House Buying Process: The Steps to Buying a New House
Buying a new house is usually the biggest purchase people make in their lives so, understandably, is an event that comes with a set of considerations and stresses. Knowing and understanding the process can help lift this stress, preparing you for what’s to come and helping manage expectations around the house buying process and timeline.
From understanding what you can afford and arranging viewings to reserving your home, sorting out the legal aspects and moving in, our step-by-step guide talks you through the home buying process, with helpful advice for each stage.
Find out more about the home buying process
- How long does it take to buy a house?
- Understanding costs
- Choosing your new home
- Reserving your home or putting in an offer
- Sorting out the legal aspects
- Moving day
- Maintaining your new home
How long does it take to buy a house?
One of the most common questions we’re asked is how long the process of buying a house takes, and how long it takes from offer to completion. While there isn’t a set answer as timescales can change due to the buyer and seller’s individual circumstances, a typical home buying timeline takes around 18 weeks – providing everything goes smoothly. On average, you can expect to spend:
- Between 6 weeks to 8 months finding a property, attending viewings and putting in an offer
- Between 4 weeks and 12 weeks having your chosen property surveyed, checking legal issues, exchanging contracts and paying the deposit
- Up to 4 weeks for the completion stage, where the full cost is handed over and you receive the keys and deeds.
Of course, you may find the process either takes a lot longer or is much quicker for you. Property chains are the main thing that can affect the house buying process; if you’re waiting to sell your own house, this will naturally delay any further moves which can create a knock-on effect. If you’re a first-time buyer with no chain, you can usually expect minimal delays relating to property chains.
If you’re buying a new build house, you can also expect the process to run a little more smoothly as there are no chains or hidden problems in the property to consider – however build schedules will determine when your home will be ready to move into.
What are the 5 stages of buying a house?
The house buying process can be broken down into five clear stages, each with its own considerations. Here, we’re breaking down the stages of buying a house, so you know exactly what to expect when you’re getting on the property ladder.
Stage 1: Understanding the costs of buying a new home
The first thing to consider if you’re looking to buy a new home is your budget. You need to be sure exactly what you can afford, taking into account the additional spending that buying a house brings. Alongside the standard cost of the house you're buying, there are a set of other home buying costs you need to be aware of.
- Deposit. Most mortgage lenders require a 10% deposit which you will need to have in place before you make an offer. However, in England, offers such as the government-backed Help to Buy scheme helps make home-buying more affordable, requiring just a 5% deposit for your new home.
- Stamp duty or Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. You can expect to pay a tax on any houses, flats, land or buildings above a certain price in the UK.
- Valuation fee. Your mortgage lender will need to value the home themselves before any agreements on your mortgage loan are made. This usually costs up to £200.
- Solicitor fees. A solicitor is required to handle all the legal aspects of your house move. The costs of a solicitor can vary depending on whether you’re buying and selling or just buying, but we’d recommend budgeting up to £1,500 plus VAT.
- Electronic transfer fee. A lot of mortgage providers charge a fee for the transfer of your mortgage loan to the solicitor. This is usually between £40 and £50.
- Estate agent fees. If you’re selling your home as well as buying, you’ll also have estate agent fees to pay. These are usually from 1-3% of your sale price plus 20% VAT.
- Insurance. Your mortgage provider will require you to have adequate cover before they lend you money. This includes building insurance and contents insurance.
- Moving costs. From boxes and tape through to the cost of a van, moving day itself will turn up some additional costs. Make sure you’ve put aside enough in your budget to make the day run as smoothy as possible.
Stage 2: Viewing and choosing your home
You’re not just buying a home – you’re buying a new lifestyle. While shopping around and viewing houses is very much the exciting part of the process, there are still many considerations to be made. You need to think beyond what you want in a house, considering what you want in a neighbourhood too. Do you need to be near schools? Is a local train station a must? Do you mind a drive to the shops, or are amenities within walking distance vital?
When it comes to your house more specifically, you also need to decide on rooms, style and size. Would a townhouse suit you, or would you prefer a detached home? It’s also important to think about the future when you’re buying a home – is this a house you can see yourself settling in?
Buying a home is a big decision and a big investment, and one you should be completely sure about. For more advice, visit our Guide to Choosing a Home That's Right For You.
Stage 3: Putting in an offer or reserving your home
Once you’ve found your new dream home, it’s time to reserve it or put in an offer. If you’re buying a new home, such as one of our Keepmoat homes, you will have a Sales Executive to guide you through this process. Reserving your home includes paying a reservation fee – this could be as little as £250 and makes up part of your deposit.
If you’re not buying a new home, you’ll be required to put in an offer for the property you want. This is usually done through an estate agent or solicitor. It’s then up to the seller whether they accept your offer or decline it. Don’t be put off if your first offer isn’t accepted – both you and the seller are negotiating for the best price, and often it is the second offer that seals the deal.
Stage 4: Sorting out the legal aspects
Buying a home is a big decision, and both you and the seller need to be protected from a legal point of view. The legal boxes that must be ticked in order to buy a house include valuation surveys being carried out, a surveyor checking the property for any problems which may affect its value and contracts being drawn up and exchanged. The legal aspects of your house move will be handled by your solicitor.
Again, if you’re buying a new home, you may find this process to be a little more streamlined as everything is brand new and the property value isn’t likely to change. However, there is still a legal process that must be followed. Your solicitor will need to carry out enquiries and searches, such as local authority searches and Land Registry searches. Find out more about Sorting the Legals for a new build house here.
Stage 5: Moving in
You’ve made it! House chosen, offer accepted, contracts exchanged – the final step is moving day! This is the moment you’ve been leading up to and it’s almost time to sit back, relax and enjoy your new home and new lifestyle. You’ve got all the difficult parts out of the way, but the physical house move still comes with its own set of stresses.
As with each step of the house buying process, the key to minimising stress on moving day is preparation. From removals companies to new furniture you need to buy, consider everything you need to do ahead of time. Being smart and efficient with packing is also key – this means no last-minute cramming your belongings into boxes! Our Top Tips for Moving Day guide gives you all the information you need to make moving into your dream home as smooth as possible.
What comes next? How to maintain your new home
You’ve just bought a new home – congratulations! You’ve bought the house because you love it, so keeping it maintained is a must to ensure you remain as happy as the day you moved. Whether you’re enjoying a brand new Keepmoat home or have moved into an older property, our guide to Maintaining Your Home is full of all the tips you need to keep your new home looking great.