A step by step guide to owning your new home

We get asked a lot about the steps involved in buying a property. If this is your first time or even if you have done it before, you may find the process more than a little daunting.

 It can take a lot of paperwork, various procedures and even more patience to buy a home. You may find yourself managing a number of people, all performing different duties and it can get confusing keeping track of the timelines and requests made of you.

 With this in mind, we have prepared the following guide, explaining who does what, why and when, to help make this process less stressful for you.

Knowing and understanding the process will ensure it unfolds as smoothly as possible, whilst being on Move Tracker will mean you have access to expertise and resources that will save you both time and money.

Every house purchase varies, but here are some of fundamental steps you need to be aware of if you wish to become a homeowner in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Decide on a budget

When looking for a new home, it is important to consider what you are willing [and able] to afford. Should you do need to borrow from a bank or building society, there are many factors they will assess to determine how much they are will to lend you, such as;

Annual Income

Outstanding debt

Fixed outgoings like car payments and child care

How much of a deposit amount you can add to the purchase

Do your homework so you are aware of all the options you may have such as Government backed home ownership schemes.

Speak to your bank or a mortgage advisor, who can help advise you on affordability as well as the various types of mortgages that may be available to you. Try our affordability calculator to see how much you could afford.

Get your finances in place

Our advice is to advice is to start the process of getting your finances in place before you even start seriously looking for somewhere to buy. This is especially true is areas where property sells quickly.

Additionally, sellers and estate agents both look favourably on buyers that have their finances in place. And the easiest way to show this is to have a mortgage in principle’ from a lender. Although this isn’t a guarantee, it will reduce the likelihood of the sale being derailed by problems with the mortgage.

Find a House you can afford!

You may have already found your dream home before beginning the process of securing a mortgage, but in case you haven’t there are a few common ways to find a house.

The most popular way is through property search sites such as Rightmove, Zoopla or OnTheMarket. These sites let you browse homes marketed by all the major estate agents with some helpful smart tools such as custom search areas, recently sold prices, distances to train stations and the relevant school catchment areas.

The estate agents acting for the seller will get in contact with you to arrange viewings, once you have submitted your interest.


Making an offer

So you’ve found the home of your dreams – yey! – (or close enough) and you’re dying to close the deal so you can move in and start tearing down the wallpaper. Before this, however, you have to complete one of the most important steps of buying a house: you have to make an offer and have it accepted.

The offer should be too good to be refused, but you don’t want to pay too much in the process, and this can be a tricky balancing act. Once you’ve decided on an amount to offer, you should tell the seller’s estate agent, who is legally required to pass on all offers. It is a good idea to put the offer in writing (a telephone call followed up by an email is fine) in order to reduce any potential confusion later. If the seller is interested in your offer, herein the negotiations start.

Remember, though, that you don’t have to go through with the deal if there is any problem with the survey or contract, further down the line.


Find someone to handle the paperwork

It is advisable hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to help you handle all the legal parts of the purchase and / or sale. Also, they can help you check for any planning or local issues that may likely affect the value of the property.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing involves the legal transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer. The conveyancing process starts when an offer on a house is accepted and finishes when the title deeds have been transferred to the new owner.

Get a mortgage

Once your offer has been accepted and you’re ready to progress, you need to go through the full mortgage application process

If you already have a mortgage in principle, this process will be a little bit easier and quicker.

If it has taken a while to find a house to buy, check the expiration date of the mortgage in principle, They typically last between 60 and 90 days. If it has expired before you need it, contact your provider to extend or re-apply.

Arrange a survey

Carrying out a survey is crucial because it helps you assess the property for any potential  problems. 

If you have a lender (mortgage provider) they will organise and carry out a mortgage valuation survey. This is to ensure that, in their view, you are paying the right amount for your chosen property.

You can choose from three types of survey

Condition Report

Homebuyer report

Building survey

In the event of any issues being discovered during the survey, the surveyor can give you an idea of how much it would cost to fix such problems. You may choose to bring these to the attention of the seller, to renegotiate the price, or simply decide to end the deal altogether.

Which survey is right for you? Learn more >

Make moving plans

Moving day can be pretty busy especially if you are in a chain of moves, have children, pets or are moving all household items yourself. To help relieve stress and keep the move on track, we recommend creating a plan and budget. Visit our blog on moving to help answer questions such as;

– Should you hire professional movers?
– How to create a moving timeline?
– What should go in a Day 1 moving box?

Exchange contracts

The exchanging of identical contracts is the point at which a legal obligation exists between the seller and the buyer. This process is carried out by the solicitors / conveyancers acting for the respective buyer and seller.

At this stage, you will be required to pay a deposit, which is usually 10% of the total price. 

Once this is done, it is extremely rare for anyone to pull out of the deal and if that happens there are likely to be financial penalties, such as losing your deposit. 

You can now agree the completion date.



Congratulations! The property is now yours and you’ll be able to pick up the keys to your new place. However, there are still some bills to be paid which your solicitor will help you arrange.

These include:

The remaining property cost.

Your solicitor or conveyancer’s fees.

Stamp Duty (a government property tax).

Estate agent fees.

Any removal costs.

Moving In!

What time you collect your keys from the seller, on completion, will depend on how many people are in the chain, where you are in it and if there are no arising problems. On average, a normal chain consists of around 4 or 5 transactions. A chain will include a minimum of 2 people and, in rare instances, could even involve up to 10 individual property transactions. An example of typical timings could be:

9am to 11am – First buyer in chain collects keys (this is normally a first time buyer)

11am to 12pm – Second buyer in chain collects keys.

12pm to 1pm – Third buyer in chain collects keys.

1pm to 2 pm – The ultimate person in the chain will complete.

The final person(s) won’t be buying a house, only selling it.The completion deadline for most conveyancers is about 3.30pm because this is the time the banking transfer system closes.