Buying a House Process | NatWest

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What is the buying a house process?

Buying a home is the biggest purchase of most people's lives, but there are countless different variables at play throughout. From finding the perfect place, to all the legal hoops to jump through, the whole process can feel a little daunting.

But it's still exciting too! Like so many things in life, the trick to acquiring a property is in the timing. Take each stage one by one, and you'll find things should run smoothly. Read on to find out what to expect when buying a home:

Check how much you can borrow and afford

Before you start looking at properties, it’s a good idea to talk to a mortgage lender about what you need to do. They'll take a look at your income and use your deposit to work out how much you can afford to pay for your new home. Any outgoings will also be taken into account, and your finances will need to be stress-tested to ensure that you can still keep up with your monthly repayments even if interest rates shoot up.


If you’re already a property owner, your lender will be able to help and let you know if you need to take out a new mortgage or if you’re able to take your current mortgage with you.


If you need to get a new mortgage:


  • Use our mortgage calculator to get an idea of how much you could borrow
  • Work out your monthly repayments to make sure you can afford it
  • Get an Agreement in Principle
  • Consider other costs for legal fees, surveys, and Stamp Duty (LBTT in Scotland)

Choose your mortgage

With a world of different mortgage options out there, all offering something slightly different, it can be hard to know which one is best for you. Once you've done a bit of research, your mortgage advisor should be able to help you explore all the options to find the right one for you.


Once you've decided on this, you'll want to get a mortgage in principle. Be sure to hold onto this, as you'll be able to use it as proof to prospective sellers that you can afford the amount you've offered.

Get started with an Agreement in Principle

Start house hunting

Buying a home is likely to be the biggest purchase you’ll ever make so think about what you really want and need, and write a list. Is a garden a necessity or is off-street parking more important? How many bedrooms will you need?


Location is important too. How good are the nearby transport links and local schools? How far will you need to travel to work or to the shops? If you're moving to a new area, work out any new travel costs, as well as council tax payments and research your local amenities. If you're looking for property in London, our London Borough Comparison tool might help when you're weighing up the different areas to live.


If you can, check what the property is like at different times of the day by varying your appointment times for further viewings. The government's planning portal is also a great place to search for any major works that are due to be carried out nearby.


Register your details with local estate agents and look online at websites like Zoopla - sign up for alerts so you can be notified if anything that fits your criteria becomes available.


When you've found somewhere you like, phone the estate agents to book a viewing. When you visit the property, try to imagine yourself living there. Would the rooms be big enough to suit your needs? Is there enough storage space? Don't be afraid to check that things are in good working order – run a tap to check for water pressure, and have a look at the boiler to ensure it's in good working order.


To gauge interest, ask the seller how many viewings the property has had, and how long it's been on the market. It's also useful to find out the seller's situation at this point. Are they in a chain? Why are they moving and how long have they lived there for?


If you're buying a flat, would you like it to be freehold or leasehold? If the property is a leasehold, find out how long is remaining. Ask how much the service charge and ground rent is, and take a look at the upkeep of communal areas – after all, your money will be going towards these each month.

Make an offer

Once you've found your perfect home, your next step is to make an offer. Take a few steps back and work out how much the property is worth to you. Look at how much similar homes nearby have sold for, and prompt the estate agent to explain the asking price. Buyers without a chain, first time buyers, and those with a mortgage in principle can be seen in a favourable light by sellers, so be sure to mention any of these when you put in your offer. Whatever amount you propose, estate agents are legally obligated to present all offers to the seller, so don't be afraid to go below asking price.


If the seller doesn't accept, think carefully about whether you want to up your offer or walk away. Knowing how far your budget can stretch is crucial so you can ensure it's something you can afford.

Offer accepted? Time to finalise your mortgage

Having an offer accepted is fantastic news of course, but if you're in either England or Wales, remember that it doesn't mean it's the end of the process. Because you're not contractually bound to complete the purchase at this stage, it's still possible for either party to pull out of the sale.


However, this is the point when you ask the seller to take the property off the market, and find a solicitor or conveyancer to start the proceedings and take care of the legal transfer of the property from one owner to another. 


With everything from gathering title deeds to carrying out local authority searches to go through, legal proceedings can take up to three months to get everything in place. As this goes on, check in again with your lender – now that you've put an offer in, you'll receive an in-depth mortgage illustration. They'll arrange a valuation on the property to ensure it's worth what you're going to pay, and you may want to carry out your own survey to inspect the property. 


Your mortgage will need to be arranged now too, so speak to your lender about what you need to do to complete your application; whether you’re getting a new mortgage or what to do if you’re considering transferring your mortgage to your new house. You'll need to send across copies of any documents that they require, such as ID and evidence of earnings. 

Once your lender is happy with your prospective price, they'll give you a formal mortgage offer in writing.

Surveys and survey results

While it’s a legal requirement to have a Standard Valuation carried out, you might like to get a more detailed survey to avoid any nasty surprises later. You can find out more about the different types of surveys in our house survey guide.


If your valuation or survey highlights problems with the property, get a tradesman or builder to quote how much it will cost to fix it. Use this information to lower your offer and renegotiate on price. Be prepared to walk away if you need to.

Exchange contracts

When your solicitor or conveyancer's searches are close to an end, they'll let you know that you're close to exchange, and contracts will be drawn up. At this point, you'll want to have buildings insurance in place too, just in case something happens to the property before you move in.


If you’re part of a property chain, you may want to exchange the sale of your old property on the same day as you exchange the sale of your new property.  Money will be moved, which your solicitor or conveyancer will arrange, and you’ll need to pay your deposit. The signed contracts will be exchanged with the buyer or seller’s solicitor or conveyancer, and the sides will agree a date to complete the sale. Your solicitor will also prepare for the transfer of deeds.

Start packing


As soon as you know your moving date you can start getting organised. You might want to book a removal firm to help with your move – it’s a good idea to book early to get a good price. When packing, remember to label everything clearly and know where you’ve packed your everyday essentials – like your toothbrush, bed sheets, mugs and tea bags. 


If you have contents insurance, it’s a good idea to check if you’re covered during moving – just in case anything gets damaged during the move. And let your insurers know when you’ll be moving to your new address.



Your solicitor will total up a completion statement, which details everything that you'll need to pay. This takes into account your remaining deposit, as well as their fees and stamp duty (LBTT in Scotland) costs. You'll usually pay this on or before the completion date, and it's worth knowing that anything over £10,000 will need to be sent via a CHAPS payment (Clearing House Automated Payment System). If you had a Help to Buy ISA, the government bonus that's owed to you will be on this statement.


Once you've signed the transfer deed for the property and your conveyancer has sent over the money owed, you've now officially completed your purchase. Congratulations – the property is now yours, head to the estate agents to pick up the keys to your new home!


Don’t forget to:

Tell your old gas, electricity, water and phone suppliers that you’re moving out and take final meter readings

Let the council know you’re moving so you can stop paying council tax at your old address

Ring your new utility suppliers to let them know that you’ve moved in and give them meter readings

Get in touch with the Royal Mail to redirect your post from your old address


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Useful links

There’s a lot to think about when you’re buying a new home. Here are some useful links to help you to do your research. 

Find out about the government scheme
Help to Buy 

Work out your overall moving costs
Money Advice Service 

Thinking about building?
National House Building Council 


Work out how much it will be
Stamp Duty Calculator 

Find a surveyor
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

See property prices in your area

These links are to non-NatWest websites. NatWest is not liable for the accuracy of the information provided on these websites. 

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