Arranging a mortgage for your home

Whenever you’re buying or selling a property, there are two sets of people you’ll need to work closely with; the estate agents and solicitors.

Getting the most from estate agents

Estate agents are paid to act on behalf of the seller. However, despite this it’s important to try and build a relationship with the estate agents and get them working for you too.

To start with, it’s worth checking into the estate agent’s office and speaking to someone face-to-face. You’ll be able to talk about what you’re looking for in your first home and start to build a rapport. This is preferred to phoning the estate agent.

If you want to get the best possible outcome when working with estate agents, you’ll need to give them as much information as possible. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Show you are a serious buyer and you’re keen to get on the market asap, by providing a mortgage in principle. This could help you leapfrog above other potential buyers.
  • Be as open with the estate agent as possible, by saying exactly what you’re looking for and explaining what is and isn’t preferable in your first home.
  • Avoid wasting the agent’s time by looking at properties that are well out of budget.
  • Give as much feedback as possible about property viewings, such as what you did and didn’t like. This will help them get a better idea of you, the buyer.

Estate agents love buyers who are genuinely interested and ready to make a buying decision. Therefore, build a good relationship with estate agents by proving you’re not wasting their time – you’ll get first access to new properties on the market as a result.

Also, even after you have had your offer accepted, keep in touch with the estate agent. This will help you to arrange suitable times for surveys and other inspections, including mortgage valuations.

Conveyancing & the legal side of buying a home

Aside from the estate agents, you’ll also need to deal with solicitors. There are two solicitors involved with the sale of any property – the buyer’s and the seller’s. Every now and then you’ll find a solicitor acting on behalf of both parties, but this isn’t particularly common.

The process is known as conveyancing, which your solicitor will be solely responsible for. There are options to do parts of the conveyancing yourself in order to save money, but this isn’t recommended unless you’re well versed in the practice.

As with mortgages, it’s worth speaking to a few solicitors or conveyancers to compare quotes. Most of the fees will be the same across the board – but you could easily save a few hundred pounds on the cost of the actual solicitor’s time.

The first step is to instruct your solicitors. This is normally done after you’ve had an offer accepted on a certain property. Your estate agent may recommend a solicitor, but that’s because they’ll receive a commission.

Here you can find a step-by-step guide of what the solicitors will do, once instructed by you to commence work.

  1. Once instructed to act for you, your solicitors will draw up a draft contract of terms. They’ll let you know the charges and any deposits required.
  2. The conveyancing solicitors will then get in touch with the seller’s solicitors. They’ll ask for the draft contract, property’s title and other standard forms.
  3. The legal side of buying a home will now begin. The solicitor will raise enquiries about the property and run through all the details with you. For instance, you should double check if the property is leasehold or freehold. If a property’s lease only has 60-80 years left to run, it’s best avoided.
  4. Now it’s time for the property searches. In many sales, this can be one of the longer processes and all searches are standard across the board. The property searches include:
    • Local authority searches: This search assesses the future plans for the area, such as any new roads or motorways set to be built nearby. It also analyses risks such as radioactive gas – costing between £70 and £400 depending on your local authority. Whilst a typical local search will only take one or two weeks, it can drag on for up to six in some instances.
    • Land Registry checks: Legal documents are called, such as the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’. Each costs just £3 to check – but are legally required.
    • Flood risks: Is the property you’re buying at risk from flooding? This is what you’ll find out and the solicitor will report back if there is any cause to worry.
    • Water authority searches: This search will determine how your new property gets water and highlights if any public drains could affect the premises.
    • Environmental search: With this search you’ll discover if there is any contaminated land nearby, such as landfills, radon gas hazard, instability, or former industry sites nearby. The average environmental search costs £60.
    • Optional searches: Depending on your area and circumstances, there are extra searches to consider. These include mine searches, common land searches, pipelines, noise abatement and public paths.
  5. Once your searches have been completed and you’re happy with the results, it’s time to sign contracts. The draft contract will be signed by both the buyer and seller. Your seller will advise on some of the things to be aware of, but typically you’ll want to check:
    • You are happy with all enquiries made about the property.
    • The agreed fittings and fixtures are included on the contract.
    • A completion date you agree with has been proposed.
  6. Again, if you are happy with the contract, it’s time to exchange. Your solicitor will arrange the exchange of contracts and this is often done over the phone by both conveyancers.
  7. After the exchange of contracts (conclusion of missives), you are legally bound to the completion of sale – there is no turning back. Pulling out would result in you losing your deposit and facing potential legal action from the seller.
  8. You will have been given a completion date and the seller will arrange to move out of the property at some point in this time (usually on the day). You will likewise need to arrange how you’ll move into your first home.
  9. You will be sent a statement by your solicitor, showing the amount owed. This needs to be cleared at least 24 hours before the big move.
  10. Completion is normally around midday on the proposed day and is confirmed by your solicitor when they’ve received all money due. Once you have moved into the property, your solicitor will tie up any loose ends. This includes paying the stamp duty, sending you legal confirmation and notifying the freeholder (if your new property is leasehold).