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You’ve found the house of your dreams – now what?

You’ve survived the stressful and emotional process of house-hunting and have finally found a new place that feels like it could be “home”. You’re ready to make an offer, but what happens next?

Making an offer

Ideally, during the viewing you will have demonstrated to the estate agent that you’re very interested in buying the property, but won’t have seemed desperate. This puts you in a strong negotiating position where the vendors know that your offer is serious but don’t get the impression that you’ll pay over the odds for their house.

North London estate agents, Peter Barry, explains what should factor into your bid. “Do some research into the property values in the local area to establish the ballpark price range, and factor in anything that sets this particular home apart from the competition. Driveways, larger gardens or being at the end of a terrace will drive up demand meaning that other buyers are likely to be putting in their own competitive offers. Always ask the agent how long the property has been on the market and try to gauge how keen the vendor is to sell quickly.” Ultimately, you want to settle on a realistic price that will keep the vendors happy while still being a good investment for you. Remember that you can still negotiate after your first offer!

When you’re happy with your strategy, it’s time to call the estate agent. Unless you’ve deliberately put in a high bid to close the deal quickly, you’re likely to negotiate with the seller to agree a price. It’s really important to know what your upper limit is so you don’t spend more than you mean to. Also, make it clear that your offer is subject to the property being taken off of the market and not advertised to other buyers – this should limit your chance of being gazumped and losing out last-minute to a higher bidder.

Once your offer has been accepted

Hopefully, it won’t be long before your offer is accepted. Your next step is to find a solicitor who can take care of the conveyancing for you. Try to seek recommendations from friends or family that have had positive experiences – there’s no requirement that the solicitor needs to be based near the house you’re buying.

Next, you’ll need to complete your mortgage application. You’ll need to have a proof of ID, current address, earnings and recent bank statements to secure this. After your application has been approved you’ll have seven days in which to accept the offer – it’s a good idea to do a mortgage comparison with other lenders during this time to check if you can get a better deal elsewhere.

Although your lender will arrange for a mortgage valuation survey to be carried out, it’s essential that you get your own survey of the property. Hire a surveyor to inspect the property for defects and provide a report detailing the condition of the building before you exchange contracts. If they find any major defects, you can use this report to potentially re-negotiate the sale price or ask the current owners to fix the issue before you move in.

Exchanging contracts

Once your respective solicitors are happy with the contract and have conducted the appropriate searches on the property, it will be time to exchange. This is the stage where the sale becomes legally binding and neither party is able to back out without serious repercussions. You’ll need to pay your deposit at this stage, whether that’s the standard 10% or just 5% in accordance with the Help to Buy scheme – your solicitor will help you do this properly.

After both copies of the contracts have been signed, you should be able to agree a move in date. When this is done, you’re safe to start ordering any new furniture and getting quotes from removals companies. Leave plenty of time for this and the removals team should be able to visit your home to give you an accurate quote based on the volume of your belongings. The more time you have, the more likely it is that you’ll find – and snag – the most competitive price.

Completion and move-in

The day of completion is usually between 5-20 days after the date of exchange (although this can vary from same-day completions to completions several months later). The vendors are responsible for leaving the property on or before the day of completion and dropping the keys off to the estate agent. They will then call you to let you know that you can pick up the keys.

A word of warning – there’s no guarantee that vendors will drop the keys off first thing in the morning, or that the estate agent will have the opportunity to contact you immediately. For this reason, it’s best to have your removals planned for a day or two after the planned completion date. Once you get the call? Congratulations – welcome to your new home!

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