Congratulations – the searching, house viewings and big decisions have paid off and your offer on the house of your dreams has been accepted. Although it may seem like all the hard work is over, you are still at the early stages of the property purchase and able to pull out of buying the house without facing a financial penalty should you change your mind.
Additionally, the seller of the property can still decide to take a higher offer from somebody else (this is known as gazumping), or choose to not move at all.
Before the property is legally yours there are still several steps to go through in your property transaction.
- Take the property off the market
- Find a conveyancing solicitor
- Complete your mortgage application
- Hire a surveyor
- Get quotes for a removals company
- Exchange contracts and pay deposit
- Confirm completion date
- Pick up keys
- Move In
1. Take the property off the market
Although this is something that many estate agents will do once an offer has been accepted, it is worth asking them to make sure that the house is taken off the market as soon as possible. Doing this reduces the possibility of another home buyer visiting the property and making a higher offer.
If you don't take your property off the market then you may risk being gazumped which is when another buyer offers more money for the house and your seller decides that they want to go with the new higher offer instead of your original agreement. Taking your property off the market will reduce the chances of this happening as no new buyers will be able to see the property.
2. Find a conveyancing solicitor
It is your conveyancing solicitor that will complete the legal aspect of your move, therefore it is important that you appoint a professional and reputable solicitor that is aware of the checks and searches relevant to your property. The main searches your solicitor will handle for you are:
- Local Authority Searches
- Title Register and Title Plan
- Flood Risk Searches
- Water Authority Searches
- Chancel Repair Searches
- Environmental Searches
- Location Specific Searches
Make sure the conveyancing solicitor you choose is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Council of Licensed Conveyancers.
Read more about how to choose a great conveyancing solicitor.
3. Complete your mortgage application
For the majority of home buyers, a mortgage will be needed to fund the house purchase. Once your offer has been accepted you will need to fill in a mortgage application form and provide your lender with the necessary documentation.
The documentation they will require includes:
Proof of ID
Proof of address
Proof of earnings
Recent bank statements.
To facilitate the early stages of your move, it will help to have already researched the mortgage you’ll be getting and have an agreement in principle from the lender, as it’s likely the estate agent will want to know details of how you will finance the purchase before they put your offer forward to the vendor.
Once you've finalised the details for your mortgage the lender has to give you a full week (7 days) to decide whether you want them to be your mortgage provider so this is a good time to do another mortgage comparison and check the details. It's possible to pull out of a mortgage application at any point before exchanging contracts, however you may lose money if you leave it until the last minute.
4. Hire a surveyor
Your mortgage lender will arrange to have a valuation of the property so they know how much the property is worth, this will affect how much they are willing to lend you for the property.
You may find that the mortgage valuation is less than your offer so be prepared to renegotiate if necessary. Some sellers may be willing to repair any issues with the property free of charge if this happens however that’s not always the case if the property is being sold ‘as is’.
Although your mortgage lender will be organising a mortgage valuation survey for the property, it's also important to commission an independent survey from a RICS registered or Chartered Surveyor for a detailed report on your potential new home.
The mortgage valuation is conducted for the benefit of the lender to ensure the property is worth what is being paid for it and thus the security of the mortgage. A house survey is performed by a RICS Surveyor for the home buyer’s best interests. It will include an in-depth, impartial account of the structural condition of the property that will assist with your decision about whether to proceed with the purchase.
Once you've had the survey completed you may want to check and see if you can renegotiate the price of the house if there are any outstanding issues that will require fixing once the purchase has been completed.
5. Get quotes for a removals company
You won’t have an exact move date to give them yet, but it is worth getting in contact early with a removal company so you can ensure there is time for a pre-move survey to assess the volume of your belongings. You will also be able to discuss the requirements of your move and whether there are any parking restrictions at either address.
To find the best price for your removal, make sure compare romevals firms and look for Ombudsman-regulated, professional companies.
6. Exchange contracts and pay deposit
Once your mortgage has been approved and the searches have been completed by your conveyancing solicitor you will now be able to sign and exchange contracts which legally commits you to the purchase of the property. You will then be asked to pay the deposit, which is usually 10% of the property’s value. However, it can as low as 5%.
At this stage of the transaction you can no longer pull out without losing your deposit and further costs that were incurred. This means that it’s also the best time to get your home insurance ready.
Even though you don’t own the property yet, once the contracts are exchanged no one can back out so it’s normally safe to go ahead with sorting out the final details. You can use the information you get from your survey for the rebuild value, it’s likely to be less than the property purchase but make sure you have enough cover just in case.
7. Confirm completion date
The contracts have been exchanged and the deposit has been paid, you can now agree a completion date.
On the day of completion the vendors will have to vacate the property, so once you have this date you will be able to organise a day for you to move into the property. You will then be able to confirm the date and the details of your move with your removal company.
Although the time between exchange of contracts and completion can be anything from days to months, it is usually between 5 and 20 working days.
At the stage of completion the mortgage lender releases the funds for the cost of the property and ownership of the house is transferred from the vendor to the buyer.
The house is now legally yours.
If you need to pay Stamp Duty for your house then you have up to 30 days to from completion to pay the charge. This will normally be done through your solicitor, who will also need to be paid after everything else has been sorted out.
9. Pick up keys
Following completion, you can now pick up the keys to your new home from the vendor’s estate agent. It is best to organise a date with the estate agent a couple of weeks in advanced, to ensure both parties keep a convenient time free.
It is recommended, if possible, to pick up the keys before the moving date to reduce the amount of time your removal company will be waiting at either property.
10. Move in
Congratulations – you’re in! Except for some unpacking, but this can be done at your pace. Make sure your home is safe & secure and that your utilities are all set up.
Then all that is left to do is to relax and enjoy your new home.
The hard work is finally over!
Updated December 2022 by Jeremy Greer