Your step-by-step guide to buying a house

Your step-by-step guide to buying a house

Looking for advice on how to buy a house? You’ve come to the right place.

Looking for advice on how to buy a house? You’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re buying a home for the first time or the fifteenth, we know it can be a daunting experience. Finding the perfect home and then putting in an offer is just the beginning. There are survey costs to consider, mortgages, insurance, as well as the complexities surrounding leasehold and freehold.

We’ve compiled a helpful step-by-step guide to ensuring your move is as stress free as possible. There’s no doubt you’ll ask yourself at least one of these questions at some point during the home-buying process.

1. How much do you need to buy a house?

Typically, you would need a minimum of a 5% deposit, although your ideal deposit would be at least 10%. So, if you’ve saved £10,000, then you could look for a house valued at up to £200,000. You also need to factor in a range of additional costs like solicitor fees, mortgage fees, survey costs and buildings insurance. As your local property experts, we’re always here to help support you and offer advice on moving costs.

2. What is a mortgage in principle?

This is an estimate of how much you could potentially borrow from a bank or building society. Bear in mind it’s not a formal mortgage offer but it means you can show sellers that it’s likely you’ll be able to afford the property you want to buy.

You can get this directly from a bank, or from a broker who would have a view of deals across the market. If you need to arrange a mortgage we can help through our associated company Countrywide Mortgage Services*. They have access to thousands of options from high street banks and specialist lenders. Find out more about mortgages.

3. What is the difference between freehold and leasehold?

In simple terms, with a leasehold property, you own the building and not the land. With a freehold property you own both the building and the land. It’s worth knowing that if you buy a leasehold property, you’ll probably pay an annual fee called ground rent to the freeholder. If the property is leasehold then you’ll want a long lease – if the lease has less than 90 years left, the property’s value can fall dramatically.

4. Do you need an estate agent to buy a house?

The simple answer is no, you don’t but it’s certainly advisable. Our estate agents are there to make your buying process as simple and smooth as possible. They can provide you with daily updates of new properties, and if you pop down to your local office, they can give you advice and tips on the local area.

You should plan for multiple property viewings. Do your research and get to know the local market really well. If you need a little extra area advice, talk to your agent.

There’s no time like the present, why not start looking now?

5. Make an offer

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, it’s time to make an offer. Think carefully about what you would be willing to pay, if you go too low you risk not being seen as a serious buyer, so make sure your offer is realistic. Equally, don’t go in too high and miss the mark completely. Remember your estate agents will be on hand to help to support you through the offer process.

6. What happens after you’ve made an offer?

Well, this can go one of two ways. The estate agent will call you back and tell you that your offer has been accepted. In this case it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief and move on to step 7. If not, you might want to repeat the process again with a higher offer. Again, our agents are able to do all the negotiations on your behalf.

7. Arrange a mortgage

Your mortgage in principle (step 2) usually expires after 30 or 90 days (depending on the lender) so it’s worth checking what’s new to the market and seeing if you can find a better deal.

We know this seems like a pain and the easy option is to go back to your original lender but it’s always worth double checking. 

Countrywide Mortgage Services has access to thousands of mortgages covering high street and specialist lenders, and its Mortgage and Protection Consultants will be on hand to help find the most suitable mortgage for you. Take a look at our mortgage deals.

8. Hire a property solicitor called a conveyancer

Once you've had your offer accepted and confirmed your mortgage, it's time to think about who you want to handle the legal side of things. A conveyancer will take charge of conducting searches, liaising with the seller’s conveyancer, inspecting the seller’s documents, dealing with the Land Registry and all that fun stuff. This role is critical to keeping your house purchase on track so do your research.

Have a look at Countrywide Conveyancing Services, which just so happen to be one of the largest transactional conveyancing companies in the UK. 

9. Get a survey

Sorted your mortgage and conveyancer? Great.

It’s survey time. A survey isn’t compulsory, but it’s definitely advisable. If you don’t get one and you come across unforeseen structural issues once you’ve bought the property, it would just be hard luck. Don’t be one of those people that rely on the mortgage valuation or you might find yourself forking out thousands of pounds later down the line. Give yourself peace of mind by having a survey conducted.

The HomeFact Report, RICS HomeBuyer Survey, RICS HomeBuyer Survey & Valuation and the RICS Building Survey are your main options. If you’re wondering about which survey suits you best, take a look at our survey information for a simple breakdown of each.

If you’d rather speak to someone directly, contact our support team on 0161 401 2917.

10. Arrange buildings insurance

How important is buildings insurance? Well, take this example - as soon as the contracts are exchanged, you’re legally bound to buy the property. If the building were to burn down the day before completion and you weren’t insured, you’d have to pay every penny of the sale price yourself. Also whilst you’re browsing all things insurance, you may want to consider contents insurance to protect your belongings as well. Explore your insurance options.**

11. Set the completion date

This is the date that you’ll finally move into your new home. Completion usually takes place between one and four weeks after you’ve exchanged contracts. During this time, it might be an idea to find a trustworthy removals company to help get you moving.

If you don’t know a man with a van, we have plenty of options to make things easier.

12. Exchange contracts and sign the transfer deeds

You’re almost there! Your deposit will now be sent to the seller’s solicitor, along with the contracts that you signed. Your solicitor will prepare the transfer deed. Make sure you sign it in the presence of a witness. It confirms you're willing to take ownership of the property.

Once this is complete it means you’re legally bound to purchase the house. Time to put the champagne on ice and celebrate!

13. Completion

You did it. You’re officially a new homeowner – collect the keys and let yourself in. You can now look forward to making the house a home!

If you need tips on decorating, read our next article on the top 5 interior trends 2020.


*Mortgages available through Countrywide Mortgage Services. A fee will be payable for arranging your mortgage. Your consultant will confirm the amount before you choose to proceed. Countrywide Mortgage Services, Countrywide House, 6 Caldecotte Lake Business Park, Caldecotte Lake Drive, Milton Keynes, MK7 8JT

** Cover is underwritten by AXA Insurance UK plc, Registered in England No: 78950. Registered Office: 5 Old Broad Street, London,EC2N 1AD. AXA Insurance UK plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under Financial Services register number 202312. This can be checked on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website at