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The Homebuying Process

Two of the many questions that come to mind as a first-time buyer are how long will the home buying process take and what does it involve?

On average, it’ll take you around six months. That’s 6 months from starting to search for a new home all the way through to getting the keys. You’ll spend half of this finding the home you want to buy and the other half going through the legal process. Your home buying journey will be impacted by how prepared you are and other things outside your control, like a ‘chain’.

These are the key stages you’ll go through:
  • House searching and viewing
  • Making offers
  • Getting your offer accepted
  • Getting a mortgage
  • Getting a survey
  • Instructing a conveyancer
  • Exchanging contracts
  • Completion
  • Getting the keys

Starting your home buying process

Before you daydream about your new home, you need to be prepared and ready for the journey. A lot of the hard work starts long before you go for your first property viewing.

Your first priority should be to get your finances in order. Here are three important things to think about:

Saving for a deposit

If you’re like most people and don’t have a spare £250k down the side of the sofa, you’ll want to get a mortgage, and most mortgage lenders ask you to put down some money (called a deposit) when you buy a home. Sounds obvious, but you build up your deposit by saving what you can when you can or maybe by getting support from the Bank of Mum and Dad. 

The trick is to start saving as soon as possible because the bigger your deposit, the better the mortgage deal you’ll be offered. Everyone’s home buying process starts with building up a deposit.

Make the most of free money

There are schemes available from the government to help you build a deposit faster. The Lifetime ISA (LISA) is the main one, and you can get a £1,000 bonus for every £4,000 saved in a tax year for free. 

Manage your credit score

Mortgage lenders want to make sure you’ll be able to manage your mortgage payments, and the main way they do this is by checking your credit score. If you have a poor score, mortgage lenders assume you’re not very good at managing money. Improving your score can take time, so check your score as soon as possible. We use ClearScore and Credit Karma.

Understand your affordability

Take time to figure out how much mortgage lenders will let you borrow. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a house to find out that no mortgage lender will give you how much you need. A good rule of thumb is to multiply your annual income (plus your partners if you’re buying together) by 4.5. Some mortgage lenders like NatWest have tools to give you a more accurate calculation. 

A lot of the hard work starts long before you go for your first property viewing.


The stages of home buying

Here are the main stages and some essential information about them: 

House searching and viewing

Arguably the most fun part of the whole home buying process. It can take weeks or even months, depending on how well you know what you’re after and the properties available on the market. The average time someone takes to find a home is between one and three months. The main places you’ll find homes are on Rightmove and Zoopla. Get ready to swap mindless scrolling on TikTok for these two apps. Crazy fact in 2021, Rightmove reported 208 million monthly visitors!

Making offers

At this point, you’ve found where you want to call home, and you’re ready to make an offer. You’ll make your offer to the estate agent who showed you around the property. They’ll typically ask you to prove you can afford to buy it before considering the offer. The proof you’ll need is a mortgage in principle, a piece of paper from a mortgage lender or mortgage broker saying they’ll be prepared to give you a mortgage.  

Getting your offer accepted

Your offer will be put to the buyer, and if there are multiple offers, they’ll consider them all and decide what to do. Hopefully, they accept your offer, and if they do, you’re one step closer to being a homeowner.

Getting a mortgage

Get ready for all the admin to begin. You’ll now need to go back to your mortgage lender or mortgage broker who gave you a mortgage in principle to make a formal mortgage offer. Mortgage brokers are mortgage experts, so if you have one, they’ll help simplify and speed up the process. If you haven’t already, be prepared to provide proof of ID, your income and that you have a deposit saved.

Your mortgage lender will carry out an affordability check looking at things like your credit score. They’ll also ask for a valuation to make sure that the property you’re buying is not overpriced. 

Instructing a conveyancer

Conveyancing is the legal process involved in buying your home, and you’ll need a solicitor to help you through it. Conveyancers are solicitors that specialise in property transactions. This can be the longest part of the home buying process, and it will feel like it. 

Your conveyancer will need to deal with things like asking the local council for details about the property, working with the Land Registry and managing the exchange of money. 

Once this part of the process has started, you’ll be working towards an ‘exchange of contracts’ and then ‘completion’.

Exchange of contracts

This is the point at which buying your home becomes legally binding. Up until now, anyone could call the property purchase off without consequence. You’ll exchange contracts by signing your contract to buy the home and giving it to your conveyancer to pass on to the sellers. Hence ‘exchange of contracts’. It’s important to note at this point, your mortgage lender will expect you to get buildings insurance. 

Completion

Once contracts are exchanged, the final part of the process (before getting your keys) is agreeing on the date you will ‘complete’ the purchase. On the agreed date of completion, your mortgage lender will be asked to release the money to buy your home, and you’ll get hold of the keys to your new home! As part of this stage, you’ll also settle any outstanding bills with your solicitor and be sent all the final documents relating to your purchase. 


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