Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / How to buy a house – a guide for first time buyers
Paula Williams

Solicitor - East Sussex (Uckfield)

9th August 2022

How to buy a house – a guide for first time buyers

How to buy a house can be a completely unknown process if you are first time buyers and for many it will be a daunting prospect. This blog gives a brief overview of the process and answers some of the common questions that often arise when considering how to buy a house including:

  • What additional costs will I need to pay when buying a house?
  • What are property searches and why do I need them?
  • What are enquiries?
  • When do I pay my deposit and what happens about the mortgage money?
  • What does exchange of contracts mean?
  • What does completion mean?
  • What happens after completion?

What additional costs will I need to pay when I buy a house?

Once you have found a property to buy, the first thing you need to do is to find a solicitor to act on your behalf. They will need details of the property you are buying, the price, whether it is a house (freehold) or flat (leasehold) and whether you require a mortgage. When finding a solicitor, it’s important to ensure that they set out exactly what you need to pay – their fees, the property searches fees, Land Registry fees (fees to register your purchase at the Land Registry) and stamp duty (if any).

If you are buying a flat, there are likely to be other fees payable to third parties and your solicitors should provide an estimate of these as well. These fees will vary depending upon the particular flat you are buying.

What are property searches and why do I need them?

There are three main searches which need to be obtained when you buy a house or property – a local search (which is a check of the Council records and which will reveal, for example, the planning history of the property, whether the road is a public highway and whether any notices are outstanding against the property), a water and drainage search (which will tell you whether the property is connected to mains water and sewerage) and an environmental search (which will indicate whether the land on which the property has been built is likely to be classed as contaminated land).

What are enquiries when I buy a house?

Your solicitors will receive from the current owner’s (sellers) solicitors a copy of the deeds to the property you are buying. They will also receive a form or forms which consist of questions and answers about the property (Property Information Forms) and a form which list the items which will be included in the purchase (Fittings and Contents Form). If you are buying a flat, they will receive information about the ground rent and service charge that you will have to pay. These are payments to the owners of the building. Once your solicitors have these and the search results, they will “raise enquiries”. This just means that they will check if anything is missing and ask the seller’s solicitors questions about the paperwork.

When do I pay my deposit and what happens about the mortgage money?

Once your solicitors have replied to the “enquiries” and the results of the searches, they will send you a written report. This will explain the deeds/title to the property, the forms and the searches. They may have sent some of this to you previously, so that you can start to look at it. At that point, they will ask you to sign a Contract and pay a deposit to them. This is usually 10% of the purchase price, but it can be less. If you are obtaining a mortgage, they will need a mortgage offer before they can proceed any further. They will obtain your mortgage money for you. They will tell you if they need any further money from you.

What does exchange of contracts mean?

Signing your Contract does not make it legally binding. It only becomes legally binding once it is dated and an identical copy is dated by the solicitors for your sellers. This is called exchange of contracts. When the Contract is dated, the deposit will be paid to the seller’s solicitors.  Once contracts have been exchanged, you cannot change your mind without losing your deposit.

What does completion mean?

Completion is the day that your solicitors will pay the balance of the purchase price to the seller’s solicitors. When this takes place, you will be able to pick up the keys from the estate agents and move in.

What happens after completion?

Once completion has taken place, your solicitors will pay your stamp duty (if any) to HMRC. They will then register your purchase at H M Land Registry. Once this has been registered, you will receive a copy of the deeds which will show you as the owner. There are no longer hard copies of deeds. These are all held electronically at H M Land Registry.

Contact us

Rix & Kay has a dedicated Residential Property Team based in each of our offices in Uckfield, West Kent (Hadlow) and Brighton & Hove, who can guide you through the process of buying your first home. Read more about our Residential Property Team here or contact Paula Williams for an informal chat or a quotation on t. 01825 744439, e. PaulaWilliams@rixandkay.co.uk