5 Steps to Buying Property in England

Friday, 7 February 2014
Hello Blogosphere! It's been awhile, and for that I can only apologise. My sabbatical from blogging was unplanned but sometimes life just gets in the way and something has to be put on hold. However, I am back and things sure have changed here on Waltons mountain

After an eventful Christmas, my American family was visiting, Luke and I have decided it is time we buy our first home and get on the property ladder! We have been saving ever since we moved into our rental property, nearly three years ago, and as our lease was about to end, it was the perfect time to buy!

Buying a House

They (well, Google) say that buying a house is one of the most stressful things you will do in your life. Those of you who have been reading Quintessentially English for a while will know that we've not had the best of luck when it's come to house hunting. Let's see, there was the house we rented in Worcester which was infested with rats! Then there was the nightmare of a time we had when trying to rent our current property, but you can read about that here.

To keep the stress of buying a house to a minimum we have followed these steps and so far things haven't been too bad. At least I haven't had a nervous breakdown yet.

1. Figure out how much you can afford.

Research is the key to buying a new home. We started this process a few months ago by looking at our bank accounts to help us establish our current outgoings such as rent, utilities, and food. This gave us a ballpark figure to work to with the mortgage repayments.

We then went online to research mortgage deals, such as the government's Help to Buy scheme which is a great for people getting on the property ladder as you only need a 5% deposit! You'll find a lot of great advice online from various sources but Money Saving Expert, and The Money Advice Service were my favourites.

Help to Buy Scheme

2. Get a taste for the market.

Once we had an idea of what we kind of mortgage we could afford, we used property websites Rightmove and PrimeLocation to see what kind of properties were on the market for the price we wanted. By doing this we were also able to limit certain areas based on cost or desirablity. This came in handy when we spoke to a mortgage advisor.

3. Get a mortgage promise. 

Mortgage Paperwork
Now, fellow expats, comes the "fun" part. Because of my status in the UK not all mortgage companies would lend to us, in fact very few would. Before getting our hopes up we spoke to an Indepedent Financial Advisor, who did some more research for us. Not going to lie, there seemed a point when our house buying dreams might be dashed. However, we were able to speak with a mortgage advisor at Halifax who made all our dreams come true! Well at least a promise of dreams, as a mortgage promise is an agreement, in principle, from the bank/lender that they will give you a mortgage once you find the right property.

When getting a mortgage promise you should come as prepared as possible, this will save you from having to go back multiple times. Be sure to bring with you:

  • Passport (and Visa if applicable)
  • Account Statements from the past 3 months
  • Proof of Address (Driving License or a Utility Bill will do)
  • Payslips from the past 3 months

4. Find a property.

Now comes the actual fun part of buying a property, the actual finding of that property! Once again we used Rightmove and PrimeLocation to search for property and arrange viewings for the ones we liked. I'd also recommend calling estate agents and speaking to them personally. This way you're on their radar and they'll contact you when they get a property come up to your specifications even before they post it online.

The property search was slightly easier for us as after three years of living in Milton Keynes we have a better idea of what areas work for us. If you're not sure or moving to a new area, I recommend using Google Street View so you can virtually walk around the area and get a taste for it. Make sure you don't just jump at the first house you like and see a few, and also make sure you have multiple viewings at different times of the day if possible.

In the end we selected a lovely property in a little village on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. We saw it at night and during the day which gave us completely different perspectives and helped us realise that it was the perfect first home for us.

via Doc Searls

5. Make an offer.

With our chosen property, we made an offer lower than the asking price. I'd always recommend going in lower than you're willing to pay. The worst that can happen is the vendor says no and you raise the stakes. In our case the did decline, but in the end we were able to come to an agreement that worked for both parties.

And so our property journey ends for now, stay tuned for the next instalment in which we will cover applying for a mortgage and other fun!

Q: Have you bought or are you looking to buy a property in England? 
Any advice?

Erin x

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