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Everything you need to know about buying a home in the UK

This article explains the process of buying a home in the UK and provides you with a easy to follow guide which details the key terminology you will need to understand to make your property purchase as stress free as possible.

Written on 25 January 2023

Buying a home or just relocating in general is usually a huge financial commitment and is usually extremely daunting, especially when being your first time doing so in the UK.

You may wonder where to start with the full process or even just need some of the lingo breaking down. We have compiled some of the most important steps toward buying a home in the UK and what the process entails.

Types of properties and deciding which is the right option for you

Despite there being many of types of different properties in the UK, it is crucial to figure out both what suits you and your needs, as well as what you can realistically afford going forward long term.

Deciding whether a property is affordable to you does not just involve checking the asking price against your savings. Other important variables such as interest rates, mortgage fees, stamp duty and utilities within the size of that property all make a substantial cut into your budget.

When considering the specific types of property you may see, you should always check them against the list of key elements below:

  • Location - what is the surrounding area like? Is it close to the different amenities you may need? Do you enjoy being in that place?
  • House or flat/apartment – Is the property lease or freehold? Are there regular service charges? Does someone else own that building?
  • Energy performance and Council Tax band – Does it have an EPC? Can these results be improved in any way to lower costs? Are you in a high council band?
  • Condition of the property and potential renovations – Will the property need fixing up in any way? Would you need to spend more cash on improvements even after moving in?
  • Parking and/or transport links – Is it accessible enough to you? Does it have the relevant links to surrounding transportation? Is parking suitable?

These are just some of the important questions you should be asking during your property search. You should always find out as much as you can about any property you are interested in, whether that be through the estate agents or the seller themselves.

Starting your property search and useful apps/wesbites

Once you have established the property and location which are right for you, you need to start looking for a property that is suitable.

Depending on how confident you are, you can either speak to an estate agent based in or around the location you would like to move, or you can use a property app/website such as RightMove, Zoopla or On the Market.

These apps will enable you to customise your searches and present you with options, photos, property information and estate agents’ details. From here you can draw up shortlists, arrange viewings and fine tune your property search before deciding on somewhere to make an offer.

The role of an estate agent

The estate agent you work with hold many responsibilities for you during your property purchase process. Estate agents are paid for buy the seller of a property and while they will assist you as a buyer, their primary objective is to sell the property.

As well as helping you secure a sale of your desired property, they also play a huge part in the selling of any existing property you may have using the correct marketing approach to help achieve a smooth exchange leading to what will hopefully be completion.

Your estate agent will provide you with details of the process in full and help you both manage and communicate with all parties until completion. The main duties of estate agents include:

  • Informing you how long a property has been on the market for and why (eg. why the property you are interested in has been on the market for more than 3 months and why it hasn’t been selling previously)
  • What type of property chain (i.e. how many properties need to be bought/sold for completion) is involved and helping manage the communication throughout the chain
  • When sellers of a property are planning to vacate and move out of your desired property
  • Information/ease of direct contact with the sellers themselves to help keep everyone in the loop, to keep the process moving steadily forward.

They can help provide you with an expert view on how much your house is actually worth, ensuring it gets listed at the appropriate price on the market. They do this by using their existing knowledge of your local property market, as well as evaluating the sell prices of other local homes within the same area.

The role of solicitors and the conveyancing process

You will need to engage a conveyancing solicitor early in the process to help you manage all legal elements of buying your property including contract management, searches, liaison with the seller’s solicitors and handling all deposits, stamp duty and completion matters.

During the period between your offer being submitted and contracts attempting to be finalised for completion, your solicitor will act on your behalf to raise important queries directly with the sellers own legal representation.

During this time, contractual areas of the agreement can also be negotiated. These negotiations can involve things such as the details of exactly what is included with your house purchase and if there is any wiggle room for reduction in costs due to structural issues or work that may need to be carried out by yourself after purchase.

Your solicitor will take care of the legal process of transferring the property’s ownership from the seller to the buyer (also known as conveyancing).

They will also perform all property searches. This ensures there are no problems with the property you are purchasing that could potentially pose a threat to you in the future, albeit financially, safety or otherwise. These searches can include:

  • Water authority search
  • Land registry search
  • Local authority search
  • Environmental search
  • Location specific search

If you need to find a solicitor to help with the conveyancing process, you can either speak to your mortgage provider who will have a list of approved solicitors, or you can use our free introduction service and we will connect you with a trusted partner.

Securing a mortgage – Broker or Bank

When living in the UK, applying for a mortgage can be a relatively straightforward affair, even if it can take some time to receive your final mortgage offer. People will often simply go to a comparison website, or even just talk to the bank where they have their current/savings accounts.

To get a wider range of options, a specialist mortgage broker, while adding additional fees to the process, may provide you with a far greater chance of not only securing a mortgage, but also securing a mortgage at a more reasonable rate.

Never assume that the only products that are available are shown on a lender’s website as brokers will have access to unique products and will therefore be able to provide you with opportunities you would not be able to find if you approach lenders directly.

Using an expert mortgage broker is similar to having a tailored-to-you real estate agent.

Brokers will help you find results and offers that you would not be able to easily access yourself. They take in to account your personal down payment options, interest rates and other variable fees and will help you to better understand your options going forward and what is right for you as an individual, highlighting which loans give the best value in comparison to all others.

Going directly through your bank for your home loan will ultimately cost less and will be a simpler process overall, but maybe not for the right reasons.

After a loan application is filled, you will be able to review the choices that you have been told are available to you (without much depth or exploration of your personal circumstances) which may limit your choices as a whole.

It simply comes down to what you feel comfortable with as an individual and getting pre-approved for a mortgage with both a bank and a broker can better help you to understand your options.

You can complete our introduction forms and request a free introduction to a UK mortgage advisor to give us a better understanding of your circumstances and the help you need. We can then use this information to connect you to the most suitable UK mortgage advisor in our network of trusted experts.

Moving day and removal companies

Despite the additional costs that come with hiring a removal company in the UK, the pros of course speak for themselves. It ultimately comes down to finding a balance that you are comfortable with as an individual between what you are happy to pay, against how easy you would like your house move to be.

Your possessions are far less likely to be damaged when using hired professionals to get them from A to B, and having this team in place certainly allow you the time and mental capacity to focus on other areas and important things on the day.

The removal company will often provide packing services, which will including packaging materials, and ensure that you do not have the stress of trying to work out the best way of packing your possessions.

Removal companies will also offer you insurance in case of breakages or damage during the moving itself.

When in the process of choosing a removal company, it is wise to check the small print and ensure you understand exactly what insurance it offers and what is covered.

If you plan to use a removals company, you will need to engage them once you have exchanged contracts and have a preliminary moving/completion date agreed. It is therefore sensible to ensure you have received quotes and confirmed availability in the weeks before your contracts are due to exchange.