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Step-by-step guide to buying a home

Buying a house, particularly for the first time can be daunting. The decisions you make when buying a property could save you – or cost you - many thousands of pounds. Here’s our step by step guide explaining how to buy a home, your checklist for all the key stages of buying a house.

step by step guide to buying home

Our step-by-step guide takes you briefly through each step you are likely to take during the home buying process, and you can find more details by following the links within each section.

1.    Decide if buying a home is right for you

  • Although 86% of people in the UK want to own their own home, it’s not always right for everybody all the time – See Is buying right for me?
  • There are a number of things you need to think about before setting off on your home hunting quest – not least whether you can actually afford it. See Can I afford to buy a home?

2.    Decide if you should sell first

  • If you are already a homeowner, decide whether you want to sell your house or flat before you buy. It can be riskier in a rising market, but there are upsides. In particular, you will be able to pounce quickly when you do find the home of your dreams, and you won’t be trapped in a housing chain
  • See Should I sell my home before I look for a new one?
  • If you decide to buy and sell at the same time we take a look at the steps you can take to make things run more smoothly.

3.    Decide on your budget

  • How much do you want to spend? This might be dependent on how much of a deposit you can get together. See How much can I afford?
  • Don’t forget the variety of one-off and ongoing costs of buying a home. These can put an extra 15% on the cost of your home – more if you are doing serious building or redecoration work. See The costs of buying and owning a property

4.    Get your finances in place

5. Decide where you want to live

  • If you want to move to a new home close to where you already live, there is little to decide
  • If you want to move to a different part of town, or across the country, then deciding the area is more difficult and time consuming
  • This is a very important decision – get it wrong and you will either be unhappy with where you live, or face the costs of moving again.
  • See How do I choose a new area to live in?
  • You may be considering whether to buy a new build or an existing older or period property.

 6.    Choose a specific property

7.    Make an offer – and get it accepted

8.    Arrange a mortgage

  • You should ideally have got your finances in place as much as possible before making an offer – see step 4. If so, you now just need to go back to your mortgage company with the agreed offer and complete the process
  • If you haven’t got your finances in place, you must now scramble to do so as quickly as possible, before the seller loses patience.
  • You will need to get the lender to make you a formal mortgage offer before you can exchange contracts (step 12)
  • If buying with a mortgage, it is also a good time to consider whether life insurance is a good idea

 9.    Hire a solicitor or conveyancer

10. Decide if you want a survey

  • Your mortgage lender will require a valuation by a surveyor, to ensure that the property is a good enough to lend against. This is not a proper survey, and will only look superficially at the property
  • You commission your own survey to evaluate the condition of the property and alert you to any potential problems you will face once you move in. Unless you are very experienced with property, it is usually worth getting a survey done
  • We outline survey types, survey costs and what to consider in What sort of survey should I have?

11. Arrange a deposit

  • Before you can exchange contracts (see step 13), you need to arrange a deposit of 10% of the sale price of the property, and give it to your solicitor or conveyancer
  • You should either have the 10% deposit from the deposit you have arranged for the whole property, or might be able to raise it from the sale of your existing home

12. Exchange contracts

  • When you exchange contracts with the seller you become legally committed to buying the property – and they are legally committed to selling it do you
  • If you pull out after this without due reason, your 10% deposit can be forfeited.  See How do I exchange contracts?
  • You should only exchange contracts after you have received the surveyors report, and any necessary action has been taken
  • Before you exchange contracts, you need to agree a completion date with the seller, about four weeks after the exchange
  • You can only exchange contracts after the solicitor/conveyancer is satisfied with the searches, a formal mortgage offer has been received, and arrangements made for the 10% deposit
  • You need to ensure that you take out buildings insurance for the property from the date of exchange, as you are responsible for it from then on. Indeed, it is usually a condition of the mortgage that you have buildings insurance in place. You can get a quote from our partners at A-Plan Insurance today

13. Final arrangements and negotiations

  • You need to negotiate any final things that have not yet been agreed, such as buying the seller’s appliances
  • You need to make arrangements for the supply of electricity, gas, water and telephone service, and that the seller has got readings made. Often, it is easiest simply to change the account name for the existing suppliers to the property, rather than change suppliers, which you can do at a later date.
  • See our guide on how to find the right removals company and compare removals quotes
  • Use our moving house check-list to help you plan your move and it is a good idea to consider the best day to move
  • The solicitor/conveyancer will inform the land registry that they are in the process of transferring ownership of your property
  • Your solicitor/conveyancer should be liaising with the mortgage company to ensure the money will be ready for completion. You need to ensure that your deposit is also ready, and normally you will pay that to your conveyancer before completion

14. Complete the sale

  • Completion is when you pay for the property and take ownership of it, and takes place at a certain time of day – often midday
  • On the day of completion, the money is transferred and the deeds of the property are transferred, between each side’s conveyancer
  • See what happens on the day of completion

15. Take possession of your new home

  • The seller has to leave the property by the time of completion, and you should then be able to collect the keys, normally from the estate agent
  • You are now free to move in, or if you are doing any building work before hand, the workmen can now start
  • You will need to make normal administrative arrangements for getting permission for parking for removals vans etc.

16. Pay stamp duty and settle up with the solicitor and conveyancer

  • After completion, your solicitor or conveyancer will send you an account, covering all their costs and disbursements, as well as the purchase price of the house and stamp duty. See how much stamp duty you will pay and when this is due
  • Your solicitor or conveyancer will normally pay the stamp duty for you, and ensure that the change of ownership is registered with the land registry
  • There may be a small refund due to you if the solicitor has overestimated the costs.

Video – Step by step guide to buying a home

Leave a comment (15)* Required

  1. DavidDavid

    Good evening, I am buying a leasehold flat soon which includes buildings insurance as part of the service fee, whilst I am in the process of buying do I need to arrange additional insurance for myself or is the leaseholders insurance sufficient?

  2. Carole LeppardCarole Leppard

    We are currently in the process of buying a new build house which we are advised has an annual maintenance charge. What protection do freehold property owners have to protect against extortionate hikes in fees charged by maintenance company?

  3. Ann MartinAnn Martin

    I am thinking of selling a flat which I lived in for over 10 years until 4 years ago when i moved in with a new partner and let the flat to a tenant. They have just moved out. If I sell it what are my obligations for capital gains tax. Just applicable to the changes in valuation from when I let it? Or for change in value over the whole period?

  4. JasonJason

    So I’ve never had to buy or sell a house. Unfortunately my mother recently died and has left me some money, I presume this money is to come from the sale of the house, I’m not sure if there is a mortgage but I don’t think so. The house has been sold. The solicitor dealing with the estate tells me I will have to wait 6 months before I will receive my inheritance (the money left to me by my mam in her will) because of something called probate. Is this true? What is probate? Do you have to wait 6 month to receive your money or is the solicitor just wanting to keep hold of the money in his bank account for 6 month to get the interest?

  5. BBL DevelopersBBL Developers

    well explained

  6. Anthony GaterAnthony Gater

    Excellent-no need to say more.


    I need mortagage brokers above 55years to assist me get mortgages a first buyer in london or outer london

    • Sara HindSara Hind

      Hello John, contact our partners at London & Country on 0800 073 2326 for advice.

  8. Lesley WoodwardLesley Woodward

    My son is buying his first flat and this is by far the best guide I have found to the intricate process of buying.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Sara HindSara Hind

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Lesley. Much appreciated!

  9. Shiraz daradiaShiraz daradia

    Hi want to know more about mortgage thank you.

  10. Shiraz daradiaShiraz daradia

    Hi i want to talk to someone about getting a morgage

    • Sophie KhanSophie Khan

      Dear Shiraz,

      You can access fee-free expert mortgage advice with our partner mortgage brokers: London & Country Mortgage Advisors. Advisors are available seven days a week – until 8pm on weekdays – you can speak to them at a time to suit you with no appointment needed. London & Country can compare over 80 lenders to find you the best deal. Do also consider becoming a member we can guide you through the buying and selling process and your membership would also entitle you to a 10% discount on conveyancing fees through our site.

      many thanks,

      HomeOwners Alliance

  11. Mona RiedingerMona Riedinger

    Good day,

    I am an estate agent in South Africa and have constantly disagreements with my partner, who is from the UK, about how transfers of properties are done in South Africa to the way it works in the UK.
    Could you please give me an indication, as to how long a transaction takes to register, ie, from the moment the buyer has decided on purchasing a specific property to the date it is registered in his/her name.
    Please give me an indication on when the buyer has to take out a mortgage, and the time it takes if the buyer pays cash.

    I would appreciate a reply soonest.

    Kind Regards,
    Mona Riedinger

  12. Washington The Man VanWashington The Man Van

    I really like to keep all this imfometion in mind as i see that my time is near there to get my first house, all the info that i got to help me get where Im to buy my first house i got from here, i will save on my removal as it what we do and its my job so, thanks hoa your guys is amazing i allways give you guys as reference for who want to get in to the first step to get a new property

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