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 Buying A Freehold Property: Step by Step Guide

Buying a home is probably one of the most stressful decisions you have to make in your life. There are so many things involved, so many parties to deal with and many potential pitfalls.

There may come a time in your life where you feel settled with a family and a steady job. At this time buying a home would be the natural thing to do. Once you have made a firm decision to buy a new home, here are 10 practical steps you should follow as a matter of course when buying a home freehold.


Step 1: Decide what you can afford

An aspiration for just about everyone is living in the dream home. In reality not all of us can have THE house of our choice and careful consideration has to be given to what you can afford. Maybe you are one of the fortunate ones that can buy a house outright in cash with cash left to spare for other things in life.

Most of us will need to borrow part or for the whole amount of money required to buy the property in the form of a mortgage. If you need a mortgage, consult mortgage advisors, mortgage magazines and the internet for mortgage options available. You will need to establish whether you can service the mortgage requirements for the foreseeable future and that you have sufficient money left over for other things in life.

When deciding what you can afford, you will need to consider all the other fees and expenses required when buying a property. This will have a significant bearing in what you can afford. Typical fees include: solicitors fees, surveyors fees and mortgage arrangement fees. Other expenses may include stamp duty (currently 10% of the value of the property, when the property is more than £100,000) and possibly renovation costs like changing locks or improvement works to the property to make it fit for you to live in.


Step 2: Finding and Viewing properties

This is probably the nicest step involved in buying a home, getting to view different properties. At times of rapid house prices, it can be stressful too, since you may feel under pressure to buy something at a more favorable price.

Most likely, you should check out all the estate agents within the area you are looking for a property as most most estate agent offices offer homes within their local area. The local newspaper in the area you wish to buy will normally publish a guide to currently available properties on a weekly basis. This property guide can often be obtained from local estate agents too.

Nowadays, the internet is a good place to search for properties on the market. Most good property web sites offer a search facility to help you home in on property that is within the price range you want, of the right size and within the right area.

While most homes are bought directly from the current owner, you might also want to investigate buying at auctions.


Step 3: Confirming what you can afford

If you have found properties that you are interested in buying and you need a mortgage, it is necessary to obtain an mortgage offer in principle from your mortgage lender. When putting in an offer, you will need to give this document to the estate agent or seller to confirm that you are able to raise the necessary finance to afford the property in question.


Step 4: Put in an offer and negotiate the price

Once you have a house you are interested in, you will need to ask yourself whether it is worth the asking price. The sensible thing when considering the value of the property is never to let your heart rule your head. You should really compare the value of the property to other similarly properties nearby. If you do find the property itself so attractive, then it may be worth that little extra for you.

Sellers will often advertise a property for slightly higher than it's true worth in expectation that buyers will negotiate the price. You in turn should consider putting in a lower offer than the asking price - somewhere between 5% and 10%. Forget about putting in a ridiculously low offer unless you can see some serious problems with the property and the seller is asking for a ridiculously high price.

The offer should be made under two common terms "subject to contract" and "subject to survey". "Subject to contract" is absolutely necessary as it means you have not actually bought the property until the contract is complete. "Subject to survey" is a sensible precaution since you should have the property investigated as thoroughly as possible before committing yourself to buying it.

A cautionary note. Occasionally you may come across some unscrupulous practices from estate agents. On practice is having several offers and inviting you to join a bidding war. Another one is saying that they will favor you if you obtain your mortgage from them. The best advice is to walk away. More ethical estate agents will simply tell you that there already is an offer on the property and not invite you bid against the other buyer.


Step 5: Check out and survey the property

Once the buyer has accepted your offer, you need to start moving fast in investigating the property - as you don't want to waste a lot of your and the sellers time if there are any problems so that you are both free to move on to other options.

You should always have the property surveyed by a professional surveyor to find out any serious structural problems. If you are obtaining a mortgage, the lender will insist on a survey to establish the value of the property. You are advised to appoint your own surveyor as well as the lender performing their survey, since the lender will only try to establish the value of the property and the lenders surveyor may not inform you of all the problems with the property. Older properties that have not been renovated for some time can have problems with drainage and electrical wiring.

In addition you will want to perform some more of your own inspections of the property. Naturally it can be impolite to regularly visit the property while the current owner is still living there. However, you do need to check out things like damp and dry rot if you feel that your survey has not been thorough enough or has pointed out potential problems.


Step 6: Agree price for fixtures and fittings

You may have already agreed with the seller to leave certain fixtures and fittings in making your offer for the house like carpets, curtains, blinds and cookers etc. The seller may also consider selling some other furniture that they have decided not to take with them to their new house. If this is the case, you may and the seller may find it more convenient for you to buy the furniture from the seller at an agreed price.


Step 7: Appoint a solicitor

Once you are satisfied with the survey, it is time to appoint a solicitor to prepare the contract and to perform all necessary searches to find out if the seller actually owns the property. The solicitor will also advise you of other legal problems if they crop up such as covenants, demolition orders, compulsory purchase orders and possibly rights of way.


Step 8: Seek planning advice on alterations necessary

If you are planning on change of use of the property, building an extension or wall or any other building work on the property you should contact the local authority for advice at this stage to check if you can get planning permission or if you need to scale down your building work plans.


Step 9: Exchange contracts and complete transaction

Once you are satisfied with all the aspects of buying a property you are ready to exchange contracts with the seller. Your solicitor will advise you when both your and the sellers contracts have been drawn up ready to sign. At the time of signing the contract, you will normally be required to pay a 10% deposit. Completion of the transaction may take place on the same day contracts are exchanged but can take up to four more weeks.


Step 10: Obtain keys and move in

At last! Once the transaction has been completed, it is time for the current owner to move out and hand over the keys to you. If you bought the property from an estate agent, it is normal to go through the estate agent to obtain the keys. Sometimes you will pick up the keys from the estate agent or they will arrange a time for you to collect the keys from the seller. Once you have the keys, it is a good idea to change the locks for security.


Further Information

RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
RICS is a professional body for qualified chartered surveyors worldwide. Use this site to find chartered surveryors in your area.

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