Buyers' guide

Setting your budget, identifying your requirements, calculating your stamp duty

Before you start looking at properties you need to know how much you can spend on a property. If you are not buying for 100% cash then you are likely to require a mortgage to buy your property.

At your earliest opportunity you should take time to speak to a mortgage consultant who can advise you on a comprehensive range of products from across the mortgage market. They will work out what the maximum is that you can borrow and which lender is likely to agree to it if required. They may suggest getting an Agreement in Principle (AIP) which is where they will approach an appropriate lender with your details to see if they will lend the required money, subject to the usual checks.

There are also other significant costs that need to be taken into account when buying a property. These include, but are not limited to: solicitor costs, valuation and survey fees, lender product fees and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).

If you are buying a property with a mortgage secured on it there are other monthly costs that will also need to be taken into account, including insurance. Your lender will require buildings insurance to be in place as a condition of the mortgage offer. However, this is something that most buyers will want to arrange together with contents insurance to protect belongings within the property. If you purchase a leasehold property (such as a flat in a block of flats) the freeholder may have already arranged buildings insurance, in which case you may not need your own buildings policy.

If you are going to live in the property you are buying, you will also need to take into account the ongoing costs of running your home, including utility bills and council tax, which may be higher or lower than what you currently pay.

Register with us

To find your ideal property, we need to know your requirements. You can register with us either online, by phone or by visiting our offices. Once you have registered with us, one of our consultants will assess your search criteria and send you details of suitable properties

Negotiating and making an offer

Once you have found the property you wish to buy, you will want to make an offer. The asking price for a property is the price that the current owner would like to receive for that property and it should be a realistic figure within the price bracket given when the property was valued.

Knowledge of the property market in the area will help you to decide what to offer. If you are looking to buy in an area where there is a lot of competition, it is more likely that other potential buyers will offer the asking price. Your estate agent will be able to help you with local market knowledge.

What the seller will consider when you make an offer

When you make your offer, the seller will consider a number of elements:

Timescale - whether you want to progress things quickly or slowly, is your schedule convenient for them?

Size of chain - are you also selling a property and will the availability of your funds be affected by this?

Proof of affordability - it is advisable to have a written agreement in principle from your mortgage lender, to demonstrate your ability to move forward with the purchase

If your offer is accepted in principle, you may wish to ask for the property to be removed from the market and not shown to any other potential buyers. The seller is not obliged to do this.

You will then need to arrange for the necessary survey. The survey will give you a clear indication of the state and value of the property and go into greater depth than the mortgage lender’s cursory valuation.

Once the offer has been accepted, your estate agent will confirm this to you in writing and your solicitor will begin to prepare the contract ahead of the next phase of the process. More details on the next steps can be found in our guide to completing and exchanging.

Other things to consider when making an offer

It is important to present yourself as an attractive buyer throughout the process, as this may give you an advantage over others when multiple offers are being assessed. If you are quick to respond to any correspondence, and have your mortgage approved in principle, then the seller and their respective agent may be more willing to sell their property to you.

Buying a property can be very stressful and emotional, and requires a degree of flexibility and compromise. By keeping your options open, and not pinning all your hopes on one property, disappointment can be minimised.

Agreeing the sale

Once your offer has been accepted (subject to contract), this is known as sale agreed. Your solicitor will begin to work through all the legal aspects of the sale and will receive the memorandum of sale from the seller’s estate agent to confirm acceptance of the offer. You (or your mortgage adviser) will also begin the formal mortgage application.

At this stage, it is still possible for either the seller or the buyer to pull out, as both parties have up until the exchange of contracts before the contract becomes legally binding.

Before the formal exchange, you will need to:

  • Finalise and sign your mortgage documents
  • Have contact with your solicitor for a final report
  • Send your deposit to your solicitor
  • Make sure you understand the terms of the contract and read over it more than once. If you have any questions, ask your solicitor, who will be able to explain all the pertinent points and clauses
  • Make sure that you fully understand which fittings, fixtures and appliances will be included in the sale
  • Sign your contract
  • Once the exchange has taken place, you can look forward to the completion date, which is decided and confirmed at exchange.
  • The terms of the sale are now legally binding, which means that your deposit is non-refundable if you change your mind. Equally, the seller is obliged to sell to you at the price you have agreed

Exchanging contracts

The formal exchange of contracts agrees the terms of the sale and makes them legally binding to both you and the seller.


The completion date is when the money is transferred from you to the seller and the property legally changes hands. Once funds have transferred, you can collect your keys, which are normally left with the estate agent for you to collect.

The completion date is often four weeks after exchange, but you can choose to negotiate your completion date to suit both parties.

Your solicitor will transfer all necessary funds to the seller’s solicitor, after which you are the legal owner of your property.

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