Your guide to Buying

Gemma Collins
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  • 27/02/24
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  • 5 min read
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  • Guides
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Buying a home is a complex and often lengthy process - but if you can get your head around the basics of how it works, you’re less likely to be taken by surprise along the way and your home-buying experience will be easier.

The steps below take you briefly through the journey you’re likely to take when buying a home:-

  • Step
    Save a mortgage deposit (if you are buying with a mortgage)

    To buy a property, you'll typically need to save a deposit of at least 5% of the property's price. Saving more can help you secure lower interest rates. First-time buyers can benefit from a 25% government top-up on savings in a lifetime ISA. If you're eager to buy sooner, here are some options to consider:

    - Shared ownership: Buy a 25%-75% share in a property and pay rent on the remaining portion.

    - Help from parents: Some lenders accept parents using their property or savings as a guarantee for your mortgage.

    - First Homes scheme: First-time buyers with a household income of £80,000 or less (£90,000 or less in Greater London) can get a minimum 30% discount on select new-build homes.

    - Right to Buy: Council tenants can buy their home at a 35% discount if they've lived in a council house for at least three years.

  • Step
    Find out how much you can borrow

    The amount a mortgage provider will lend you is determined by factors like your deposit size, income, and credit score. If you're buying with others, their finances will also be considered. Most banks allow borrowing up to four-and-a-half times your annual salary, but this varies by lender, circumstances, and deposit size. Remember to budget for additional costs like conveyancing, surveys, and stamp duty.

  • Step
    Research your chosen area

    If you’re exploring towns or neighbourhoods you haven’t lived in before, it can be worth spending a night or two in the area to check out the commute, shops, restaurants and general atmosphere. Even if you’ve lived in the town all your life, it’s important to do some research on the area you want to buy in before signing on the dotted line.

    Things to look into include:

    - School catchment areas: prices can be higher in the catchment areas of highly rated schools.

    - Transport links: being close to a railway station or motorway access can push up a property's value.

    - Local infrastructure plans: new commercial and housing developments could improve local services, but they could also worsen traffic and pollution levels.

    - Flood zones: check flood maps to ensure the area isn't at risk.

    - Crime levels: check the frequency and types of crime using the website.

  • Step
    Apply for a mortgage agreement in principle

    A mortgage agreement in principle (AIP) is a confirmation from a mortgage lender that they would, in principle, be willing to lend you a certain amount. It can also be known as a decision in principle (DIP). Having an AIP or DIP can make you a more attractive buyer, as it shows the seller and their estate agent that you will be able to secure the amount of money you need to buy the property.

  • Step
    Register with estate agents

    Once you’ve chosen the area (or areas) where you’re interested in buying a home, register with local estate agents. Registering is free and won’t create any obligation on your part. Keeping in touch with local estate agents like us could increase your chances of finding your ideal home, we often contact registered buyers before listing a property online.

  • Step
    View properties in person

    You’ll inevitably spend plenty of time browsing property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation and OnTheMarket but it’s important to view properties in person, as well as online. Viewing homes in real life will give you a deeper understanding of their potential (or lack of it) and you’ll be able to gauge whether they give you that indescribable ‘feeling’ that you can't really get from a screen. When you find somewhere you like, it’s worth viewing it more than once, and at different times of the day, as you’ll be more likely to notice any potential problems.

  • Step
    Make an offer

    Deciding exactly how much to offer can be tricky. It’s quite common to offer below the asking price, but it all depends on the individual property. If other people are interested or it's a particularly hot market, you may need to offer the asking price or more. Looking at how much other similar properties in the same neighbourhood have recently sold for will help you work out how much the property is worth. You can find this information on websites such as Zoopla and the Land Registry. Once you’ve decided how much to offer, you can tell the estate agent over the phone or in person, but it’s worth putting it in writing too. Mention any points that stand in your favour - for example, if you’re a chain-free first-time buyer with a mortgage decision in principle - and it may be worth saying that your offer is subject to a survey and the property being taken off the market.

  • Step
    Apply for a mortgage (if you need one)

    You’ll need to think about what type of mortgage you want to apply for. Fixed-rate mortgages are by far the most common, with most buyers choosing to lock in their rate for two or five years. But tracker mortgages - where the interest rate is variable - are another option. You'll also need to consider your mortgage term. In the not-so-distant past, most people took out 25-year terms, but terms of 30, 35 and 40 years have become increasingly common for first-time buyers battling rising house prices. If you need any advice, then we can put you in touch with an independent mortgage broker.

  • Step
    Find a conveyancer or property solicitor

    Conveyancing is the legal process that takes place after your offer is accepted. In England and Wales, this includes carrying out searches, drawing up and checking contracts, dealing with the Land Registry and paying any stamp duty. You can use a conveyancer - who might not be a qualified solicitor but will definitely specialise in property - or a solicitor, who you should check has recent experience in property law. We can recommend excellent conveyancers / solicitor contacts if needed.

  • Step
    Get an independent survey

    House surveys help to assess the condition of the building and detect structural problems.
    Although a survey is optional, it’s better to be aware of any issues before you complete the purchase so you can make an informed decision to proceed and budget for any repair works required. Surveyors registered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) provide three ‘levels’ of survey, while those registered with the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) offer two levels. The cost will depend on the location, size and type of property.
    Don’t confuse the valuation survey conducted by your mortgage lender with a survey - they are two different things and you should always have your own survey done independently. We can recommend experienced property surveyors to quote.

  • Step
    Research removal companies

    If you don’t have a lot of furniture to move into your new property, you could consider hiring a removal van yourself. But if you have a lot to move, removal companies can help make the process easier. Removal company costs will depend on the number of items you need to move and the distance to your new property, among other things. Once you’ve found one or two firms you like, check their availability before agreeing a completion date with the seller so you're able to move on the date you set. Need a removal company? We can recommend trusted local ones.

  • Step
    Arrange home insurance

    It’s vital that you have buildings insurance in place on your new home from the day you exchange contracts - in fact, most mortgage providers will make this a condition of lending. This is because you are legally bound to buy the property from the moment contracts are exchanged, so if the building were to be flooded or burn down before the day of completion and you weren’t insured, you wouldn’t be covered. If you’re buying a new-build property, the insurance doesn’t need to come into effect until the day of completion.

  • Step
    Exchange contracts

    The exchange of contracts happens when the buyer's and seller’s legal representatives swap signed contracts, and the buyer pays the deposit. Before the exchange of contracts, you’ll need to have several things prepared in advance, such as a written mortgage offer, an agreed completion date and buildings insurance in place from the day of exchange (or from completion if you're buying a new-build). After you’ve exchanged contracts you can breathe a sigh of relief, as the agreement for you to buy the property is now legally binding. The chances of anything falling through from this moment are extremely low. Your conveyancer / solicitor will lodge an interest in the property, enabling you to pay the seller, and apply to the Land Registry to transfer the deeds to your name.

  • Step
    Complete and move in

    Completion often takes place around two weeks after exchange, but this is flexible and you can agree a convenient date with the seller via your conveyancer / solicitor. On completion day, the money will be transferred to the seller and you can then collect the keys from the estate agent and move into your new home. Next comes the much more enjoyable task of starting to furnish and decorate the property to your taste - and maybe even taking a moment to simply relax. You’ll have earned it!

Let Kings Estates guide you through a seamless home buying journey. From saving for a deposit to completing the purchase, our team provides expertise and support every step of the way. Trust us to handle the details while you focus on finding your dream home.

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