Simple steps to a new home by Christmas

Looking for a new home is exciting, whether it’s your first flat or the ‘forever home’ you plan to grow old in.

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But finding the home of your dreams is just the first step. A straightforward property sale or purchase takes between two and three months, so if you’re planning to be settled in your ideal new home in time for a cosy Christmas, here’s what you need to do.

Find a property

Some people find the house they want after only looking at a few places, whilst spend months searching.

To find your new home more quickly, you should decide which area you want to live in, and make a list of the top features you want your property to have.

You’ll be in a better position if you know from the outset how much you can afford to spend. This is why it’s a good idea to look into how much you’ll be able to borrow first.

MoneySuperMarket’s mortgage calculator can tell you this, as well as how much you can expect to pay in mortgage repayments and stamp duty on a particular home.

Make an offer

When you find the property of your dreams, you’ll want to make an offer, either directly to the vendor or via the estate agent.

If the property has been on the market for a while, it could be worth trying your luck with a cheeky offer, much lower than the asking price.

If you know other buyers are interested in the property, you may want to play it safe and offer closer to the amount advertised.

When you’re working out what you can afford, remember to include stamp duty and legal fees.

On a £300,000 house, for example, the stamp duty will be £5,000.

Get a mortgage

Once you’ve had an offer on a property accepted, you will probably need to get a mortgage.

The choice of mortgages you can get will depend on what deposit you put down.

Many of the best deals, for example, are on 60% loan to value (LTV) mortgages, where you have to put down a 40% deposit.

Whatever your circumstances, there’s a huge choice of deals out there, even if you’re buying for the first time.

It’s important to make the right choice, because finding the best mortgage deal could save you thousands of pounds over the coming years.

Choose the right type of mortgage

Mortgages generally fall into two camps: 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 you’ll know exactly how much your repayments will be for a set period of time. However, if you decide to sell the property before the end of the fixed rate period, you’ll have to pay early repayment charges.

With a variable rate deal, the rate you pay changes 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 the lender charges customers who aren’t on a discounted or fixed rate deal. Variable rates are often cheaper than fixed rate deals, and often don’t charge for early repayment. Remember that if rates go up, your mortgage repayments will go up too, so you’ll need to be sure you can afford to pay more.

Remember to include the fees

When you’re comparing mortgage offers, remember to take the arrangement or application fee into account. You can expect to pay around £1,000 or more. But, there are deals available that don’t charge any 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 1.1% interest rate and no fees offers works out cheaper over two years than a rival deal charging 0.99% and a high fee.

Seal the deal

Even when you’ve had an offer accepted, it won’t be legally binding until you’ve exchanged contracts.

A solicitor or conveyancer will arrange this, and will carry out a number of local checks, known as searches. You can expect to pay between £800 and £1,500 for this.

Consider getting the property checked by a surveyor before you exchange contracts - this can cost from £250 to £600, or more.

When you’re happy with the survey, searches and contracts, all that’s left to do is sign the contracts and transfer the deposit, mortgage balance, fees and stamp duty (where applicable) to your solicitor.

Provided everything is straightforward, you should be sorted within about three months. And hey presto! You’re the proud owner of a new home – time to put up the tree and celebrate Christmas in your new pad!

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