Buying a home - step by step guide

Find out the process you need to follow when buying a home, including working out your budget and applying for a mortgage. You can also get help to buy a property, through affordable home ownership schemes.

A home-buying checklist

Buying a home usually takes around two to three months and there are a number of steps you will need to take.

You need to decide:

  • area where you want to live
  • whether you want a flat, a detached, a semi-detached or terraced property
  • how many rooms you need and the room size
  • Choosing an area to live in

Decide on your budget

Think about what you can afford to spend. You’ll need to budget and plan for:

  • one-off costs, like a deposit and Stamp Duty
  • ongoing costs, like mortgage payments, rates and utilities

For a list of the different costs, go to:

You don’t need to make a full mortgage application until you’ve found a property you want to buy.

Get finances in place

If you can’t afford to buy a home without borrowing money, you can apply for a mortgage. Most lenders will tell you how much money they are willing to lend you, called a ‘mortgage or agreement in principle’.

Find a suitable property

To find a property, most people use an estate agent, but you can also buy direct from the seller through a private sale or at auction.

Make an offer for the property

Once you’ve found a property, you need to make an offer to the seller.

Hire a solicitor

Your solicitor will carry out the legal work involved in buying. They deal directly with the seller's solicitor.

The estate agent will ask you and the seller for details of the solicitors involved in the buying and selling.

Get the property surveyed

Once your offer is accepted, you should get the property checked for any defects in its condition that might affect the value.

Your mortgage lender may need a separate valuation to confirm the value of the property.

Apply for a mortgage

If you don’t have the money to buy the property outright, you’ll need to apply for a mortgage.

To read more information about mortgages, go to:

Exchange contracts

The exchange of the contracts to buy the property is the point where the sale is legally binding. Solicitors for both sides will get the buyer and the seller to sign a contract.

By signing a contract, you agree to the terms of the sale and to buy the property. You and the seller must follow the terms of the contract or face going to court.

The contract will list items that are included in the sale or that you’ve agreed to buy such as electrical items or furniture.

You’ll usually need to pay a deposit of at least five per cent of the house price to the seller.

Pay for the property and move in

After the final legal tasks are complete, your solicitor will arrange for your mortgage company to pay the rest of the money to the seller’s solicitor.

When this is done, the house belongs to you and you can move in on the agreed date. This is called ‘completion’.

For a checklist of things to do when moving to a new home, go to:

Be prepared for unexpected delays

If you’re buying a property, you're usually in a chain of people, all relying on selling their property to buy a new property.

This means the property you want to buy may fall through for reasons outside your control.

Be prepared to arrange alternative temporary accommodation if you have to move out of your property.

Get help to buy a home

There are schemes that can help people buy own their homes.

More useful links

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