Below is a basic outline guide to give you an idea about what is involved in the house buying process.
Get mortgage advice to see how much you can borrow and get a "mortgage in principle", this means that if all goes well the lender will be happy to provide your mortgage. This also helps with your search because estate agents and sellers can see that you are a serious buyer and that you have the means to make the purchase.
When you have found somewhere that you would like to buy, make an offer to the estate agent who will pass this onto the seller. If the seller accepts your offer, the sellerís estate agent will need your solicitorís details. Your solicitor handles all legal aspects of purchasing a property, this is known as conveyancing. You have to pay all of your solicitorís costs so it is a good idea to obtain quotes from a number of solicitors before deciding which firm you wish to use.
Once your offer has been accepted and you have appointed a solicitor, you need to finalise your mortgage arrangements. Depending on the type of mortgage that you get, your lender may want to see evidence of your earnings (recent pay slips), P60 and bank statements. Most lenders will also carry out a valuation on the property to determine whether the property is suitable as their security, this usually means that if you default and they repossess it, will they be able to sell it for the amount of money that they have borrowed you. The lender usually gets a homebuyerís survey and valuation. This provides a report on the general state of repair of the property. You can pay for a more detailed survey that may point out any defects with the property. A full structural survey is more expensive as the surveyor covers all accessible parts of the property. If you have any doubt as to the state of the property it is it is in your interest to pay for a more detailed survey because your lender will not cover you in the event that there are any structural or other faults.
Once your solicitor has carried out all necessary searches and the contract terms have been agreed, the contracts can be exchanged. Once each party has signed the contracts and they have been exchanged, they are binding, if you "pull out" of the deal after exchange has taken place then you face a financial penalty. The contracts will include a completion date, which is the date that the property becomes yours. At exchange of contracts any deposit required has to be paid. At exchange of contracts you need to arrange buildings insurance so that the property is insured from that day. Usually, if you have one, your present insurer will cover this new property free of increased premium until completion date.
Completion - This is the day when your solicitor will have completed the purchase on your behalf and the property is vacant for possession. The Transfer Deed, the document confirming you as the owner, will then be sent to the relevant registry for an update to the title showing you as the new owner of the property.
The property is now yours and you can move in. You may need to arrange for a firm of professional movers to help you. Once you are in your new home you have a legal responsibility to advise the local authority (council tax), utility suppliers (gas, water, electricity and telephone), the Inland Revenue and you will need to tell others as necessary (other suppliers, any outstanding creditors, relatives, friends etc).