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How to buy a home in London: your checklist after the offer

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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It is exciting when you put in an offer on a home and the seller accepts it...but you're not done yet! Speed and organisation are your best friends once your offer is agreed. If you're wondering how to buy a home, what happens in a house sale and how long the process takes, this checklist will help you get moving quickly.

Before the offer

We always recommend you plan before you offer. That includes getting your mortgage agreed in principle and your solicitor instructed first. It is especially important to have proof of funds readily available, because these will be requested when you make the offer.

Getting the right documents and services in place before you make the offer means you have the time to make the best choices around such an important purchase. It also means you can move as quickly as needed once the offer is accepted.

The checklist:

Arrange your financing

Book any surveys

Instruct your solicitor

Finish your property purchase

What do I need to do for the mortgage?

What you can afford to offer is dependent on a number of factors, and an online mortgage calculator or an initial conversation with a lender will not be accurate enough. It pays to have a mortgage broker delve into your finances and capture details like income and expenditure, so you can be certain of your budget before you submit an offer.

So, once your offer is accepted, it’s time to apply for your mortgage. If you’re prepared – you've been talking to a mortgage broker and received your Agreement in Principle already – you simply need to call and notify them to submit the application. If you’re dealing directly with a lender, you must move quickly to complete and submit your mortgage application.

We recommend our partner mortgage advisory firm, Alexander Hall, to provide expert advice, complete the paperwork and chase your application through the process.

If you are buying with cash, be prepared to evidence proof of funds to your agent and solicitor at the point your offer is accepted.

Lenders typically require:

  • Photo identification
  • Proof of your current address
  • Three months’ bank statements showing your income
  • Credit card or personal loan statements
  • Income proof: three months’ payslips / P60 from your employer, or personal or company accounts (if self-employed /running your own business)

You want to submit your mortgage application soon as possible after your offer is accepted on a property.

Depending on how straightforward your case is, how quickly you can collect the necessary documents and if they need additional documents, it can take a couple weeks or over a month to receive your mortgage. It helps to have a broker to chase the application, communicate with the underwriter and ensure you’re sending along all the right documents in the first place.

Once your lender makes a formal mortgage offer, it’ll be valid for six months. In some cases, it can be extended if your purchase takes longer, otherwise you’ll have to submit the application again.

If the deposit you intend to buy your house with is tied up in investments or savings, and requires notice to withdraw, it’s best to put in your notice early to avoid a delay.

There are a few different types of insurance that mortgages brokers and lenders will likely talk with you about:

  • Buildings insurance covers the structure of your property against things like fire and subsidence, whereas contents insurance covers all the items within, from your telly to your curtains.
  • Life insurance will cover mortgage payments in the case of a policy holder’s death, which protects your partner or dependants from the responsibility.
  • Income protection and critical illness cover will cover your payments or clear your debt in the event of long term or critical illnesses where you are unable to work.

A mortgage is a long-term commitment, so while you’re applying for one, it’s a good time to look into any subsequent insurance you need.

If you're considering a survey, some lenders will offer an independent surveying service (which includes a basic mortgage valuation and a homebuyers report), so be sure to notify your broker.

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Who books the survey?

Typically, it's the buyer's responsibility to book the survey. It's best to mention when you make your offer if you plan to get a survey. Then, get in touch with a surveyor as soon as you can after your offer has been accepted. There may be more for you to do when you get the results of your survey, so you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time.

We recommend Arnold & Baldwin, both to our buyers and sellers. Their honest third-party information helps you have confidence in the price you've offered. As they are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), we cannot influence their surveys.

The most popular type of survey is the Level 2 Survey (HomeBuyer Report). A Level 1 Survey (Condition Report) is the most basic type of survey and a Level 3 (Building/Structural) Survey is typically used for larger, older and unusual homes. You might also hear about a Snagging Survey, which is particularly for new-build homes.

If you are unsure about which survey to choose, your surveyor can recommend the best survey for the property you’re buying.

Your surveyor will work with the seller to set a date to inspect the property. It can take a few days or longer to get booked in, depending on how busy the market is. After the survey, it takes several more working days for you to receive the results. So you should expect the process to take around 2-3 weeks.

Sometimes, your surveyor will recommend a more detailed survey into a specific problem, such as a damp survey. This could take another 2-3 weeks. That’s why we recommend you get your survey booked as soon as possible.

No, a mortgage valuation is organised and carried out by the lender to confirm the property’s value. It’s not a structural assessment.

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London property solicitor

Hiring a solicitor

To give yourself time to find the right solicitor for your situation, we recommend you hire one before you make an offer.

We recommend Conveyan, our panel of independent solicitors selected for their previous successes on Foxtons cases. Get in touch with Conveyan and they will get the best suited solicitor for your specific circumstance. Importantly, all of their firms operate on a “no move; no fee” basis, so if you do not reach an exchange, you’re not liable for legal costs.

It is highly recommended you hire a solicitor to conduct the searches and enquiries around your property purchase. It takes specific legal experience to do a thorough and efficient search, and much of this stage will take place between the buyer’s and the seller’s solicitor.

Depending on your case, your solicitor, how prepared the seller is, how quick local authority are and how prepared you are, the conveyancing process can take several months.

It is absolutely imperative that the conveyancing starts as swiftly as possible, which is why we recommend having a solicitor in place prior to making an offer. There are a lot of moving parts, from the local searches to the enquiries to drafting the contract.

Your situation might require other documents, but typically, before your solicitor can proceed, they will require identification (also called ‘anti-money laundering documents’), proof of funds and initial payment (also called ‘monies on account’).

For identification, you’ll need a Photo ID and proof of address (such as utility bill)

For proof of funds, you’ll need to prove you can pay the deposit, and where the money to pay it comes from (e.g. by showing payslips).

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Moving into a new home in London

Finishing your property purchase

You’ve got your mortgage offer, your solicitor has dealt with all searches and enquiries. The draft contract from the seller’s solicitor has been received, edited and confirmed, and sent to you to sign. You’ve got the insurance you need. What’s next?

  • You send the signed contract and deposit money to your solicitor
  • Your solicitor notifies the Land Registry to transfer the ownership.
  • Your solicitor confirms the exchange of contracts and completion dates for you.
  • Bring ID to the Foxtons office, and we’ll give you the keys to your new home.

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Buyers articles

Looking for some earlier tips in the buying process? Here are a few handy resources:

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