Updated: Nov 23
Buying a house can be an exciting but sometimes stressful process, especially if you are a first-time buyer. However, understanding the process and timelines can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with buying a property. Here we aim to outline the step-by-step house buying process and provide insights into the timeline of each stage. Whether you are considering purchasing your first home or upgrading to your dream house, this guide will give you peace of mind and empower you to make informed decisions throughout the process.
Establish your budget
The first step in the house buying process is setting a realistic budget. Consider your monthly income and expenses, credit score, and your ability to cover your deposit and associated costs. Speak to a reputable lender or mortgage broker to get pre-qualified for a loan, known as a Mortgage Agreement in Principle. (AIP) Understanding how much you can borrow will allow you to begin the house search with a clear understanding of which properties are in your price range.
In order to move through the above stages you will need to supply various documents - read our latest article What Documents Will I Need For My Mortgage outlining what you will be expected to provide.
Start house hunting
With your budget in mind, start to research the local areas that you are looking to purchase in. Take the time to register with local estate agents and share your mortgage AIP as this will demonstrate you are a serious buyer and ready to proceed. Book appointments with estate agents to view homes that excite you. Consider the age of the property, the condition of the property and any work that may need to be completed. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can ultimately save you time, money, and heartache.
Make an offer
Once you have found a property that meets your criteria, work with the estate agent to make an offer that works based on your budget. Also consider the general condition of the property, the time it has been offered for sale along with the current owner’s motivation for selling. For more information visit How Do I Make An Offer On A Property in our Learning Centre.
Once your offer has been accepted you should…
1) Submit your Mortgage Application: You should arrange another meeting with your mortgage broker or speak with your bank / building society directly if this is your preferred route. As well as up to date pay slips and bank statements you will need to provide some further details at this point, most notedly your solicitors (Conveyancer) details, the property details along with the estate agent / person selling the property.
Now sit back and await your mortgage offer, which will take anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks to arrive, depending on your chosen lenders workload / processing times etc. Once this has arrived you can check through the details and ensure it is as you expect, so the loan / interest rate you have applied for – if you are using a mortgage broker, they will do this for you. They will also now set up another meeting to review your mortgage insurance and protection needs, so focusing on Life Insurance, Income Protection and Critical Illness Cover as well as offering you some Home Insurance quotes.
2) Instruct a Solicitor: At the same time you submit your mortgage application you will need to instruct a solicitor, commonly referred to as a ‘Conveyancer’, to support you with your purchase. Your solicitor will take care of all the legal paperwork, so local searches, drawing up of contracts as well as overseeing any enquiries with the seller’s solicitor.
Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership or securing debt over a house. It ensures that both parties involved in such transactions are protected and allows for smooth, successful property transfers from one owner to another.
The home buying legal process generally takes around 8 to 12 weeks to complete, so you could well be in your new home within a couple of months!
3) Organise A Survey: Your chosen lender will arrange a valuation of the property as part of their own checks prior to offering you the mortgage. However, it is important to remember that this IS NOT a survey – in fact, many lenders will no longer visit the property, simply relying on data found on-line.
Some lenders allow you to upgrade their valuation but do bear in mind the valuation is for the lenders benefit and not yours. Although upgrading with your lender will undoubtedly be the cheapest way forward, it is generally advisable to seek an independent survey as this will not only give you more choice, but it will also minimise your immediate costs when submitting your mortgage application – i.e. seeking approval from your lender with minimal initial outlay is generally regarded as a sensible way to proceed. For more details check out Should I Arrange a Survey in our Learning Centre.
On The Home Straight!
Your mortgage offer has arrived, and your solicitor is drawing up contracts for you to sign, you are almost over the line. If you appointed an independent survey this should be through by now, leaving you more informed about the general condition of the property you are purchasing.
If you are yet to do so you should review your mortgage protection and insurance arrangements as, although not compulsory (other than buildings insurance), it is advisable to have suitable cover in place from the moment you exchange contracts, the point at which you become legally committed to purchasing the property.
All parties agree on a completion date and contracts are formally exchanged – to do so your solicitor will have also requested your deposit funds so make sure you can provide this. Exchanging contracts is the point when both parties are legally committed to the transaction. Although not essential, lenders generally like to allow a minimum of 5 working days between Exchange and Completion.
Your solicitor prepares a completion statement and requests funds from the mortgage lender.
On moving (Completion) day, the seller vacates the property, and the keys are released by your estate agent once your mortgage funds have arrived with your solicitor. Your solicitor will send the funds from your mortgage lender to the seller’s solicitor and, if applicable, sends the stamp duty payable to the HMRC. After completion, you will receive a copy of the registered title from land registry.
Congratulations, you are a homeowner, and it's time to move in!
In summary, the house buying process can be overwhelming, but with the right guidance and knowledge, it can be managed efficiently. We hope that this guide has given you some insights into the key stages involved in buying a house, as well as the timelines for each stage. If you are looking to start the house buying process and have questions along the way, feel free to speak with us today.
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.