First Time Buyer – Steps to Buying a House / Buying a House Procedure

After last year’s experience, I found there were some great guides/pages out there for house buying, but nothing that covered all the steps I encountered – I felt lost sometimes, waiting for stuff to happen or receiving stuff, so decided to write this up.

Please note: I was a first time buyer, did my own removals (didn’t have that much stuff) and my dad was a surveyor, so he did the surveying. Your experience might be quite different.

Steps to buying a house :

Find out or guess how much you can borrow roughly.

Find a house or flat or garage or whatever within this range.

Visit the house – it’ll probably be somewhat different than it looks on Rightmove!

Make an offer.

Wait for it to be accepted! yes this can take some time, but once that happens you’re in the game!

Next :

Pick a solicitors (which from then onwards will be called a conveyancer) – I used a company called Beaumont Legal which I got from ReallyMoving.com – which is also very good for finding surveyors.

Contact the solicitors. They will ask you for your full details and various other information and proof of who you are. Send/scan this off to them as requested. Important note: upon signing up, my original document scans were too large and got lost in the email-ether-sphere! the solicitors didn’t know this and just kept waiting for me to send them – it delayed the start of the buying process by nearly 2 weeks! therefore I’d recommend following up by phone or email to check they have received your details – once that’s done the real process begins!

Note: the solicitors might also ask you to sign-up for a “house pack” – these are the initial ‘surveys’/’searches’ of the house – I didn’t have a clue what this meant, BUT now know they are the legal surveys of the house – they are previously conducted surveys by the authorities that give you info on the land, deeds, local area, drainage, water, access and so on. The more expensive the pack, the more surveys you’ll get. Try to judge what you need to know about the place and if it’s worth it. We signed up for the Silver pack – which gave us all the info about the house, water, flood planes and land, BUT didn’t include stuff like ‘local coal mining’ and the like(the Gold pack offered this). I could find that most of that from Google maps, visiting and knowledge of the area. I always think it’s probably worth getting flood info, but that’s just me and local knowledge of the area or asking is usually good enough.

Pick a mortgage broker and arrange a possible mortgage.

Definitely try out more than one broker, there are tons around! you’ll get different rates, quotes and approaches! We tried London & Country(Money-Saving-Expert recommended) and Bentley Holmes (the one used by the estate agent). You phone up L&C, whereas Bentley Holmes were a face-to-face broker in Kingswood – we asked for quotes from them both and I found L&C a bit phone-automated* and although Bentley Holmes charged £250 for the service I just found it most reassuring to know if absolutely necessary I could always drive down to Kingswood and meet up with the lady face-to-face and sort everything out. She also had 20 years experience which was gave me confidence in her too.

* – I have to say I’ve tried L&C previously for buying another property(which didn’t happen in the end) and found them very good, so maybe it was just the person we got through to.

From the mortgage brokers you should now have a quote from them. From that they’ll give you by email an “Agreement in Principle” based on what you’ve told them. This means, barring something unforeseen, a bank will lend you that amount of money.

So, tell the solicitors the mortgage brokers name and about the Mortgage in Principle.

The solicitors will send you some more forms (there’ll be a lot of forms) about the mortgage. Fill these in and scan/email or post them off.

After a while, you’ll get the ‘surveys’/’searches’ from the solicitor. As mentioned above I found this most confusing – did this mean the ‘surveyor’ everyone talked about? NO, they are the legal authority conducted surveys as mentioned above AND they can make quite interesting reading.

Make sure to read through them thoroughly – they might contain something you don’t agree with or do not want. It was hard work reading through the water ones and seemed a bit pointless really, but probably worth it in the end.

Once you’ve agreed to all this – Book your own survey of the house – this is where a surveyor will go around the house and look for anything dodgy and write a report for you about it. My dad did this, so I’m not an expert in this area. I can only say I’ve heard many reports from friends about what they actually do – often that they generally cover themselves on absolutely everything and may warn you about the most trivial of things in case they get sued – again, it sounds like it’s up to you to judge whether you could fix the problem or if it would be too expensive. This point is where if so you can then tell the estate agent and/or pull out of the deal. If you have any questions ask the solicitor and estate agent.

Now you’ll have to wait for the solicitors to talk to one another and then they’ll send you some more forms to fill in. eg. Agreement on fixtures and fittings – which you can buy or not.

Once that is all agreed, you’ll be given an “Exchange” date by the solicitors – or they’ll ask you to set one (yep more forms).

On Exchange Day aka Exchange of Contracts day – you must pay 10% of the total value of the house + your legal fees + any fixtures and fittings costs.

eg. if your house costs £250,000 – then the 10% would be £25,000 + legal fees + fixtures/fittings

The day before Exchange, transfer this money to your solicitors bank account.

Your solicitor will then call you and get you to confirm/agree to the exchange – they have to do this to officially get your consent and it can’t happen otherwise.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Up to this point you can pull out of the sale at any time! after exchange you can’t!

Right – so you’ve exchanged! Now you’re legally obliged to buy the house! you should have a few weeks to sort out the rest of the money.

So, gather your full deposit money in time for the Completion Date. In my experience, other than the estate agent unnecessarily and very annoyingly harassing me to hurry up with things,  I found this the most stressful thing of the entire process! A couple of weeks before completion I asked the Post Office if I could transfer my ISA to my current account, they said ‘yes it’ll only a day or so’. Luckily I phoned them the week before Completion and they said due to the size of the transfer it would have to be in writing and would take maybe 3 working days! cue panic letter writing, running to the post office and lots of sweating about whether it would get transferred in-time and phone-calls to good friends begging to borrow money if it didn’t! it finally did, the morning of the day before completion. The lesson is – sort it out a couple of weeks before completion. I was trying to be clever and get the maximum interest from my ISA, but just get it ready in your current account and it’ll be happy days!

Completion day

So, the day before Completion you must transfer the 90% of your deposit money + any other legal fees to your solicitor’s bank account.

On the day of Completion, the solicitor checks the bank account and transfers the money to the bank – once this is confirmed the bank will transfer money to the seller. When that’s all checked – That is it!

You’ll get the keys!!! you own the house!! just gotta sort out moving in, the electric, gas and everything else, but that’s a different story 🙂

Oh shortly after this, you will receive one final form – the Land Registry – which you fill in and send off and now you’ll officially own the property.

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