A quick guide for first-time property buyers

Buying your first home is exciting, but it’s important to make sure you’ve done your research and have a good understanding of what to expect from the process.

The role of a legal team when buying your first property

The role of your solicitor can vary depending on the type of property you’re buying, but in general, a legal team will help first-time buyers with these areas:

1. Conveyancing

2. Conducting searches

3. Reviewing title deeds and contract packs

4. Registering with the Land Registry

5. Paying stamp duty

6. Exchange of contracts

Here at Bate & Albon, we help first-time buyers with any legal issues or contractual queries, and we’re here to support you. We’ll steer you through the property transaction, until the property has been transferred to you.

What is conveyancing?

In the context of home ownership, conveyancing is the term used to describe the legal process of transferring property ownership from one party to another.

This process begins after the offer has been made and accepted on a property and ends once the money has been transferred and contracts are signed. As a rough guide, it can take somewhere between 6–12 weeks to process. However, it’s important to understand that this can vary a lot. The process can easily be slowed by things beyond your control. These include property searches, chains and more. For more info, you can check out the FAQs on our conveyancing page.

At Bate & Albon, our conveyancing team will always keep you informed so you know what to expect!

What is a mortgage?

It sounds like a basic question, but it’s worth clarifying. A mortgage is a loan that allows you to buy a property and is provided by a bank or building society. The mortgage is secured against the property which you will be purchasing.

The loan comes with terms and conditions. For example, the bank has the legal authority to retract the loan and sell the asset (i.e. your property) if you do not keep up with the monthly payments. These terms are agreed in advance with your lender. You will pay back both the loan plus interest over a set term.

We would always recommend seeking the services of a professional mortgage advisor, as your circumstances will be unique. That said, we can offer some general guidance.

Calculate whether you can afford a mortgage, and how you’re going to ensure you’ll be able to continue to pay your mortgage over the term. The better your credit score, the higher chance of being approved for favourable mortgage deals.

Organise documentation you’ll need for the process, including financial, identity and residency proof. For advice on your specific circumstances, consider using a trusted and reliable mortgage broker to help you see through the weeds and find the best deal for you.

What is my solicitor’s involvement with my mortgage?

The steps to a mortgage application can be time consuming and complicated. A solicitor can provide advice on your mortgage offer, helping you to understand the fine print, and will arrange for you to sign mortgage deeds. Here at Bate & Albon, we understand it can be stressful, but we’re here to offer advice and support.

The deposit

You will need at least a 5% deposit of the purchase price to be eligible for a mortgage. If possible, it’s often advisable to save enough for a higher deposit, as this can result in better mortgage rates, cheaper monthly repayments, and increased chances of acceptance. This is simply because it makes the loan smaller, which means less risk to the lender. Consider the area you’re hoping to buy in, as average house prices across the UK differ. You’ll want to make sure you have a realistic deposit.

What is my solicitor’s involvement with my deposit?

If you’re a first-time buyer and have used funding and financial aid, such as government initiatives and ISAs, it can be useful to get expert legal advice to help you navigate the process. Your solicitor will also be the one to transfer the funds when the exchange is made.

What is my solicitor’s involvement with my property search?

Here at Bate & Albon, we conduct Local Authority Searches and raise queries on any points or issues. Our expert team can help advise on the local area, such as the history of the site and whether there’s factors you should be aware of.

Making an offer

Before you make an offer, ask questions. Has the property been on the market for a long time? Is the seller in a hurry? The seller might be willing to accept a lower offer. If the seller isn’t in a rush – they could suck up your time and be flaky.

As a first-time buyer, you have an advantage. Not being part of a chain means you have buyers the edge, you can move quickly with no obligations, holdups, or ties, which makes you an attractive option.

What is my solicitor’s involvement at the offer stage?

Here at Bate & Albon, we can help you navigate this anxious time, we’re on hand to help with any conveyancing, search queries, or contractual obligations. You’ll need a legal team that can fight contract clauses and negotiate terms, for example tenant responsibilities for leasehold or serviced properties, or checking property boundaries.

Once your solicitor has thoroughly checked documents and exchanged contracts with the seller’s solicitor, the commitment is sealed, and you will not be able to back out of the property purchase.

Factor in other costs

There are many hidden costs associated with purchasing your first home. Bear these in mind so you have a full view on your financial obligations and to confirm you can afford the purchase.

Essential costs:

Homebuyer surveys – £400-£1,500

Conveyancing fees – £500-£1,500

Valuation fees – £160-£600

Land registry – £90-£140

Stamp duty – (varies per property)

Mortgage fees – £1,000-£2,000

Insurance policies – some one-off, some annual, £100-£400 average

Potential costs:

Broker fees – £300-£2,000

Moving costs – (varies per property)

Final thoughts

Whilst being a first-time buyer can often feel like you’re in at the deep end, it does have its advantages and with the right support and advice from the right legal team, you can secure your dream home on the best terms.

We simplify complicated jargon and contractual language, and offer advice and support along the way. Contact our team of property experts today.

- Post author

Chris Albon

Chris Albon joined an old colleague Carl Bate of Bate & Co to form Bate and Albon Solicitors. He is based in Worthing and deals with all aspects of residential conveyancing.