How to buy a house – Part 1

Hey there, you’re buying a house! That’s ace, go you 😀 Are you super stressed? Don’t be, it will all be OK! These are the overall steps of the process, I will do a part two for the nitty gritty of what documents you need etc. in a second post.

Disclaimer: This is aimed at first time buyers in England and Wales, Scottish and Northern Irish buyers could also benefit but I know there are certain rules in Scotland that will be in effect that I won’t discuss because I have no experience of them, likewise I don’t know if there are differences in Northern Ireland so I wouldn’t like to say either way. 

Things that need to be done:

  • Find a house
  • Make an offer
  • Get a mortgage
  • Paperwork
  • Send people lots of money
  • Move in!

Seems simple? And it can be! Here are your actual steps though.

First, I would recommend that you talk to mortgage brokers sooner rather than later – the minute you start scoping out your housing choices, have an idea of your price range, know your deposit etc., call a mortgage broker. Vulpii and I used two in the process of buying our first home. First, we used London & Country on a recommendation from a friend and although we had a slightly bad experience with our particular guy – he just didn’t return calls for two days and then we were gazumped – I would not hesitate to recommend them to other people, even the receptionists and the evening switchboard people were lovely. We now are using JLM Mortgage Services because of a long story but the guy we’re working with is also very nice. The reasons I recommend L&C though is because I called them like every couple of weeks for some advice and it’s all free advice and basically every time I called they sent me a Decision in Principle. Which is a piece of paper (email) that says “we have looked at their money and we provisionally, though confidently, expect them to be able to get a mortgage for $amount” – what that means is you can make an offer and send that over to the estate agent and it makes you look really good.

Second, find a house you like! Look at lots of houses, go back and look at them again and TAKE YOUR OWN PICTURES! I cannot stress this enough, we didn’t when we were looking around and it was a pain for the 8 weeks afterwards trying to remember stuff or work it out from the estate agent pictures so take your own!

Third, after talking a bit more with your mortgage advisor, make an offer. You can make an offer a bit lower or a bit higher than the asking price or dead-on, it’s up to you. We were advised by a number of people to go *quite* low and it turned into a bit of a bidding war and you don’t need that bullshit. Pick a number that you’re happy with, don’t over-extend yourself, pick a little lower than you’re happy to pay if you can without being cheeky, if only so you can rise to your comfortable price if they shake their heads.

Fourth, if/when your offer is accepted go back to your mortgage broker and get them to get started on a proper mortgage application.

Fifth, get a solicitor. Your mortgage broker and/or estate agent will both have ones they recommend, it’s really up to you. Look at their fees, work out what you can pay. We’re using Convey Law, they’re based in Newport but we’re in East Anglia, they don’t have to be local if you’re happy doing everything by phone/email. Happy to recommend them, they’re terrible at answering the phone but great at emails so, it’s not a problem for us.

Sixth, if you are wanting to have a Homebuyer’s Survey done, book it right now. No one will tell you when to do it because they don’t care if you’re getting it done. The mortgage company will do a valuation survey but if you want something a bit more in depth book it as soon as you can because it depends on when they have a free slot. Ask your estate agent for recommendations on surveyors or go through reviews online.

Ideally do these all on the same day.

Seventh, sit around for a bit, your mortgage broker will want to talk to you and get you to answer lots of questions, your solicitor as well, fill in all the paperwork as and when it arrives, send it off sharpish and wait. When the survey comes in, do not panic if there are some scary looking bits, get a builder or civil engineer friend or relative to look it over for you, you could even get an estate agent to look it over. I’m not saying they’re not doing their jobs but they have to make things seems urgent because they a) need to sell themselves and b) cover their arses. Does it matter if someone blocked up the air bricks to your floor? Probably not really, not in the next two months anyway etc. etc.

Eighth, pick a date, no, really. Just pick one. If you haven’t been given a date you can just make one up and it’ll get sent to the seller and if they’re happy for that to be the completion date then that’s what it will be, or they’ll suggest something else. If you’re in a real rush pick something sooner, if you aren’t pick something later. It will depend on a few factors, if the seller is buying another house and you’re in what’s called a ‘chain’ then your date will be less flexible, if they’re selling a property they’ve done up or rented and don’t need to move out it will be whatever you choose between you.

Ninth, sign the contracts when they are sent to you, ours had a ‘completion date’ on them so we just wrote one in, it’s a guideline, it might go through on that day or the seller might want to negotiate it, don’t be scared, just pick one.

Tenth, I don’t know yet, we’re still at contracts in post to solicitors realms so I’ll let you know what else is happening.


Salixa x

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