Usually, the process of buying a property in the UK takes around two to three months to complete but can take longer depending on the circumstances and the type of property you’re looking to buy. If you’ve not yet decided on which property you want to invest in, it might be worth checking out some online property guides from companies like RWinvest to help with your decision.
Prior to looking for your perfect property, you should carry out the necessary due diligence and have a concrete figure of how much capital you can afford to part with and whether or not you’ll need to apply for a mortgage. Having your finances in order beforehand will prevent any unnecessary delays once your offer has been accepted on a property you wish to buy. We’ve included a few key points to consider when searching for a UK property to ensure you stay on the right side of the law and make the buying process as straightforward as possible.
The process of buying a property
Submitting an offer
You can submit an offer in writing or verbally with an estate agent or with the seller directly if you’re looking to complete a private sale in the UK. If your offer is accepted, the property’s seller will then draw up the contract to pass the house’s legal ownership. Be mindful that in some areas of the UK – England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the offer will not be legally binding until contracts are drawn up and exchanged. In other parts of the UK, such as Scotland, all offers are submitted and discussed via a solicitor.
Note – when making an offer, you can go under or over the property asking price. When making a decision, take into account how long the house has been on the market and any recommendations from your estate agent. Many UK properties typically sell for less than the initial asking price, but you’ll need to consider that you could be outbid if another buyer offers more money.
Working with a solicitor
If your offer is accepted, you will need a solicitor to conduct any legal work surrounding the property’s sale. In the UK, it’s recommended to look for legal advisors via the Law Society, where there are multiple specialists you can work with at various hourly rates. Usually, you will look to pay between £500-£1,500 for a solicitor as they guide you through the buying process. At this point, the advisor will consult with the local authority and notify you of any planning issues that could influence the value of the property.
If you’re applying for a mortgage, your lender will arrange for a property valuation. Depending on the type of property you want to buy will determine if you wish to pay for a property survey that considers any maintenance or future repairs. Most people opt to pay for the survey at this stage as it can save a significant amount of money in the long term should there be any problems, and subsequently, you can lower your first offer if there are any concerns. When researching the types of survey available, look at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), as you can compare quotes from different surveyors using their search tool. The cost will be around £500-£600 and up.
Finalizing the offer, contracts and completing the sale
If there are any issues once your property survey is complete, you may need to amend your mortgage deal if applying for one as a lower property value could affect how much you’re able to borrow. As soon as the offer has been finalized, you can proceed with paying the deposit and completing your mortgage. Lenders typically give seven days to accept a mortgage offer.
Note – It’s at this point before contracts are exchanged that you’re still able to pull out of the property sale. However, there may be some fees that you’re still liable for.
Once you’ve received the contract and you’re happy, you can sign to complete the sale. The money will then be transferred from your solicitor’s and mortgage lender’s account to the sellers, and then you’ll receive the keys to your new property. Your solicitor will register the sale with the Land Registry, and any Stamp Duty tax will also be added to your mortgage and solicitor fees bill.
Now that you are a UK resident, you will be liable to pay council tax on your property. To set this up, you’ll need to contact your local council and pay your bill either monthly or annually. For those living alone, there is a 25 percent discount available. You also need to protect your property and depending on the type of property you opted for and how you paid for it will determine which insurance you need to get. For example, if you have a mortgage or a buy to let property, you’ll need building insurance, which is different from contents insurance. You may also need to hire a lawyer if you’re going to become a landlord.
Finally, you need to notify your current energy suppliers that you have moved home. Usually, they can just change the billing address on the account. If you’re swapping suppliers or changing from gas to electric, it might be worth using UK comparison sites like MoneySuperMarket to find the best deals available.