How to buy a house in England or Wales – the 7 step guide to your happy ever after

How to buy a house in England or Wales

How much does it cost to buy a house in England or Wales? Where do I start? What process do I need to follow?

Do you want to buy a house in England or Wales? It can be more than a little daunting, and especially so if you’re a first time buyer. In this guide Ross Stisi – Stisi Group MD – reveals the seven key steps to buying your first home, and gives you the lowdown on the associated costs.

How to buy a house in England or Wales – key steps

There are seven key steps to buying your first home:

  1. Mortgage Advice – budget setting
  2. Decision in principle – credit check
  3. Appoint a solicitor
  4. Find your dream home
  5. Mortgage application
  6. Legal process
  7. Entry date – moving in

Follow these steps and before you know it, you’ll be living happily ever after in your new pad.

1. Mortgage advice – set your budget

You want to buy a house in England or Wales – but before you start searching for your dream home you need to know your budget. You might feel that you have this worked out already, but you need to be sure that you’re aware of all the costs involved in buying a house before you decide on your budget.

The best way to do this is to get expert, professional advice from a mortgage adviser. They will be able to assess your financial situation, run a full financial health check for you and then discuss a realistic budget based on your specific circumstances.

Which costs do I need to consider – and how much will they be?


This will be a minimum of 5% of the purchase price of the property you are buying.

Here’s an example:

You’re going to buy a house in England or Wales that has been valued at £100,000 and you have agreed a purchase price of £100,000.

With a 95% loan to value (LTV) mortgage, your deposit would be £5,000 (5% of the property value and purchase price) and your mortgage would be for £95,000 (the remaining 95%).

However, it’s sometimes necessary to offer a purchase price that is higher than the market value of the property, such as when there is a lot of interest in the property. Your solicitor will guide you through this.

If you are paying more than the market value for the property, then anything you are paying over and above the value cannot be included in the mortgage and needs to be included in the deposit.

Your mortgage provider will carry out a mortgage valuation on the property, and this will confirm the exact market value.

Here’s an example:

You have offered to purchase a property for £103,000 and the mortgage valuation report comes back with a figure of £100,000. With your 95% LTV mortgage your loan would still be for 95% of the property value (£95,000) so you would require your initial £5,000 (5%) deposit, but also the additional £3,000 which you’ve paid over and above the valuation figure.

So, for this property, you now require a deposit of £8,000.

Legal Fees

These will normally depend on the purchase price of the property and some other various factors, but I would always suggest keeping aside around £1,250, which should cover your legal costs.

Mortgage Adviser Fees

Again, this can be a variable figure depending on your circumstances, but I would suggest setting aside around £500. Your first meeting with your adviser should be free and following this they should then be able to give you a fairly accurate idea of their fees. If they can’t give you a ballpark figure, then run a mile and find someone else.

Lender Fees

The mortgage product that you choose will determine the fees payable. It’s also worth knowing that these fees can commonly be added to the loan if funds are needed elsewhere. Remember though – any fees added will incur interest at the same rate of the mortgage. Your adviser will be able to recommend which is the best ‘true cost’ mortgage for you, considering all the fees and any other associated costs.

Stamp Duty

You guessed it; this is another variable figure – I’m afraid there is no fixed answer here. This cost also depends on the purchase price of the property you are buying.

The best advice is to discuss it with your solicitor or look online:

You can check the rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax in England and Northern Ireland on the HM Revenue and Customs calculator and the rates of Land Transaction Tax in Wales on the Gov.Wales website calculator.

Valuation Fees

When you are purchasing a property in England or Wales, then the mortgage lender will instruct a property valuation. This is normally paid for by the buyer. There are some mortgage products which include a free valuation, but you need to consider the mortgage as a whole to make sure that it is good value for money.

Summary of costs

Item Estimate of costs
DepositMinimum 5% (Remember any extra over and above the valuation figure)
Legal fees£1,250
Mortgage adviser fees£500
Lender fees£0 – £999
Valuation fees£0 – £500
LBTT / Stamp DutyUse the calculator links above to find an accurate figure

2. Decision in principle

Once your adviser has all your information – including all the relevant personal and financial details of your income, outgoings, and so on – and you have agreed a budget, you’re ready for the next step on journey to buy a house in England or Wales. Your adviser will submit what is essentially an enquiry and credit check to a prospective lender. That lender will return a response (usually immediately) to say either accept, decline or refer. This is your ‘decision in principle’ or ‘acceptance in principle’.

Let’s take a look at the three responses:


This is bad news, but not the end of the world. This means that – at this stage – this lender would not accept an application from you.

It’s important now that your adviser finds out why. Sometimes it can simply just be down to not meeting the credit score for that particular lender. It’s always a good idea to obtain a copy of your credit file as this will show you everything a lender will see. There are a number of online agencies which offer this service, including Check My File.com which offers a copy free for 30 days.


This is where the lender needs to take a little more time to review your application. They may need some further information to allow them to make their final decision. You will typically receive a response within 48 hours and then your adviser can plan what needs to happen next. This could involve approaching another lender.


Ah, the golden ticket! This is where a lender has agreed to lend you the sum you have requested in principle. This means you are a step closer to being able to buy a house in England or Wales and finding your dream home.

3. Appoint a solicitor

You’re going to require a solicitor/conveyancer to act on your behalf so you can legally transact (make and complete a purchase) on the property you are interested in. They will also carry out mandatory checks and searches to make sure you can legally purchase the property you are after.

However, even at this early stage, contacting a solicitor will make your life easier when it comes to finding a property and making an offer. They can help you figure out what you realistically need be offering on the property if you are to be in with a chance of having your offer accepted. Your mortgage adviser will be able to make a recommendation of who to use.

4. Find your dream home

This the fun part, so you need to enjoy it! You can search for and find properties online by visiting websites like Rightmove, Zoopla and On The Market to name but a few, and then contacting the selling agent to organise a viewing.

Once you have carried out your viewing you can then decide if you would like to put your offer in. You will then contact your appointed solicitor to discuss the game plan regarding figures.

Terminology to look out for:

Fixed price

This means the property seller wants a set figure for the property. You can still chance your luck and offer less if you are feeling lucky – the worst that can happen is that they say no. If they do, then you can just go back with another offer.

Offers over

As the term suggests, the property seller is looking for you to offer more than the listed figure: e.g. ‘offers over (O/O) £145,000’. Again, your solicitor can suggest where they feel your offer would need to be, to be in with a chance of your offer being accepted.

Sealed bids

This is a form of auction, administered by the seller’s agent. If the property that is being sold is in a highly sought-after area and received a lot of interest, then the seller will set a specific date and time where all the interested parties can place a sealed blind bid. The selling solicitor will then collate all those bids and take them to the person selling the property. All the offers will be discussed, and the seller will decide which offer to accept.

Often this is the highest bid but sometimes it will be the ‘cleanest’ bid. For example, a clean bid could be from someone who has no property to sell before they can buy, so they’re not reliant on cash coming in from a previous sale. So, it’s not always about the highest bid, though often this is the case. Your solicitor will let you know if you have been successful or not.

5. Mortgage application

Your offer has been accepted on your dream home, so you’re feeling very excited, stressed, anxious, nervous… and all the other emotions. You now need to get back in touch with your mortgage adviser.

Your adviser will ask you to gather various documents together. The list will look something like this:

Which documents do I need for a mortgage application?

What next?

Once you have all these documents together, you will set an appointment with your mortgage adviser who will discuss which mortgage products and terms (length of mortgage) will suit you best.  Once you’ve agreed which mortgage you want to go for, your adviser will submit your application to the recommended lender.

A standard time frame is from one to three weeks, depending on circumstances, from the application being submitted to the time the mortgage offer is produced. In the meantime, your mortgage adviser should be keeping you updated every couple of days on the progress of your application.

Once everything has been agreed and the valuation report has been accepted, you will receive a full mortgage offer. (This is your Holy Grail!)

During this time, your mortgage adviser should be giving you advice and recommendations on various insurance planning strategies. This can include elements of insurance like life insurance, critical illness cover, income protection, and buildings and contents insurance. Your adviser will be able to submit these applications for you at the same time as your mortgage application.

6. The legal process

Now that you have your mortgage offer, your solicitor will manage the next stage. They will guide you through the legal process to buy a house in England or Wales and ask you to complete and sign all the necessary paperwork.

They will also exchange the legal contracts, which essentially locks in both sides to the sale and purchase. A standard timescale for all legal work to buy a house in England or Wales is around four weeks.

The solicitor will request all the necessary deposit funds are sent to their account, so the deposit payment is ready to go. This is also the time where you begin to discuss a moving in date (how exciting!). Once all the legal paperwork is completed, both sides are satisfied and contracts are exchanged, it’s simply a waiting game until your move in date.

Gazumping & Gazundering – be aware!

I know, you’re now asking yourself if we are just making up words, but these are real words to explain two separate scenarios that are possible at this stage in the process. These are both important points to be aware of.

What is Gazumping?

Gazumping can happen when you have made an offer on a property and it has been accepted. Although you may have gone through the mortgage application process and some of the legal process, another buyer can still swoop in above you and make a higher offer. As frustrating as this is, it happens. The key is to exchange contracts as quickly as possible with the guidance from your solicitor.

Can I stop someone gazumping me?

In short, the answer is no – but there are measures you can take to help stop this as much as possible. Here are some of the steps you can take:

  • Moving as quickly as possible – this is all about timing and the less time between offer and moving in, the better. Of course, this will all be dependent on the circumstances for both sides but keep the lines of communication open as much as possible between yourself and the other side. This is normally via your solicitor; ask them for as much advice as they can give you.
  • Ask the seller to have the property removed from the market and so that it is no longer for sale to the outside world. If you don’t ask, then you won’t get.
  • Set a deadline for ‘exchanging contracts’. Make sure your mortgage adviser and solicitor are happy that they can meet these timescales.
  • Exchange contracts as quickly as possible. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on how quickly this can be done.

What is Gazundering?

Gazundering is the evil twin sister of gazumping. They look the same but are actually the polar opposite.

Gazundering happens when someone has offered to purchase a property and that offer has been accepted by the seller. The process begins and some time passes with some legal work carrying on in the background.

Near the time of the ‘exchange of contracts’, the buyer decides to come back and change their offer to a lower amount. ‘But that’s so sneaky!” I hear you say, and you would be correct – it is very sneaky, but it does go on.

This type of thing would normally happen when the market is quiet and there are less buyers so the seller can be in a very tricky situation, especially if they are relying on this sale to fund the next home they are buying.

7. The entry date

Ah, the time has finally come! You’ve packed up your things, advised your utility providers of your move, the removal van is waiting outside, and you are ready to go.

Your solicitor will call you to let you know that the funds from the mortgage provider have been drawn down (sent from the provider to your solicitor) and they will then confirm that they have paid all the monies over to the property seller.

All that’s left for you to do is to pick up the keys for the new property and make your way safely to your new home.

Now that you’ve completed our guide to buying a house, all that’s left for us to say is – enjoy your new home!


Do you want to know more about how to buy a house in England or Wales?

At Stisi Group, we are Trusted Mortgage Experts.. Our unique Client Obsession programme means that you are our priority, so we’re here to help any way we can. We know our business inside and out, and we listen to you to make sure that we give you the advice you need. Don’t just take our word for it though – take a look at our reviews on VouchedFor and Google to see how we’ve been able to help other clients.

Get in touch via the form below or give us a call – our advisers will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and to go through the whole mortgage process with you.

Call us on 0131 510 1240 or email us at info@stisi.co.uk – then you’re already one step closer to your new home!

Are you ready to talk?