To save you from asking what you think you should already know, here’s some help to demystify the home buying process.

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As a first-time buyer, there are a number of steps to go through before you can successfully turn the key in the lock, but the process doesn’t have to be painful. 

In this article, Ross Hunter from Post Office Mortgages walks you through buying a first home, from having an offer accepted, right through to exchange and completion.

1. Getting your offer accepted

Finding out your offer has been accepted on the property you’ve fallen in love with is a big achievement. 

But this is also the point at which the hard work begins, as there are quite a lot of things you need to do between now and move day.

2. Confirm your mortgage

While you might have had a ‘mortgage in principle’ before putting in an offer, this is not binding. It only gives an indication of how much you could borrow. Now that you’ve had your offer accepted, you need to apply for a mortgage officially.

Equally, if some time has elapsed since you got your agreement in principle, it might be worth researching again, as another deal may now be more competitive, or better suited to your needs. 

As a first-time buyer, you may want to consider one of the tailored mortgage products offered by Post Office. 

For example, if you can afford to repay a mortgage, but are struggling to save enough for a deposit, you may want to take a look at Post Office Family Link™ mortgage, provided by Bank of Ireland UK. This product enables you to secure a mortgage without a deposit by enlisting the help of your family.  

Alternatively, if you have slotted away enough money for a deposit, but are limited on how much you can borrow, you might want to look at Post Office’s First Start Mortgage, provided by Bank of Ireland. With this product, a parent or family member acts as a sponsor, and their income is used – alongside your own – to assess your affordability. 

3. Appoint a solicitor or conveyancer

Once you’ve had your offer accepted and confirmed your mortgage, you need to decide who you are going to hire as your conveyancer or solicitor to handle the legal side of things. 

When choosing a solicitor, you may want to get recommendations from family or friends. It’s also worth checking reviews and recommendations online. 

It is the job of your conveyancer or solicitor to review all the legal documents and start the necessary searches – including local authority, environmental and water, and property. 

The conveyancing process starts when your offer is accepted and ends when you receive the keys, and good conveyancing is key to keeping your property purchase on track.

4. Get a survey

Once you’ve got your mortgage officially agreed, think about commissioning a survey. 

While a survey is not compulsory, it is advisable, as it will assess the condition of a property and identify any problems before contracts are exchanged. 

It’s important not to get a mortgage valuation confused with a survey. A valuation is only for the mortgage lender’s benefit – to check the property is adequate security for the amount you want to borrow. 

It’s advisable to instruct your own surveyor to do a more detailed inspection of the home you want to buy. 

There are three different types of survey to choose from.

  • The Home Condition Report is the most basic and cheapest. While it will highlight significant issues, it will not go into detail.

  • The HomeBuyer Report is the mid-table version survey and is more expensive than the Home Condition Report, but cheaper than a Building Survey. It will highlight big issues, such as damp and anything that doesn’t meet building regulations, but is not as detailed as a Building Survey. The Homebuyer Report is the most common type of survey.

  • A Building Survey is the most in-depth type of survey and the most expensive. It provides the most comprehensive analysis of a property’s condition and is recommended if you are buying an old property, a listed property, or one which is thatched.

5. Set the completion date

At this stage, you should be ready to set out a provisional completion date. This is the date you will actually move. You will need to agree this with your estate agent. 

Completion usually takes place between one and four weeks after exchange of contracts, though this can vary. 

Once your move date has been finalised, you can book the date in with your removals company. It’s also time to get packing.

6. Think about removals 

Once you’ve got a provisional move date in place, start thinking about removals. Shop around for quotes from different removals firms, but don’t book anything until your completion date is confirmed. 

7. Exchange contracts

Once all the searches are complete, the legal work is finalised, and the mortgage is in place, it’s time to exchange.

Exchange is the point at which the house purchase is legally binding, and you pay the deposit to the solicitor. 

If you back out after exchange, it is likely you will lose your deposit and must pay associated costs.

8. Complete 

On completion day, you must pay the balance on your home. This usually comes from your mortgage lender.

In addition, you need to pay any outstanding fees, such as stamp duty and the cost of legal work.

9. Move in

Once you’ve completed, you’ll get the keys to your new home – and you are free to move in. Congratulations!

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage.

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