You’ll likely move house at least once during your lifetime. Statistics show that the average person in the UK moves home around 3 or 4 times.
If you’re considering a move or are at the initial stages of buying a house, you may be feeling a little clueless about what the process actually involves. Here, we simplify things and look at what you’ll need to consider when purchasing property, as well as handy tips for the big moving day itself.
Before you begin any house buying process, it’s a good idea to make a checklist of all the things you’ll need to factor in. Your list shouldn’t just begin with “find dream home”, either!
Buying a property, especially if you plan to live in it, is a considerable commitment and calls for careful planning. That means before you start looking and after you find a suitable home. When it comes to how to buy a house, think about the following.
Before you even think about trawling the internet for your future home, you’ll need to figure out what you can afford to buy. Remember, buying a house isn’t just about saving for a deposit; you’ll also need money for your mortgage and legal fees, plus the physical move itself.
You’ll need to consider any debts you have, too, as these could prevent you from getting a mortgage. You might also want to work on improving your credit score or even consider investing in an ISA. This is a savings account with tax-free benefits that can help you save a good chunk of money for a deposit.
If you’re getting a mortgage, you’ll need to secure a mortgage in principle (or agreement in principle) first.
This is basically a statement from a mortgage lender that says how much they would be prepared to loan you based on your age, income, and debts. Getting a mortgage in principle won’t affect your credit score, plus it’s a requirement of many estate agents before you start viewing houses to buy.
You’ll also want to use a mortgage calculator at this stage to work out exactly how much you might be able to borrow and with what terms.
Now you’ve got the go-ahead from a mortgage provider, you can start seriously looking for properties to buy and, hopefully, put an offer down.
Bear in mind that it could take a while to find something suitable depending on your search area’s size, your budget, and the state of the housing market. When it comes to making an offer, unless the listing states ‘offers over’, you can offer below the asking price.
Your offer might be accepted straight away. Alternatively, the seller may want to negotiate. Suppose the property has had a lot of interest. In that case, you might like to offer the asking price (if you can afford to) to increase your chances of being accepted.
Once you’ve had an offer accepted on your chosen property, it’ll be time to secure your mortgage.
You’ll already have a rough idea of what you could be offered based on both a mortgage calculator and your mortgage in principle. You can also take a look at our mortgage guides for a more in-depth look at how mortgages work and what your best options might be.
Note that a mortgage application will involve a fair bit of paperwork. In addition to your mortgage in principle, you’ll need to supply income evidence, proof of address, and ID, among other things.
Either during or just before you begin the mortgage process, you’ll want to seek out a solicitor or a conveyancer. They are specialists in transferring property ownership from one person to another.
Solicitors take care of a house sale’s legal side, including carrying out searches to uncover any underlying issues that could delay the sale. These typically take between 8 and 12 weeks.
You might also want to get a home buyer’s survey done at this stage. This is not mandatory, but it will give you a better idea of any glaring issues with your new home. Homebuyer reports usually include a valuation, too, so you can see if the price you’re paying for your new property is what it’s worth.
Once your mortgage has been accepted, the searches are done, all the paperwork has been signed, and you’ve exchanged contracts, you’ll complete the purchase of your new home. You’ll be given a final completion date. This is when you, and anyone else in your chain, will be able to hand over the keys and finally move in!
You’ll find more information about the essential steps you’ll need to keep in mind on our buying a house page.
The total cost of your house move will entirely depend on your budget and how much you’re able to spend.
When it comes to finances, there are several things you’ll want to factor in the cost of moving house. In addition to your deposit and mortgage, this includes:
While hundreds of years ago buying a house was as simple as handing over money in exchange for a key, property sales are a bit more complex now! There are several legal fees you’ll need to pay before a house is truly yours, from solicitor costs to surveys and searches. For these three costs alone, you’ll be looking at between £1,350 and £2,400.
This is another significant expense to consider when buying a house. It could actually affect how much you decide to spend. It’s essentially a government tax paid on houses, flats, and land worth over a certain amount.
First time buyers do not have to pay stamp duty on properties under £300,000. You’ll find loads more detail about it and what you’ll end up paying in our stamp duty guide. In general, though, you’ll pay a higher stamp duty rate the more your house is worth.
These are slightly different to home buyer’s reports and are also not a legal requirement. A building survey is conducted by a professional surveyor who will look at the property you’re hoping to buy in detail and make an assessment of its condition.
Building surveys are essential if you’re looking at buying an older or listed property. These are more likely to have structural damage or be very expensive to maintain. The survey will lay out what might need to be fixed, how urgent it is, and even state a potential cost. If you get a building survey done, expect to pay anywhere between £500 and £1,300.
Another cost you’ll want to think about when moving house is the physical move itself. Suppose you’ve got many belongings (including furniture) to shift from your old property to your new one. In that case, it’s bound to cost more than if you’re just moving a few suitcases.
It’s worth going through a professional removal company. You’ll be able to get quotes from both local and national removal firms online or over the phone. The figure they give you should consider the number of things you need to move, the distance, labour, and whether you want everything professionally packed or not.
If you’re moving from one side of the country to the other, you may also have to factor in paying for storage or accommodation for the removal drivers. To give you an idea of what you could end up paying, the average cost of moving the contents of a 3-bed house across 50 miles (excluding assembly or packaging costs) is currently about £800.
It’s not always quite as simple as putting an offer down and everything running smoothly. There could be a range of things that prevent you from completing, from the building’s condition to the seller’s own buying status.
Get out a notepad (or the notes app on your phone) and jot down the following queries to ask the estate agent or seller when looking around a property:
When was the house built?
Is it a listed property? If so, what grade?
How long has it been on the market?
What is the local neighbourhood like?
Why is the owner selling, and how long have they lived here?
Is the seller in a chain?
Have there been any recent renovations completed on the property?
Are there any planning applications nearby that might affect the property’s view or value in the future?
Is there anything included in the sale besides the building, e.g., fixtures and fittings or land?
What is the boundary of the property?
If you’re serious about buying a home, you may also want to look it up on the Land Registry before you view it. This is a government database which gives you information about house sales across the UK. You’ll be able to see if the property you like has gone up or down in value since it was last sold. If it’s gone down, prepare to ask the agent why that might be.
Estate agents are legally obligated to tell the truth. Nevertheless, for things like details about the area or how loud the neighbours are, you might be better off asking a local.
Even if you have some answers already, there are still things to ask the seller before a house becomes yours. For instance:
Where the water, electricity, and gas meters are
How to turn the water off in an emergency
When the bins and recycling are collected
If any of the fixtures (like wooden countertops) need regular maintenance
If any of the appliances are included in the sale and where their manuals are
Where/how the thermostat works
Depending on your specific property, you might think of a few other things to ask the old owners, too. It’s well worth putting together a list of possible queries; overall, it’ll help make your big move go much more smoothly.
As well as all the nitty-gritty of mortgages and surveys, you’ll want to make a moving house checklist of other tasks, too. Typical things include:
Changing all the bills over to your name (and contacting your current providers to say you’re moving out)
Contacting your new local council about council tax
Redirecting your post from your old address
Getting your building and home insurance sorted (this is a requirement of many mortgage lenders)
Securing quotes from a few different removal companies to get the best price for your moving day
Doing a clear-out of any belongings you no longer need – the less you have to move, the cheaper it’ll be! The same goes for furnishings – ask yourself whether they’ll fit and suit your new home. If they won’t, sell them or donate them to charity
And you’re ready! When packing up your belongings, it’s good practice to:
Label all your boxes
Not overpack your boxes and containers (it makes them trickier to move and more likely to break)
Spread out heavy items rather than piling them all together
Follow all these tips, and your house move should go off without a hitch! Want more expert advice on what to expect when buying a new property? Check out our moving house hub page.