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Buying a House in the UK


There are many benefits to purchasing a property in the UK. The benefits can be either financial, such as when purchasing a property as an investment or personal, such as a second home or Buy-to-Let property.

Buying a property in the UK as a holiday home or a Buy-to-Let investment while being located overseas can be daunting and confusing at times. The good news is that most of the time the process is relatively simple once you get a handle on how things work on a local level.

Take a look at NBKI’s guide to buying a property in the UK and familiarise yourself with the key steps involved.

This guide is provided for general use and does not substitute external professional advice specific to your circumstances. NBKI does not provide tax, investment, accounting or legal advice. Please consult with your own advisors before proceeding with any financial commitment. You can also find impartial financial advice from government agencies such as MoneyHelper or the sites listed in the UK government website.

It is important to be aware of your tax liabilities prior to investing in a property.

1. Affordability

Before you begin your search for a property, you will want to know how much you can realistically afford to pay for a home, as well as your recurring mortgage payments. NBKI recommends getting in contact with us to see the amount we are prepared to lend. This includes a deposit you may have up front and how much additional funding you will need through a mortgage. For a more precise assessment of your affordability, you can obtain an Agreement in Principle. At this stage is also important to consider the other property costs and fees when determining affordability.

An Agreement in Principle doesn't guarantee your mortgage will be approved, but it can provide insight into your choices and what you can afford. It also demonstrates to property agents that you are serious about purchasing a property.

2. Finding the right property for you

A property search can range from a few weeks to several months. Once you have an assessment of your affordability, it is essential to determine the purpose of the property: are you intending to rent the property out for investment or to use it for personal purposes? This can have an impact on the type and location of the property.

When selecting a home to purchase, it is important to consider what is most significant to you. In order to make an informed decision, it is important to take the time to research the UK property market and understand the different types of properties available, as well as the various factors that can affect their value. It could also be helpful to create a list of the key features you’d like your new property to have.

Property buyers should consider enlisting the help of a professional UK property agent. A property agent can provide buyers with insight into the UK property market. An alternative to this is web-based property websites, which can help you find the right property through an online search. In the UK, there are a variety of search engines available, including:

Buy-to-let Properties

When it comes to buying a property with the purpose of generating rental income, it is essential to understand the potential rental income the property could generate. The amount you’ll be able to let the property for depends on a number of factors including the type of property, its condition, its location and the nearby amenities , and the demand for rental property in that area.

A rental calculator like this one can be a useful tool to assist with the estimation of rental values. The outputs of this calculator are not a substitute for a professional valuation and should not be used as a basis on which to sell, buy or let a property.

3. Making an offer

Once you’ve found a property, an official offer must be submitted to the seller or the property agent.

4. Apply for a mortgage

Once your offer is accepted on a property, you can apply to turn your Agreement in Principle, into a full mortgage application. Typically, the process from submitting an application to being officially offered a mortgage can take up to two weeks. However, in some circumstances, it could take longer. 

Visit our frequently asked questions page for more insight into mortgage applications.

5. Appoint a solicitor and property survey

Appointing a legal representative (solicitor) is one of the most significant stages in the process of purchasing a property in the UK. Your solicitor will handle the relevant legalities that form part of the property purchase process, this is known as conveyancing. Conveyancing is the legal process that transfers a property from one person to another. Your solicitor will handle all the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of money.

This can take between 6 to 12 weeks, on average, and will incur additional costs. For more information on expected costs as well as an average timeline of the entire property transfer process, read our Expected Costs guide.

You have the option to choose your own lawyer, but you may also choose to work with one of the solicitors that NBKI recommends.

As part of your mortgage application, a valuation survey will be conducted to verify the value of the property at the price agreed upon. This is not a full-scale inspection and will not cover all possible repairs or maintenance needs. You can also arrange for a property survey, which is a physical inspection of the property. This will allow you to identify any repairs that need to be done before you buy the property. There are three main types of survey. These vary in scope and cost, depending on your property's size, location and value:

Condition Report: This report is most appropriate for both newly constructed and existing dwellings in good standing. This survey does not provide any advice or valuation.

Homebuyer's Report: Also known as a 'level two home survey. This report is suitable for conventional properties in reasonable  condition. It is a much more in-depth survey, covering both the inside and outside of the property, and includes a valuation.

Full Structural Survey: Also known as a 'level three home survey’. This report is the comprehensive survey available and applicable to all residential properties. This survey is especially useful for older homes or those that may require repairs.

Once the survey(s) is/ are complete you might want to go back and renegotiate the price of your new home based on the outcome(s) thereof. Please note that steps four and five can be completed simultaneously in the event of time constraints.

Building Insurance: Commonly referred to as buildings cover or home insurance, is a crucial aspect of property ownership in the UK. It provides financial protection for the structural elements of a property, such as walls, roofs, floors, and fixtures such as fitted kitchens and bathrooms. The policy typically covers damage due to a range of events including fire, flood, storm, subsidence, theft, and vandalism. NBKI requires building insurance as a condition of granting property finance.

6. Finalisation of your mortgage and exchange contracts

At this point in the process, if your property finance application is approved, you will receive a formal mortgage offer, along with all the terms and conditions surrounding your mortgage. You will need this before you can exchange contracts. Your solicitor will guide you through one of the final steps of the transaction.

Once your solicitor is satisfied with the search results, their questions to the seller, and the legal ownership of the property, the exchange of signed contracts with the seller’s legal representative takes place, this is referred to as the “exchange of contracts”. The exchange of contracts process is one of the last steps when buying a property, and certainly one of the most crucial. You can expect the following process:

  • Ensuring your conveyancer has your signed contract
  • Agreement on a completion date
  • Payment of your deposit
  • Instruction your conveyancer to exchange
  • The conveyancers in the chain will discuss any issues and go over the contract in detail 
  • Exchange of contracts is completed

After you’ve signed and exchanged contracts, your conveyancer needs to take a few steps to legally transfer the property into your name.

The amount remaining to be paid for the property will now be transferred from the account of your solicitor to the account of the seller's solicitor.

The completion date is usually two weeks after exchange, but it can be as little as one day after or even take place on the same day. On completion day, the ownership of the property is transferred to the buyer from the seller. The funds are transferred, you should get keys to the property, and take occupation of the property.

Stamp Duty

Stamp Duty Land Tax is a tax that's payable on the purchase or transfer of property or land in the UK, where the amount paid is above a certain threshold. The rate of Stamp Duty you'll pay varies depending on the price of the property and whether it is your first home, an additional property, or a corporate purchase. The system is tiered, meaning that different portions of the property price are taxed at different rates. Your solicitor will attend to the payment of stamp duty as part of their post-completion process.