The house buying process

Here’s a step-by-step guide to take you through the process.

There is a lot to consider before you start looking for a new home including if you can afford it.

Most people want to own their home, but it’s important to know the benefits and difficulties.



Owning your own home can give you more security than renting.

It’s comforting to know that you have a long-term place to live. It also means you cannot be evicted at short notice as long as you keep up with mortgage repayments.


When interest rates are low, owning a home can be much cheaper than renting.

The median monthly rent in England between April 2020 and March 2021 was £730.¹

The average monthly mortgage payment in early 2020 was around £750.²

A property is also seen by many as a long-term investment. In a rising market you could get a large return if you decide to sell.


With your own home you can:

  • buy the furniture you want

  • decorate it to your personal taste

  • make renovations without having to ask permission from a landlord first



Buying a home is a big financial commitment. Monthly repayments can be hard if your circumstances change. This is why it's important to have a financial plan.


There are lots of costs attached to owning a home such as insurance and maintenance. If the boiler breaks, you’ll have to cover it.


Some people are not ready to commit to owning a home.

It might not be the right time to buy a home if you're not sure you're ready or your job is not stable.

The bigger your deposit, the more likely it is that you'll be able to get a large mortgage and a lower interest rate.

The size of your deposit is relative to the total cost of the home you might buy. You can get an estimate using a mortgage calculator.

This will let you see how much you may be able to borrow based on your income and outgoings. As well as the deposit you think you could save up.

There are other upfront costs that will come up buy a house.

Make sure you’re prepared for:

  • solicitor fees

  • surveys

  • mortgage fees

  • stamp duty (first time buyers are exempt on purchases under £300,000)

  • land registry fees

  • removals

  • possible home improvements such as painting, curtains or blinds, furniture

Before you start to view properties and make offers, it can help to have a mortgage in principle.

This will show estate agents that you’re a serious buyer and that a lender is happy to lend you what you need.

Start thinking about where you want to buy, what your priorities are, and what the market is like.

You can begin by looking online or in local papers.

You can also start meeting estate agents to ask any questions you have. Then begin viewing homes in the areas you’re interested in.

Ask for Home Information Packs (HIPs) of the homes you want to view. These have basic information about the property.

It’s good to begin by looking at a range of homes, even those that may not be a good fit.

This will help you understand what you can expect to get for your money and also what you definitely do or do not want.

When viewing a property look at:

  • the layout: Is it functional for your planned use? Are the shape or size of the rooms going to be an issue?

  • damage: Are there any signs or structural issues like large cracks in walls? Any signs of leaks and dampness?

  • doors and windows: Will they need replacing and cost you more later on?

  • updates: Have there been any updates made to the house?

  • plumbing, electrics and insulation: Are these working well? How long have then been in place?

Think about looking at a handful of homes at once. This way you do not get too invested in one home without having a suitable option to compare it to.

Once you've looked at lots of houses, ruled some out and have one or two options, it's time to view them again.

Ask someone you trust to go with you to be a second pair of eyes. They can help you work out if the property is worth going for.

If you're not sure, go back and view it again while still looking around at other properties. Then make a final decision that you’re confident with.

Once you’ve explored the market, viewed some properties, and found your home, you’ll need to make an offer.

You can make an offer through the estate agent.

The next step is to line up a mortgage offer so that you can pay for your new home.

It's tempting to go to your bank or existing lender for a new deal as it's familiar. But it could be better to explore your options by going to a broker who can scan the market for a suitable deal.

Mortgage brokers, like Trussle, can source deals unavailable elsewhere. They can also give you impartial advice and help you through the mortgage process.

This step could also be done before step 8: Get a mortgage.

If your offer has been accepted, and you’ve got a mortgage offer from a lender, the next step is to arrange for a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal process to transfer ownership of the property to you. 

The solicitor or conveyancer will carry out searches with the local authority to make sure there are no fundamental problems with the property.

Many mortgage brokers, including Trussle, will be able to arrange a conveyancer for you.

You can also find your own conveyancer, but make sure you ask your mortgage lender first - each mortgage lender has a list of approved conveyancers.

At this point it’s a good idea to get a full survey. Your lender is likely to have done a basic survey at the beginning.

The survey will tell you what you need to know about the property and any potential problems.

You can choose to have a private survey done once you make an offer and have a basic valuation done. You need to do this before you exchange contracts.

Once your survey is complete, you can start to negotiate any final details that need to be agreed. This could be the completion date or items such as white goods that the seller has said they’ll leave behind.

Your solicitor or conveyancer will put the terms of the transfer in writing. They'll then tell the land registry that they’re transferring the property’s ownership to you.

They’ll also speak with the mortgage lender to ensure the mortgage is ready for completion.

Before exchanging contracts, you must pay the deposit on your new home.

The move-in date and the time between exchanging contracts and completion can take from a day to a few months.

This depends on what stage the people buying your property and moving out of your new property are at. This is often referred to as the ‘chain’.

Completion is when the property officially becomes yours. They'll transfer the mortgage and deeds to you and you’ll pick up the keys to your new home.

After this you'll need to pay your solicitor or conveyancer the fees and stamp duty. They will arrange this. There are also removal costs.

Once these are out of the way, you can celebrate moving into your new home.

How long does it take to buy a house?

The full process, from viewing properties to completion, takes around 6 months.

This can vary from person to person. This depends on a range of things like finances, unexpected delays or no luck finding the right home.

It's possible to buy a home in 2 to 3 months if:

  • you're a first-time buyer

  • your finances and documents are all in order

  • you're not in a chain

It often takes up to 3 months to get a mortgage. This depends on your circumstances, and can often be much quicker.

You can speed up the process by having the documents you need to support your application. This will allow your mortgage broker can do their side faster.

It’s then up to the lender to approve your application. They'll do a credit check, a valuation of the property, and a review of that valuation.

Everyone’s circumstances are different. Some will be more complex than others which will impact the speed of this process.

Applying for a mortgage online with a site like Trussle tends to be quicker than using a traditional broker.

Once we have your documents, we'll submit your application to the lender.

The time it takes a lender to process an application varies.

Some lenders will accept applications on the same day. Others can take up to several weeks to process.

Halifax approved applications in around 6 days on average according to our data.

It could take up to 21 days for more specialist lenders like Kensington.*

The time between submitting an application and approval varies depending on your situation. As well as the lender’s day-to-day activities.

*This was correct as of August 2019

Applying for a mortgage: what documents do I need for a mortgage?

To save you time and stress, make sure to gather all the documents you need before going to applying for a mortgage.

You should have bank statements for the previous 3 months of your current account. This is to show your income and outgoings.

Many people use banking apps and online banking, but you should still be able to download and print the relevant statements.

You'll be asked to show your payslips from the past 3 months as proof of income.

You'll be asked for a certified copy of your passport or driving license for identification.

If you do not know how to certify your copies, your adviser can help you. You can usually have your ID certified at the Post Office.

Any ID documents you use should be in date.

You should provide some kind of bill as proof of address.

Bills you could use include:

  • Tax bill

  • Utility bill

  • Bank statements

These should be from within the last 3 months.

A saving statement or bank statement will be required to show proof of deposit.

Gifted deposits

You will need to fill in a 'Confirmation of Gifted Deposit' form as well as supply 3 months of bank statements from the person gifting the deposit.

You may also be asked to show proof of:

  • any additional income, like bonuses, commission and/or overtime

  • income you do not earn, such as maintenance, tax credits and child benefit

  • evidence of right to reside, such as visas or residency cards

If you’re self employed (as a sole trader/Limited Company Director/Partnerships/LLP), you’ll be asked to show:

  • 2 to 3 years SA302s

  • 2 to 3 years of accounts

  • Some lenders might also ask you for 3 months of business bank statements.

Bank statements



Proof of address

Proof of deposit

Other documents

Documents for self employed applicants

You should have bank statements for the previous 3 months of your current account. This is to show your income and outgoings.

Many people use banking apps and online banking, but you should still be able to download and print the relevant statements.

The cost of buying a house

There are plenty of other costs when buying a home aside from the price of the property.

Be aware of extra costs and plan around them so you are not caught out.

How much does a solicitor cost when buying a house?

A solicitor or licensed conveyancer will need to carry out all the legal work when you buy or sell a home.

Their fees vary depending on the property lawyer and your location.

Legal fees often range from £850 to £1,500 (excluding stamp duty).²

They’ll also do local searches to check if there are any local plans or problems. This will cost you in around £250 to £300.

Fees are often broken down into standard legal fees and disbursements.

Disbursements include³:

  • Bankruptcy search - £2 to £4 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Land Registry office copies - £4 to £8

  • Electronic ID verification - £2 to £18 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Local authority searches - £100 to £200

  • Water and drainage search - £30 to £40

  • Environmental search - £30 to £35

  • Telegraphic transfer fee - £25 to £45

  • Mortgage handling fee - £60 to £80

  • HMLR final search - £3 to £7

  • Land Registry Charge - £20 to £910

How and when are solicitors fees paid?

You’ll be charged a base fee for the entire case, usually a few hundred pounds. This could be a fixed or hourly fee.

You'll need to pay the conveyancing fees to your solicitor. This is for handling all the legal parts of the completion. The fee includes their time, registrations, and costs from start to finish.

You usually have to pay the fee to carry out the local searches to your solicitor upfront. You'll pay this throughout the process as and when you're charged.

What is conveyancing or conveyancing searches and how much should it cost?

Conveyancing involves the legal transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. It includes all the legal and administrative work that's part of the process.

The process starts when your lender accepts your offer on a house, through to the completion of the sale.

A solicitor or licensed conveyancer usually manages this process. Their fees can vary as much as house prices.

Property or conveyancing searches are enquiries your solicitor sends to different authorities. They do this to find out more about the property you plan to buy. For example, bankruptcy and local authority searches.

Legal fees often range from £850 to £1,500 (excluding stamp duty). There are also land registry fees, searches, and other disbursements which can cost about £300.

There’s not an average conveyancing fee.

How much do mortgage brokers charge?

Mortgage brokers operate independently and must be licensed. Many will charge a fee for their service, this is either paid by you, the borrower or the lender.

Those that do charge a fee will often either charge a percentage of the loan amount or a fixed fee. On average, this is around £500.

How much are mortgage fees?

Mortgage fees may depend on things like your situation or the mortgage you’re applying for.

Mortgage fees often include:

  • Arrangement fee - sometimes called a ‘product fee’ usually about £1,000 but varies.

  • Missed payment fee - a fee some lenders might charge if your account is in arrears. The penalty depends on each lender’s rules.

  • Early repayment charge - this might not always apply. Check what the rules are with each mortgage provider, especially if you want to make early repayments. Often the charges range from 1 to 5% of the value of the early repayment.

  • Exit or closure fee - a fee to your lender when you repay your mortgage, even if you’re not repaying it early. You might not have to pay this if you've paid the full mortgage account fee. This usually includes set up, maintenance and closing the account. It often costs between £75 to £300.

There are a range of other costs that you might need to pay.

What is the higher lending charge (HLC)?

Lenders charge a higher lending charge if the loan to value (LTV) is higher than they accept at standard rates.

A HLC will apply to loans that are more than 90% of the property value.

The lender may use this fee to take out an insurance policy to protect themselves against loss. This could happen if you cancel and stop repaying your mortgage. Some lenders may insist upon the fee at the start of the loan, others may not.

HLC fees are often charged at up to 8% of the amount of the loan being advanced over the threshold.

For example, a 100% loan of £200,000 with an HLC threshold of 75% might have an HLC premium of £4,000 (£50,000 x 8%).

You must pay these premiums as a one off or added to the mortgage advance.

What are land registry charges?

You pay the Land Registry to update the records they have about your property. For example, registering you as the new owner of the property you buy.

You often pay this when you apply, the process is often managed by your solicitor.

The fee is based on the purchase price of the property, the more your property costs, the more you’ll need to pay.

If your property has a higher-end value, you would expect a land registry fee of up to £500.

Transactions fall into one of two fee scales.

Scale one

  • First registrations

  • Transfer of registered land for financial consideration, such as a sale and purchase

  • Lease and surrenders

  • Large scale applications

Scale two

  • Transfers of registered estates not for monetary consideration

  • Transfers of registered charges

  • Charges of registered estates

  • Other applications affecting registered estates

  • Surrenders of leases not for financial consideration

  • Large scale application

More about land registry fees on GOV.UK

What taxes are payable when buying a home?

You need to pay tax when you buy a property above a certain value. Different rates apply in different parts of the UK.

If you’re buying your home in England, you need to pay stamp duty for properties over £125,000.

First time buyers are exempt on the first £300,000 of a property worth up to £500,000.

The percentage you have to pay increases depending on the value of your property.*

  • £0 to £125,000: 0%

  • £125,001 to £250,000: 2%

  • £250,001 to £925,000: 5%

  • £925,001 to £1.5 million: 10%

  • Over £1.5 million: 12%

For example, to buy a property worth £400,000 an existing home owner would need to pay £10,000 in tax.

The percentage of tax is:

  • 0% tax on the property value up to £125,000 = £0

  • 2% tax on the property value between £125,001 and £250,000 = £2,500

  • 5% tax on the property value between £250,001 and £400,000 = £7,500

To buy a property worth £400,000 a first time buyer would need to pay £5,000 in tax.

The percentage of tax would be:

  • 0% tax on the property value up to £300,000 = £0

  • 5% tax on the property value between £300,001 and £400,000 = £5,000

*This information is correct as of December 2019

What are disbursement fees when buying a house?

Disbursements do not form part of your solicitor’s own costs or charges. They’re all the fees and taxes your solicitor has to pay to other organisations in the house buying process.

In most cases, the organisation involved will only accept payment through a solicitor.

You can ask for a quote to find out more about fees. Fees will either be a fixed amount or calculated from the purchase price.

Other fees may depend on other factors. Councils set their own fees for local searches. Some searches are only needed if the property is in a particular area or if the buyer wants one made.

When your solicitor collects payment for these disbursements, they do not charge you any extra for making the searches or payment. The solicitor does not get any commission or discounts when they make payments.

Disembursements include:

  • Bankruptcy search - £2 to £4 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Land Registry office copies - £4 to £8

  • Electronic ID verification - £2 to £18 per person taking out the mortgage Local authority searches - £100 to £200

  • Water and drainage search - £30 to £40

  • Environmental search - £30 to £35

  • Telegraphic transfer fee - £25 to £45

  • Mortgage handling fee - £60 to £80

  • HMLR final search - £3 to £7

  • Land Registry charge - £20 to £910

Solicitor fees for buying a house

Conveyancing fees

Mortgage broker fees

Mortgage fees

Other fees and considerations

How much does a solicitor cost when buying a house?

A solicitor or licensed conveyancer will need to carry out all the legal work when you buy or sell a home.

Their fees vary depending on the property lawyer and your location.

Legal fees often range from £850 to £1,500 (excluding stamp duty).²

They’ll also do local searches to check if there are any local plans or problems. This will cost you in around £250 to £300.

Fees are often broken down into standard legal fees and disbursements.

Disbursements include³:

  • Bankruptcy search - £2 to £4 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Land Registry office copies - £4 to £8

  • Electronic ID verification - £2 to £18 per person taking out the mortgage

  • Local authority searches - £100 to £200

  • Water and drainage search - £30 to £40

  • Environmental search - £30 to £35

  • Telegraphic transfer fee - £25 to £45

  • Mortgage handling fee - £60 to £80

  • HMLR final search - £3 to £7

  • Land Registry Charge - £20 to £910

How and when are solicitors fees paid?

You’ll be charged a base fee for the entire case, usually a few hundred pounds. This could be a fixed or hourly fee.

You'll need to pay the conveyancing fees to your solicitor. This is for handling all the legal parts of the completion. The fee includes their time, registrations, and costs from start to finish.

You usually have to pay the fee to carry out the local searches to your solicitor upfront. You'll pay this throughout the process as and when you're charged.

The cheapest and most expensive places to live near an 'outstanding' school in England

The cost of buying a house near an 'outstanding' school

It will cost you an extra £195,919 to buy a house near a school or college rated 'outstanding'. This data is from the research we carried out in August 2019.

We looked at house prices across 703 postcodes in England using asking price data from Zoopla. These included Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ state secondary schools.

We found that homes in these postcodes have an average asking price of £446,919. This is £195,919 above the average sold English house price of £251,000.

When we looked at the same data last year, the premium to live near an outstanding school was £180,116.

Out of the 703 postcodes with outstanding schools, over 78% had average property prices above the average English house price of £251,000.

18 out of the 20 most expensive postcodes with outstanding schools are in London. A property in the same postcode as the St Marylebone CofE School, in W1U 5BA, has an average asking price of £3,815,826.

There are 153 postcodes with outstanding schools with house prices below the national average. Most of these are in northern England.

Bradford is the most affordable place in the country to live near an outstanding school. If you want to live near Carlton Bolling College or Feversham Academy the average asking price is £99,790.

Top 10 most expensive areas with ‘outstanding’ rated state schools

  1. The St Marylebone CofE School - £3,815,826

  2. Holland Park School -£3,285,806

  3. Pimlico Academy - £3,022,267

  4. The Grey Coat Hospital - £3,022,267

  5. Saint Thomas More Language College - £2,358,273

  6. Chelsea Academy - £1,821,883

  7. Westminster Academy - £1,697,385

  8. Ark King Solomon Academy - £1,693,559

  9. Central Foundation Boys' School - £1,593,259

  10. Beaconsfield High School - £1,573,496

Top 10 cheapest areas with ‘outstanding’ rated state schools:

  1. Carlton Bolling College - £99,790

  2. Feversham Academy - £99,790

  3. Dixons Kings Academy - £105,323

  4. The Academy at Shotton Hall - £112,865

  5. Heartlands Academy - £114,990

  6. West Lakes Academy - £117,016

  7. Dixons City Academy - £122,016

  8. Dixons McMillan Academy - £122,016

  9. Dixons Trinity Academy - £122,016

  10. LIPA Sixth Form College - £122,585

How much deposit do I need to buy a house?

In the current market, you’ll need to put down a deposit of at least 5% of the property’s value.

The bigger the deposit the better. A larger deposit means your mortgage repayments can be smaller. This depends on the length of the repayment term you choose. It also gives you access to more competitive deals.

In April 2021, the average property price in the UK was around £251,000.¹

If you were looking to buy a home at this price, then you’d need to save at least £12,550 saved for the deposit of at least 5%.

Shared Ownership and other government schemes will let you put down a smaller deposit.

You'll have to pay both your mortgage repayments and rent on the part you do not own.

More about deposits.

Property valuations

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will get an independent opinion on how much the property is worth.

The valuation often involves a review of market values and a check of the property. This helps the lender decide if they’re willing to go ahead with the mortgage.

When you apply for a mortgage remember that:

  • the lender will get a valuation to check the value of the property

  • you’ll often need to pay for the valuation, so remember this when you’re calculating costs.

  • a valuation involves checking prices of similar properties and looking at the property

  • the valuation can affect the application decision, how much you can borrow, and the rate offered

  • a property valuation is not the same as a survey. A survey reviews the condition of the property and identifies potential issues

A lender will want to check the value of your home before they approve your mortgage application.

They do this by getting a property valuation from a surveyor. This is sometimes called a mortgage valuation or a lender’s valuation.

The surveyor will look at the value of similar properties in the area. They may do a brief external or internal inspection of the property.

They’ll give the lender a short report based on the inspection. It'll include their valuation and flag any significant issues with the property.

The lender will use this information to decide if they’ll lend to you and how much they’re willing to lend.

Some lenders offer mortgages with free valuations, but this is rare.

The lender will arrange the valuation survey, but you’ll usually have to pay for it. See our full breakdown of mortgage fees.

Costs vary depending on the lender and the property, but you’ll usually pay a few hundred pounds.

Remember that if they do the survey, you'll have to pay the valuation fee even if the purchase does not go through.

If you’re buying a property and the lender’s valuation is lower than the price you’ve agreed to pay, you may need to:

  • renegotiate with the seller

  • raise more money for the deposit

  • pull out of the purchase altogether

The property valuation is important for your mortgage calculations.

Mortgage calculations with a low valuation: Example

You’re buying a property and have agreed a price of £200,000 with the seller.

You have a deposit of £50,000 and a loan to value (LTV) ratio of 75%. But the lender’s valuation says that the property is worth £175,000. The lender is only willing to lend you 75% of this value, which is £131,250.

You could try to negotiate with the seller to lower the purchase price, or put down a bigger deposit.

Remortgaging with a low valuation: Example

You bought a house three years ago for £200,000 with a deposit of £10,000.

When you come to remortgage, you have £173,000 of debt remaining. Your lender gets a property valuation of £180,000. This means you only have £7,000 of equity in the property and your LTV is over 95%.

This could mean the lender refuses your mortgage application. Or does not offer you a very competitive rate.

Your lender may refuse your application if the valuation finds:

  • an issue with the property

  • that it does not meet the lender criteria

Different lenders have different rules. Some may refuse to lend for a property in a flood zone or in a high-rise blocks of flats.

If you do not agree with the valuation, you can try to challenge it.

You can do this by giving data that shows the purchase prices of similar properties.

Your surveyor may not inspect the inside of the property. You could ask them to if you think it could make a difference to your valuation.

A property valuation is not the same as a survey.

A property valuation is to check how much the property is worth. It will not highlight necessary repairs or possible structural problems.

When you’re buying a property, it’s important to get a homebuyer survey. This is so you know of issues with the building before you go ahead with the sale. If something comes up, you may be able to use this to negotiate a lower purchase price.

There are several different types of survey available. The one that’s most suitable depends on the property you’re buying and how detailed you want the check to be.

Negotiating a house price

In June 2021, the average asking price for a property was up 7.5% compared to March 2020.

Brexit and coronavirus have had an impact on demand for moving to new locations for lifestyle changes.

Here’s what to do if you want to get yourself a deal.

If you’re going to make a low offer, you need to build a case for the asking price being too high.

To make a case:

  • check out how much similar houses are on the market for in the area. As well as how much they've sold for recently. You can do this online, using a site like Rightmove

  • find out how long the home has been up for sale. If it’s a slow market, you could wait a few weeks, or even months, until they realise they may not sell at that price

  • highlight your benefits as a buyer. First-time buyers with no onward chain could be more appealing to someone who wants to sell soon

  • tell them if you’re a cash buyer. A seller is likely to favour you as you will not have to go through the process of getting a mortgage

  • offer around 5 to 10% off the asking price as a rule of thumb

Most people assume that you have to pay the full asking price for a new build. New-build developers may still be as open to negotiating as any other seller.

You’ll have to do your research if you want to make a serious offer. Check what new-builds of a similar size are on the market for in the area and what selling prices have been.

Make sure you know how long the home’s been on the market and how many properties the developer still has to sell.

Some builders do not always have the finances in place to finish off a development. So negotiating a quick sale could help them unlock the funds they need to complete it.

When a developer wants to sell fast, it could be easier to persuade them to include some upgrades.

It does not cost that much for them to upgrade your kitchen or put down better flooring, as they usually buy in bulk.

Find out as much as you can about the developer and the local new-build housing market.

A developer might be more likely to offer you upgrades if you’re chain-free or have a mortgage in principle.

Another chance to negotiate the price down is after you’ve had a homebuyer or full building survey done.

These types of surveys often reveal defects. If they’re expensive to fix you’re allowed to ask for a reduction.

Get advice from your surveyor about how much the repairs would cost so you know how much to lower your offer by.

Stick to your guns if the problem’s serious and you still want to proceed with the purchase.

If the buyer is not happy with your new figure, ask if you can send an expert round to give you a formal quote.

An agreement to buy a home is not legally binding until you exchange contracts.

You could try lowering your offer before you exchange but you'll need a good reason. For example, if it's taking a very long time to exchange or house prices have dropped since.

You’re in a strong position to lower your offer just before you exchange if you’re at the bottom of the chain.

Think before you try to negotiate a lower price before exchange. It may upset the seller at a stressful time. Remember that they do not have to sell their home to you.

Gazumping: What is it and what can you do about it?

What is gazumping?

Gazumping is when another buyer outbids you on the home you’re buying. Even after the lender has accepted your offer. Gazumping causes you to miss out on the purchase.

It can cause the whole property chains to collapse so it's bad for everyone involved.

Gazumping is legal in England.

It's also legal in Scotland but is far less common. This is because the solicitors complete the sales so they cannot accept more than one offer.

Even if you have an accepted offer, there’s no formal contract between yourself and the seller. This means they do not have to stick with your offer.

Sellers do not lose any money for choosing a higher offer, so it can benefit them to go with the highest bidder.

Contracts are not exchanged until late in the home-buying process. Homes are often on the market for weeks while they’re ‘Under Offer (UO)’ or ‘Sold Subject to Contract’ (STC).

At this point it’s legal for someone else to make a higher offer.

Despite a verbal agreement from the seller, the sale is not formally agreed when a home is UO or STC. But the buyer has often already paid conveyancing costs, surveys, and sometimes mortgage fees.

Being gazumped and losing out on the home can be costly.

Get a Mortgage in Principle

Having a Mortgage in Principle and an offer accepted will help you complete the sale faster.

This keeps you ahead of the competition who may try to outbid you.

A mortgage in principle helps you get an idea of how much you could borrow before you start looking for a home.

It also shows the seller and estate agent that you could afford the property and should be able to get a mortgage. This makes you a more attractive buyer and one that’s less likely to get gazumped.

Move fast

Sellers want a quick sale, so having a buyer who pushes the process along is a good sign. Keep pressure on your solicitor and use a mortgage broker that keeps you up to date.

Ask the seller to take the property off the market

Not all sellers will take the property of the market if you ask. But it is worth asking if you're worried you'll be outbid.

The seller may have had a sale fall through before and could be as keen to seal the deal as you.

If you get a survey and start your mortgage application straight away, the seller is more likely to agree.

Get gazumping insurance

Gazumping or ‘homebuyers insurance’ has the potential to save you thousands.

Many buyers without insurance lose out on their purchase. As well as the money they've paid for solicitors, surveys, and valuation fees.

If you’ve started to arrange your mortgage and are then gazumped, you could lose any mortgages fees you paid to the lender.

Be aware of paying broker fees, it's more money to lose if you're gazumped.

Buying a new build

A new build is a new property that no one has lived in or built yet.

They can often still be under construction when prospective buyers buy them.

  • Blank canvas. You will not have to fix any dodgy DIY or replace someone else's style choices.

  • Energy efficient. New-builds can also have lower fuel costs as they’re often more energy efficient.

  • Security. Locks on windows and doors now conform to the latest British Standard. Many come with fitted security alarms.

  • No more leasehold agreements. These are now banned on new build houses so developers can no longer set expensive ground rents

Bigger deposit

New builds come with a price premium. Some limit the amount they’ll loan on new-builds and often ask for a deposit of at least 15%.

Hidden extra costs

Expect to pay for extras such as flooring and lights which you might think would be in the price.

Longer completion dates

Most builders have an exchange deadline from 28 to 42 days after you pay your £500 reservation fee.

This can be months before the property is anywhere near completed. Most mortgage offers are valid for 6 months, so be ready to speak to your lender about an extension.

End of Help to Buy

This scheme for new builds ends in 2023, pending a governmental review.

From April 2021, it’ll only be available to first-time buyers if the home’s value is over a certain price cap and depends on location.

Buying a repossessed home

If you want to snap up a cheap property, buying a repossessed home could be ideal.

A repossessed home is a property that the lender has seized. They'll seize property if the former owner did not keep up with their mortgage repayments.

Once a lender repossesses a home, they want to sell it fast. So they tend to set the asking price towards the lower end of the market.

This means you could get a repossessed home for up to 30% less than if it is being sold privately.

Some lenders use estate agents who tend not to openly market repossessed homes. So if you’re after one, ask if they have any available.

Repossessions can also be put up for auction. Auction houses often advertise homes a month in advance.

You’re expected to complete the purchase after 20 working days of the auction date.

Lenders must take the highest possible price for a repossessed home. This means properties are not taken off the market even after an offer is accepted.

You could be gazumped after you’ve paid for surveys and legal work. If someone else offers more, your sale could fall through.

There’s a higher risk of the home having hidden and serious defects. There could be something wrong with it that stops the previous owner from selling.

If the previous owner was evicted, the home may have been empty for a while. This also increases the chances of it being in disrepair.

The gas, electricity, and telephone services could have been disconnected. You'd then have to sort this out too.

If you’re thinking of buying a repossessed home it’s worth speaking to a broker, or a lender, so you have a mortgage lined up.

If you plan to buy at auction, you’ll need to get your mortgage sorted out even faster.

Otherwise, you might face more expensive forms of finance, such as a bridging loan. All while you wait for your mortgage offer to go through.

Make sure you get a survey done before you buy. It should reveal any major defects or issues, such as asbestos, so you’ll know what you’re letting yourself in for.

Buying a house at auction

If you want to buy a house at auction to get a bargain, get to know the pros and cons before you go to auction.


Many homes for sale at auction are repossessions.

Remember that lenders rarely do anything to prepare repossessions for sale. Some are grotty, or even uninhabitable, and you might find it harder to get a mortgage.

Know that you may not always get a bargain

You're not guaranteed a great deal at an auction.

Plenty of homes go above the guide price, especially if there’s healthy competition.

When you’re bidding, you need to be careful not to get carried away and over-extend yourself. You cannot back out if you’re successful.

Agree on a maximum price and stick to it.

Get a survey done

If you want to buy a home at auction, search online for auction houses near you and check out what they’ve got for sale.

Properties are often publicly listed 30 days before an auction. So start your research as soon as you see something you're interested in.

Get a structural survey done if the auction house has not already arranged one.

If you do not know much about renovations, and likely costs, bring a builder you trust with you to the viewing.

Time is of the essence

If you buy a house at auction you usually need to put down a 10% deposit. You'll also often only have 20 working days to pay the purchase price.

If you do not pay it, you’ll lose the deposit and may have to cover the costs of reselling the property. As well as the gap between the price you agreed and the final selling price.

Speak to a broker to make sure you’re able to get a mortgage and line one up as soon as you can.

Otherwise, you might have to take out an expensive bridging loan as you wait for your mortgage offer.

If you do not fancy going along to an auction to buy a home, like most things these days you can do it online.

There’s much less risk of panic buying as the sale usually takes place over 30 days. You'll get notified by email when there’s a bid.

Like regular auctions, there’s a reserve price, which is usually around 10% more than the starting bid.

If you’re successful, you’ll have to pay a reservation fee set by the estate agent or auction. It’s usually at least 2.5% of the purchase price, with a minimum of around £5,000.

Pros and cons of online auctions

With traditional auctions you exchange contracts immediately and pay in 20 working days.

But with online auctions you have 28 days to exchange contracts and pay within another 28 days. This means you have more time to get a mortgage if you haven’t already arranged one.

There is a non refunable reservation fee. The auction house and auction house will split this fee.

The HomeOwners Alliance (HOA) promotes the interests of Britain’s homeowners and aspiring homeowners. The HOA said online auctions were coming under fire because people don’t understand them. ⁵

“It allows estate agents and auction platforms free rein to set the reservation fee,” HOA said. “Our investigation suggests some high-street agents are still getting to grips with how this works. This must be paid upfront by the winning bidder at the auction’s close by debit or credit card or bank transfer and can be anything upwards of 2.5% + VAT...

“People who think they’re getting a bargain may find themselves stung to the tune of several thousand pounds when they realise that paying the reservation fee is not like putting a deposit on a holiday.”

Questions to ask when buying a house

Buying a home is often the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make. So make sure you ask the right questions before you make an offer.

Before arranging a viewing there are many questions you should ask yourself. They'll help you avoid potential future problems.

Look at where the home is on a map to see if it’s at risk of:

  • floods

  • landslides

  • coastal erosion

Once you’ve checked for major hazards, check on a map again to see if there’s anything nearby that you’re not sure about.

You can then investigate it before the viewing or ask the seller about it.

For example, if there's a pub nearby it would be worth knowing if it’s got a beer garden if the noise would bother you.

When you book a viewing, ask the estate agent if the home is freehold or leasehold.

It’s useful to find out why the seller has put their home on the market, in case there’s an issue that might put you off.

It’s also important to know:

  • how fast the owner wants to sell

  • if they’ve already found somewhere to buy

  • if they’ve had an offer accepted

  • if they haven’t found anywhere to buy yet, whether they’d have to find somewhere before proceeding with a sale

If the seller is not around for the viewing, or you do not want to ask them, speak to the estate agent.

If you’re still interested by the end of the viewing, ask the agent if there have been any offers.

If there have, ask what they were. If the estate agent will not tell you, you could ask for a rough estimate. It’ll give you an idea of how much to offer.

If you’re thinking of buying a new-build, it’s the developer you need to speak to.

Before buying:

  • see what other developments they’ve worked on so you can check online if they've had any big problems

  • ask they'll finish your home if it is not already, and when you’re likely to be able to move in

  • understand how they’ll handle any problems during and after the purchase. What will they do if cracks appear?

  • ask how energy efficient the place is. New homes have to meet certain energy standards and this would help you get a better resale price

  • check if the home has a new home warranty and get a copy of it and read it so you can question things you're not sure about. Most lenders insist on a warranty if you’re buying a new build

Ask the developer for a list of exactly what’s included with the home, especially basic amenities.

Check if the electricity, water and sewerage systems will still be connected.

Look into any long-term restrictions that could make life in your new home difficult. Will you be free to make changes to the outside of your home?

Ask for a copy of the building warranty, read it in detail, and ask about anything that you're not sure about.

Most flats are leasehold but sometimes you share the freehold with all the flat owners in the building. This is referred to as 'share of freehold'.

Ask the estate agent or seller:

  • how many years are left on the lease (some lenders will not give you a mortgage if it's less than 90)

  • how much the service charge is, if any

  • how much the ground rent is

If it's a leasehold ask who owns the freehold. It could be someone in the building or a landlord you never see.

If it's a freehold ask what percentage share of the freehold you’ll own.

If there is a service change, find out what it covers, such as cleaning the communal hall and mowing the lawn.

If there is not a service change, ask how they organise repairs and maintenance, and how they're paid for.

Check how many floors the building has. Fewer lenders will offer mortgages on blocks of flats with more than 10 storeys.

If you cannot tell from the photo, ask if the flat is above commercial premises such as a restaurant. This may affect your chances of getting a mortgage.

Find out how many flats are in the building. As well as what percentage are owner-occupied, privately rented, and owned by the council.

Always ask about parking as it is a common issue.

Advice for buyers

The smaller the chain, the better

Buying a home can be stressful as a lot of it is out of your control.

You could be relying on selling your home, as well as other sales going through lower down the chain. This can add time and worry to the process.

It's a bonus to not be in a chain so make this clear when you make an offer. You'll be able to move quicker and will be more appealing to the seller.

The estate agent Nested can help you become chain-free if you’re selling a property. They’ll put cash aside before you sell, even if your home is not under offer yet. They'll also give you a document as proof of your funds.¹¹

Or try to become chain free by selling your home and renting while you’re looking for your next place.

Be realistic with your offer

When the market is quiet and there is not much competition you have more chance of making a lower offer.

If there are lots of potential buyers, you'd be better off making a realistic offer. As well as promoting any advantages you have as a buyer such as being chain free.

See what similar properties in the area have sold for to help you work out what to offer. Rightmove and Zoopla both have tools that can help you with this.¹²

Get a Mortgage in Principle

Make sure you have a Mortgage in Principle before you start looking at homes.

It confirms that the lender would be open to giving you a mortgage.

“Having a MIP in place from the start of your property hunt can be helpful, as it shows sellers that you’re a serious buyer.” - Joe Gaytten, a Mortgage Adviser at Trussle.

“It also gives them an element of confidence that you’ll be able to afford to buy the property.”

Proof of deposit

It can also help to prove that you have a deposit.

If you're getting help from friends or family and have money in different places, bring it all together. This makes it easier to show you have the funds.

Cosy up to estate agents

Estate agents may be working for the seller, but they can be a great ally to you as a buyer.

It's useful to have a good relationship with an estate agent. They'll be more likely to tell you about properties that are about to come onto the market. So you might be able to see them first.

Keep in contact with estate agents by phone or email between viewings. This will show them you're keen and committed buyer. This will make them more enthusiastic about your offer when they present it to the sellers.

There are three main types of surveys that a surveyor may do.

A mortgage survey or valuation (mandatory)

They do these for the lender. The valuation gives them enough information to decide if the property is safe to lend on and up to what amount.

It also gives you an idea of if you’re paying the right amount for a property. It does not show everything and is likely to only show obvious issues. It is based on the surveyor's knowledge of similar prices in the area.

A homebuyer’s valuation (optional)

This is a more detailed survey that can alert you to potential problems before you buy. For example, structural defects, shabby brickwork, or a broken down boiler.

It can pay to invest in a full home-buyer report before you put in an offer.

The cost generally ranges from £250 to £400.⁶

A building survey (optional)

This is the most detailed survey available. It gives a detailed evaluation of a property’s condition and construction. It's more useful for older, larger buildings.

The report will show issues with the property, what caused them, how urgent the repair is and maintenance options.

It’s a good choice for the discerning buyer who wants that extra peace of mind.

It often costs around £1,000 for this kind of survey.⁷

You'll need a solicitor or conveyance when you are buying, selling or remortgaging.

They'll handle the legal work for you and your mortgage lender.

They’ll help you from the time the lender accepts your mortgage offer through to completion. They'll also help after if there are any loose ends that need tying up.

Many mortgage brokers will recommend a conveyancer but you can find your own if you prefer. Check with your lender if you decide to pick your own as each lender has a list of approved conveyancers.

The solicitor will:

  • do appropriate searches and enquiries

  • prepare a contract for the sale

  • complete the legal transfer of ownership

  • transfer funds

  • register the interests of relevant parties (you and the lender) on the property you’re buying

Looking at pictures

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