If you are coming out of a relationship and looking to buy a new property having left your former home the temptation is often to rush into buying something immediately which may not be suitable. Take your time and get it right. Find a property to rent or friends to stay with whilst you are looking.
1. Work out how much you can afford to spend on a property
Consider your deposit, stamp duty, legal fees, building and contents insurance, the cost of moving and required mortgage deposit.
2. Get a mortgage approved in principle
Mortgage lenders will usually lend three to four times your annual salary (discounting benefits, maintenance or tax credits in their calculations).
3. Decide where you want to live
Finding the right location is vital. Consider the areas you would like to live and find out what type of property your money will buy. Consider nearness to your place of work, transport links, local schools, crime statistics, local amenities, council tax bands and the resale value of your home.
Upmystreet.co.uk offers useful information on local areas including schools, amenities and crime statistics.
4. Consider the type of property you are looking for
Make a list of your needs, for example what space you need, extra bedrooms for visitors, a garden or off-street parking. Think about whether you are prepared to decorate or renovate a property and to what extent.
5. Look for suitable properties
The easiest way to do this would be to register with several estate agents. Take a checklist of needs with you and once you have registered keep in regular contact to make sure you don't miss any opportunities.
Other places to look could include:
* The Internet, there are many sites dedicated to property sales
* Your local area, keep an eye out for For Sale signs
* Auctions, search on the internet or telephone directory for specialist property auction firms but be aware that you will have to have the finance in place beforehand
Once you have a selection of suitable properties make an appointment to view. Take a friend with you for a second opinion and our Buyer's Checklist to ensure you make the most of your visit.
6. Make an offer
When you find the property you are interested in make an offer. A first offer would usually be below the asking price to allow room for negotiation. However this will depend upon the demand for properties in the area and any interest in the property shown so far. If you are going through an estate agent ask their advice on a reasonable offer.
When your offer has been accepted you will need to do the following:
* Contact your mortgage lender and formally apply for a mortgage
* Find a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing. They will take care of the legal requirements such as a Land Registry search to ensure the vendor has the right to sell the property and the transfer of the property to your name
* Appoint a surveyor. Your mortgage lender may arrange a basic survey but it is wise to appoint your own surveyor to do a full structural survey, especially if the house is an older property. This will uncover problems such as damp or structural problems
* Negotiate fixtures and fittings with the seller
* Get quotes for life, contents and buildings insurance
* Agree a date on which contracts will be exchanged and you can take possession of the property
* Begin packing and arrange friends and a removal firm to help with your move
7. Move in
Once your solicitor has exchanged contracts with the vendor a date for completion is set. This is when the money is transfered to the vendor and you can move in.
Tip Have a house warming party before you decorate or lay any carpets! It's a good way to get to know the neighbours and mark a fresh start.
Buying your ex partner's share of your home
If you jointly own a property and are looking to buy your ex partner's share how you go about this will depend upon your circumstances. If you are going through the process of a divorce your assets will be dealt with as part of your Ancillary Relief. If you were co-habiting the law will not treat you as if you were married but simply as joint owners of a property.
If you want to buy your ex out:
* Have your property valued by an estate agent. Work out how much equity is in the property so that you can work out a fair price for your partner's share. This will probably be half the equity minus any legal fees or other costs involved in the transfer
* Negotiate by offsetting the equity in the property against other assets or reduced maintenance payments. Try to keep things amicable so that you can reach a reasonable agreement. The better the terms you are on with your ex the more chance you have of getting what you want at the right price
* Once your partner has agreed appoint a solicitor to deal with the legal aspect of the transfer of the property to your name.
* Rather than simply arrange for the existing mortgage to be transfered to your name contact several mortgage providers and ask what they can offer you. Alternatively contact a mortgage broker who can search out the best deal for you and deal with any necessary paperwork on your behalf
* If you cannot reach an agreement with your partner consider mediation or seek advice from a solicitor.
NB: If you do decide to buy your ex out some time after your divorce settlement check with a family law solicitor to see if your divorce agreement needs amending, or your ex could have a claim on it.