But finding your dream property is just the first step in the moving process.
Buying or selling a home normally takes between two and three months, if there are no complications. So if you’re hoping to be settled in a lovely new house or flat in time for Christmas, here are the main things you need to do.
Finding a property
Some people only look at a few properties before finding one they want to buy. Others spend months searching.
To avoid wasting time, it helps to have a clear idea of the area you want to live in, and make a list of the features you need.
It also helps to know how much you can afford to spend, which is why lots of buyers look into how much they will be able to borrow as a first step.
Our mortgage calculator can tell you this, as well as how much you will have to pay out in mortgage repayments and stamp duty on a particular home.
Making an offer
When you find the property of your dreams, the next step is to make an offer, either directly to the owner or via the estate agent.
If a property has been for sale for a long time, it can be worth trying your luck with a cheeky offer that is some way below the asking price.
But, if you know other buyers are interested in the property, you may want to play it safe by offering closer to the amount advertised.
Just remember to factor in costs such as stamp duty and legal fees when working out how much you can afford to pay.
On a £300,000 house, for example, the stamp duty bill will be £5,000.
Taking out a mortgage
Once you’ve had an offer on a property accepted, you will probably need to get a mortgage.
The number of mortgages available to you will depend on the size of the deposit you can afford to put down.
Many of the top deals, for example, are 60% loan to value (LTV) mortgages, where you have to put down 40% of the property price as a deposit.
But even if some mortgages are out of your reach, the range of offers can still be mind-boggling, especially if this is your first property purchase.
It’s important to make the right choice, though. Finding the best mortgage deal could save you thousands of pounds in the long run.
The two main things to consider are:
Fixed rate or variable rate?
There are two main types of mortgage: fixed rate and variable rate.
With a fixed rate deal, you pay a set rate of interest for a period of time, say two or five years. This means your repayments will be the same every month for a set period of time, and you’re protected against any sudden interest rate rises. But, most fixed rate deals come with early repayment charges, which you’ll have to pay if you need to sell up within the term.
With a variable rate deal, the rate you pay can fluctuate in line with the Bank of England base rate (currently 0.25%) or the mortgage lender’s own Standard Variable Rate (SVR) – this is the interest rate it charges customers not on a discounted or fixed rate deal. These deals are often cheaper than fixed rate mortgages, and many have no exit penalties attached. But, if rates go up, your mortgage repayments will increase, so you need to be sure you could afford higher payments. If not, you could have to sell your home.
How high are the fees?
Some deals have very low interest rates, but require you to pay a big fee upfront. This is known as an arrangement or application fee, and is often about £1,000 or more. However, there are deals available that charge no arrangement fees whatsoever.
So it’s vital to take this charge into account when calculating the overall cost of a mortgage deal.
You may, for example, find that a mortgage with a 0.99% interest rate but a very high fee is more expensive over two years than a rival deal charging 1.1%.
Sealing the deal
An offer on a property is not legally binding, even after it’s been accepted, until contracts are exchanged.
You’ll need a solicitor or a conveyancer to arrange this, and to conduct a number of local checks. This usually costs between £800 and £1,500.
Before you exchange, it’s sensible to get the property checked by a surveyor. This can cost from £250 to £600, or more.
Then it’s just a matter of signing the contracts and transferring the deposit, mortgage balance, fees and stamp duty (where applicable) to your solicitor.
Provided there are no complications, all this should be done and dusted in about three months. And hurray! You can pick up the keys and celebrate Christmas in your new home.