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How to buy a house - our guide

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

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 in England and Wales. Let’s get started.

This guide is only applicable to those buying in England or Wales. If you are buying a house in Scotland please download our Guide for Buying Your First Home in Scotland [PDF].

1. Making sure you can afford to repay a mortgage

Before we (or any lender) can give you a mortgage, we need to make sure you can afford to pay it back. You can get a high level calculation using our affordability quick check in a few seconds or you can use our affordability calculator to get a more accurate idea of what you can afford and what we might be able to lend you based on your income and outgoings.

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

2. Finding out how much you could borrow

When you’ve found a house you want to buy, it’s worth getting a Decision in Principle (DIP) to show you how much you may be able to borrow before you make an offer on it. Our DIP involves a ‘soft’ credit check, which won't affect your credit score.

You’ll have the option to request a DIP once you’ve completed our affordability calculator. You can do this straight away or within 30 days of receiving your affordability calculation.

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

3. Making an offer on a house

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.

4. Find a conveyancer

A conveyancer (also known as a solicitor or licensed 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. How long it takes will 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. You will need to provide us with the conveyancer's details in order to progress your mortgage application. You'll need to check whether they are on our panel of conveyancers and are able 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: it's best to be prepared, so the sooner the better. You may want to get a conveyancer in place before you complete your mortgage application.

5. Completing a mortgage application

Our mortgage advisers will go through an advised application process and will recommend a mortgage from our range that suits your needs. You can speak to them via our Video Appointment service - Skipton Link or over the phone. An appointment takes around an hour-and-a-half and you’ll need supporting documentation like payslips, proof of ID, utility bills etc. At this point we will run a hard credit check. Most mortgage offers last for six months.

Read our article on how to prepare for a mortgage application to find some useful tips about what you may need to have ready for your appointment.

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 can help with building and contents insurance through our Skipton Home Insurance which is provided and underwritten by LV=.

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

6. Starting the conveyancing process

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.

7. Lender valuation and surveys

We will instruct our own mortgage valuation from a valuer on our panel to assess how much the property is worth. This is for mortgage purposes only and to ensure the property is sufficient security for the loan and once we're satisfied your mortgage offer will be issued.

If you would like a more detailed 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.

Find out more about what different types of surveys there are and how much they might cost.

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

8. Exchange contracts

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. Once the conveyancer has sent the full purchase money to the seller’s conveyancer, they’ll instruct the agent to give you the keys. As well as it being in your own interests, a lender will require you to have buildings insurance in place at this point.

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

9. Move in. Feet up.

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 exciting and rewarding yet a little tiring - 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!

Need support?

If you’d like some support buying your first home, get in touch.

Call us

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

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