We have compiled a list of common questions and answers asked by buyers. Should you have further questions please don't hesitate to get in contact with your local branch.

How much is the budget?

Before viewing any properties, it is important to work out exactly how big your budget is by adding the available deposit to the amount a lender is prepared to lend. It is best to speak to a mortgage advisor and ideally get an agreement in principle from a lender before you start viewing.

The amount you are able to borrow will be linked to your income and the size of your deposit.

What do I do once I find a property I like?

The first step is to seek an agreement in principle from a lender, which indicates they would be prepared to lend the amount of money you require in order to go through with a purchase. Providing you receive a positive response, you can then make an offer on a property.

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How are offers made?

In order to make an offer on your chosen property, you will need to contact the estate agent, at which point they will take it to the seller. As well as the sum you are offering, the seller will take into consideration your position and ability to proceed. It will then be either rejected, accepted or a period of negotiation will begin. If it is rejected, a prospective buyer can go back with another offer.

What are sealed bids?

In cases where there is high demand and limited supply, some sellers may opt to invite sealed bids. This allows them to maximise the price they receive for their home, as it encourages multiple prospective buyers to bid as much as they can afford in the race to beat each other.

Each person may be asked to place their best and final offer in an envelope and submit it by a designated deadline. It is worth remembering that sealed bids are not legally binding.

What happens when an offer is accepted?

Assuming you have already been given an agreement in principle by a lender, it is time to contact them to confirm their application details and formally submit an application for the required amount. This will be followed by informing the lender you wish for them to instruct a survey.

At the same time, you should appoint a solicitor to act for you throughout the purchase. It is also a shrewd move to invest in a homemover's insurance policy, which protects you in the event of a vendor pulling out of the deal by repaying all of the costs you have incurred to date.

How long will it take to complete a property purchase?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as a plethora of factors can speed up or slow down the process of buying a property. A rough guide is to expect a transaction to take around 12 weeks to go through, but be warned it can take much longer if certain obstacles are met.

It will also be affected by whether or not a chain exists. A chain is created when a person buying a property must first sell another in order to fund their move, and it is possible for chains with a number of parties to build up.

A buyer should certainly never commit to arranging for goods to be delivered or taking time off work until contracts have been exchanged and a solicitor has confirmed the completion date.

What costs or fees are involved in buying a house?

There are three main costs associated with purchasing a property – the first of which is solicitors' fees. Solicitors' fees can vary, so it is important to always ask for a quote before instructing one to act in the process. This will also explain exactly what is included for the price that is quoted.

Secondly, you will have to pay mortgage costs, which will typically include an arrangement fee based on the amount you borrow, as well as a valuation fee.

Finally, stamp duty is a tax paid on all property acquisitions above the value of £125,000. Between this price and £250,000, the rate paid is one per cent, while this rises to three per cent for homes sold between £250,001 and £500,000 and four per cent when the agreed fee is from £500,001 to £1 million. Properties between £1 million and £2 million attract a five per cent levy and the most expensive places to live – those priced over £2 million – will carry a seven per cent stamp duty.

It is important to be aware of the costs of buying a house before making an offer.

Is a survey required?

There is no legal obligation to have a survey carried out on any potential purchase, although it can be advisable if you have any reason to be concerned about the structural integrity of the property. A lender will always insist on carrying out a formal valuation to make sure the property is worth what is being paid for it, but they are not required to comment on the condition of the house.

By choosing to have either a home buyer report or a more detailed structural survey completed, the buyer will be told more about the exact state of the building, meaning they can be aware of any potential issues before committing to the purchase.

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Can the seller pull out?

There is a small chance that a vendor can go back on their decision to sell a house, although it is relatively uncommon. You can protect yourself by purchasing a homemover's insurance policy that will refund all your costs in the event of this happening.

What are exchange and completion?

The exchange of contracts occurs when all parties are happy to proceed with the sale, and as a buyer you are likely to have been advised by your solicitor that there are no remaining issues to resolve. Sale contracts are passed between the seller and the buyer, at which point both are legally committed to the sale. It is possible to take legal action if the other party pulls out after this point.

At the time of exchange, a completion date will be set, often for a week or two later. On this day, your deposit and the lender's sum will be transferred to the vendor's solicitor and you will become the owner of the property.

What happens to the deeds once a property is purchased?

A solicitor tends to hold on to the deeds of a property for several months after completion, as there will be registration duties to complete. After this, the solicitor will send the deeds to the mortgage lender who will hold them until the date the loan is repaid.

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