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Before you begin to look for a property to buy you need to find out, as precisely as you can, how much you are able to spend.

If you have a property to sell, then you will call in a reputable local agent to advise you of your property’s likely selling price. It is also a good idea to speak to a lender or financial adviser to see how much you are able, in principle, to borrow. Armed with this knowledge you begin to look for your new home.

Whilst you are looking for a property to buy, you need to put your present property on the market. If you receive offers on your house during this time you will have a very good idea what price your property will achieve, and when the best offer comes along you will feel confident in accepting it immediately. If you wait until you have found your perfect home, you may have to sell your existing one in a hurry, thus risking selling at a lower price than necessary.

Once you have found the property you would like to buy and have agreed a purchase price, inform your lender and your solicitor. If you wish, we would be happy to provide lists of local solicitors whom we can recommend and, if you wish, to offer some guidance on the financial aspects of buying a property.

There are two separate stages in buying or selling a property. The first stage is the period leading up to exchange of contracts. When exchange of contracts happens, both the seller and the buyer are legally committed to the transaction. The completion (or moving) date is then fixed and the second stage of the transaction is the interim between exchange of contracts and the completion date.

The actual process of exchanging contracts is dealt with by your solicitor and he will arrange for you to sign the contract in readiness for the exchange about a week or so before the anticipated date. When contracts are exchanged, the buyer has to pay a deposit. This is the seller’s guarantee that the buyer will not withdraw from the transaction after exchange of contracts. Usually the deposit is between 5% and 10% of the purchase price. If you are selling as well as buying, it may be possible to use the buyer’s deposit for your purchase.

How long will it take?

Obviously, there are many factors (in particular the number of transactions in the chain) that can influence this but generally, if there are no unforeseen difficulties, it should be possible to exchange contracts about four to six weeks after instructing your solicitor to proceed. The completion date is then about two to four weeks after exchange of contracts. Of course, some solicitors will expedite matters if those are the clients instructions.