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Your step-by-step guide to moving home

Buying a new home can be daunting, especially if you’ve lived in your current home for many years, or are a first-time buyer. To help you understand what’s involved, we’ve outlined the main steps for you.

Step 1 – Decide what you want

It’s a good idea to discuss why you want to move home. If you’re looking for more space, will you realistically be able to afford a larger mortgage and higher bills? If you’d like to be closer to a school or place of work, you should be able to decide on a search area pretty quickly.

Step 2 – Arrange a meeting with a mortgage advisor and get a decision in principle

Unless you’re going to be a cash buyer, you’ll need a mortgage. It can be a good idea to have a meeting with a mortgage advisor before you start viewing properties, so you have an accurate budget in mind. Plus, a decision in principle shows estate agents you’re a serious buyer. Your finances need to be in order, too, so it’s worth checking what information the credit reference agencies hold about you. That way, you can correct any errors, which should reduce your chances of getting turned down for a mortgage.

If you’ll be selling your current home to fund your move, you may wish to put it on the market now, rather than waiting until you’ve found a property you want to buy.

Step 3 – View properties and make an offer

You might only need to view a couple of properties before finding one you want to buy, or your journey to finding a new home might take countless viewings before you strike gold. Either way, once you’ve found a property, you need to put in an offer and start negotiating if your offer isn’t accepted straight away. Once you do get the thumbs up, you may need to pay a small holding deposit of £500 or £1000, but this will be returned to you if the sale falls through.

Step 4 – Arrange your mortgage and get a solicitor

You’ll need to apply for a mortgage with your chosen mortgage provider. They’ll check the property is suitable to lend against and perform various affordability checks. You’ll need to line up a solicitor or conveyancer to complete the conveyancing process for you, too. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another. Handily, the same solicitor will handle the process of transferring your current home to its new owner, too.

Step 5 – Check the contract

You’ll be asked to read through a draft contract that the vendor’s solicitor will send to your solicitor, who will raise any concerns they have. Your solicitor will organise a series of legal searches on the property you’re looking to buy, as well as check your mortgage offer and its conditions.

If you want a Homebuyers’ or Full Structural survey, you should get this done pronto, so any issues are brought to your attention. If there are any, you may be able to negotiate a better price with the vendor, get them to agree to fixing the problem before you complete, or decide to walk away from the deal and find another property instead.

For the sale of your current home, you’ll be asked to fill out a number of questionnaires, agreeing which fixtures and fittings are included in the sale, and letting them know about any disputes you have with your neighbours. If the person buying your property has any concerns after having a survey done, you may need to negotiate, as mentioned above.

You should be able to begin packing your belongings by this point and you may be able to provisionally book your removals company if you have a completion date. 

Step 6 – Sign the contract

If you’re selling your current home, this sale needs to be progressing nicely, so that your solicitor can agree a completion date with both the solicitor of the person buying your current home, and the solicitor of the vendor that you’re buying your new home from. If you’re part of a long chain, this could cause a delay.

Once your solicitor is happy, you’ll be asked to sign the contract. The exchange of contracts is normally 1 – 4 weeks before the completion date and is legally binding, so if you pull out, you’d lose your deposit and may have to pay other charges, too. You’ll have to arrange for your deposit and fees to be sent to your solicitor before completion day.

Step 7 – Completion day

The mortgage money will be transferred to your solicitor, and the money from the sale of your current home will also arrive in your solicitor’s account on completion day. They will then send the full amount to the vendor’s solicitor. Once this happens, your solicitor will ring you and let you know that you’ve completed and the property is officially yours. You can then collect the keys and get moving into your new home.