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Navigating the House-Buying Process in the UK – The Steps, Rules and Aspects to Keep in Mind

Whether you’re a citizen or a foreigner, buying a property in the UK can seem like quite a thrilling and potentially life-changing adventure, in a good way. That is before you find out about all the paperwork and procedures you have to follow until you can finally get your hands on the house keys and pass the threshold of your new place.

Beyond all your plans and dreams of becoming a homeowner in the UK, the reality is you need to brace yourself for a rather lengthy and complicated process that can bring even the most patient and perseverant of people to their wits’ end. Buying a house is not like shopping for electronics, furniture, or any other type of consumer goods. This is a big purchase that comes with a fair share of challenges, especially if you’re a first-time buyer, and as you’ll find out along the way, it implies many aspects that you were unaware of and might have never crossed your mind previously.

So, if you want to make the whole experience a bit less stressful and get things over with sooner rather than later, you need to do your homework and get up to speed with all the steps and requirements that house buying involves.

Can foreigners buy property in the UK?

First, we need to clarify an aspect that many people have questions about, namely buying a property in the UK as a foreigner. Anyone can purchase a house in the UK, regardless of nationality, as there are no specific legal provisions for foreign buyers. One doesn’t even need to apply for a visa to own a real estate in the UK unless obviously, they want to live and work here.

The process is pretty much the same for everyone, with the sole mention that foreigners might have to undergo more thorough identity checks than UK citizens. So, if you’re not a UK national, you should make sure you have all the necessary documents ready, so that estate agents, solicitors, and mortgage lenders can verify your identity when you want to proceed with a home purchase.

Have a Plan

You should never start home hunting without having a plan. Budgeting should be your first concern, so you need to decide how you’re going to pay for the house and how much you can afford to spend on it. You’ll either have to save for a mortgage deposit or, if you already own a property, you’ll have to sell it and purchase your new property with the money you get from it.

Working out a realistic budget is important as it’s going to make your life easier later down the road when you have other expenses to focus on. If you calculate your figures correctly and don’t stretch beyond what you can afford, you might have enough money left to invest in other important items for your home such as energy-efficient appliances, high gloss kitchens, new plumbing, and so on.

To make matters easier, you should get a mortgage in principle or a MIP from a lender, which represents a non-binding estimate of how much money you could borrow to fund your house-buying plans. Then you should look for a conveyancer who will handle all the legal aspects of buying a property on your behalf so that everything runs smoothly.

Search for the Home of Your Dreams

This is the fun part of the whole property-buying journey, although this too can turn into a nerve-wreaking endeavour since it can sometimes take ages for you to find a property that meets your requirements.

Since buying a house is a major life decision, you shouldn’t rush the process unnecessarily but take your time to analyse your options carefully. You’ll probably have to go to countless viewings until you decide on a property, so you need to be patient and trust that you’ll find what you are looking for. Speaking of which, you should make a list with all the boxes that you want your future home to tick, starting with location, square footage, number of rooms, amenities, and so on. Work with an agent to speed up the search process and arrange viewings for properties that match your criteria.

Put in an Offer

If fortune smiles on you and you find a house that is right for you, you need to seize the opportunity right away and put in an offer as soon as possible. This is done through your real estate agent who will help you decide on the right price and present your offer to the seller.

You might have to do a bit of negotiating with the seller until you come to an agreement, but you’ll have the real estate agent guide you through it. If they finally accept your offer, you need to move fast so you don’t get outbid by another buyer. This is also a good time to calculate how much stamp duty land tax (SDLT) you’ll need to pay on your future home so you can have the money on hand as you’ll have to make the payment within fourteen days after the date of the purchase.

Apply for a Mortgage

After having your option accepted you need to focus on your mortgage application which usually takes about three weeks but it can also take longer than that, depending on individual circumstances. If you already have an MIT, the application should be quicker. As part of the process, your lender will assess the property to verify it exists and confirm its value.

It’s recommended to work with a mortgage broker when applying for a mortgage than to contact the lender on your own as it can provide you with access to multiple lenders and save you a lot of time, effort, and money.

Wrap it Up

While handling the mortgage application process you should also contact your conveyancer to start preparing the necessary documentation for the ownership transfer from the seller to you. They will draw up the contract, listing all the terms of the agreement, and make sure the documents are correctly drafted and signed by both parties.

Finally, you’ll have to agree on a completion date with the seller, when the property is handed over to you and you can move into your new home. This will require coordination between parties and a bit of flexibility to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Important Mention

These rules and requirements apply only to England, Wales or Northern Ireland. The property buying process in Scotland differs slightly in terms of the taxes one has to pay and the parties’ responsibilities.

Navigating the House-Buying Process in the UK