How to buy a house - our guide. 

You’ve scrimped, scraped and sacrificed and the big day has finally come – you’ve saved enough money for a deposit to buy your very first home. So what happens next? Here’s our step-by-step guide to buying a house. Let’s get started.

  1. Making sure you can afford to repay a mortgage
  2. Before we (or any lender) can give you a mortgage, we need to make sure you can afford to pay it back, so we’ll offer an initial affordability check to give you a guide. It’ll take around 15 minutes and we’ll ask about your income and expenditure.

    When to do it: before you start your property search.


  3. Finding out how much you can borrow
  4. When you’ve found a house you want to buy, it’s worth getting a Decision in Principle (DIP) on how much you can borrow before you make an offer on it. We’ll do a credit check and look at your current debts and your history of paying them back. This might leave an imprint on your credit report. The DIP appointment usually takes about half an hour and at the end of it you’ll have an idea of how much you may be able to borrow.

    When to do it: when you’ve found a house and you’re ready to make an offer.


  5. Making an offer on a house
  6. You make your offer directly to the estate agent selling the house and they may want to see the DIP as proof that you are able to afford the mortgage and get the financing in place. If you aren’t offering the full asking price be prepared that they may not accept your first offer, so set an upper limit you’re comfortable with. Do some upfront research to see if you can find out what the house has sold for in the past and what similar properties are going for in the surrounding area. There might be room for negotiation.

    When to do it: usually after you’ve got a DIP.


  7. Finding a conveyancer
  8. Find a conveyancer (also known as a solicitor or licensed conveyancer): a conveyancer is a property lawyer who will take care of all the legal aspects of buying your house. The process starts when your offer on a house has been accepted and usually takes several weeks. But it can depend on your own individual transaction and if there is a chain of sellers and buyers. If you don’t know a conveyancer, ask people you know for recommendations or search online. We’ll need the conveyancer’s details to progress your mortgage application, and you’ll need to check they are on our panel of conveyancers to deal with the mortgage for us as well as your purchase. If you are unsure please ask your mortgage adviser who can check this for you.

    When to do it: you shouldn’t wait until you’ve completed a mortgage application to start searching for conveyancers. It’s best to be prepared, so the sooner the better.


  9. Completing a mortgage application
  10. Our mortgage advisers will go through an advised application process and we’ll recommend a mortgage from our range that suits your needs. An appointment takes around an hour-and-a-half and you’ll need supporting documentation like payslips, proof of ID, utility bills etc. Most mortgage offers last for six months.

    Buildings insurance: you won’t be exchanging contracts for a while, but as soon as you do, you’ll need to get buildings insurance (usually a condition of your mortgage). You can’t insure the building until you own it, but a bit of research comparing providers at this point, could save you a lot of time later. We offer a choice of home insurance options through our provider Legal and General.

    When to do it: after you’ve made an offer on a house.


  11. Starting the conveyancing process
  12. At this point your conveyancer will start handling the legal elements of buying your house. We will give our instructions to the conveyancer when we subsequently make a mortgage offer, but the conveyancer can start work on your purchase before this, when they receive details from the seller’s conveyancer.

    When to do it: once your offer has been accepted.


  13. Lender valuation and surveys
  14. We will instruct our own mortgage valuation from a valuer on our panel to assess how much the property is worth. This is in order to ensure it is sufficient security for the loan and once complete your mortgage offer will be issued.

    If you would like a fuller report, you can instruct a surveyor. A surveyor will advise you on the structural soundness of the property. You can search for UK surveyors on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors website or we can help – just ask your mortgage adviser.

    When to do it: once your offer has been accepted.


  15. Exchange contracts
  16. The conveyancer will arrange the exchange of contracts once the legal side of the purchase and mortgage are in order. When you’ve signed and exchanged, you’re committed to the purchase, so make sure you’re happy with it before putting pen to paper. At this stage your conveyancer will also hand over your deposit to the seller’s conveyancer. When the contracts have been exchanged, you may need to get your buildings insurance sorted straight away – your conveyancer will advise you on timing. As well as it being in your own interests, a lender will require you to have buildings insurance.

    When to do it: this will happen once the initial conveyancing process is complete.


  17. Move in. Feet up.
  18. This is what all those years of saving have been building up to. The conveyancer will have obtained the mortgage money from the lender, and has to send this and the rest of the purchase money to the seller’s conveyancer. Once the seller’s conveyancer has the money, they’ll tell the agent the keys can be given to you. Moving day can be tough, emotional and rewarding - but that’s another story - just make sure you’ve got the essentials, like a kettle, milk and coffee - and don’t forget the loo roll!

    And, if you’d like some support buying your first home, we might be able to help, you can call us on 0345 607 9825. We provide mortgage advice and can recommend a suitable one for your particular circumstances from our range. You’ll also get your own personal mortgage adviser who’ll take you through the entire process and a dedicated support worker to help you with the paperwork. Please remember any loan that we make will be secured against the property.

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