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Surveys show that buying a property and moving house is one of the most stressful things we do – up there with things like bereavement and divorce. A purchase is liable to go wrong because there are so many moving parts – so many things that can go wrong.

How can you help to make your purchase as stress-free as possible? Much of the heavy lifting will be done by your professional helpers – your mortgage broker, lender and conveyancer. You need to choose them wisely. But what  can you do to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible?

1. Sort your finances in advance

First of all check that you have all the money you will need to complete your purchase. Your outgoings will include:

  • Deposit (typically 5% or 10% of purchase price)
  • Stamp duty (if applicable)
  • Search fees and other ancillary purchase costs
  • Legal fees plus VAT (currently 20%)
  • Mortgage broker fees (if any)
  • Fees to lender (if any)
  • Valuation fees
  • Removal costs.

To ensure that your legal outgoings are as accurate as possible, always ask your conveyancer to provide you with a written quote of your likely legal fees and other expenses associated with the purchase.

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2. Put your mortgage in place early

In relation to your mortgage, arrange for your chosen lender to provide you with a:

  • Mortgage approval in principle
  • Agreement in principle or
  • Decision in principle.

They all mean the same thing and describe the situation where a mortgage company agrees to lend to you having taken into account certain factors including your credit score and your income and expenditure.

Providing your chosen property achieves its anticipated valuation, you will get your mortgage and the amount you expected – without any nasty surprises – such as being offered less than the amount you need to complete your purchase. 


The seller knows that you are a serious buyer with your purchase funds pretty much in place and, all things being equal, is more likely to choose you over another buyer without purchase funds in place.

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3. Choose your conveyancer wisely

The lawyer who deals with the legal paperwork involved in a purchase is called a “conveyancer” and you should choose yours wisely.

Be careful about instructing what are known as “factory conveyancing firms”. Typically they provide conveyancing at relatively low cost but may skimp on service and/or quality.

The status, qualification, experience or ability of the person allocated to your matter may leave much to be desired. This may lead to mistakes and/or delays in the conduct of your transaction.

Given a chance, opt for your conveyancer being an experienced solicitor with expertise in handling the specific type of property you are buying – such as: leasehold,  new lease, new-build or shared ownership. 

As you will typically need to sign various legal documents in the presence of your conveyancer, it often makes sense to appoint a local conveyancing firm or at least one easy to get to.


4. Get an accurate timescale

When dealing with the professionals helping you, use your best endeavours to get an accurate timescale for each of the stages your purchase is likely to go through, as well as the likely total time they will all take.

The usual stages are:

  • Securing a mortgage
  • Obtaining a valuation of the property
  • Completing the legal steps or conveyancing.

Having an accurate timescale will enable you to plan your move with confidence and make necessary arrangements – such as putting your finances in place and arranging a school change – in a timely manner. 

5. Prepare for broken chains

A “conveyancing chain” is where there is more than one sale-purchase transaction involved when you are buying a property. For instance, your seller may need to purchase a property before selling to you. Likewise, you may have a property to sell before having all the funds you need to buy.

Chains can be long and the longer they are, the more likely they are to break – with one or more of the various sale-purchase transactions not being able to proceed.

You can reduce the risk of chain failure by avoiding chains as far as possible. If you are a first time buyer buying a new property, there is no chain.

If you are a “second homer”, someone having a property to sell, you cannot avoid being in a chain. Favour circumstances which minimise the risk of chain break.

For instance, selling to a cash buyer who clearly wants a prompt completion may be preferable to selling to someone who needs a mortgage and does not seem to be in any great rush to move.   

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6. Respond rapidly to requests    

Throughout your purchase, you will be asked to provide information or instructions, or to take certain steps, by those helping you.


If you take a week to respond to your conveyancer, that could cause a week’s delay in the transaction.

If you are a second homer with a property to sell, make sure you dig out, or know where to find, various documents you will probably have to provide to your conveyancer to enable them to deal with “pre-contract enquiries” – documents such as:

  • Any service or maintenance contracts
  • New house 10 year guarantee
  • Planning permissions for work done by you
  • Building regulations approvals for work done by you
  • Guarantees or receipts for equipment on the property or work done to the property
  • Contact details of the freeholder or managing agent (if leasehold title)
  • Ground rent receipt (if leasehold title)
  • Last water bill.

Ideally you should not be away or take a holiday during the purchase period. If you absolutely need to be away, make sure your conveyancer has all the dates and has details to be able to contact you in the event of an emergency.

Where you are asked to sign documents, be ready to do so without delay. A conveyancer will usually expect you to call at their office to sign.  The documents you will typically be asked to sign on a purchase are:

  • Contract
  • Mortgage Deed
  • Purchase Deed (Transfer or Lease).

You may therefore need to make up to three visits.

7. Make a comprehensive action list

It is good practice to make a comprehensive list of the key steps involved in your purchase – dealing not only with the mortgage and legal stuff but also practical things such as:

  • Transferring landline phone number, broadband and TV bundles
  • Transferring your TV licence
  • Changing utility suppliers
  • Changing council tax address
  • Securing removal quotes and making a booking
  • Informing everyone who needs to know about your move – especially official bodies – including your bank. 

8. Expect the unexpected

With the best will in the world, the outcome of a property transaction can never be determined with certainty.

Any number of unexpected or unavoidable events may put a spanner in the works, delay the purchase or break any conveyancing chain.

If however, you follow the steps I have suggested, your purchase is more likely to be a dream than a nightmare.

Have you had bad experiences when buying or selling a property?  Do you wish to share? Other readers may be able to learn from your story. Please leave your comments below.


Dalton Barrett
Rebel Property Coach

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One comment

  1. This honest educational insight will save me thousands. Thank you for your blogs. The information that is provided is an amazing asset to the growth of confidence.

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