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Property Buying Guide

You have decided to buy a home, but what next? Our step-by-step property buying guide will help you through the maze of legal work, negotiations, dealing with surveyors and solicitors and finding a good mortgage.

After finding a home you like, which can take anything from a few days to many months, the process from having your offer accepted to completion of the sale takes on average about 12 weeks. With a good understanding of the process you can avoid the most common hazards and set out to buy a home feeling prepared and ready to go!

1) Decide your requirements

Before planning your move take time to decide on your requirements and priorities based on property size, location, style and local amenities. Spend time in the areas that you are considering, especially if it is somewhere you are not completely familiar, research your journey to work / children’s school. If you are looking for a property as a buy to let, let us know and we’ll be able to advise you on market conditions and the rental values to assist you with your plans.

2) Set a budget

An important factor in starting your search is establishing what you are prepared to spend on a property. If you require a mortgage now is the time to speak with a financial advisor to obtain a guide on what you will be able to lend based on your income and deposit funds as well as advice on the different mortgage products that are available. We will be happy to put you in touch with our recommended mortgage advisors to arrange a meeting or just for an informal chat.

When assessing your budget it is also important to factor in any other spend you may incur in your purchase such as stamp duty and legal fees.

3) Start your search

Speak to us! Call our office on 020 8342 9444 or register here. When registering with us, be as thorough as you can, give our negotiators as much information as possible so they can match your requirements to properties as accurately as possible.

4) Arrange viewings

Once you have arranged viewing appointments at properties go prepared with a list of things to look out for and questions to ask the sellers or agent. It’s always a good idea to see a few properties on the same day this way they will be fresh in your mind when comparing. After a viewing give feedback to your estate agent on what you do and don’t like about the property, this will assist them in finding the right property for you.

Don’t just look at the property itself allow yourself time to have a walk and to get to know the surrounding area. You may also find it useful to arrange a second viewing of properties that are of interest to you, it may be helpful to see them at different times of day or just to refresh your memory on the dimensions and features.

5) Putting in an Offer

Once you have found your ideal home the next stage is to confirm your interest by putting an offer forward via your estate agent. It is worth taking time to consider your offer based on market comparisons and your budget, remembering to factor in the cost of any work that you may wish to carry out on the property. At this point you may also want to clarify important information such as the lease length and services charges if it is a leasehold property and what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale.

6) Instructing a Solicitor

Once your offer has been accepted you will need to instruct a conveyancing solicitor to represent you through the buying process. It’s worth taking the time to choose carefully because a good solicitor will speed up your transaction, reduce the chance of your purchase falling through and will make sure the process is as stress-free as possible. We work closely with a number of local solicitors and would be happy to offer our recommendation.

7) Valuation / Survey

This is normally the time to apply for your mortgage with your financial advisor. Depending on the type of house you are buying your mortgage lender may require more than just a mortgage valuation. A ‘homebuyer’s survey’ is a more in depth report and may highlight more potential problems that you may otherwise be unaware of. You may also choose to undertake a full structural survey although this is usually on older houses. Any issues highlighted may affect the lenders ability to issue a mortgage offer and also highlight expensive problems to you before you purchase the house.

8) The Legal Processes

This is the legal process of buying your house that the solicitor undertakes on your behalf. Your solicitor should carry out the following:

Request Draft Contract
The contract is a legal document that sets out the terms of the sale process. It is drawn up by the seller’s solicitor using information from the deeds of the property and sent to your solicitor.

The contract will contain details of the property and items that are to be included in the sale, the buyers and sellers, how much it will be sold for and the date on which the transaction will take place. However, it is not a standard contract and is likely to change or clarify in detail considerably over the course of the coming weeks, as a result of contract tennis between the two solicitors involved.

The contract has two parts: Particulars of Sale and Conditions of Sale. The Particulars describe the property and details of the lease or freehold. The Conditions have information about the proposed completion date and any deposit required when contracts are exchanged. Once results of the Land Registry Search and Local Authority Search have come back and any queries regarding the property have been answered, the draft contract is approved by your solicitor.

Preliminary Enquiries
Whilst waiting for the draft contract, your solicitor will send a list of pre-contract enquiries to the seller’s solicitor, in order to uncover some basic information about the property. This enquiry will ask a standard set of questions, which amongst other things should include:

  • What is to be included in the sale? Clarify what contents the vendor will be taking with them and what is being left behind.
  • What are the boundaries of the property? Who owns and is responsible for any perimeter hedges or fences?
  • Whether or not the property is connected to all the appropriate utilities.

In the case of a leasehold property:

  • Who is the managing agent?
  • Who is the freeholder?
  • Is the current owner up to date with service charge bills and ground rent?
  • After receiving the draft contract, your solicitor will check the documentation and raise any specific queries that arise from their study of the paperwork.

Local Authority Search
Your solicitor will submit a Local Authority Search to the local council that you will pay a fee for. This is important as it will highlight any potential issues regarding the property such as planning permission and any other local issues such as potential developments in the area. The local search will also tell you whether there are any planning restrictions that may affect your intentions to renovate or extend the property.

The search won’t tell you everything, however. It only covers those areas immediately next to the property and not everything in the surrounding area. If you want total peace of mind, then you should visit the planning department of your local town hall and make sure that the search has not overlooked anything.

The local searches can take anything from two or three weeks right up to ten weeks to complete, depending on the time of year, work backlog and overall efficiency of the local authority you are dealing with. To speed this process up, another option is to instruct a personal search. This is a manual search by a conveyancer or some other specialist, who manually undertakes the same activities as in a local search. These can be completed in a matter of days rather than weeks or months, though they are more expensive.

Land Charge & Registry Search
This involves obtaining the title deed for the property, along with the Land Registry certificate. Careful scrutiny by your solicitor will confirm that the seller actually owns the property, is free to sell it and that the sale includes any covenants associated with a property or its land.

Formal Mortgage Offer
This is important, without a formal mortgage offer you cannot proceed unless you are buying the property as a cash buyer. The offer will be sent to your solicitor for your signature and approval. Once signed you can move forward to exchanging contracts.

Exchange
The sales contract is signed by both you and the vendor and the deposit is transferred or paid by your solicitor to the vendor’s solicitor. The date is then set for completion.

Completion
Once the exchange has taken place then completion generally happens a few days or a couple of weeks later. This is dependent on your circumstances and any other parties involved in the house buying chain. On the date set any monies owed are transferred from your solicitor’s account to the vendor’s account. Once the monies have been received you can collect the keys and you are the legal owner of your new house.

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