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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Buying a home – a step-by-step guide

Find out the process you need to follow when buying a home, including working out your budget and applying for a mortgage. You can also get help to buy a property, through affordable home ownership schemes.

A home-buying checklist

Buying a home typically takes around two to three months and there are a number of steps you will need to take.

Decide what you’re looking for and where

Think about what your needs are - for example:

  • where you want to live
  • whether you want a flat, a detached, a semi-detached or terraced property
  • how many rooms you need and how big they need to be

Decide on your budget

Think about what you can afford to spend. You’ll need to budget and plan for:

  • one-off costs, like a deposit and Stamp Duty
  • regular, ongoing costs, like mortgage payments

For a list of the different costs, see ‘Planning for buying a home’.

You don’t need to make a full mortgage application until you’ve found a property you want to buy

Get finances in place

If you can’t afford to buy a home without borrowing money, you can apply for a mortgage. Most lenders will give you an idea of how much money they are willing to lend you, called a ‘mortgage or agreement in principle’.

Find a suitable property

There are several ways to find a property. Most people use an estate agent – find out more about estate agents, their contracts and fees in ‘Using an estate agent – selling a property’. You can also buy direct from the seller (a private sale) or at auction.

Make an offer for the property

Once you’ve found a property, you’ll need to make an offer to the seller. ‘Making an offer on a home’ explains how to do this.

Hire a solicitor or conveyancer

Your solicitor or conveyancer will deal directly with those of the ‘vendors’ (the sellers).

A solicitor or licensed conveyancer carries out the legal work involved in buying a property. The estate agent will ask both you and the vendors for details of the solicitors to be used for the sale and purchase.

Get the property surveyed

Once your offer is accepted, you should get the property checked for any defects in its condition that might affect the value. To find out more about the different types of surveys, see ‘Property surveys’.

Your mortgage lender may need a separate valuation to confirm the value of the property.

Apply for a mortgage

If you don’t have the money to buy the property outright, you’ll need to make a full application for a mortgage. To find out how, see ‘Mortgage application process’.

The exchange of the contracts to buy the property is the point where the sale is legally binding

Exchange contracts

Solicitors for both sides will get the buyer and the seller to sign a contract. This says you agree to the terms of the sale and to buy the property. You and the seller must now stick to the terms of the contract or face going to court.

The contract will list items that are included in the sale or that you’ve agreed to buy (for example, electrical items or furniture).

You’ll usually need to pay a deposit of 10 per cent of the house price to the seller at this point.

Pay for the property and move in

After the final legal tasks are complete, your solicitor will arrange for your mortgage company to pay the rest of the money to the seller’s solicitor. When this is done, the house belongs to you and you can move in on the agreed date. This is called ‘completion’.

See ‘Moving to your new home’ for a checklist of things to do when moving to a new home.

Be prepared for unexpected delays

If you’re buying a property, you’ll often find yourself in a chain of people, all relying on selling their property to buy a new property. This means the purchase of your property may fall through for reasons outside your control.

Be prepared to arrange alternative temporary accommodation if you have to move out of your property.

Get help to buy a home

High property prices have made it difficult for many people to afford to buy a home. There are a number of schemes aimed at helping. ‘Affordable home ownership schemes – a guide’ outlines the schemes currently available.

Buying a home with others

You may want to think about buying a home with other family members, friends or a partner. Find out more about this in 'Buying a home - making it more affordable'.

Buying a home – when the process is different

The process of buying a home can be different if you are buying a:

  • property at auction
  • park or mobile home
  • flat or other leasehold property
  • property in Scotland

Follow the links below to find out how to buy these kinds of property.

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