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Tel: 0208 677 6608
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Emma’s guide to buying a home

When you find your perfect property, you’ll be at the start of a very hectic and demanding process. It’s sensible to have a full grip of what’s to come, so, here’s what you’ll have coming your way.

The offer

“Subject to Contract”
It’s usual for you to want to make sure that you can back out if unforeseen information or circumstances arise. Your offer should accordingly be made “Subject to Contract” and “Subject to Survey”. If dearly beloved Aunty Mabel, who was going to give you an important lump of money, suddenly decides to gift it all to her cat, you can back out of the purchase before the contract has been exchanged (unless something’s happened in the negotiations that has already taken you in to a contractual position).

Using “Subject to Contract” in all correspondence will avoid that nasty, although unlikely, potential. The “Subject to Survey” provision makes it clear that you haven’t yet had a survey of the property done and that you’ll need one before you commit fully. Again, this gives you the opportunity to withdraw if something nasty turns up (dry rot, subsidence, the Neighbour from Hell).


Considering How Much
When considering how much you can afford it’s important to factor in the amount of Stamp Duty Land Tax that you’ll be required to pay. This is best done utilizing the Government’s website.
Line Up Your Finances
The vendor (the person selling their house, aka. the seller), in considering your offer, will want to know about your ability to buy so it makes sense to line up your finances and have an offer from your building society/bank (also called the lender), and to have them primed, ready to confirm that you have the deposit ready.
If you have a property of your own to sell, then be ready to give the vendor as clear a picture as possible as to the sums and timings. You may find that you are in competition with another purchaser, preparation will put you in a better position.


There is a wide divergence in fees charged by solicitors. It would be wise to do your homework and select a solicitor before you find your property. Emma’s suggests that you should speak to a selection of solicitors and obtain quotes. Lowest cost isn’t always best. You may want to meet your solicitor and have them deal with associated maters such as making a will or an agreement between joint purchasers, so the personality fit, and range of services may be important to you.

Exchanging contracts

This is the big one. There’s no way back.

10% of the purchase price

  • You’ll normally be expected to pay 10% of the purchase price and will then have 28 calendar days to produce the balance of the money. If you fail the vendor can serve a completion notice giving you, normally, 10 working days. If you then fail the vendor can forfeit your deposit and claim any losses. There may also be other charges. Best avoided!

When your offer is accepted

  • When your offer is accepted the vendor will want to know how long it will be before your building society (bank’s) offer of finance becomes unconditional. That will normally be after your income and the property have been scrutinized. It’s thus wise to get your finances cleared with your building society (bank) before getting your offer accepted so that the only issue then becomes the survey (also called a valuation).
  • Your building society (bank) will want to have a survey carried out – usually something that you’ll pay for. Your building society (bank) will appoint their own solicitor to protect their interest and again, this is something you’re likely to pay for. Your solicitor only looks after you.


  • Surveys can take two different forms, the Homebuyers Report and the Full Survey Report. The Homebuyers Report is designed to give your building society (bank) the information they require as to the worth of the property – this is for their security. Information on the condition of the property is likely to be brief and is unlikely to cover potential problems such as drains etc. If you’re buying an older property (over 25 years old) it may be worthwhile having a Full Survey carried out.

Full surveys

  • Most banks and building societies restrict who they’ll accept advice from and you’ll thus be required to leave it to them as to who they appoint for their valuation. Full Surveys often follow on from the Homebuyers Report as a means of investigating concerns raised and you’re more likely to then have the freedom to appoint a surveyor of your choice, but this can cause issues of time.

Homebuyers reports

  • Homebuyers Reports can take anything from a week to four weeks to be completed and a Full Survey is likely to take an additional two weeks or more, and that’s if you can find a surveyor able to start straight away. It’s important to know that the surveyor (also called the valuer) appointed by your building society (bank) is responsible to them and not to you, unless you make a specific arrangement. They’re usually paid a relatively low fee and will not want to engage in lengthy discussions with you, if at all.
  • All surveys are likely to take the pessimistic side of any uncertainty (we live in litigious times) and it is often prudent to have a trusted builder give you his (her) own view and price on any works suggested on the report. This is the point at which to consider costs and whether to ask the vendor for a reduction.

Your solicitor

  • Your solicitor will not want to allow you to exchange contracts until your finance is fully arranged including the formal confirmation from your building society (bank).
  • When your solicitor is ready he (she) will provide you with a package, known as a Report on Title, which contains the results of all their research. They will then ask you to sign the contract and let them have the deposit so that they can arrange the exchange.
  • Now it’s time to book the movers.


  • Your solicitor and building society (bank) will have been liaising and 28 days after exchange the money will be handed over and you should be handed the keys.


Emma’s hopes that your move goes well and that you will be very happy in your new home.