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How to buy a house - our guide

You could lose your home if you don’t keep up your mortgage repayments.

There’s a lot to think about when buying a home, especially your first one. So whether you’ve just set up your savings account to get the ball rolling, or you’ve found a home you can’t stop thinking about, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the home-buying process in England and Wales.

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 can find more information on our Credit Scoring Guide.

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 type of property lawyer who takes care of the legal aspects of buying your house.

Conveyancing is the legal process involved in the transfer of title of the property from the seller to the buyer, and the lender taking the mortgage over the property to secure their loan to the buyer.

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.

The Conveyancer will act for the buyer and the lender, so the conveyancing firm needs to be on the lender’s conveyancing panel.

We have a panel of conveyancers who are eligible to act on our behalf. If you know that your chosen firm is not on our panel then they can apply for membership on our conveyancing panel, however, this may cause delays.

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

Not all mortgages are the same, so with Skipton you’ll get your own personal mortgage adviser who will be with you from day one right up until completion. They’ll take you through an appointment and recommend a mortgage from our range that suits your needs. This could be a fixed or variable rate and might include cashback, they will also discuss buildings insurance with you.

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 ensure you have building insurance in place (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 could start handling the legal elements of buying your house. We will give our instructions to the conveyancer when we’ve completed all of our checks, we’re satisfied with the valuation (see next step) and we subsequently make a mortgage offer.

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

7. Lender valuation and surveys

If you choose a Skipton mortgage, we will instruct our own mortgage valuation from a valuer for mortgage purposes only. For properties up to the value of £1.5m there is no charge for this. This is to ensure the property is sufficient security for the loan and once we're satisfied your mortgage offer will be issued.

You can also arrange for a more detailed survey of your own if you want to. A survey is an inspection of a property’s condition which is carried out by an expert. The type you choose depends on the home you’re buying and how much detail you want. If faults are found, you might be able to negotiate a lower price or even ask for them to be put right before you buy the property. You can search for UK surveyors on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors website or we can help you find a surveyor – just ask your mortgage adviser.

Find out more about the costs of buying a house including the different types of surveys and how much they might cost.

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

8. Exchange contracts

Once you’ve received your mortgage offer and the conveyancer has completed the legal work, they will arrange the exchange of contracts and give your initial deposit to the seller’s conveyancer. 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. 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. Once the seller’s conveyancer has the money, they’ll instruct the estate agent to give you the keys. Congratulations! You're officially a homeowner. 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!

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You could lose your home if you don’t keep up your mortgage repayments.
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