Whether you are buying your first home or moving up the property ladder the steps to follow in the process are pretty much the same.

1 Work out your price bracket

Use a mortgage broker who can search the whole of the market for you instead of having to go around the various banks and building societies yourself. At Propertyhop we recommend Money Matters who are independent brokers. They will give advice on how much you can borrow and compare the various deals offered by the lenders taking into consideration fees and costs.

When working out how much you can afford as a deposit remember to keep some money aside for stamp duty (if applicable), solicitor fees and moving costs.

Always ask your broker what fee they charge as this can vary from £100 to £1000 - so be careful!


2 Decide what kind of house you want

Create a 'wish list' of what you want your new home to have - price, area, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, garden, amenities etc. Once you know your price bracket and decide what general area you want to live in start doing regular searches on property portals such as They list practically all houses that are on the market in Northern Ireland. It is no longer necessary to go around the various estate agency offices as all the information can be found online. You will even be able to contact the selling agent online to arrange a viewing which means your searching can be done in the evenings when you have more time to browse.

3 Don't judge a book by the cover

Arrange viewings. Even if the house doesn't meet every point on your 'wish list' give it a try. Remember that some estate agents still use wide angle lenses in their images so the actual room may be smaller than it first appeared in the photograph.

Don't hesitate to ask questions or arrange a second viewing. Make sure you view during daylight, take a good look around and don't be afraid to look inside fitted wardrobes or kitchen cupboards - always a good idea to ask for permission first out of courtesy.

If the owners are showing you around they will be able to give you ideas of costs for rates and electric, bus routes, schools etc, which can help towards your final decision.

4 If it's the home for you then make an offer

Carefully consider what offer to make. If the property is listed on or check the 'Stats' as this will give you an idea of how popular the house has been. Check with the selling agent to see if there are any existing offers on the property.

You may prefer to start slightly below the asking price and then negotiate with the vendor or their agent to reach a mutually acceptable price level.

Sellers are not obliged to accept your offer, if they have other interested parties they may be hoping for a 'bidding war'. If this happens think carefully before you make any further offers, and don't get sucked into paying more than you feel is a fair price. If you are not part of a chain ie you don't have a house to sell and can therefore work to the vendor's timescales, this may put you in a stronger position, so make sure you make the vendor or agent aware.

5 Arranging a solicitor

Once your offer is accepted you should arrange a solicitor. Before you decide on a solicitor get a few conveyancing quotations or ask friends and family for recommendations on someone they have used in the past. Once you have decided on a solicitor give their details to the agent or vendor as quickly as possible to keep the process moving.

6 Arranging a mortgage

Go back to the mortgage broker you initially spoke to when deciding on your price bracket. Ask them to check the market again to see if any new deals are available. The mortgage application process can take a few weeks. You will need to provide details such as income and outgoings with evidence such as payslips, bank statements, and identification evidence such as passport or driving licence. Your broker should be able to give you a full list of all the information they will need from you.

7 Surveys

Your mortgage lender will carry out a simple survey to verify that the house is the value you have declared but if you are buying an old property, or one which has been extensively renovated or in obvious need of repair, it may be worthwhile having a Full Structural Survey completed. This is a lot more detailed and can also be quite expensive. Alternatively, if you just want some peace of mind and more information about the structure then a Homebuyer's Report may be adequate as it will highlight any major issues and is a lot less expensive. Again it is worthwhile comparing quotes and/or asking for recommendations from friends or family.

In either case, your surveyor should speak to you beforehand to ask if you have any particular concerns and afterwards to explain any issues they have found.

Your solicitor, the vendor's solicitor and your mortgage broker will now all be working in the background preparing documents, doing searches and asking you for lots of information. Always return calls and queries as quickly as you can to keep the process moving along. The acceptance of an offer to exchange of contracts can take 6-8 weeks plus a further 2-4 weeks until completion so you don't want to hinder this in any way.

8 Exchange of contracts

Once your solicitor is happy that all the required checks have been done and they have a contract from the vendor's solicitor they will ask you to come to their office to sign it. At this stage you are legally committed to the purchase and you will need to pay a deposit. A completion date will also be agreed.

Final Steps

9 Final steps

Update your mortgage broker on your completion date. Your mortgage broker may advise you on the various insurances you should also consider at this stage. Evidence of buildings insurance will be required by the mortgage lender before the mortgage completes.

Depending on whether you are buying for the first time or moving home you may be able to move your belongings yourself or may prefer to hire a removal company to do this for you. As always shop around for quotes or ask friends or family for recommendations.

Packing can be time consuming but also a good opportunity to de-clutter. There are also companies who will do this for you, some even include unpacking at 'the other end' and having everything ready for you moving in. At Propertyhop we use Dress This House - you can leave one home in the morning and move into another at the end of the day with minimum hassle!

10 Completion

Your solicitor will inform you when monies have been paid over and the property legally becomes yours. You will then collect the keys from the estate agent or the vendor's solicitor.

Usually this will be the day you move in, it can be stressful but also very rewarding. Always remember to keep a note of where you packed the kettle and mugs - unless you've decided to use Dress This House in which case you can simply arrive to your new home and put your feet up.

Happy moving day!!