How to buy a house - a complete checklist
Buying a house is a significant investment, and it's important to make sure you have a clear and complete plan in place, so tha you’re ready for each step of the process.
Below is a checklist of the key steps to take and how buying a house works in England and Wales.
Budget and finances
Before you start house-hunting, you should take some time to plan your budget and figure out what you can afford. Take into account your monthly income and outgoings, as well as any savings and debts you have.
You'll also need to factor in additional costs such as stamp duty, legal fees, and home insurance.
It's advisable to speak to a mortgage broker to help you work out what you can afford. You can either find a trusted advisor through google searches or ask for recommendations from local estate agents.
Location and area
The location of a property is one of the most important considerations when buying a home. You can change and improve lots of aspects of a house but the one thing you can’t change (without moving home yourself) is its location.
Ask yourself – what’s important to you? Consider factors such as how close the property is to your work, what amenities are nearby like schools, shops, cafes and public transport? What would your commute look like and how easy is it to get into or out of the city or town centre? You might also want to consider researching the local area and taking into account factors like crime rates and noise levels.
Finally, try to picture yourself living there and think about any potential inconveniences - how readily available is parking and what are the neighbours like? We all have different priorities, so it’s important to know what’s important to you and make sure the location is suitable for your needs.
Property type and size
Decide what type of property you're looking for, whether it's a flat, house, or bungalow. Consider the number of rooms you need, as well as the layout and style of the property, such as terraced (row of houses), semi-detached (two houses joined together) or detached (a house not joined to another house).
Think about your future plans and whether the property fits within them. How long would you plan on living there? Is it a stepping stone to your ideal property or is it your forever home? You should also think about whether you need outdoor space, such as a garden, a driveway, or a balcony.
Estate agents and property viewings
Booking viewings with estate agents is a simple process and they’ll usually ask you a few questions about what you’re looking for and your financial position. It’s probably worth registering your interest with several local estate agents in your chosen location as they can help you find properties that meet your criteria and arrange viewings, potentially even before the property is listed on Rightmove.
When viewing a property, it's important to be thorough and ask any questions you have about the property or the local area. Make sure you go to a viewing prepared with a list of any questions you’d like answered. In terms of the property this could be things like the age of the boiler and whether it is regularly serviced, or when the windows or roof were last replaced. You might want to know if white goods (kitchen appliances such as fridges or washing machines) are included in the purchase price. In regards to the local area, you might have questions about local amenities such as shops, schools and public transport, whether the sellers have any problems with neighbours and asking for the reason why the seller is moving out of the property.
Condition of the property
Before making an offer on a property, you’ll want to think about what condition the property is in and how much work you might need to do to be happy to live there. Are there any obvious problems with the property such as mould or damp (these can be hard to spot, so it’s worth getting a survey)? Do all the lights and taps work, do windows and doors open and shut?
You might want to redecorate and it’s worth considering whether you’re happy with the condition of the bathroom and kitchen as these can be costly to renovate. If the property does need renovation, would you be willing to do the work yourself or would you want to hire a contractor? Think about the potential costs and make sure you factor these into your budget if you’re considering making an offer.
Making an offer and negotiations
Once you've found a property you're interested in, you’re ready to make an offer! Your estate agent will help you negotiate the price and terms of the sale. Be ready with proof of your finances when making an offer to an estate agent.
If you’re a first time buyer they might ask if you’ve got a mortgage in principal. If you’re using a mortgage broker they’ll help you obtain one, or you can provide your own if you’ve applied directly with a bank.
If you’re selling a property in order to buy, the estate agent might ask about your situation, whether your property is on the market, if you have an offer already or if you still need to list your property.
If you’re a cash buyer an estate agent will likely ask you for proof of funds.
You need to be realistic about what you can afford and take into account any additional costs such as stamp duty and legal fees. With our conveyancing calculator you’ll get a full breakdown of costs and a fixed-fee legal quote, so you’ll know your financials from the outset.
Legal considerations and conveyancing
If you haven’t already, at this point you’ll want to instruct a property lawyer to handle the purchase’s legal aspects, such as negotiating the contract and searching for the property's title. As the legal side of buying a house can be complicated, it's important to find the right conveyancer to guide you through. We believe that conveyancing should be a simple process and you should be kept in the loop each step of the way.
As part of the legal process your conveyancer will recommend undertaking a number of property searches. In addition there will be a number of legal documents and forms that requiring reviewing and completing. As the legal process is thorough, all this work takes time to complete. With our online portal you’ll be able to see exactly what work is outstanding and what stage you are at in the process.
When searching for a suitable conveyancing service, you should find one that’s going to work for you, and give you full visibility over the entire buying process. Eden provides an experienced team of property lawyers to guide you through every step while taking out the complicated jargon, so you know exactly what’s going on.
Home surveys and inspections
A survey is a highly recommended part of the buying process as it’ll help give you a more detailed picture of the condition of the property and any potential issues. There are several types of surveys available, including a basic homebuyer report, which is more suitable for properties in reasonable condition and a more in-depth building survey often more suited to older properties or those that require more work.
A surveyor will inspect the property and provide you with a report detailing any problems or potential issues. If there are severe issues outlined in the survey, you might want to get a specialist (such as a damp surveyor, a builder or a roofer) to give you an assessment and a quote for the required work. Some buyers will try to revise their offer if the cost of work outlined is high, but be aware that it’s the sellers decision whether they want to renegotiate, keep the original price or even but the house back on the market.
Exchange of contracts, completion and moving in
Once both you and your conveyancer are satisfied with all the documents and searches that you have been provided, you’ll be ready to move to a stage called exchange of contracts. It’s at this point where both you and the seller will sign and exchange the contracts that each parties lawyers have been preparing. When the contracts are signed, you will be legally bound to buy the property and the seller will be legally bound to sell you the property. You’ll also be asked for a deposit, which your conveyancer will arrange to be transferred to the seller’s solicitors.
Your conveyancer will also work with you to arrange a completion date.. This is the date when the purchase will be completed and the property will become yours. If you’re part of a chain, your conveyancer will work with the other parties to agree a suitable date for everyone. A property chain is where the seller of the property you are buying is also buying their next property to move into.
On the day of completion, your property lawyer will arrange for your funds to be transferred (minus the deposit paid on exchange) to the seller’s conveyancer. When the seller’s conveyancer confirms receipt of the monies, they’ll notify the estate agent to release the keys, ready for you to collect them.
If you need help with moving, ahead of the completion day you’ll need to make sure that you have planned and organised how you are going to transfer all of your belongings and move home.. This can be done by hiring a moving company, or you can organise help from friends and family by letting them know the moving-in date and borrowing vehicles or hiring a self-drive van.
Home insurance and maintenance planning
Once you've moved into your new home, it's important to think about home insurance and maintenance. Home insurance is essential to protect your house and provide peace of mind in case of any unexpected events, such as theft, damage, or natural disasters. Having buildings insurance is usually a requirement for most mortgage providers, so make sure you arrange for it to be active for the day of completion.
Make a plan to complete regular maintenance to keep your home in good condition and prevent potential issues from becoming more serious. If possible, you should also set aside funds for any future repairs or upgrades.
Eden: Your trusted digital conveyancing service
By following the above checklist, you can make sure you have covered all the key aspects of the process and are well-prepared to make a smart investment. Take your time, do your research, and don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Eden Conveyancing provides a fully online service, as well as a 24/7 online platform where you can ask your dedicated property lawyer any questions. Keep on top of where you are in your house-buying journey and keep all your documents in one place, with your MyEden account.