We understand that buying a property is a long and stressful process. To make life easier, we’ve compiled an expert guide to buying a property. Follow the steps, and they will take you right from your initial search to saving for a mortgage and all the way up to the moment when you get the keys in your hands.
1. Get your finances in order
It might seem obvious, but before you decide to buy a property, it’s important to work out how much you can afford, including considering all the extras that you’ll pay. These include stamp duty, insurance and costs like hiring a moving company.
Work out how much you can afford to put aside for a deposit – you’ll usually need to put down at least 10%, and if you’re buying a new build off-plan, you may need to put down a reservation fee. However, in 2023 there are still a number of 5% deposit mortgage products available, as well as other pathways to securing a mortgage. Check out our first-time buyer’s guide to getting a mortgage below for more details.
Ideally, get a mortgage offer in principle, so you have a strong indication of how much you’ll be able to spend. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you need to be sure you can take on the financial commitments of owning a property. Renting is cheap, non-committal, and can be a great alternative to owning – HomeViews has plenty of examples of great Build to Rent homes.
2. Find a property
Do some research to decide on your search area, and set alerts on the main property websites to find out when properties come to market in the area you want to live in. Register with new-build owners and speak to local estate agents. You can also keep up-to-date on the latest new-build developments in your chosen area on HomeViews. Use our area guides to help you decide where you want to live, and keep an eye on the latest developments in the area.
We also have some guides on our top picks for property hunting websites, if you need to cast a wider net. Check the links at the bottom of the page.
3. Set up some viewings and make an offer
As soon as you see a property that interests you, contact the agent to set up a viewing. Some agents hold open-house-style viewings, but you’ll still need an appointment. If you’re looking at a new home, visit the show home and take some time to walk around the site, asking to view recently completed properties. Do your research before making an offer – is the asking price fair in comparison to similar properties in the area?
4. Appoint a conveyancing solicitor
Once you’ve experienced the excitement of having your offer accepted, you’ll need to get to work on appointing a solicitor to handle the conveyancing. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from one part to another. The developer or estate agent may provide recommendations for a conveyancing firm, but do your own research and only appoint one you’re comfortable with.
We have detailed guides to conveyancing below, if you need to know more about the process.
5. Conducting searches
Your solicitor will carry out standard searches for local information, relating to any proposals for new roads, rail schemes or planning applications that could affect the property in the long term and cause any complications to the purchase process. Searches could also include finding out whether the property is in a conservation area. Solicitors will carry out a water and drainage search with the local water company, and also an environmental search, covering things like landslips, subsidence and land contamination and risk of flooding.
6. Check the tenure
Check if the tenure of the property is freehold or leasehold. Leasehold properties can come with significant conditions attached to the purchase and your ownership. When you buy a leasehold property, you’re not buying the land itself, you’re buying a lease that entitles you to the long-term legal rights to occupy the property. The freeholder, which is usually the landlord, still owns the land the property is built on. Check with your conveyancer what you can and can’t do relating to the leasehold. If it’s a leasehold property, you may be required to pay ground rent, service charges or administration fees.
7. Exchange, deposit and completion
The three stages of completing your property purchase are exchanging contracts, paying your deposit and completing. When you exchange contracts, you become legally committed to purchasing the property. Usually, upon exchanging contracts you’ll pay your deposit, which goes through your conveyancer. The completion part often takes a minimum of another two weeks, and this is when you’ll actually collect the keys to your new property and are free to move in.
If you’re buying a new-build property off-plan, it’s advisable to get a ‘long stop’ completion date. This means that the builder is liable to pay you compensation if they don’t finish the work by the given completion date.
8. Moving in
Shop around for reputable local removal firms. Prices and services can vary significantly, so decide on what you’re prepared to pay and the level of service you require. If you’re buying a new-build property, arrange for a demonstration from your developer, and make sure they provide you with all the relevant documents, manuals and guarantees.
With new-build properties, you have two years to identify and fix problems in your home. Get an independent snagging survey booked and completed as soon as possible after moving in, or even before you complete on your purchase if the developer permits it. This is a crucial step, because it stops you from having to deal with issues big and small when you simply don’t have to.
10. Check your warranty
New homes are usually covered for structural issues under a 10-year warranty, so if you encounter any structural issues with your property, the developer is responsible for fixing them. Check your warranty document thoroughly to be sure what’s included and what’s not. We have a full guide on LABC Warranties below, if you want to check them out in more detail.
If you’re looking to buy a new home, start by checking out HomeViews’ New Build Buyer’s Guide. The guide gives you everything you need to know about buying a new-build property, including the 10 things buyers wish they’d known before buying. You can read the guide by clicking here.
HomeViews provides verified resident reviews of the UK’s housing developments. We’re working with developers, landlords and the Government to recognise high performers and help to improve standards in the built environment.