The House Buying Process: From Application to Completion

For a first time buyer, the house buying process can be intimidating. Get up to speed by consulting our buying a house timeline and ensure you know what to expect at each stage of the property buying process.

Below, we’ve put together a step by step guide to buying a house. From application to completion, find info on everything you need as you start this exciting new chapter.

Stage 1 - The first steps

  1. Save enough for the deposit

Saving for a deposit is the first step to buying a house. The more that you can afford to put down for your deposit, the less you will need to borrow from a mortgage lender, and the wider choice of mortgage deals you are likely to have. For more information on this, read our guide on how much you have to save for a deposit. You will need to save at least 5%of the value of the property you would like to buy.

  1. Check your credit report

Many who are unsure how to start buying a house fail to check their credit report.

A credit report is what your lender uses to establish that you have good track record of making repayments and have not missed payments on any previous credit you may have had. Your credit report is collated by Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) and includes your personal information, the accounts you have opened in the past, the number of enquiries that have been made to see the report, how payments have been maintained etc.

  1. Choose the right mortgage for you and find out how much you can borrow

You can apply for a mortgage directly from a bank or building society (although some may not offer this option). You may also choose to apply for a mortgage via a mortgage broker or financial advisor, who will help you compare the different mortgage rates on the market.

From the different lenders available to fixed and variable rates, it can be difficult to decide which is the right mortgage for you. Choosing the best fit will depend on the size of your deposit, the type of buyer you are and if you currently already have a mortgage.

When looking into how much you can borrow, remember to factor in the additional costs of buying a property, such as stamp duty.

Stage 2 - Choosing your new home

  1. Start property hunting

Once you know how much you can borrow for a mortgage, you can draw a clearer picture of your budget. It’s a good idea to research the area you’d like to move into and visit the area at different times of the day.

If there’s a particular property you’re interested in you may find our house viewing checklist handy. 

  1. Make an offer to the seller

Once you've found the property that you feel is right for you, you'll need to make an offer to the seller. How much you offer on the property should be an amount that you are realistically willing, and can comfortably afford, to pay.

You can use our online mortgage repayment calculator for an idea of how much your monthly mortgage repayments on your chosen property could be.

  1. Formally apply for a mortgage

If the seller accepts your offer then the purchase price of the property has been agreed and it's time to make your full mortgage application.

You will likely receive your mortgage application and details of your mortgage quote electronically or in the post.

  1. Choose a solicitor to handle your purchase

Around the same time as making your mortgage application, you should also choose a solicitor to handle the legalities of your property purchase.

The main job of a solicitor is conveyancing, which means legally transferring home ownership from the seller to the buyer. However, they also have several other responsibilities such as local authority searches, Land Registry searches and more.

Stage 3 - Getting your house in order

  1. Arrange a valuation or surveys on the property

A valuation gives an indication of the value of the property. Knowing the value of the property will help you understand whether your offer is fair and reasonable. This will be carried out on behalf of your mortgage lender.

Generally, you can choose from the following valuations:

  • Valuation for mortgage purposes

This is the basic assessment on the condition of the property. A mortgage valuation tells the lender whether or not the value of the property is enough to cover the amount of money you want to borrow.

  • Homebuyer's report

This is a property survey carried out on your behalf. You will receive a report on the condition of the property, including any repairs or defects that will need your attention.

  • Structural survey

This is a comprehensive or 'full' property survey which thoroughly examines its condition, and is especially recommended for older or more unusual properties.

  1. Signing and exchanging of the contracts

After you accept your mortgage offer, your solicitor will start the property buying process by exchanging contracts with the seller.

This starts with drafting your contract until it’s ready for you to sign. As part of this, there should be a list of fixtures and fittings included in the price of the property, such as kitchen appliances, carpets and curtains.

When this happens, you are both legally bound to the deal and neither of you can pull out without incurring some significant costs, so if you have any last minute concerns or doubts, you must raise these with your solicitor as soon as possible.

Stage 4 - Starting your new chapter

10. Agree on a completion date

At the exchange of contracts, you should also agree a completion date for your purchase. This is the last legal hurdle that you face when buying a house, and is the day on which all of the money is transferred from your mortgage provider to the seller, via your solicitor.

The ideal length of time between exchange of contracts and completion is between 1-2 weeks, allowing both you and the seller time to get everything in order.

Once the payment has been confirmed, you can pick up your new keys and start this exciting new chapter.

How long does it take to buy a house?

Buying a house can take as little as six weeks, or as long as a few months. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how long it takes to buy a house, particularly because there are a number of factors that can speed up or slow down the house buying process. Such as:

  • Delays in any parties involved in the chain of buyers and sellers
  • Not signing or returning legal documents on time
  • Incorrect information on mortgage application forms

If you’re concerned about how long the process of buying a house is taking, it’s best to speak with your solicitor who can advise on whether there are any issues and if you can do anything to move things along faster.

Do you still have questions about the house buying process? Take a look at our First Time Buyers hub, featuring tools and guides to give you a helping hand. Alternatively, get in touch with a member of our team on the number below.

Your mortgage will be secured on your home. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

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