a guide to buying

A quick guide to buying your first home

Buying your first home is very exciting but if you are not sure about what is involved it can be daunting.  Before you start planning that house warming party, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the conveyancing process so that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

Anna Blackwell, partner at the Paddock Wood branch of Berry & Lamberts LLP, takes us through the process and explodes some myths.

Choosing the Right Solicitor

It’s important to choose the right solicitor.  Buying your first home is likely to be your most expensive purchase so far and you will need a solicitor with a good reputation and who is experienced in all aspects of property law and conveyancing.  Always shop around for quotes for legal fees and remember that cheapest is not always best.    Choose the best solicitor for you, not necessarily the one that benefits others.  Having a local solicitor who you can contact and visit easily is a huge benefit and can make buying your first home a much more enjoyable experience.

Step by Step Guide to Buying your First Home:

Buying a house involves a number of stages.  Essentially, once your finances are in place and you have had an offer excepted, the conveyancing process looks like this:

  • Once an offer is accepted on the home you wish to purchase, the estate agent will then draw up a Memorandum of Sale which will confirm the price.
  • At this stage that you will need to select and appoint a solicitor. Phone around for quotes for solicitors’ fees.  Remember!  You are free to choose any solicitor or conveyancer you wish.  Make sure the quote includes clarity on anticipated disbursements and stamp duty. Once you instruct a solicitor, you will need to meet with them as they will need to check your identification and your source of funds.
  • You should also employ the services of a surveyor to carry out a survey of the property.  This will check the property’s condition and will reveal any issues with the property such as subsidence, damp or damage.  Remember! It is down to the buyer to carry out appropriate checks and investigations in respect of the property.
  • Your solicitor will start the legal work.  This will involve reviewing the contract provided by the seller’s solicitor, checking the deeds to the property and carrying out searches.  Searches include a search with the local authority, a water and drainage search and an environmental search.  Again, the point of these searches is to ensure your potential property is as good as it sounds.
  • Your solicitor will raise some enquiries with the seller’s solicitor based on the deeds and documents provided by the seller’s solicitor and the results of searches.  You will have the opportunity to make your own enquiries through your solicitor as well.  All of this will help you ensure your purchase is the right one.
  • As well as checking that everything to do with your property purchase is legally sound, your solicitor will also deal with the request for mortgage monies.  You need to be aware that your solicitor acts for your lender as well as for you. Your mortgage offer will be sent directly to your solicitor who will review the mortgage offer and deal with any conditions specified in the offer.
  • Once you and your solicitor are satisfied with the results of searches and replies to enquiries, you will be provided with a full report on the property.  It is at this stage that you will sign the contract and the mortgage deed. You will then need to transfer your deposit to your solicitor.
  • The next stage is exchange of contracts.  It is at exchange of contracts that a date for completion is set and the deposit is paid to the seller’s solicitor.   Once exchange of contracts has taken place, neither the seller nor the buyer can back out without incurring a financial penalty.  Your solicitor can advise you about this.
  • Your solicitor will now request your mortgage monies from the lender.  Your solicitor will also carry out some pre completion checks and will send you a final completion statement.  This sets out the money that is required to conclude the purchase.
  • If you are using a Help to Buy ISA, now is the time to close the account, obtain the closing statement and pass it to your solicitor so that they may request the government bonus.
  • The next stage is completion and this is the day that you can collect the keys to your new home and move in!   Completion involves paying the balance of the purchase price to the seller’s solicitor.  Once completion takes place the property is legally yours.
  • Finally, to finish the purchase, your solicitor will deal with the payment of Stamp Duty Land Tax and will register you as the new owner of the property at the Land Registry.

We are often asked how long the house buying process takes.  It is always hard to give an exact timescale as the process is dependent on a broad number of factors.  In general, you should expect a typical process to take approximately 8-12 weeks.  Remember! Your purchase may not be typical so could be quicker or longer.

Good communication with your solicitor and your estate agent is vital.  Make sure you keep in regular contact with them both.  Working closely together is key to making the whole process smoother and as stress-free as possible.

Overall, the house buying process does not need to be stressful or difficult.  Understanding the process and getting the right support from the professionals you need can make all the difference.

To discuss your residential or commercial property email Anna Blackwell  Property Solicitor, or call on 01892 833 456.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.