I had a suggestion accepted on my first dwelling: What now?

We have just had our offer accepted on what will hopefully become our first home.

The family we are buying it from are moving into a rented house while they look for their next place, so there’s no chain.

We’re excited, but also a bit confused about what steps we need to take now, and in what order.

When is the right time to arrange the mortgage, find a solicitor and get surveys done?

When do we actually transfer our money for the deposit, and when do we pay the lawyers and our stamp duty bill?  

And how and when do we decide the date we will move in? 

On the ladder: Buying your first home is likely to be the largest purchase you have ever made

On the ladder: Buying your first home is likely to be the largest purchase you have ever made

Harvey Dorset of This is Money, replies: Congratulations. Buying your first home is a big step, and it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the hoops you need to jump through.

First things first, it is time to apply for a mortgage if you haven’t already and to get a solicitor. As you’ll see below, there is no hard and fast rule as to which you need to do first. However, instructing a solicitor before getting a mortgage offer can lend a little weight to your case.

You will likely have to pay a deposit fee for your solicitor, with the remainder due on the completion of the purchase.

When it comes for applying for a mortgage, your life may be easier if you have already agreed a mortgage in principle.

Finding an independent mortgage broker can also prove a good move. They will be able to show you mortgages from a range of lenders and advise you on your options, and may have access to deals that aren’t available on the high street.

As soon as your mortgage application has been approved, you can book your surveys. Bear in mind that this might take time, especially during busy periods.

Having a home survey is not a legal requirement in the UK but is strongly recommended because you may be able to renegotiate the price you are paying if there are repairs that need doing. If the house is in seriously bad shape, you may decide not to go ahead with the purchase after all. 

Once the surveys are done, your solicitor can begin the legal work to transfer the property into your name and move towards the exchange of contracts. This is when you pay the deposit. 

The date you move in will be finalised once you have agreed on a completion date with the seller. This is when legal documents have all been signed and the funds have been transferred.

We asked two property experts to further explain the buying process.  

Renegotiate: Angela Kerr advises having a survey conducted so that you can address any issues that arise

Renegotiate: Angela Kerr advises having a survey conducted so that you can address any issues that arise

Angela Kerr, director of property advice website HomeOwners Alliance, replies: I’m so excited for you too. However, given home buying is expensive and things can go wrong, let’s hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Some 30 per cent of agreed sales fall through, so we always recommend starting with home buyers protection insurance. 

It will cover you for conveyancing, mortgage and survey fees should the worst happen.

Next, get your conveyancing solicitor lined up. Don’t just opt for the one suggested by the estate agent. Instead, shop around to ensure you get the best price and service. 

Kick things off by instructing them to carry out local authority searches. It’s important to do this early as despite a Government target for these to be returned in 10 days, most councils take about 30 days.

Now your offer is accepted, you’ll also need to complete a full mortgage application for the exact amount you need to borrow for your home. Do this without delay. 

If you have a mortgage advisor, they can help guide you through the process. Make sure you reply promptly with all the correct details to avoid delays. A mortgage application typically takes two to four weeks to process.

As a part of this process, the mortgage lender will want to conduct a mortgage valuation survey of the property. 

These surveys are usually conducted online and are for the benefit of the lender – not you. You’re unlikely to see their report.

So alongside this we recommend getting an expert survey of the condition of the home for your own reassurance. 

While a survey isn’t compulsory, it’s a good investment to help you understand any current or future issues your property may have. 

If your survey report uncovers problems, you can use this to renegotiate the price before you exchange. Or to get the seller to agree to fix the issue. 

Booking a survey early also shows you’re a serious buyer.

In terms of the deposit, speak to your solicitor about handling this. They will help you make arrangements to transfer the deposit (traditionally 10 per cent of the purchase price but it can vary) into their account so it is cleared in time for the exchange of contracts.

Before you exchange contracts, you need to agree on a completion date with the seller. This is the day you get the key and move in, often two to four weeks after the exchange on a mutually agreed date. Your solicitor can propose a date if you have one in mind, and with no chain there shouldn’t be an issue.

After completion, your solicitor will tie up the last few stages of the conveyancing process. This includes paying the stamp duty on your behalf if you need to – though first-time buyers are exempt on properties up to £425,000. 

They will also register the property in your name at the Land Registry, and then issue you a bill for their payment.

Legally binding: Matt Smith warns that once you exchange contracts, you'll lose your deposit if you pull out

Legally binding: Matt Smith warns that once you exchange contracts, you’ll lose your deposit if you pull out

Matt Smith, Rightmove mortgage expert, replies: Firstly, congratulations on buying your first home.

Ideally, you’ll have had a mortgage in principle before you put an offer in. This is a document from a lender which tells you what you could borrow based on the information you share.

However, since you’ve already put your offer in and had it accepted, the next stage is definitely to get a mortgage approved. 

There are a few ways to do this, but most people choose to go to an independent mortgage broker, who can look at all of the different mortgage products on the market, and help to find the one that’s right for you.

Once you’re under way with the mortgage process, it’s time to find a solicitor, or conveyancer as they’re referred to. 

There will come a point while applying for a mortgage where you need to let your lender know the details of your solicitor. By then, you’ll need to have instructed one.

There are two types of survey to be aware of during the buying process. When you’re going through your mortgage application, your lender will carry out a valuation of the property you want to purchase. 

This is to check that the property meets their requirements, and that they are happy to lend you the money to purchase it. Once the lender has the valuation report back and completed any underwriting checks, they will be in the position to issue a mortgage offer.

As part of this process the lender may offer you the opportunity to use the same survey to undertake a more in-depth assessment of the property for you. 

These are not compulsory, but it can be a helpful way to spot any issues you might want to consider about the property you plan to purchase. There are three levels of building survey, with level one being the simplest, and level three being the most invasive and detailed of the home.

You don’t have to use the lender’s surveyor for this, and you are free to consider instructing your own surveyor to get an independent view.

When your solicitor has received the mortgage offer from the lender, they will move ahead with all of the checks they have to complete. When they are well under way with the searches and documentation you need to complete with your solicitor, it’s time to think about your moving date.

The solicitors involved in the process will work to find a move-in date that is suitable for all parties. Once a move-in date is agreed, you will work towards a date of exchange with the seller of the home you wish to purchase. This date of exchange is usually around 2 weeks before completion, and it is on this date of exchange that all the final paperwork is completed from your side, and your deposit is transferred to your solicitor.

Once you complete your exchange, the move becomes legally binding, and you will lose your deposit if you decide to pull out of the move after that stage.

On your move-in date, the solicitors will work with your lender to transfer the rest of the money needed for the purchase. 

When this is complete, you are ready to move into your new home. It is important to note that any solicitor fees and stamp duty payments will need to settle before you can complete your purchase. Your solicitor will send you a breakdown of costs they are owed in the lead up to your completion date.