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What you need to know when buying a house in the UK

What you need to know when buying a house in the UK
Image source: Getty Images


We get it – you’re excited about buying property. You want to get moving right away. But hold on. Before buying a house in the UK, there are a few things you need to do. Otherwise, you risk committing to a house you can’t afford. 

Starting your property search

The best place to start? Make a checklist. Doing so will help you stay on track and remind you what needs to happen next.

So, here are the first four things to put on your list.    

1. Set a budget

Be honest about what you can afford to spend. There’s more than just monthly mortgage payments to factor in. You’ll also need to budget for costs like:

  • Moving fees
  • Solicitor bills
  • Surveys
  • Insurance
  • Stamp duty (depending on the property and when you buy it)
  • Utilities and other household bills

2. Save your deposit

It’s highly likely that you’ll need to save up a deposit before buying a house in the UK. Aim to put down at least 5% of the purchase price, but remember – the bigger the deposit, the cheaper your mortgage could be. 

Worried about how you’ll finance your new home? The UK Government has support schemes available for first-time buyers and people who can’t buy a house on their own.  

3. Get the paperwork in order

Before you go for a mortgage, make sure you have the following paperwork:

  • Proof of income
  • ID (e.g. your passport) 
  • Proof of address 

4. Get a mortgage in principle

Before buying a house in the UK, you should arrange a mortgage in principle. A mortgage in principle is basically when a lender agrees to offer you a mortgage at a later date. It’s good to have this in place before you look for a property because then you know you’ll be able to afford the house.

It’s a good idea to pay off some debt and reduce your credit card balances before you go for a mortgage, because this may help boost your credit score. Why is this important? Because the lender will perform a credit check to confirm that you can afford the repayments.

It might be worth checking out your credit score before you apply for a mortgage. You can order a credit report from companies like Experian and Equifax.

Making an offer 

So, you’ve got a mortgage in principle and you’ve found the home for you. Now it’s time to make an offer. What happens? 

  • You appoint a solicitor and tell them you want to make an offer on a house. They’ll help you through the process. Usually, you’ll offer less than the full asking price, but your solicitor will help with this.
  • If the seller accepts your offer, they should take the property off the market.
  • You’ll receive what’s called a memorandum of sale confirming your offer has been accepted.  

After this, you should go back to your mortgage lender and get your mortgage confirmed.

The conveyancing stage

Once you’ve got your memorandum of sale, it’s time to start a legal process called conveyancing. Conveyancing is the process by which property legally transfers from one person to another, and it’s really important to get it right.

  • You should get a survey on the property to check for any hidden defects. If there’s a problem and it’ll cost you money to fix it, you might want to lower your offer.
  • Your solicitor performs a few property searches with the Land Registry and the local authorities. These searches confirm whether:
    • The seller has the right to sell the property
    • There are any planned building or construction works
    • You’re getting the house, and the land, you’re paying for  

Completing the sale

Buying a house in the UK can take up to 12 weeks. But if both sides are happy with the contract, it’s then time to sign it off. This is known as exchanging contracts.

Before you can exchange, you need to:

  • Agree the completion date (i.e. the day you’ll move in) 
  • Provide written confirmation of your mortgage offer
  • Pay your deposit 

Once contracts are exchanged, it’s a legally binding agreement. You can’t pull out without financial and legal consequences. 

A few weeks before you move in, make sure you:

  • Find a removal company, if you need one
  • Arrange your home insurance
  • Set up utilities (e.g. electricity)
  • Tell everyone about your pending change of address 

Once completion day arrives, it’s time to enjoy your new home!

Get help buying a house in the UK

There’s no doubt that moving house can be overwhelming, but it’s also an exciting time. Just make sure you appoint your solicitor sooner rather than later to help ensure everything goes to plan.

If you’re worried about whether you can afford to buy a house, remember to get financial advice before you commit to anything. 

What next?

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