The process of buying a house on your own in the UK can seem overwhelming requiring preparation and research, time, dedication and emotion. With around 1 in 3 sales falling through (2022/2023), it can also be expensive and bewildering, costing a lot more than just money. With an expert, knowledgeable and professional buying agent at your side, the chances are it can be a smooth and exciting experience. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced homeowner, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of buying a house comparing DIY (doing it yourself) to using a skilled buying agent.
Do it yourself
- Think about what it is you want in your new house. Why are you moving? Consider all aspects, from schooling, location, and commute to working from home. There are limitless considerations to ensure you don’t buy the wrong house.
- Determine Your Budget and, if needed, get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage: Before you start house-hunting, you must know how much you can afford to spend on a property. This will help you set your budget and save time viewing properties outside your price range. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can also give you a better idea of what you can afford, and it can make the process of buying a house smoother as you’ll have a clearer picture of how much you can borrow. Not being known to the agents, having evidence of cash or a mortgage in principle will help them help you through the process giving them confidence that you are efficient, knowledgeable, swift and able to keep to your promises.
- Search for Properties Online and by telephone, or better still, walk into the estate agents that cover your area.: There are many ways to search for properties in the UK. You can work with estate agents, use online property search engines such as Rightmove or Zoopla and trawl through social media for off-market property opportunities.
- View Properties: Once you’ve found a property you’re interested in, it’s time to view it. You should be setting aside several days for this. Considering only one property is unlikely to be successful as most buyers change their criteria during their searching process due to moving goals and a realisation that a compromise is likely to be made to fit with the budget. Take your time to look around all the properties and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, ‘What can I live with? What can I do without.’.
- Make an Offer on a Desired Property: When you are entirely happy with your choice, make an offer. You’ll need to have done your research to ensure that you are paying a fair price. This involves far more than a courtesy glance at the properties you have seen on the portals or viewed. You’ll need to consider the value of the living space in the house and the garden versus the area with less capital value. You do not want to pay too much, and you do not want to upset the seller by offering too little. Paying too much for a property can be devastating! You also need to consider if there is likely to be any competition or expectations from the seller. When you’re ready to make an offer, your estate agent or solicitor can help you to make it in writing. You should consider the terms of any bid, inc., time frames, expectations, percentage cash v mortgage, the property being removed from the market, a possible holding deposit and other considerations. If your offer is accepted, you are halfway there. There is a chance that your offer will not proceed to a conclusion. Therefore, you have to decide whether to put all your hopes on this opportunity or whether you should be prepared by continuing your search for alternative options.
- Hire a Solicitor or Conveyancer: There is a significant difference. A solicitor is likely to be quicker but more expensive. A conveyancer will have to sign off their work with a usually in-house solicitor, but they are often cheaper. A solicitor or conveyancer is a legal professional who will handle the legal aspects of buying a house in the UK. They’ll carry out a range of checks, such as checking the title of the property, making sure there are no outstanding debts or issues, and ensuring that the seller has the right to sell the property. They’ll also prepare the contracts and transfer the funds to the seller. Important: If you have a mortgage, please ensure that the firm you chose is on or can get on your chosen mortgage lender’s panel. If they cannot – they will need a second solicitor who is.
- Undergo Surveys: Before you complete the purchase, you must conduct a survey to check for any issues with the property. This can include a homebuyer report, a basic survey that identifies any significant problems with the property, or a full building survey, which is a more in-depth examination of the property. Because of the survey, you will need to consider whether the results are good enough to proceed or whether you would like to withdraw from your purchase or negotiate a new price. Each requires thought and emotion as, at this stage, losing your purchase is usually highly emotional.
- Exchange Contracts and Pay a Deposit and organise the move: Once you’re happy with the results of the surveys and your lawyers are satisfied with all aspects of their searches and contract and have had any questions answered, it’s time to exchange contracts. This is a legally binding agreement between you and the seller, meaning the sale is now going ahead. You’ll also need to pay a deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price, at this stage. This can be reduced by mutual agreement depending on whether you are in a chain (more than one property involved) or the house’s value, but always remember that at this stage, you are legally bound to owe 10%. You will now need to organise, amongst others, removals, insurance, cleaning of your old property, school places (if required), utilities including phone and broadband and postal redirection.
- Complete the Sale and Receive the Keys: The final step is to complete the sale. This is when you pay the remaining balance and receive the keys to the property. Once the sale has been completed, you’ll be the proud owner of your new home!
- Research, find and employ a professional buying agent. They will often visit your home at a convenient time to discuss your wants, why’s and requirements. In addition, they will often provide a prompt sheet helping you to consider all your preferences and needs.
- Determine Your Budget and, if needed, get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage: A buying agent will usually have solid mortgage brokers in their ‘little black book’, different brokers suitable for other circumstances. They will make an introduction and then ensure that the best options are presented in the most timely fashion. Having an approved mortgage and being anonymous to the estate agent/s (the agents only deal with your buying agent at this stage), you will be a high priority for introduction to the best houses. Buying agents often have an existing relationship with the agents that sell appropriate properties and get informed of opportunities well ahead of the public.
- Search for Properties Online and by telephone or, better still, walk into the estate agents that cover your area: Relax while your buying agents search for properties for you.
- View Properties: Your buying agent will be able to preview all possible properties on your behalf, having fully understood your brief. They will then invite you to accompany them to see only the most suitable (usually 2 or 3), having often provided a video tour or other such material before asking you to leave your home.
- Make an Offer on a Desired Property: Your buying agent will prepare a comparison workbook enabling you to quickly understand the compromises (if any), the property’s value and research as to the competition and what the owner is likely to accept. Then, your buying agent will make a written and verbal offer for you and, using their years of experience, handle all negotiations for you. Once accepted, your buying agent will continue to keep an eye on the market for other possible opportunities that might arise.
- Hire a Solicitor or Conveyancer: Your buying agent will be able to recommend a solicitor that suits the property and client and will work closely with them, keeping all parties fully informed on progress.
- Undergo Surveys: As before, your buying agent can recommend an appropriate survey. Importantly, they will also be able to interpret the survey to ascertain how much of it requires action and how much is written to protect the surveyor from a lawsuit. Again, your buying agent will take care of this if we need to renegotiate.
- Exchange Contracts, Pay a Deposit and organise the move: This will be handled by your solicitor. Under their guidance and that of your buying agent, you will be delighted to pay the right price for the right house that meets all the right criteria. You will now need to organise, amongst others, removals, insurance, cleaning of your old property, school places (if required), utilities including phone and broadband and postal redirection. However, your buying agent should have contacts in companies that do this work for you, including decluttering before your move and moving home cards for your friends and family.
- Complete the Sale and Receive the Keys: Your buying agent will meet you at the property and hand over the keys to you.
The process of buying a house in the UK can be long and complicated, but with the right help and guidance, it can be a smooth and enjoyable experience. Using a buying agent should save you time, emotion, stress and, above all, money. Buying the wrong house can be highly damaging to your family, employment, marriage and health. There is no comparison when the net result is usually being financially and emotionally better off having paid for professional help.