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Property News


Property News

Six steps to buying a home in London


Words by Bertie Russell

Buying a property is a major life decision. The process can be long and daunting, especially for expats and foreign nationals. That’s why we’ve created this brief guide to help you understand each stage.

Before starting out, it’s worth having a realistic idea about timelines. There are no set rules for how long a residential property purchase will take, but three to six months is a realistic window. If you’re not waiting to sell your own property or applying for a mortgage, this can be much quicker.

Step 1: Calculating a budget

Before beginning the search, you need to work out how much to spend. This may depend on the value of your current property, your available cash reserves, the amount you can borrow, and the associated costs and taxes applied. For most buyers, this will require speaking with an estate agent to assess the value of your home and the speed in which a sale is likely, a lender or mortgage broker to work out the available debt, as well a lawyer and/ or tax advisor to receive the advice necessary dependant on your personal circumstances.

At this point, you may want to apply for an agreement in principal (AIP), where a lender commits to providing a fixed amount of debt. This will mean that, once you have found the right property, the mortgage approval process is quicker and more likely to be secured.

If you would like to be introduced to a suitable mortgage broker, property conveyancing lawyer or tax advisor we would be delighted to have this conversation with you.

Step 2: Starting the search

Now that you have a budget, you can begin looking for your new home or investment. No doubt you will already have some neighbourhoods in mind, based on things like transport links, schools, parks and shops. In addition, you will probably have some requirements for the property itself, whether number of bedrooms or access to a garden.

It’s useful to do research online to get a sense of the quality and cost of the properties in your preferred location. In addition, we can give you a better understanding of the neighbourhood as we help you look for the right home.

There is a significant part of the market that transacts without ever being advertised online. It is worthwhile discussing your search requirements and building a relationship with an estate agent in the location you are most focused on to ensure these opportunities are not missed.

Step 3: Making an offer

Once you’ve found a property, it’s time to make an offer. At this point you have potentially built up a good idea of where the value lies. We would recommend you discuss your opinions with the estate agent with the aim to make an offer armed with as much current and relevant information as possible.  It is worth noting that properties sell for less than the asking price, the asking price, and more than the asking price depending on the situation.

We are great believers that properties find their value within the market place which is determined by supply and demand. To ensure that your offer is presented in the best possible light to the seller please ensure to provide as much information in terms of financing, timings and conditions. The estate agent will be able to help ensure this information is formatted in the best way possible.

Step 4: Getting a mortgage

Once the offer has been accepted both parties are keen to ensure a clean and swift process from this point onward. Should a mortgage be required, we would hope that these discussions and relationships have been formed prior to this stage to ensure a clean and swift process to make sure securing the property is likely. Lenders will start to engage more formally following the agreement in principle (AIP) while further paperwork and a valuation will likely be scheduled.

At this stage, the estate agent will be required to carry out Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks. Estate agents are regulated by HMRC and are legally obliged to make checks and store records on every seller and buyer. This process will have to be completed before the buyer’s lawyer is introduced to the seller’s lawyer so it is advisable to have the documentation readily available.

Step 5: Contracts

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a property from one person to another. Licensed conveyancers or lawyers must be appointed to take care of the paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches. They also draft the contracts and handle the exchange of money.

While your lawyer is drafting the contract, this is the stage when you may consider having a survey carried out for the property. Please discuss this option with your lawyer or the estate agent. At this point it is also important to arrange for building's insurance. Once the survey and searches are completed, and the contract is agreed this is likely the stage when your lawyer will request you to transfer the 10% deposit required for an exchange of contracts. Please take advice from your lawyer during this process.

At this point, the lawyers exchange contracts and the agreement to purchase the property becomes legally binding. The completion date will have already been agreed at the point of offer and reconfirmed at the agreement of the contract. The completion date is the moment when the remaining 90% of the purchase price is transferred and the keys are handed over.

Step 6: Completion

After contracts have been exchanged, you’re on the home straight. At this point you will receive a completion statement from your lawyer with any outstanding payments – including stamp duty land tax and remaining fees. You will also need to sign the title deeds and authorise for the total payment to be sent to the buyer’s lawyer.

In exchange you will receive the title deeds and the keys to the property. However, don’t forget that you still need to officially register ownership with the Land Registry.

Congratulations, you now own a home! Contact us if you would like any additional information or advice.


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