establish a list of constraints and priorities.
Firstly list all of the features you consider to be essential e.g:
- Number of bedrooms, bathrooms and reception rooms
- Local area amenities
- School catchment areas
- Age of property
Once you have established these key credentials you can begin to perform a detailed search. A good starting point is to look at properties that have sold in the area in which you are interested in. This will give you an idea of the types, sizes and styles you can afford.
Finding an agent
Once you have an idea of the type of property you are looking for and your budget, it's advisable to speak to an estate agent. Estate agents will know the local area and will be the first to know when a property comes to market.
There are many estate agents on the high street but it is vital to employ the services of those who have a strong brand presence and a reputation for delivering a high quality service. Countrywide estate agents have a long-history of success and are renowned for their national coverage and unsurpassed expertise.
It is important to get to know your agent, visit them and discuss your requirements face to face. This will ensure that when you call or email them they'll remember you and be familiar with your requirements.
Tips to help you get the most from estate agents when buying a property:
- Be clear about your requirements - tell the agent which of your property requirements are fixed, and which are more flexible.
- Be clear about the locations you will and won't consider.
- Demonstrate that you're a 'hot' buyer - this will help to ensure you are top of mind when suitable properties come to market.
- After viewings give as much feedback to your estate agent as possible – this will give a better idea of what you like and dislike.
3. The viewing process
When you find a property that meets all your requirements on paper, the next step is to arrange a viewing.
- Before the viewing - make a list of the property's pros and cons, this will enable you to give thorough consideration to each of them then and there. It's also advisable to measure your furniture. Take your tape measure with you so that you can check whether your favourite items will fit.
- Never view property alone - if you are a single buyer, ask a friend to accompany you or arrange for the estate agent to go along for security reasons.
- Arrange to attend several viewings in one day - this will enable you to compare properties whilst they are fresh in your mind and should help when it comes to drawing up a shortlist.
- Consider the exterior - assess what the street is like and how well maintained the properties are this will give you an indication of the desirability of the area. Look at the property itself, does it have private off-street parking? Is the front of the property in good repair? Are there slates or tiles missing from the roof? Are there water marks on the front of the property from leaky gutters?
- Consider the interior - does the layout of the home work for you? Check out the size of the rooms and think about the furniture you have. Investigate storage, does the property have built in wardrobes or will you need to account for reduced floor area for additional cupboard space? Don't be put off by the decor, although it might not be to your taste it can easily be changed and shouldn't prevent you from opting for a home that ticks all of your other requirements.
- Check out the services - does the central heating work? When was the boiler serviced? Is the wiring in good order? What is the water pressure like? - Don't be afraid to turn on taps, flush toilets, ask where fuse boxes are or look in nooks and crannies.
- Tell tale signs - look out for signs of damp and cracks in walls or ceilings that could indicate subsidence, it's better to be thorough than to discover a fault after you've bought.
- Energy performance - all properties marketed must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and you may want to check this certificate for any properties you are viewing. Once you have chosen a property to buy, make sure that you see the EPC before entering into a contract.
- Ask the owner lots of questions - ask why they're moving, what the neighbours are like, how many viewings they've had, what the average utility bills are, and if they have had any work done on the property. If they are open with their answers all well and good, if they are more cagey this will give you an indication that more research might be required.
If you like the home after seeing it make sure you go back for a second viewing at a different time, this will enable to see what the property looks like in different lighting and check out the local area for things such as traffic flow. All of these aspects could have an impact on your purchase decision so make a note of anything that worries you.
4. Making an offer
When you find a property that meets all of your requirements it is vital to be positive and decisive. In an active market, properties can sometimes sell in hours so it is vital to move quickly. In a slower market you may have more time to play with but someone else may have their eye on the property you want. As a general rule of thumb, if you've found the property that's right for you, move quickly to secure it.
In many instances vendors are open to offers. If you have found a property you like and you are ready to commit to the purchase it is advisable to think about the price and decide if you would like to place a lower offer.
- Always make your offer to the estate agent and not the homeowner - the agent has an obligation to check your mortgage is in place and that you're able to progress.
- The agent will put the offer forward to the homeowner - the agent is obliged to put all offers in writing unless the owner has instructed them (in writing) to reject offers below a specific amount.
- Your agent will then provide you with the vendor's feedback on your offer.
- Should your offer not be successful your agent will usually be able to provide an indication of the vendor's position - you will need to review your own position and decide if you are able to increase the offer.
As soon as you are in a position to make an offer you will need to instruct a conveyancer who will manage all the legalities of the transaction.
The legal process of buying and selling a property is known as conveyancing and depends on whether the transaction is taking place in England and Wales or in Scotland.
5. Organising a survey
After you have made an offer and it has been accepted, the next step is to organise a survey on the property you wish to buy. A survey acts as checking mechanism and will ensure you're aware of any major problems or defects within the structure of the building.
It is vital that a survey is carried out before you finalise the property purchase as any problems discovered later could prove expensive or problematic. If the survey does highlight any issues you are in a strong position to enter negotiations with the vendor that could involve a price reduction, or renovation work.
There are different types of property surveys available and the one you choose will depend on a number of factors including: the property's age, design, and any problems you may have noticed at the viewing.
The different type of property surveys include:
This is carried out on behalf of the mortgage lender to assess the monetary value of the property and will only provide top-level comments on the overall condition of the building. It is important to not confuse a mortgage valuation with a Homebuyers Report or Building Survey, although you as the purchaser will often have to pay for it, it is not equivalent to a survey carried out on your behalf.
Also known as a 'Homebuyer Survey and Valuation' this is a more detailed survey that is carried out on the purchaser's behalf and will assess the general condition of the property including dampness timbers etc and evaluate any major faults that may affect the property value.
Provided a property is not over a century old, a Homebuyer's report is generally considered to be an adequate assessment of the property however, if you are buying an older character property, it is advisable to opt for a full Building survey.
This is a more in-depth study that leads to a detailed and lengthy report on the condition of the property. A building survey will fully assess the condition of the house or flat in relation to buildings of a similar age and in relation to modern buildings.
Once you have decided on the type of survey you wish to instruct, you will need to find a reputable surveyor who will be able to carry out the surveying work on your behalf. The cost of surveys will differ but generally speaking you can expect to pay from around £350 for a Homebuyer's report and £500 for a full Building survey. Call 0161 401 2917 for further information.
Once the survey has taken place you will be provided with a copy of the report. If there are any concerning issues it is advisable to request a meeting at the property itself so that you are able to see any damage or areas of contention for yourself.
All surveyors are required to have insurance and complaints procedures so should you find out later that a surveyor has missed something you can complain and possibly claim compensation.
6. The completion process
Prior to exchange of contract your conveyancer will:
- Organise all of the required local authority searches on your behalf.
- Receive replies to questions raised and report to you with the contract for signing.
- Request your deposit.
- Deal with the formal mortgage offer and all the conditions on your behalf.
- Receive the search results and communicate any problems.
Once contracts have been exchanged, your conveyancer will:
- Transfer your deposit to the seller's conveyancer.
- Prepare a final completion statement for your approval.
- Organise the collection and payment of any balance of funds required.
- Prepare the deed of transfer and mortgage deed and arrange for you to sign them.
- Organise final searches to check for debts and bankruptcy.
On completion, your conveyancer will:
- Receive and arrange for payment of any stamp duty to HM Revenue & Customs.
- Prepare and send off application to HM Land Registry to register your ownership.
- Send deeds to the lender (if the property is mortgaged).
7. Congratulations the property is now yours!