Deciding to buy a new home is one of most significant financial commitments most of us will make in our lifetime. Whether it’s a first step onto the ladder, a move to something a little larger or downsizing for your golden years, it can all seem a little daunting. There is a lot to think about for sure, but with a good understanding of the process, a little time spent researching the market and the appointment of good advisors, you should be in great shape. Here is our 10-step guide to help you on your way. Happy home hunting.
1. Know your budget.
Make sure that you budget for the purchase price and all ancillary costs such as stamp duty, conveyancing fees, moving fees, new furniture etc. Also ensure you fully understand and have budgeted for the annual running costs of the property you are buying including mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, commuting to work, expected annual maintenance costs and the like. If you are buying a leasehold property ensure that your budget also allows for ground rent and the annual maintenance charge.
2. Choose your location
You know the saying – location, location, location! But don’t just choose a location because of its desirable postcode. Give some thought to the matters that are really important to you and your family such as school catchment area, outdoor green areas, local shops, access to transportation, local area safety, etc. Narrow your search areas to ensure that you get the right balance between desirable postcode, quality of property and access to all the local area attributes and amenities that are important. Aspire Residential's area guides provide useful information on property values, transportation, schools and things to do and can be a great place to start your home buying research.
3. Do your research
Before you start scheduling viewings, do your homework. Use the internet to browse what’s available in the area and get a feel for prices and affordability. Get an idea of how much recent properties have sold for and how long properties are taking to sell. It’s always good to wander into a couple of local estate agencies to get some free advice on current market conditions.
4. Get your financing in place
Meet with a mortgage advisor or lender to understand how much you can borrow and get an offer of financing “in principle”. Having the financing agreed and pre-approved will put you in a much stronger position when you find what you are looking for and you are ready to make an offer.
5. Make a checklist
Now its time to actually start looking at properties. In preparation for your viewings, make a checklist of the things you absolutely need and can’t compromise on, the things that would be “nice to have” and also anything that would make a property an absolute “no go” for you. Remember that when you view a property, your initial reaction will be an emotional one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you don’t want one of the biggest financial commitments of your life to be an emotional decision. Using a checklist will help ground you on the suitability and practicality of the property.
6. Make an offer
Ok great, you have found what you are looking for and it ticks all the boxes, so it’s time to make an offer. Making the right offer is a delicate balance of offering enough to secure the property versus not paying more than you need to. In this respect, again make sure you do your homework. Try to understand if the property has received much interest. How long has it been on the market? Has there been a price reduction? Have there been any offers put forward that have been rejected? What are the motivations of the seller? How is the property priced against others on the market? Is there a lot of work to be done on the property and is this factored into the price? An offer (even one under the asking price) that is well thought through and based on good information is unlikely to offend a seller and should initiate a sensible negotiation. For more information, see Aspire's guide to making at offer .
Great news, your offer is accepted. Congratulations! Well not quite yet, as there is still a lot of work to do. The most important next step is to ensure you know exactly what the condition is of the property you are buying. This is where having the property surveyed is absolutely essential. There are several types of survey that you can instruct a surveyor to undertake. A useful starting point is to read the guide on home survey options issued by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). More information can also be found in Aspire Residential's guide whether you whether you should undertake a survey.
The next important decision is to select a solicitor or conveyancing firm to undertake the legal aspects of the sale on your behalf. Try to work with a firm or individual that specialises in conveyancing and knows exactly what they are doing. It’s an unfortunate fact that approximately 30% of property sales fall through after acceptance of offer but before completion. That’s a pretty big number. Find a solicitor that can keep things moving along in a timely manner and is diligent enough to identify and manage any issues or concerns with the purchase. You should request that the solicitor/conveyancing firm provide you with regular progress updates.
9. Exchange contracts
Ok, now we are getting close. Your financing company has confirmed that they are happy to lend, they survey checked out ok and the solicitor has given everything the green light. So, it’s time to "exchange" on the property. What does this actually mean? On exchange of contracts, you will pay a deposit and your solicitor will exchange signed contracts with the sellers solicitor. You are now legally bound to the purchase and will be expected to complete on the agreed completion date. You should ensure that you have building insurance for the property from the date of exchange.
So is that it – can we “ pop the cork”? Well – not quite yet, as there is still some work to be done.
Between exchange and completion there will be a lot of personal things you need to take care of such as packing, changing schools, doctors, finalising bills, advising change of address, arranging removals, etc. This might just turn out to be one of the busiest periods of your life! But don’t worry it will all be worth it in the end. On the day of completion, your solicitor or the agent will advise you when you can pick up the keys to your new home. Now you can celebrate. It’s time to “pop the cork”. Congratulations.
Want to know more?
Hopefully the above guide has provided you with a basic understanding of the process involved in buying a home. If you're still hungry for more information, then they Government has released a useful guide for home buying. Also, to help demystify the "jargon" involved in buying property, see our "jargon buster" blog.