Guide to Buying a House

Property Buying Guide

The legalities of buying your first home can seem quite complicated, but understanding it properly first allows you to reap the benefits of an exciting journey ahead!

We’ve put together a simple guide to answer the most common questions, and make the house buying process easier for you. Taking you through calculating the costs involved in buying your first home, to how long it will take, and the steps involved. We’ve got it all covered! Rest assured, you will never be on your own when buying a house, your local property agent, whether it’s Open House or someone else, should be with you every step of the way.

Property Buying Process

Below are some key stages to buying a property, and understanding these will make the whole process much easier!

Establish your affordability criteria.

The first stage should be establishing a good understanding of what you can afford to spend. This should take into consideration not just your initial deposit (assuming you’re taking out a mortgage) but also your regular repayments. Things like how much your current outgoings are, and what they will become once you have purchased the property you like. To get an in depth understanding of mortgages, and access to an exclusive library of lenders, it’s always best to sit down with a mortgage advisor. They will analyse and explain what you can borrow, and which deals best suit your financial circumstances. Here at Open House we work closely with a panel of mortgage brokers to ensure you get the best advice and offer for your mortgage. Please click here to speak to one of our mortgage advisors.

Making a shortlist

After you have worked out what you can afford to spend, you can start looking at properties for sale on property portals or estate agent websites and make a shortlist of properties that you love and like.

Arrange Viewings

Looking at pictures is only the beginning; you then need to view the properties on your shortlist in person to see if they really do tick the boxes that you provisionally have in mind.

Begin mortgage process

Before making an offer on a property, you will need to see a mortgage advisor and choose a mortgage product that works for you and your circumstances. At this stage, you will be given an ‘agreement in principle’ which usually has validity for a set amount of time. This also gives everyone assurance that you are serious and likely to be able to afford the property.

Make an offer

After finding your perfect home, you then need to make an offer with the estate agent! Your offer should take into account the asking price of the property, along with the amount of interest it has generated from other perspective buyers. There are also many factors that could make the price negotiable, so its always best to have a chat with the estate agent first and get their opinion on what similar properties have sold for, and if your offer is within a ballpark of the sellers’ expectations.

Choose your conveyancer

After your offer has been accepted, its then time to instruct a solicitor to process the legal side of buying a house. Here at Open House we work closely with a panel of mortgage brokers to ensure you get the best advice and deals for your mortgage. For more information, speak to your local office, or click here to get somebody to get in touch.


A survey is usually required to ensure you and your mortgage provider can be sure that the property is worth at least what you have offered for it. There are usually a few different types of surveys offering different levels of service. A basic one usually offers a quick look round, whereas a more comprehensive one may include structural inspection. This is a decision you should carefully consider, particularly if you see suspicious signs.


Now is the time to find a suitable buildings insurance and also decide whether you want to setup a will and life insurances. Buying a house is for most people the biggest financial decision in their lives, so ensuring that you are properly insured and organised is very important should anything happen to you or the property.

Agree on a completion date

Now that everything is ready for the next level, it’s time to negotiate a suitable exchange and completion date that suits everyone in the chain.

Exchange Contracts

Your solicitors will be busy completing all of the legal aspects for your property purchase in the lead up to this point, and you would have probably filled in a lot of paperwork! Once the contracts are exchanged, you can take a deep breath, as it is far less likely to fall through after this point.

Completion could be a week or so after exchange, or it could even be the same day. This is when the agreement is complete and legally binding. After completion, you can pick up the keys to your new house!

How long does it take to buy a house?

Buying a house can open up a lot of unknown surprises, and timing is undoubtedly one of them! The length of the home buying process is determined on various factors like satisfying lending criteria, how long searches take, whether there is a chain involved, if a sale falls through etc. On average, 3-6 months is a good estimate to buying a house from start to finish. But really it all depends on how many people are in the chain, and how complicated each of their situations are, as well as many other factors.

Cost of Buying a House

Below are some frequently asked questions we get from prospective property buyers.

The lowest deposit you can put down is usually around 5% but this is dependent on your circumstances and affordability criteria. The higher your deposit, the better the mortgage rates you will have access to.
This is very much dependant on which conveyancing company you choose and what the service criteria is, but you can expect to pay between £1100 and £1,800 plus VAT. You may also need to pay for disbursements separately such as local searches and money transfer fees etc which is usually around another £300.
SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) rate varies depending on whether you are a first time buyer or buying an additional property. It often then has increments depending on the value of the property. For the latest SDLT rates please click here to be taken to the government website.
Other costs to consider may include comprehensive surveys and/or a valuation fee depending on the type of mortgage you select. Its always best to speak to your mortgage advisor and get these as transparent as possible from the start.
The process of a mortgage application can take anything from a couple of weeks to around a month if your requirements are fairly straightforward. The mortgage application process starts from speaking to a mortgage advisor and discuss your financial situation, to then selecting a suitable product tailored to your needs. Your application then goes through another process to establish whether the lender sees you as a suitable candidate who is able to repay the mortgage, and whether the property you are buying is worth the amount of money you want to borrow for it.
Common things to look out for when buying a house

Viewing houses can get rather overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to write a list of what would be most important to you in your new house. Keep this list with you when viewing properties, so you know exactly what to look out for. You may find your list changing as you view more properties, but that’s absolutely fine! it’s always better to have that list and develop it as you learn more.

In regards to things to look out for when viewing a house, consider those that are unavailable from photos, for example:

  • Good parking spaces
  • Noise around the area
  • Signs of damp and mould
  • Anything in need of repair such as the roof
  • Observe walls for large cracks
  • Check out the garden and its condition

The above checks may not determine whether you are going to buy the house or not, but at least you are aware of them, and can factor the cost involved if they need to resolved or repaired. You can also appreciate if you they can be overlooked in the short or long term.

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