Six steps to buying a house

Congratulations! You have found the perfect home and you are ready to purchase the property! It’s an exciting time, but the conveyancing process can often seem quite daunting, especially for first time buyers.

Here Mathew Simkin, a paralegal in WHN Solicitors’ conveyancing team, provides a step-by-step guide into purchasing a residential property to help you understand what it entails.

Step 1: Having an offer accepted

Before starting any conveyancing, you need to have an offer accepted on a property. To streamline this process, it is helpful to have your finances in order so that you can demonstrate to an estate agent (or a seller, if there is no estate agent) that you have the means to purchase a property.

If the purchase is a cash purchase, this is usually evidenced by providing bank statements. If you are seeking to purchase it using a mortgage, evidence of an agreement in principle from a bank or building society will be required to verify you can obtain a mortgage for the required amount.

Once you have found a property and your offer is accepted, you will then need to make the full mortgage application to the bank/building society and will need to instruct a conveyancer.

When instructing a conveyancer, always ensure you read any available reviews to ensure you are getting the best possible service.

Also ensure you obtain estimates for costs and read the estimates carefully. You will need to inform the bank/building society who you have chosen to instruct.

At this stage, you can ask your conveyancer to begin the conveyancing process, or you can wait until you have received your full mortgage offer.

You should also consider carrying out a survey on the property (not just a basic valuation) to ensure you are fully informed of the state and condition of the property. This ensures that there are no nasty surprises waiting to be discovered when the purchase is complete, as you may not have any comeback on the seller once the purchase is complete.

Step 2: Instructing a conveyancer to commission searches

Once you are ready to proceed, your conveyancer will need to commission searches against the property, such as:

  • Water and drainage report
  • Coal mining report
  • Environmental report
  • Local authority report

Please note, the searches are specific to the property and the area it is located. Not all searches will be required, and other more specific searches may be required.

Step 3: Reviewing the contract pack

Your conveyancer will then review the contract pack sent by the seller’s conveyancer and will raise any necessary questions about the property.

These questions range from legal questions such as: title questions once the title deeds have been reviewed, the property’s state and condition, planning permissions and building regulation approvals.

Although these do need to be specific questions based on information revealed in the searches and the seller’s contract pack.

It should also be noted that you are able to ask questions about the property too. However, they must be questions that cannot be answered from your own inspection or information that are capable of being revealed by your searches. Once the enquiries have been answered, you can move to the next stage.

Step 4: Compiling a contract report

The next stage of the conveyancing process is for your conveyancer to compile a contract report. This will outline everything you need to know about the property, from the information that has been disclosed in the initial contract pack, to the information that has been revealed through your conveyancer’s enquiries.

You should ensure you fully understand the report in its entirety, and do not be afraid to ask questions to your conveyancer about any legal terms or any implications of any issues noted. You can then move to completion.

When the contract report is issued, you will normally have a completion date agreed, or you will at least have provisionally agreed to work towards a certain date and timescale.

Once this has been firmly agreed, your conveyancer will request completion monies (the deposit from you and mortgage monies from your lender, or full purchase monies from you if cash). Once the purchase monies have been confirmed, your conveyancer is in receipt of your deposit, and you have arranged buildings insurance (from the date of exchange of contracts, not completion) you can exchange contracts, which is a legal promise to complete on the date you agree.

You should ensure that you inspect the property again prior to exchange of contracts to ensure there have been no changes to the state and condition from when you last viewed the property. You should also inspect again prior to completion, and let your conveyancer know of any issues immediately, as these may not be able to be rectified after completion.

Step 5: Proceeding to completion day

Today is completion day, but what happens? Your solicitor will call you to confirm you are still happy to proceed to completion that day, and they will then arrange to transfer the purchase monies to the seller’s conveyancer.

Once the seller’s conveyancer confirms receipt of the purchase monies, they will release the keys with the estate agent (or the seller) and completion has now taken place.

Step 6: Submitting documents to Land Registry

Following completion, your conveyancer will submit the signed documents from the seller to Land Registry to register your purchase of the property.

Once Land Registry return the updated title register, you will receive a copy alongside any title deeds and documents sent to your conveyancer. Please note, you do not need to wait until your registration has been completed with Land Registry to move in; once the seller’s conveyancer has confirmed receipt of purchase monies, you can obtain the keys and move in.

For first home buyers, see also our blog post and helpful video – I’m about to buy my first home: What’s the legal process?

Based in our Blackburn office, Mathew is a specialist in residential conveyancing and assists clients with all aspects of buying and selling residential properties, as well as mortgaging, transfer of equity and Islamic finance.  

For further advice and information on purchasing a residential property, please contact Mathew on 01254 272640 or email: or visit our Residential Property page to find out more how we can help.