31st October 2022

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The Buying Process – a Black Brick guide to buying property in ten steps

Buying a property is a particularly stressful milestone experience.

There are so many time-consuming choices to make, multiple factors to consider and complex financial calculations to make, all within a system which can appear to be designed to confuse.

Getting a team in place and breaking the process down – from starting point to moving day – will help keep you on track as you upsize, downsize, buy a first home, an investment property, or a holiday getaway:

Buying Timeline:

  • Organise a mortgage and instruct a solicitor.
  • Start viewings.
  • Make an offer.
  • Provide your vendor’s agents with proof of funds and identity.
  • Inform your solicitor so they can start their research.
  • Inform your mortgage company which will commission a valuation.
  • Commission a building survey.
  • Once all queries have been answered and you have agreed a completion date you will be ready to exchange contracts with the vendor.
  • Pay a ten per cent deposit.
  • Transfer funds to your solicitor to pay the balance.
  • Completion of sale.

Step 1: On your marks, get set …

The housing market can be fast moving, so the first step is to get your team in place.

Hiring Black Brick means you already have London’s leading independent search and acquisition consultancy on your side, with – between us – more than 100 years’ of experience in buying and selling homes in the capital.

You should select a solicitor as soon as you decide to buy a property or put your own property on the market because once you’ve made a successful offer time will be of the essence.

Having a solicitor on board early also sends a clear message that you are serious about moving.

You may have a trusted firm in mind. If not, Black Brick has a panel of tried and tested lawyers (not to mention accountants, surveyors, lenders and other specialists) it can bring in to steer clients through the buying process.

If you require funding you will need to apply for an “agreement in principle” (AIP) from a lender. This is a statement confirming that they would prepare to lend you a specified sum of money based on basic financial information. Having an AIP is another sign to vendors that you are a serious prospective buyer, which will stand you in good stead.

It is possible to organise an AIP directly through your bank, but you may prefer to use an independent broker who can advise you on all the products available to you and make your application on your behalf. Black Brick has a well-honed book of trusted contacts at several private banks and independent mortgage brokerages who can advise you.

Step 2:  Prove yourself:

Anybody buying a property in the UK, where anti money laundering regulations are getting tighter, will need to undergo checks to make sure they are a legitimate purchaser.

The checks are carried out by estate agents, lenders and solicitors, so be prepared to provide proof of funds more than once.

You will need to show that your funding for a sale comes from a legitimate source. It could be your mortgage offer, bank statements, evidence you are selling another property to fund the purchase, receipts of shares being sold, evidence that money has been left to you in a will, or a combination of any of the above.

Solicitors tend to want proof once they are instructed. Mortgage lenders may also want to know where your deposit is coming from.

Estate agents may ask proof of funds before you make an offer, but this is to make sure you are a genuine buyer more than anything else. You do not have to agree, although clearly a failure to comply will be viewed as suspicious by your vendor.

You will certainly be asked for this information after you’ve made an offer.

You will also need to prove your identity – a passport or residence permit would work – and your current address. As a Black Brick client, we require and collate all of this information before starting your search, making it less painful to provide the information later on down the line.

Step 3: Due diligence:

Research is an important part of house buying. Unfortunately, the official Government house price figures are published by borough in London, making them unhelpfully broad brush stroke in a city where prices vary street-by-street and building-by-building.

Black Brick’s expertise is in understanding the intricacies of this incredibly nuanced market and can make sure that you get what you want at a good price. We have access to live information on recent deals which will establish what similar homes have been sold for and can advise you on how to pitch your offer when the time comes.

You should also be thinking hard about the kind of property you want – consider not only how big it needs to be and the locations that would suit, but also whether you would be willing to do work on a property or not, what amenities are must haves and what you can live without, and whether you would prefer a modern or a period home.

The clearer you are about what you really, really want the easier it will be for Black Brick to guide you towards your perfect property.

Step 4: Start looking:

With a serious shortage of homes for sale, finding suitable homes to view simply by looking online is not necessarily going to work. Black Brick has a network of contacts within the industry which means it will be able to draw up a bespoke shortlist of properties that goes far beyond the property portals and will also include homes which have not yet been launched and those which are not even officially for sale – so called off-market properties.

Getting in to see a property first can be a huge buying advantage; if you love it you can negotiate without tripping over lots of other potential buyers.

And if you don’t find what you are looking for in your original search area we can help you think laterally and consider new locations which might offer different property styles or better value.

Step 5: Making an offer:

When you’ve found the perfect property you need to secure it.

Offers should be made to the agent. And as well as detailing your offer give some relevant information about your situation – whether you are a cash buyer or have a mortgage offer in principle, how flexible you are on timings. As a Black Brick client, we submit offers both verbally and formally in writing to the agent, positioning our clients as the best buyer for the property.

Deciding how much to offer on a property is a highly tricky business which Black Brick can walk you through. We know that even in a challenging property market a really lowball offer is likely fail, particularly in prime central London where most vendors are in a position to wait.

But that is not to say that buyers can’t secure a property below asking price – Black Brick does this every week of the year, by presenting compelling evidence on how much similar properties have traded for recently, and discreetly discussing with the agent the kind of offer that will convince their vendor.

Step 6: Offer accepted:

Don’t start celebrating quite yet, because in the UK having an offer being accepted is far from your final hurdle.

Until contracts are exchanged your vendor can pull out of the deal without any penalty – they can simply change their mind, or they may succumb to a late offer from a rival bidder (the practice of bidding on a property already under offer is known as gazumping).

Having a well-known buying agent on side can help keep your deal on track.  Black Brick has bought £1bn worth of property for clients in London and estate agents are inclined to want to maintain a positive professional relationship. They can also be confident your offer is a genuine one and will advise their client accordingly.

All being well once you have had an offer accepted your solicitor will get started on tackling the small print, including studying leases, ordering council searches, and drawing up contracts.

Black Brick will remain by your side at this delicate stage, making sure questions are answered and matters progress at a reasonable speed.

If relevant, you should also alert your lender. They will organise a valuation to be carried out before formally offering a mortgage. It is not unheard of for banks to value a property at less than the sum you have offered, which leaves you with several options. Either you can cover the shortfall yourself, Black Brick can try to renegotiate the price to reflect the valuation, or you can find a different lender.

You also need to commission a survey on the property. There are three options here – a basic condition report, a standard “homebuyers report”, which is the most popular option, or an in-depth building survey, which is usually reserved for very run down or very unusual properties.

If you are buying a property with services such as a swimming pool, lift, sophisticated cinema room etc, then commissioning a Mechanical and Electrical report (also known as an M and E report) from a specialist is also advisable.

Surveyors are paid to be thorough so don’t be alarmed by the list of flaws they will inevitably come up with, particularly in a period building. But if they uncover serious structural issues Black Brick may be able to negotiate a price cut to offset some or all of the cost of the work.

Step 7: Exchange contracts.

Once all the red tape has been dealt with and your finance is in place you are ready to exchange contracts with the vendor. Your solicitor will arrange for you to pay them a non-refundable ten per cent deposit. The remainder will be paid on the day the sale completes.

The exception here is if you are buying a new home off plan. Different house builders have different policies, but there may be a series of staged payments while the building is being completed.

Your contract will lay out the terms of the sale and an agreed timeframe for completing the buying process, usually a week or two (although it is possible to arrange to exchange contracts and complete a deal on the same day if both sides agree).

Step 8: Living in limbo.

There is very little you can do in the period between exchange and completion, other than make practical arrangements.

If you will be living in the new property full time you need to arrange to have your mail redirected, utility companies, and set up a new phone and broadband service.

You will also need start lining up a removal company.

Even if you are buying a second home you will want to ensure that the water and power supplies are connected and start planning furnishings and property management.

Black Brick’s little black book can come in very useful at this stage; we know the best managing agents, interior designers, and removal firms in London.

Step 9: Completion day.

This is the day that your solicitor transfers the balance of the sale price, and the property officially belongs to you. You can usually pick up the keys from the estate agent at around mid-day – and heave a big sigh of relief.

Step 10: What happens next?

You have two weeks from completion to pay your Stamp Duty to the Government.

Their other task is to register the sale with the Land Registry, giving you official proof of ownership.

Your solicitor should take care of both these tasks for you, but it is worth double checking it has been done.

As a Black Brick client, we help all our clients move into their new property via our complimentary concierge service. We take care of ensuring all utility bills are set up in the right new name and can also assist with internet, satellite TV and introductions to our tried and tested interior design contacts.

We’re ready when you are


We’re ready when you are

We would be delighted to hear from you to discuss your own property requirements. For a non-obligatory consultation, please contact us.

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