Buying a home - the timeline

fees when buying a home

By Lesley | Edited by Johanna Updated June 2015

Buying a home is one of the most stressful things you can do, but knowing what to do and when, will make the ride much smoother.

This guide walks you through the 25 steps to buying a home, including timescales, and arms you with the knowledge needed to give your solicitor a kick up the bum along the way.

The process is slightly different in Scotland. for the 25 steps to buying a home in Scotland click the tab below

How long will the buying process take?

Below is a typical timeline for a purchase in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But timescales vary depending on the buyer's and seller's circumstances, plus conveyancing problems can arise and add delays:

Find a property: Research the area, scour estate agents and search websites.

Put in an offer: Tell the seller what you're willing to pay and any conditions.

It's accepted: Now get a survey to check the property's condition. Your solicitor checks any legal issues.

Exchange: You pay your deposit and can't back out without major cost.

Completion: You hand over the rest of the cash in exchange for the keys and deeds. The property's now legally yours.

Important: nobody is legally bound to complete the deal until exchange of contracts.

Can you afford the property you want?

There's no point getting excited about the property of your dreams if you've no idea whether you can afford it. Avoid unnecessary disappointment and if you haven't already, go back and read our How Much Can I Borrow? guide to check if you:

If you have, pat yourself on the back and skip to step three.

Our How Much Can I Borrow? calculator will help you tot up how much you might be able to borrow, based on your income.

To be more confident (and make yourself more attractive to estate agents and sellers), use our Boost Your Mortgage Chances guide to find the mortgage that's right for you and get an application in principle (AIP) done.

Quick question

How do I get an AIP?

An AIP is a mini-application where the lender checks your information and your credit file and decides how much it might be willing to lend to you.

An AIP is not a binding offer and the lender can change its mind. For example:

  • The lender might not be happy with the property you want to buy.
  • You might fail to provide evidence that is requested, such as payslips or a P60.
  • The lender might discover something you didn't tell it.

An AIP can also be referred to as a 'decision in principle' and sometimes even a 'mortgage in principle', so keep an eye out for the language.

Find your dream home

Now you're really ready to house hunt. Make sure you read the 20 Property Search Tips guide to help you find 'the one'.

Make the right offer

If you're wringing your hands over how much to offer, consider asking the MoneySavers on this site's House Buying, Selling & Renting board. They'll share their experiences and help you dig for clues.

You're likely to get more response if you post a link to the home's advertisement on one of the big property search sites, such as Rightmove. But do remember this is a public forum, and there's a chance you could give away your tactics to the seller.

Don't over-extend yourself – remember all the additional costs you'll need to cover. Read the Buying Fees guide if you're unsure of all the costs involved.

Get fixtures and fittings in writing

To avoid getting the keys to a stripped-bare house, ask the seller for a list of all fixtures and fittings included in the purchase. Right down to light fittings, TV aerial cable screws, bins and the fire grate. Yes, one forumite found these gone.

Quick question

What should I pay if I buy fixtures and fittings from the vendor?

If you're paying extra for any fittings, remember sellers often price up goods on what they paid originally, which can have little relation to current values. For example, a Ј2,000 TV might have been their pride and joy when they nailed it to the wall six years ago, but would now cost Ј300-ish new and less second-hand.

To see if you could buy it new cheaper, use ‘shopbots' – shopping robot comparison services that scan loads of retailers for best prices. The free MegaShopBot tool searches the best shopbots for each item.

There's a quick way to glean second-hand items' values on eBay*. Fill in the search box and tick 'completed items' on the left-hand grey bar. It'll come up with a list of prices similar items have already fetched.

MILESTONE - offer accepted

Mini celebration time! But there's still a lot to do (and nobody is contractually obliged) so don't get carried away yet.

Watch out for gazumping and gazanging!

You and the seller are not legally bound to complete the purchase until you have reached the next milestone - the exchange of contracts.

Until you reach that milestone, there is always a risk of being gazumped or gazanged.

When another buyer offers more money than you and your seller reneges on your deal. You could ask for them to 'take it off the market' as a condition of your offer, reducing the chances of them attracting another buyer (though it's not foolproof).

When your seller decides to cancel the sale and stay, usually because prices are going up, and they can make more money if they wait a few months.

Sadly, there's little you can do to avoid either of these, as they're both dependent on the actions of the seller, and can end up losing you a lot of money, especially if it happens just before exchange of contracts where your solicitor (and possibly your surveyor) have already carried out a lot of work.

The most you can do is to be as quick as you possibly can be between having your offer accepted and exchanging contracts - and this means getting your solicitor and mortgage lender or broker to hurry things up.

Find your best mortgage

An agreement in principle (AIP) is usually only valid for 30 or 90 days depending on the lender so if your search took a while, it might have expired.

Don't worry though, if you got accepted before and followed our Boost Your Mortgage Chances guide's steps, you'll probably be accepted again.

You shouldn't automatically go back to the first lender anyway. The range of mortgage products on offer can change on a daily basis, so it's definitely worth a quick check of the market again to see if you can find a better deal.

It's worth the extra effort to do another check. Getting a 4% deal instead of 3% on a Ј150,000 repayment mortgage over 25 years will cost you Ј24,000 more.

Don't just go direct to your bank

There are many lenders and only one has the best deal for you. What are the chances it's your bank? If you have a good credit score, then another lender is likely to want you just as much as your current bank. Read our Cheap Mortgage Finding guide, or if you already know what you're doing, head to our Mortgage Best Buys tool to search the market for a top rate.

It's one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, so get it right.

Get a mortgage illustration

Make sure you get a personalised mortgage illustration. It'll detail all the key features of the mortgage. You'll need this later on. Scan it, keep it and file it.

Hunt for the right solicitor

You don't strictly need to do this before you put in an offer, but if you've already found a solicitor you want to use, it can speed up the process.

Conveyancing is the legal process that transfers a property from one person to another. Licensed conveyancers are specialist property lawyers, who do all the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of money.

This all comes at a price and can cost up to Ј1,500.

If you line one up early, you won't need to sign up the first one you find in a panic once your offer is accepted on the property. You want someone who knows what they are doing, is a good communicator, reliable and most importantly, is on the panel of the major lenders.

That could be the only reason to wait - using a conveyancer who your lender won't also use will add unnecessary delay, so you could be better off waiting until you know what lender your mortgage is with first.

How do I find a cheap solicitor?

DON'T automatically use the estate agents' firm.

It's probably a commission-based recommendation. If you speak to it, use its price as a benchmark.

DO get maximum quotes in minimum time.

Answer a few questions at Reallymoving.com and it emails you at least four quotes from firms in your area. The Law Society's Find a Solicitor tool also has a section on conveyancing. Also ask friends and family for recommendations.

DON'T assume they need to be nearby.

Consider someone from further afield. It's perfectly possible to use a solicitor in Newcastle when you live in central London, and it can be much cheaper.

DO check out the web.

Some MoneySavers rate cheap 'n' cheerful internet-based conveyancers that do it all via the phone and net. Here are some companies our forumites have had good experiences with: Easier2move. 1st Property Lawyers and Online Conveyancing. However, nothing is guaranteed - feedback (as with all solicitors) varies, so please do your own research first.

DON'T go for rock bottom price if you're in a rush.

The cheapest companies often work in bulk and can be slower. If time's an issue, that can be a problem. Pick a company that answers emails/calls promptly.

DO check for hidden extras.

Ask for a full fee breakdown. Do they include bank money transfer fees, stamp duty forms, land registration fees and drainage and environmental searches? Will they charge to verify your ID?

DON'T automatically use the solicitor who did your divorce.

Pick a firm that focuses on conveyancing or at least has a specialist department. Ask how many cases it handled last year. Just because someone did your divorce doesn't mean they can do this job too.

DO ask if they'll chuck in a will for free.

A top tip from money_maker. “Get your will done with your solicitor at the same time, as some will do it for free since they are already being paid." For more options, see Free & Cheap Wills .

DON'T be shy.

Ensure you fully understand what your legal adviser will and won't do on your behalf. See the Legal Ombudsman's 10 questions to ask your lawyer about costs.

DO check they are regulated by a professional body.

Solicitors are regulated by the Law Society and conveyancers the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. If they are, then they must have a clear complaints procedure.

DO ask if they've a holiday booked.

Will the lawyer be on holiday any time in the next three months? If they'll be backpacking in Peru on your preferred completion date, best go with another option.

Once you've found a solicitor, you can get the ball rolling with the rest of the process - househunting and starting to get a mortgage.

The lender will check the property's worth it.

Once the AIP is done, the next step is to convert it to a full application. This is where the lender makes sure it's happy to.

It'll check the information you've given is accurate by asking for evidence such as payslips.

Lend on the property you want to buy.

The property is the lender's security for the loan. If you don't pay your mortgage, it can repossess it and sell it to get the money back.

So the lender will want to be confident that the property is fit for this purpose. This is why part of the application process involves an independent valuer to assess the property and report back to the lender.

Confusingly, what you paid for the property isn't necessarily the 'value'. Your loan-to-value ratio for the mortgage deal will be assessed on the official valuation, and not based on what you're offering.

Each lender will have its own rules about the type of property it's willing to lend - largely related to the lender's confidence in being able to sell it again.

Quick question

Why might the lender not lend on my property?

It may be wary of properties above commercial premises, high rises, or homes made of unusual materials (this includes concrete!).

The application form should check the majority of these so the lender can tell if it's a no-go before wasting a valuer's time. But if there's something odd about the property, point it out at the application stage to avoid wasting any time.

You can't do a full application (or get a formal mortgage offer) without already having a property with an offer accepted.

Your solicitor will carry out searches for you

While your mortgage application is being looked at by the lender, your solicitor will start to carry out the necessary searches. Searches and prices vary based on the location.

Although some of them are optional, it's advisable to get them all carried out. Your mortgage lender will insist on some of them. For example:

  • Local authority searches - check to see if there is anything you need to be aware of, such as any building control issues, enforcement actions and nearby road schemes.
  • Drainage searches - check it is connected to sewers (approx Ј35).
  • Environmental search - checks land isn't contaminated (approx Ј30).

These searches cost money and your solicitor will usually charge you for these early on in the process, so it's not out of pocket. There's usually no way to minimise these costs.

Chase your solicitor

To put it politely, some solicitors work at their own pace. Make regular phone calls to get papers processed quicker. Remember, you're paying them. If they don't meet your expectations, try writing to a senior partner.

"If you chase, don't worry about bugging the solicitor."

"Chase your solicitor. They often won't have picked up the file as often as you think. If you chase, don't worry about bugging the solicitor. Trust me - we need to be bugged.

"Remember you are paying for their services and they are working for you. Don't worry about annoying them, as most clients are fairly annoying!" - MoneySaving lawyer ronnie-the-red

Do you need to do a property survey? If yes, book it now

Once you're sure you can borrow what you need, it's time to make sure the property is in good condition too. You can delay doing this until after your mortgage offer has been made but do it before exchange or conclusion (in Scotland).

A mortgage valuation is NOT a survey

Yes, the mortgage lender has carried out a basic valuation to assure itself it's happy to lend on it. But this gives you no protection at all. If the property were to fall down the day after you bought it, it would be tough luck. Yet too many people rely on the mortgage valuation.

Forumite moonstick tells why you shouldn't rely on

the bank's valuation.

"The back of the master bedroom has a significant slope."

"I've just bought my first house, a 1940s semi. On the day I moved in, I noticed the back of the master bedroom has a significant slope where it had been extended. I had a joiner look at it – he said it was a structural defect.

"When I applied for the mortgage, the bank did a valuation survey, which stated the house was in good condition. It'll probably cost a good few grand to fix." - moonstick

Still not convinced a mortgage valuation isn't good enough?

Did you know that sometimes the valuation carried out is limited to a ‘drive by'? Here, the valuer drives past the house and the inspection is limited to what can be seen through the car window! OK, they might get out the car and have a look, but they certainly don't go inside.

Unless you're an expert, get a professional opinion. If a problem is found, it's a good reason to go back to the estate agent and renegotiate on price. This may seem a bit late in the process, but a survey is an additional cost so there's no point in shelling out until you know you can definitely get the mortgage.

There are 3 main types of surveys:

Homebuyer's report - Ј300-Ј400

This normally costs Ј300-Ј400 and is suitable for conventional properties less than 50 years old.

Sometimes you can pay your mortgage lender to get a homebuyer's report carried out at the same time as the basic valuation.

Full structural survey - up to Ј1,000

The second is a full structural survey. More relevant for older or quirkier residences, these are much more detailed, covering everything and can cost up to Ј1,000, but often are well worth the expense. It could well give you ammunition to haggle down the purchase price of the property.

Whichever you choose, just be sure to get clear on what they cannot check. They should try to access attic space, etc, but they can't start knocking lumps out of walls, or lifting the carpet in someone else's house (unless the seller agrees).

Snagging survey - can be free

Even those buying new-builds might still have to get out their wallets. A snagging survey pinpoints defects and unfinished bits, so you can push the developer to correct them before completion.

However, you can download great snagging lists free on the internet and check for yourself (or get a very detail-oriented friend to help you). See snagging.org .

Make friends with the surveyor

It's worth going with them. They're likely to say far more than they'd write in a report. To get instant quotes from surveyors in your area, fill in your details at Reallymoving.com.

Get quotes for work

If the survey finds any nasties, ask a reputable builder for repair costs. Ask the vendor to either fix it before completion or knock the total off the price.

Get a second opinion, especially with damp. What might seem like minor work can be complex and expensive, as forumite Canny-cat 's story shows.

"The plaster started to salt and bubble, and I got asthma"

"Our survey told us the house had a minor case of damp that would cost Ј400 to solve. It seemed minor so we didn't renegotiate with the seller. Once we'd moved in, we discovered the full extent of the damp problem and paid over Ј4,000, plus redecoration costs.

"The sellers skimmed the walls shortly before selling it, so that you couldn't notice the damp for a few months. Then the metal wall fixings and sockets started rusting, the plaster started to salt and bubble, and I developed asthma." - Canny-cat

You can get a specialist timber and damp report carried out to check for problems such as damp and woodworm. They cost around Ј150-Ј250.

MILESTONE - You've got a mortgage offer!

Another celebration point. You now have a formal offer that says the lender is willing to lend you the money to buy that property. Get the bubbly on ice and then carefully check it:

Go & find your mortgage illustration

Cross-reference the new mortgage illustration and the offer document your lender has sent with the illustration you safely put away. If there are any discrepancies, go back to your broker (or lender if you went direct) and question it.

The mortgage offer must be accurate

Everything on this document needs to be accurate, especially your personal information and the figures. If not, raise it with your broker or solicitor to get it resolved ASAP.

A serious mistake could mean the lender insists on credit-checking you again or you end up borrowing too little and there's a shortfall when it's time to complete the purchase. Even something like a misspelt name could cause delays, expense, and at worst, could mean the mortgage offer is withdrawn.

Check the mortgage conditions

The mortgage offer will state what conditions need to be met before the lender will hand over the cash. It's your solicitor's job to check these have been met, so don't think you can ignore any of them.

Sort out your buildings insurance NOW

"But I don't even own it yet!" you cry.

You might not own it, but once you've exchanged contracts you're legally-bound to purchase it, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

Check your mortgage valuation report for the rebuild value the surveyor estimated. It might not be anything like the purchase price, but you need to be sure that you'd have enough cover to rebuild it if something did happen.

Negotiate a completion date

Your solicitor will update you on the results of the searches. If all is good, the next step is to come to an agreement on a completion date with the seller. The completion date is the date the keys get handed over. This needs to be a date that suits both you and the seller.

Get your deposit money to your solicitor - gulp!

You're almost ready to exchange contracts, which means you need to get your deposit to your solicitor. It's easiest to spend the couple of weeks before marshalling your deposit money into one bank account (or two if you've more than an Ј85,000 deposit, so it's all protected under the UK savings safety scheme ).

Banks don't usually allow you to move more than Ј10,000 out of an account per day, so if you want to move more than this, you'll need to call your bank and arrange a CHAPS payment to your solicitor.

A CHAPS payment (it stands for Clearing House Automated Payment System) is usually made the same day. You'll need to pay your bank between Ј25 and Ј35 per CHAPS payment, so factor this into your costs.

Your solicitor will also get you to sign the contract at this point - this is the point where you commit to buying the vendor's house.

MILESTONE - exchange contracts

When your solicitor and the seller's solicitor swap signed copies of the contract this is known as the exchange of contracts. Now you can really celebrate.

There is now a legally-binding contract between you and the seller. Once this has happened, you can't pull out from the sale. If you do, you'll forefeit your deposit money.

After this point, a lot of simple paperwork happens relatively quickly - so the next few steps are all quick hits.

Get a completion statement from your solicitor

Your solicitor will give you a completion statement with a clear breakdown of the money you need to give the solicitor. This will include any outstanding deposit, stamp duty land tax, solicitors' fees etc.

For a full breakdown, see the Buying Fees guide.

Your solicitor will carry out MORE searches.

Before completion, your solicitor has to check that the seller still owns the property and that you haven't been made bankrupt since your mortgage offer.

You now need to sign the transfer deed

Your solicitor will prepare the transfer deed. You need to sign it, and it needs to be witnessed. It confirms you're willing to take ownership of the property. Your solicitor will send it to the seller's solicitor.

Your solicitor draws down the funds from your lender

Paying for the house

The solicitor will send the full payment to the seller's solicitor and receive their title deeds and proof that the seller's mortgage has been cleared (this means their bank no longer has a claim on the property).

MILESTONE - completion! You have a new home.

The keys are finally yours. Now you have the joy of moving house. That's the bit of the process that's supposed to be the most stressful - good luck!

Pay your stamp duty (through your solicitor)

You have 30 days for your solicitor to send the Stamp Office your transfer deed and for you to pay stamp duty land tax. You can pay by credit card (for a fee).

Officially register your ownership

Your solicitor will register your details with the Land Registry. You'll need to send them a Ј200-Ј300 fee to cover this (it can be larger or smaller depending on the price of the property you're buying).

Get the title deeds, and that's it.

Your solicitor will get the new title deeds from the Land Registry and forward them to your mortgage lender (or you if you're mortgage-free).

Congratulations - it's all over! You're in your new home (yay), and can start paying off your mortgage (boo)!

How long will the legal process take?

Below is a typical timeline for a purchase in Scotland, but it's by no means the rule. Timescales will vary depending on the buyer's and seller's circumstances, plus problems can arise during the conveyancing works which can add delays:

Find a property: Research the area, scour estate agents and search websites.

Put in an offer: Your conveyancer submits your formal offer in writing with any conditions attached.

It's accepted in principle: Now any conditions of your offer need to be met and you need to get your mortgage application under way.

Missives concluded: All conditions have been met, you've agreed a date of entry and you are contractually committed to the purchase.

Date of entry: You hand over the rest of the cash in exchange for the keys and deeds. The property's now legally yours.

Can you afford the property you want?

There's no point getting all excited about the house of your dreams if you've no idea if you can afford it. Avoid unnecessary disappointment and if you haven't already, go back and read our How Much Can I Borrow to check if you:

Have the upfront funds you'll need, and.

Can borrow the additional cash you'll need. If you have, pat yourself on the back and skip to step 3.

Our How Much Can I Borrow? calculator will help you tot up how much you might be able to borrow, based on your income.

To be more confident (and make yourself more attractive to estate agents and sellers), use our Boost Your Mortgage Chances guide to find the mortgage that's right for you and get an application in principle (AIP) done.

Quick question

How do I get an an agreement in principle?

An AIP is a mini-application where the lender checks your information and your credit file and decides how much it might be willing to lend to you.

An AIP is not a binding offer and the lender can change their mind. For example:

  • The lender might not be happy with the property you want to buy.
  • You might fail to provide evidence that is requested, such as payslips or a P60.
  • The lender might discover something you didn't tell them or something was incorrect.

An AIP can also be referred to as a 'decision in principle' and sometimes even a 'mortgage in principle', so keep an eye out for the language.

Find a conveyancer

Sometimes when you find the house of your dreams, it's the house of someone else's too.

You'll need a solicitor to put a formal offer in writing for you, so it's best to have a conveyancer lined up and ready to act.

What is conveyancing? Conveyancing is the legal process that transfers a property from one person to another.

As well as solicitors, there are licensed conveyancers, who are specialist property lawyers. They do all the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of cash.

This all comes at a price and can cost anywhere up to Ј1,500.

Quick question

How do I find a cheap solicitor?

DON'T automatically use the estate agents' firm.

It's probably a commission-based recommendation. Certainly speak to it and use its price as a benchmark.

DO get maximum quotes in minimum time.

Answer a few questions at Reallymoving.com and it emails you at least four quotes from firms in your area. The Law Society's Find a Solicitor tool also has a section on conveyancing. Ask friends and family for recommendations.

DON'T assume they need to be nearby.

Consider someone from further afield. Don't assume they need to close to you - Glasgow or Edinburgh will do.

DO check out the web.

Some MoneySavers rate cheap 'n' cheerful internet-based conveyancers that do it all via the phone and net. Here are some companies that our forumites have had good experiences with: Easier2move. 1st Property Lawyers and Online Conveyancing. But nothing is guaranteed - feedback (as with all solicitors) varies, so please do your own research.

DON'T go for a rock-bottom price if you're in a rush.

The cheapest companies often work in bulk and can be slower. If time's an issue, that can be a problem. Pick a company that sounds professional and answers emails promptly.

DO check for hidden extras.

Ask for a full fee breakdown. Do they include bank money transfer fees, stamp duty forms, land registration fees and drainage and environmental searches? Some firms even charge extra to verify your ID.

DON'T automatically use the solicitor who did your divorce.

Pick a firm that focuses on conveyancing or at least has a specialist department. Ask how many cases it handled last year. Just because someone did your divorce doesn't mean they can do this job too.

DO ask if they'll chuck in a will for free.

A top tip from money_maker. “Get your will done with your solicitor at the time, as some will do it for free since they are already being paid." For more no-cost or low-cost wills, see Free & Cheap Wills .

DON'T be shy.

Ensure you fully understand what your legal adviser will and won't do on your behalf. See the Legal Ombudsman's 10 questions to ask your lawyer .

DO check they are regulated by a professional body.

Solicitors are regulated by the Law Society and conveyancers the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. If they are, then they must have a clear complaints procedure in place.

DO ask if they've a holiday booked.

Will they be on holiday any time in the next three months? If they'll be backpacking in Peru on your preferred completion date, best to pick a different solicitor who will be in Scotland to complete your purchase with you.

Once you've found a solicitor, you can get the ball rolling with the rest of the process - househunting and starting to get a mortgage.

Source: www.moneysavingexpert.com

Category: Bank

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