Press Releases

A step-by-step guide to buying a house

by Norman Geddes

IN these times of rising house prices, the first step in buying a house is to review your financial situation and work out what price you can afford to pay for your new property. Not just how much you can afford now, but how much taking into account the further increases in interest rates that are likely to take place in the coming year.

What you can afford to spend on buying a home depends firstly on your savings (for that part of the house price not covered by a mortgage), and secondly on your earnings (for the monthly mortgage repayments). Remember you may also have to find money for repairs and maintenance.

There are also some one-off house-buying costs:
Stamp duty: 1 per cent government tax on any property over £60,000 (and higher rates for properties over £250,000).
Mortgage arrangement fees: charged by the lender to organise your mortgage.
Valuation and survey fees. You will need to allow for the possibility of not getting the first (or even the second) property that you go after, and budget for the cost of several surveys. A new scheme under which the seller will be responsible for providing one single survey to all interested parties is about to be piloted in certain parts of Scotland, but even if it is successful, it will probably be a year or two before it is rolled out nationally.
Solicitors’ fees: these include the cost of “conveyancing” – the legal transfer of ownership of the property from the seller to you. This will include exhaustive searches to ensure that the seller has a valid ownership of the property to sell, that he is not bankrupt, that there are no local authority planning proposals that might affect the property, and that any alterations to the property (an added conservatory or double glazing, for instance) have been carried out with all the necessary permissions and carry the appropriate certificates of completion.

Before you start looking for a house, you will probably need to look for a mortgage. There are many different kinds of loan available, and most solicitors can provide independent financial advice that will help you to choose the one that is most suitable for you, and advise you on the best methods of repayment.

When you have found a house that you want to buy, the mortgage lender will arrange a valuation survey. This valuation is a basic inspection of the property. It helps the lender decide whether the property is structurally sound, how much it is valued at, and how much they will lend you to buy it. Your solicitor will read the valuation and inform you of any major problems.

Remember, this valuation is not a survey. It is not a detailed inspection of the property, and only major visible defects will be noted. You may want to consider in addition a Homebuyers Survey and Valuation, which provides more detailed information about the condition of the property. This type of survey typically costs around £250-£500.

You should ask your solicitor whether it is advisable to get a fuller survey done on the property before making an offer for it, whether there is any potential repair problem like old roofing, subsidence, poor general maintenance, and whether there is anything else he notices in the survey that might cause problems later.

When the mortgage lenders are happy with the valuation, they will issue you an ‘offer of advance’. You can then make an offer on the property. On a fixed price property, the seller will take the first offer received for the fixed amount. However most sellers ask for ‘offers over’ a certain amount and set a ‘closing date’ by which offers have to be made. How much over the asking price is it practical to offer? The solicitor should know roughly what is the going rate for your chosen property. Your solicitor will next prepare a letter setting out your offer and will send it to the seller’s solicitor.

On the closing date the sealed offers are opened by the seller’s solicitor or estate agent. If your offer is accepted, the seller’s solicitor will send your solicitor a written acceptance letter, probably with the title deeds, so that he can advise you before concluding the contract.Before things are formalised, your solicitors must first “conclude the missives”.

Though this sounds mysterious, concluding the missives is actually a bit like finalising the contracts in England. The two solicitors exchange letters and iron out any of the finer details that were not explicitly mentioned in the original offer. This may include such things as details of any fixtures and fittings that are actually staying, or perhaps a slight alteration to the entry date.

Once both parties are agreed on all of the details of the offer, the missives are said to be ‘concluded’. This means that both parties have now entered into a legally biding contract.

Your solicitor now has to check over the title deeds of the property and draw up the new title deed transferring the property into your name, as well as the security deed that you will have to grant to your bank or building society in order to get your mortgage loan.

Most homeowners now get a Land Certificate rather than title deeds. A Land Certificate is a copy of the title sheet held by Registers of Scotland and contains a description of the property, together with any rights and responsibilities.

The contract will specify the ‘date of entry’, which is the date when the price has to be paid to the seller in exchange for the title deeds and the keys. By this time, your solicitor will have carried out all the technical conveyancing work, and all you will have to do is sign the loan documents, pay the balance of the purchase price to your solicitor, and get ready to move in.

It is important that you contact your solicitor as soon as you decide you want to purchase a flat or a house. Your solicitor is the only person who can guide you through all the problems such as arranging mortgages, instructing surveys, submitting offers and settling the purchase. So the best advice is - see your solicitor first.

Norman Geddes is senior director of Ayr-based solicitors Frazer Coogans.

Call 07000 326243 or visit us online at

Contact Us


Cyber Essentials Certified