If you’ve secured your mortgage and found the property that you want to buy then you’re ready to put in an offer.
If the house has been advertised through an estate agent, then you can do this either in person or over the phone. A phone call is probably the most practical – there may be some back and forth negotiating going on, particularly if you are offering below the asking price, so a phone call will save you having to keep travelling back to the estate agent's office.
How to offer on a property
When offering on a property, it’s wise setting a maximum budget – even if this ends up being much less than the asking price. You may be lucky and grab yourself a good bargain if the property owner is looking for a quick sale, however if the property is in demand, the seller may want to get as much money for it as possible and this could force you to pay more than you wanted to, or can afford.
Don’t be disheartened if your first offer isn’t accepted – sometimes the seller may come back with a suggested counter offer, or may wait for you to offer more. It can be a frustrating time for an excited first-time buyer - particularly if the seller decides they’re going to think about it overnight - but this negotiation stage is very typical in the offer process so it's worth being prepared to be kept waiting!
If all your offers are declined then you’ll need to decide on your next steps. Have a rethink about your finances and whether or not you can afford to offer more but at the same time, think about the consequences of pushing yourself to buy a home that could leave you struggling financially.
In the majority of cases, the most sensible thing is to walk away and wait for a different property.
Having your offer accepted
The feeling of having an offer accepted on a property can be one of elation, but the hard work isn’t quite over just yet – there’s still a fair way to go before you get access to those house keys.
Having an offer accepted is a form of verbal contract, but it’s only once the legal paperwork is completed that the property will be yours. In some ways, this may seem a little scary as there is still a chance that the seller could pull out of the deal or accept a higher offer from another party; however it offers you protection too, allowing you to retract your offer should there be any complications arising from the survey.
Instructing a solicitor
In order to get everything made legal, and get the process moving, you’ll need to hire a solicitor to work on your behalf.
When you’ve had your offer accepted you’ll need to pass on the details of your solicitor to the estate agent so it will help if you’ve found one prior to this stage – if not, make sure you do it as soon as your offer is accepted as you don’t want anything to hold up the process, or give the sellers reason to get cold feet.
You can find details of local solicitors by contacting the Law Society – however you may know of one already who has been recommended by a friend or family. Costs can vary between firms so it may help to get a few quotes before deciding on one – choosing a more expensive solicitor doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more for your money as the legal and conveyancing process is a pretty standard procedure that shouldn’t vary too much.
The solicitor will ensure that everything is above board with the property, and that the seller has the legal rights to the property you are buying. They’ll be able to check that there are no outstanding disputes in terms of the land, and that there are no rights of way through the property. Local searches will also be done to show responsibility for surrounding roads, sewers, landfill etc. along with anything else which may be relevant to your particular property.
You may need to exercise your patience during this part of the process – sometimes searches can take a few weeks to complete - but your solicitor should give you an idea of timescales before going ahead.
Having a survey done on the property
The only sure-fire way of buying a property without having a survey done is if you buy it outright with cash, but even then there aren’t many people who would be willing to plough their money into a property without getting it checked over first.
This is why a survey is usually a condition of your mortgage agreement – the lender will want to make sure they are not lending you money for something that’s high risk, and that it’s actually worth what you are paying for it – which means if you were to default on your mortgage payments they’d be able to claim back all of their money by selling the house.
But it’s not just the lender that’s protected by a survey. As a homebuyer, your offer is usually subject to survey, giving you a way out of the deal if the results are not to your liking.
A lender will only require a basic valuation survey, letting them know that the property is worth what you say it is. However, if you want to be certain that you’re not spending your life savings on a money pit it’s worth paying extra to have a more extensive survey done. This will give you peace of mind that there aren’t any underlying issues that need to be resolved.
Exchange and Completion
Almost there! If the results of the survey have come back and you’re happy to go ahead with the process, then your solicitor will get on with the conveyancing process as discussed above.
Once they have received all the relevant information that they need, they will prepare a contract – as will the solicitors working on behalf of the seller.
Your solicitor will give you a date when the contracts are ready to be exchanged – once this happens you will be in a legal contract with the seller and neither party will be able to pull out of the deal at this stage without major consequences.
You’ll usually be expected to pay your deposit at the time that contracts are exchanged – if you pull out after this stage you’ll risk losing it all.
All that remains now is for the deal to be completed. You solicitor will arrange a mutually convenient date and time for this to happen between you and the seller. The completion date is the day you pick up the keys and can officially move into your new home so once you know the details of this you can arrange everything with your removal company if using one.
Completion can take place on the same day that contracts are exchanged however it’s more likely that your solicitor will suggest leaving a gap of a few days to a week to make sure that all relevant funds have been cleared. If you need to pay Stamp Duty on your property this will need to be done via your solicitor prior to completion (or within a limited time afterwards).
Once the full balance of your deposit plus the mortgage funds have been transferred the waiting is over, and you can now call yourself a homeowner. Congratulations!
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