Purchasing a home is one of the most significant financial decisions many people will make in their lifetime. Finding the right property that meets your needs and budget requires careful planning, research and patience.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key steps of the home buying process, from defining your criteria to viewing properties and negotiating offers. We’ll provide all the tips you need to complete a sale.
Define the criteria for the house you are buying
First, look at the location
Go straight to the postcode you are interested in buying to find out what the statistics are like for property in that area.
Consider a maximum price
The first thing you should do is determine your budget and ideal price range. Take a holistic look at your financial situation and analyse factors like income, expenses, savings, investments, and current debt to work out what you’d want to pay for a property.
Account for additional costs like taxes, insurance, renovations, and maintenance too and. Get pre-approved for a mortgage through a lender so you understand your borrowing power and even consider your options too, like if you’ll need a 0 deposit mortgage to qualify.
With a firm grasp of numbers, establish the top threshold you can pay for a home along with a target range that fits your means.
Being clear on budget parameters right away allows you to narrow the property search and avoid overextending on a purchase price. Remain pragmatic when evaluating listings by comparing asking prices to your predetermined limits.
Property type and number of bedrooms
Finding your ideal property type is also a vital step. It could be that based on the location you want, you can only afford an apartment
So, after defining your maximum budget, research what property types and amenities fit your price range. Consult a property guide to see median costs for houses, flats, cottages, etc. in desired areas. Factor in long-term needs like space for a growing family or live-in relatives when deciding ideal bedroom numbers. Crunch the numbers to balance purchase prices with projected mortgage payments, taxes, and living expenses in your target locations.
Adjust expectations if needed – first time buyers may need to compromise on size or location affordability. Attending open houses can also help weigh preferences like proximity to transportation, schools, and neighbourhood feel.
With a firm budget maximum as your guide, research prices for your ideal dwelling type and required bedrooms in preferred areas to make an informed affordability assessment before purchasing.
Consider the property features
Property features should also be considered as you continue your search for a property. An easy way to decide on exactly what you want is to take time to carefully consider the property features that are most important to their lifestyle and needs.
It’s helpful to start by making a wish list of ideal features, like yard space, number of bedrooms, kitchen amenities, etc. Rank these by priority. Distinguish the ‘must-haves’ from the ‘nice-to-haves’ so you don’t overspend on luxuries. Evaluate how the home will suit your hobbies, pets, future plans for a family, and other lifestyle factors.
Focus more on how the layout and space will function rather than just aesthetic curb appeal. Do some research on which upgrades will have the best return on investment in terms of resale value. Get input from trusted friends about worthwhile home features, but take their advice with a grain of salt.
Take into account your budget and how much extra you can realistically spend on pricier upgrades. Touring a variety of homes can help crystalize what features are most important to you. The key is balancing your wants and needs realistically, without overspending on features that won’t improve your daily happiness in the home long-term.
|Open floor plan
Taking the time to reflect on your lifestyle and priorities will help determine the property must-haves to focus on in your new home purchase.
Searching effectively on listing portals – a full guide
It is important that you remain focused when searching as this is an important part of the process of finding the property that is correct for you. And few people begging their journey by learning how to use listing portals correctly
Rightmove vs Zoopla
With over 200 million monthly visits, Rightmove is currently the most popular property search portal in the UK. Meanwhile, Zoopla trails slightly behind with 120 million monthly visits but offers handy tools like instant valuations and custom map searches. While both sites list millions of properties, there may be some exclusives on each platform.
When starting your property search, it’s wise to use both Rightmove and Zoopla to cast the widest net possible. Check both sites for any listings that catch your eye. Narrow down your favourites and arrange viewings for the most promising homes. While most properties will be listed on both platforms, you don’t want to miss an ideal match only on one.
Comparing the two portals also gives you a thorough sense of what’s available in your target locations and price range. Though it requires checking two sites, using Rightmove and Zoopla together maximises your chances of finding and securing the perfect home.
What other listing platforms are there?
While Rightmove and Zoopla dominate the UK property search market, some alternative platforms are worth checking as part of your home search. OnTheMarket, owned by a consortium of estate agents, offers exclusive listings for the first 24 hours.
Nestoria and Home.co.uk aggregate listings from multiple portals into one search while Cozee properties is ideal for upscale, designer homes particularly in London.
What are our best tips for selling property in London?
Buying property in London can be a competitive and dynamic process, but with strategic planning and execution, you can maximise your chances of success. Firstly, ensure your property is presented in its best light by investing in professional photography and staging.
London’s real estate market is highly visual, and appealing visuals can significantly enhance your property’s allure. Pricing your property competitively is crucial, so conduct thorough market research to set a competitive yet realistic asking price.
Property viewings and how to prepare for them
When viewing a property, there are several things you’ll want to look out for and ask the real estate agent about. Examine the condition of the home – look for any visible damage, wear and tear, or needed repairs.
What to look for during a viewing
Check that all appliances, plumbing, electrical systems, heating/cooling systems are in working order. Look at the floors, walls, ceilings, windows, and doors for any cracks, stains, or other issues. Inspect the roof, gutters, and exterior for damage. Consider energy efficiency by looking at windows, insulation, HVAC age and type.
What can you ask the agent?
Ask the estate estate agent plenty of questions about the property and neighbourhood. Inquire about things like council tax, utility costs, flood/disaster risk and insurance rates. It is also worth double-checking these statistics with other sources too such as:
- Your own measurements of the property from a property visit
- Information on listing platforms like on Rightmove here
- Information from solicitors and accredited surveyors like these
For things that are harder to double check online about, you should play even closer attention to what the agent says. Verify facts about square footage of the property, the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, if three have been any structural issues, garage size, the year the property was built and if there have been any renovations done.
Regulations around disclosing property information
Under the law, it is important that the agent is honest about the property as if the individual who sold you the property knew of any structural issues but neglected letting you know before the house was sold to you is illegal.
If you found out about any issues after the completion of the house sale, or the agent attempted to obscure the problems in an effort to deceive you, you have the option to explore pursuing a property misrepresentation claim against them.
Putting an offer in on a house and negotiating on price
When you have done your due diligence, it becomes time to put in an offer on the house and move forward with the sale.
How to put in an offer
To put in the offer, inform the agent that is selling the home you are interested in in writing or over the phone
What costs to be aware of when putting in an offer
In order to put in an offer when purchasing a home in the UK, there are various fees to take into account beyond just the purchase price. Doing research on all the additional fees and ownership considerations can help buyers avoid surprises when budgeting for a home.
Estate agent fee
You will likely need to pay an estate agent fee of 1% – 3% of the purchase price. Luckily, Cozee offer a premium service for property management for just a 1.5% fee.
Hiring a conveyancer to handle the legal work will cost £500-£1500 or more.
Stamp duty is a tax paid to the government on property purchases, with rates varying from 2-12% of the purchase price depending on the home’s value. Take a look at the current stamp duty rates here.
Ownership type: leasehold, freehold, shared ownership
The ownership type also affects costs – leasehold means paying ground rent and service charges annually, while freehold and shared ownership have lower recurring fees.
How to fairly negotiate on price
When purchasing property here in the UK, it’s tempting to want to get a bargain and offer well under the asking price. However, intelligent negotiation requires understanding the true market value.
Do your due diligence and research what comparable homes in the neighbourhood have recently sold for – look at the price per square foot and similarities in features. Offering 30% under ask may insult the seller when market data shows a reasonable value. Instead, make a competitive offer within 5-10% of asking that respects market conditions while still aiming for a good deal.
How to know when to offer below asking price
Offering below market value sounds like a good idea but there is a correct way to do it and you should only attempt it if you think that the market conditions are as such that the seller is likely to accept. Signs that the property will sell for below market price includes:
- Property being on the market for a long time
- Property having defects that are noticeable on the listing
- The house being more than 10% above similar houses on the market
Can the seller reject your offer?
When you make an initial offer on a home as a buyer, the seller has the option to reject your offer, even if you feel it is reasonable based on market data. However, instead of outright refusing an offer, the seller may choose to make a counter offer. A counter offer means the seller proposes a new purchase price or terms, typically higher than the original offer.
For example, if you offer £200,000 on a home and the seller counters at £220,000, they are indicating they want a higher sale price and kicking off negotiations. As a buyer, don’t take a counter offer personally. Going back and forth with counters is simply part of the negotiation process when buying a home.
If the seller does counter your initial offer with a higher amount, you then have a few options. You can accept their counter if you’re willing to meet their price. You can make another counter offer between your original bid and theirs. Or you can stand firm if you feel your initial offer was fair. Don’t be afraid to negotiate – counters are simply part of the house buying process.
What to do when the seller rejects your offer
When your offer is rejected, first re-evaluate your initial price – were you too low compared to recent sales? If you still feel your offer was fair, avoid getting emotional or hostile. Instead, maintain a friendly, professional tone and make a reasoned counteroffer.
Respond to their counter with a slightly higher amount, but still below their counter number. Explain your rationale by pointing to incoherent market data on valuations or elements of the property you noticed either during your viewing or based on the information and documents provided by the agent.
If the seller counters again, carefully weigh whether you want to increase your offer further or stand firm. At a certain point, you may reach your limit. If you cannot agree on price, be willing to walk away.
You can always keep looking for other suitable properties to pursue. Placing strategic counteroffers is key to negotiating effectively when your initial offer is rejected.
If your offer is accepted, what happens next?
Once your offer is accepted, the real work begins. Get the acceptance in a signed purchase agreement outlining price and closing date and make sure you have all the legal documents as follows
Memorandum of sales
Once your offer is accepted, you’ll receive a Memorandum of Sale confirming the agreed sale price, address, and names of the involved parties. This initial document kicks off the legal process.
Acceptance letter from seller
Next comes the official letter from the seller formally accepting your offer. This acceptance letter is a key legal document to retain for your records. Be sure to verify it matches the terms you agreed upon.
Searches and Enquiries
There are a lot of steps involved in the process of getting a search and an enquiry on a property and this process can take anywhere from a week to up to a few months.
It all depends on how many searches there are and if the enquiries take a while to be completed following the confirmation of the sale of property.. This process is typically undertaken by solicitors and conveyancers.
How do searches work on leasehold property?
Searches are where there is a standardised search of a property to obtain all the information a buyer needs to know. It begins with an LPE1 form.
The LPE1 form
First of all, after a property is bought, a form called ‘LPE1’ is filled out by a solicitor. These contain information about the ground rent, insurance and service charges of a property and this is typically completed before any further searches happen.
These types of forms are very useful for telling you about the history of the property and if there are any inherent risks associated with it. They go into further detail about the LPE1 and gather information like the land registry information for the property and the risk of flooding.
Each protocol form has its own name but they may include
- Flooding protocol forms
- Drainage and water search forms
- Title enquiry forms
- Environmental forms
An environmental search is important in premises that used to be used for different purposes such as if there was a petrol station in the past underneath the property. This report would tell the new owner what kind of chemicals are in the soils and how to deal with it
In property outside of London, searches can also look at the rural information of the property like if tere is far on the site and the type of soil that is on this land.
Moving on to the enquiry part of the process, a buyer can then go back and forth with their solicitor to find out everything they need to know about the property. For example, it may be necessary to find out more about the service charges or if there are any suspected nuisances with the property like any unresolved structural damage.
Depending on how long the inquiry takes to be fulfilled, the buyer can be waiting anywhere from one week to up to four months. As you can imagine, if there are multiple back to back enquiries and they all happen one at a time, this can take a very long time.
Typical enquiries that the buyer may have include:
- Service charge enquiries
- Nuisances enquiries
- Boiler checking and installation enquiries
- Electronic information enquiry (EICR information)
- Loft conversion documents
Can a buyer do their own searches?
A buyer can do their own searches on a property by checking out things that aren’t mandatory after the initial and most important searches have been taken out by the buyer’s solicitor. For instance, there may be a pool on the property that the buyer wants to treat and maintain.
Also, there may be disruptive neighbours on the property as this will impact how the property is used. The buyer can ask the previous landlords about this as well as if they are aware of any encroachment that has happened.
Typically, this will still be done by a solicitor but can also be done by the buyer of the property if they know what they’re doing. However, it is always useful to bear in mind that if the buyer wants to move into their property as soon as possible or they want to occupy it and own it completely, they should avoid unnecessary inquiries as they can take up to a week at a time.
Do you need a lead assessment?
If the home was built before a certain year, your solicitor may recommend a lead paint assessment. This test determines if dangerous levels of lead are present which could impact health. Better to identify this early.
Here is a guide on the safety of lead that you may want to be aware of.
Do you need a solicitor?
Appointing a qualified solicitor is strongly advised to handle the many legal intricacies of the property sale. They ensure your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.
What to look out for if you don’t have a solicitor
If proceeding without a solicitor to save on fees, be extremely diligent in doing your own research and legal enquiries. Miss something important and it could prove very costly later on.
Note: we are currently working with solicitors and we get commissions for sending them leads (commissions can go up to 2-3000 for a single lead) so let’s put a CTA here inviting the buyer to register with us so that we can send them to our solicitors.
Creating a legal enquiry
Your solicitor will create and submit a comprehensive Legal Enquiry to the seller’s solicitor addressing all aspects of the sale. Pay close attention so you fully understand everything included.
Here are a few paragraphs about the mortgage application process after agreeing on a house price in the UK, plus a final paragraph on signing the official contract:
Once you’ve negotiated and agreed on a price with the seller, it’s time to get fully approved for your mortgage if you’re financing the home purchase. Your lender will have you submit a complete mortgage application including documents verifying your income, assets, employment, credit history and more.
Providing extensive documentation is essential for the lender to underwrite and approve your mortgage request. Expect to submit pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements and other financial records. Ensure everything is accurate – mistakes can delay approval.
The lender will also appraise the property to confirm its valuation supports the agreed purchase price. The appraisal protects the lender by ensuring the home is adequate collateral. Low appraisals can jeopardise loan approval if there’s a gap between appraisal amount and sale price.
During underwriting, be responsive to your lender’s requests for clarification or additional documents. Ask your broker questions to understand any potential sticking points. The smoother underwriting goes, the faster you get to closing day.
Once finally approved, you’ll receive a mortgage commitment letter formally confirming all terms of the loan. This means you are clear to move forward and sign the official contract.
Signing an official contract
Signing the final contract is a big milestone signalling you are nearing the finish line. The contract cements the legal specifics of the sale like price, closing date, contingencies, and more. Review carefully before signing and keep a copy for your records. One step closer to keys in hand!