Buying a house: buying and selling

Moving house can be a bit of a juggling act, particularly if you're buying and selling at the same time. Our expert advice will help you achieve a hassle-free home move.

Buying a house: first-time buyers

Buying your first property can be exciting, but also confusing. From mortgages and viewings to making an offer and moving in, we'll help you get it right.

Buying a house: step-by-step guide

Buying and selling property is complicated. Make life easier - simply follow our step-by-step guide to what you need to do and when.

Sell your house quickly


Get all your paperwork in order before putting the house on the market


Have your money for the solicitor, mortgage broker and lender ready


When you're sent contracts and paperwork, read, sign and return them immediately


Check the purchase price and fixtures and fittings on the contract to avoid misunderstandings...


...But the odd disagreement is inevitable. If you're not willing to lose the sale over it, compromise

Are you looking for a mortgage?

Which? can help. Call

0800 316 7042

for a free consultation with one of our independent, expert mortgage advisers.

Your home may be repossessed if you do
not keep up repayments on your mortgage

Video: how to sell your house

An experienced property expert explains how to secure a fast, stress-free sale and get the best price for your home.

How to get the best mortgage deal

Shop around

Secure a mortgage in principle early - Which? Mortgage Advisers (0800 316 7042) can help you with this.

Focus on the total cost

Look at the mortgage's fees as well as the headline interest rate.

Avoid early repayment charges

Then you can switch to a better deal when the mortgage's introductory rate ends.

Try to pay fees upfront

If you add them to the mortgage you'll end up paying interest on them.

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Buy your next home


Research locations

Relocating, or trying to find the next up-and-coming area? We've got advice on how to find the best place to live.


Get a conveyancer

Once you've chosen your area, instruct a conveyancer so you can act quickly when you find a place you like.


Nail the viewing

Get friendly with the estate agents and take our property-viewing checklist on house viewings.


Make a serious offer

Found the dream property? Read up on how much to offer and, if you're successful, always have a survey.


Find the best mortgage deal

A whole-of-market comparison service such as Which? Mortgage Advisers (0800 316 7042) will help you find the best mortgage deal.


Exchange, complete, move in

Congratulations, you've bought a house! Be sure to follow our moving house tips for a smooth move-in day.

Stamp duty rates for home buyers

The amount of stamp duty you'll pay varies depending on the value of the home you're buying. The rate is tiered, like income tax, so you'll pay different amounts on different portions of the property price. To find out how much you'll pay, use our stamp duty calculator.

If you're buying a buy-to-let property or second home, you'll pay 3% extra on each tier - see our buy-to-let stamp duty guide for more info.

£0 - £125,000£125,001 - £250,000£250,001 - £925,000£925,001 - £1,500,000£1,500,001+

Mortgage types explained

Sick of all the mortgage jargon? Our guides cut to the chase, explaining what each type of mortgage is and who it's right for.

Mortgage types explained

Do I need a new mortgage for moving house?

Buy-to-let mortgages

Video: things I wish I'd known before I moved house

Are you looking for a mortgage?

Which? can help. Call

0800 316 7042

for a free consultation with one of our independent, expert mortgage advisers.

Your home may be repossessed if you do
not keep up repayments on your mortgage

First-time buyer advice: things I wish I'd known

Finding it all a bit overwhelming? Don't panic! You are not alone. Find out what other first-time buyers have been through and learn from their experiences in our videos.

How to get the best mortgage deal

Shop around

Use Which? Mortgage Advisers (0800 316 7042) to secure a mortgage agreement in principle before you start searching - agents will take you more seriously.

Look at the total cost

The headline interest rate might not include fees, which will add to your costs.

Avoid mortgages with early repayment charges

That way, you can switch to a better deal when the introductory rate ends.

Pay fees upfront

Adding fees to the mortgage rather than paying upfront will mean you pay interest on them.

Sign up for free home-moving advice

Sign up

Buy your first home


Get a solicitor

Getting a property solicitor, or conveyancer, in place so you're ready to proceed as soon as you make an offer shows estate agents you're serious.


Make friends with the agents

Calling and visiting the local estate agents regularly will help ensure you're the first to know when a hot new property hits the market.


View properties

Our property-viewing checklist tells you what to ask when viewing a place. Also check out our guides to new-build homes and freehold vs leasehold.


Make an offer

Found your dream pad? Think carefully about how much to offer and, if it's a competitive area, get wise to gazumping and sealed bids.


Find the best mortgage deal

Use an impartial, whole-of-market mortgage broker such as Which? Mortgage Advisers to get the best deal for you - 0800 316 7042.


Have a survey done

The results of a property survey might mean you can negotiate on the selling price. Once that's sorted you can exchange, complete and move in!

Stamp duty rates for first-time buyers

Stamp duty for first-time buyers is the same as for everyone else. The rate's tiered, like income tax, so you'll pay different amounts on different portions of the property price. To find out how much you'll pay, use our stamp duty calculator.

£0 - £125,000£125,001 - £250,000£250,001 - £925,000£925,001 - £1,500,000£1,500,001+

First-time buyer mortgage deals and schemes

There are all sorts of mortgages, schemes and forms of ownership that can help you get on the property ladder. Our
guides cut through the jargon, explaining what each one is and who it's right for.

Video: understand mortgages in under two minutes

Find out about repayment vs interest-only mortgages and whether to choose a fixed or variable rate in our video.

Selling, buying and what order to do it all in

There are so many things to think about when moving house that it can be hard to know what to do first. But follow these steps, in this order, and the property-buying and selling process will be a far less stressful experience. 

  • Click on each step to find out more or download our printable step-by-step guide to buying a house.
  • For impartial expert advice on getting a mortgage for your new home, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 for a free initial consultation.


Save for a deposit


Work out your budget


Research mortgages


Market your property


Start house hunting


Find a solicitor


Make an offer


Apply for a mortgage


Get a survey


Get repair quotes


Find a removal firm


Exchange and complete


Move in

1: Save for a deposit if you're buying for the first time

Timeframe: One to five years

You can get a mortgage with a deposit of as little as 5% of the value of the property but the more you can save the better the deal you'll get. Read our tips on saving for a mortgage deposit and then use our mortgage calculator to find out how much you could borrow.

Who is involved: You, bank/building society

2: Work out your budget

Timeframe: One to two weeks

Make sure you take a close look at your budget to find out how much you can afford to spend on mortgage repayments each month and that you have enough cash for all the costs of buying a house, including mortgage arrangement fees, survey costs, stamp duty and legal fees.

Get your house valued by three estate agents and find out how much is outstanding on your existing mortgage to see how much equity you have.

Who is involved: You, estate agents, mortgage lender

3: Research mortgages and get a mortgage in principle

Timeframe: One to two weeks

Find out which are the best and worst mortgage lenders according to customers, and read our guide to understand the different types of mortgages.

Use the Which? Mortgage Advisers borrowing calculator to get an idea of how much a lender might lend you, then speak to a lender or mortgage adviser to get a mortgage agreement in principle. This will make you a more attractive buyer when the time comes to make an offer on a property.

For impartial mortgage advice contact Which? Mortgage Advisers by calling 0800 316 7042.

Who is involved: You, mortgage adviser, mortgage lender

4: Put your house on the market if you're selling

Timeframe: One to two weeks

You'll be in a better position if you have already found a buyer for your home when you want to make an offer on another property, so choose an estate agent to put your house on the market (you might also want to look into online estate agents) and get an energy performance certificate.

To find out more, read our top tips for selling a house.

Who is involved: You, estate agent or alternative, energy assessor

5: Start house-hunting

Timeframe: One to six months

Now you know your budget you can start looking into areas you would like to move to in more detail and arrange viewings. If you're considering buying a brand-new pad, check out our guide to new-build homes.

Also read our guide on how to find the right property and use our viewing checklist to make sure you don't miss anything when you're looking round.

Who is involved: You, estate agents

6: Find a solicitor

Timeframe: One to two weeks

You will need a property solicitor or licensed conveyancer to carry out the legal aspects of buying and selling your home and getting a mortgage. It's worth having someone in place before you make an offer so you're ready to go.

If you're on the search for a reliable firm, we've teamed up with a conveyancing partner to offer a no-move, no-fee service with fixed upfront costs. Find out more and get a no-obligation quote from Which? Conveyancing.

Who is involved: You, solicitors

7: Make an offer on a property

Timeframe: One day to one week

Take a look at our tips for dealing with estate agents as a buyer and, when you've found a property you like, check out our guide to making an offer to increase your chances of securing it.

If you're buying in an area where demand outstrips supply, or you think there's likely to be a lot of competition for the property you're buying, arm yourself with insider knowledge by reading our guide on gazumping and sealed bids.

Who is involved: You, estate agent, vendor

8: Apply for your mortgage

Timeframe: Two to six weeks

Once you've had an offer accepted you need to apply for your mortgage.

Which? Mortgage Advisers (0800 316 7042) can help you do this for certain deals or you can apply directly to a lender.

Read our advice on making a successful mortgage application.

Who is involved: You, mortgage adviser, mortgage lender

9: Get a survey

Timeframe: One to two weeks

You will need to get a valuation of the property done as part of your mortgage application but you should also get a more detailed survey to find out about the condition of the property. Our guide to house surveys explains the different types to help you decide which one to go for.

Who is involved: You, surveyor

10: Get quotes for any repairs needed

Timeframe: Two to four weeks

If your survey reveals problems that will need fixing, get quotes for the work. You can then use these quotes if you want to renegotiate the price you pay for the property. Check out Which? Trusted Traders to find local tradespeople who've been vetted and approved by Which?.

You could also consider getting quotes for any non-essential renovations you'll want to carry out so you know how much to budget.

Who is involved: You, tradespeople, estate agent, seller

11: Find a removal firm

Timeframe: One to two weeks

If you don't plan to move your belongings yourself, contact two or three removal firms to get quotes and choose one you trust. Use Which? Trusted Traders to find local removalists recommended by Which?.

Our guide on moving house has tips on packing, removals costs, who you need to inform about your new address and more.

Who is involved: You, removal firms

12: Exchange and complete

Timeframe: Six to eight weeks (legal process from buyer's solicitor
receiving draft paperwork from seller's solicitor to completion)

As soon as your offer is accepted your solicitor will be working towards getting all the legal documentation in place, including carrying out searches on the property, to exchange contracts. Read more about preparing to exchange

Your solicitor will send you documents to read and sign so make sure you do this as soon as possible to keep the process moving. You will need to send them a deposit to exchange. 

At this point you are legally bound to buy the property.

Completion - when the property becomes legally yours and you can get the keys and move in - usually happens one or two weeks later. Let your removal firm know as soon as you know when this will be.

If you are also selling a property you will need to exchange contracts and complete on the same days as for your purchase so you can move straight to your new home.

Read our guides to find out more about exchange and completion.

Who is involved: You, buyer, seller, solicitor, estate agents


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Video transcript

I think one of the mistakes that people make is they think that they'll need to put in a new kitchen or bathroom into the house, when they are getting ready to sell. That could be an expensive mistake, because many people actually want to put their own kitchen in and they don't want to throw out one that's brand new but not to their taste, save money on things like that, but at the same time make sure you do declutter, because most people are looking to move because they need more space.

So when you're looking at selling your house, you need to get your ducks in a row. Firstly get yourself a solicitor, secondly work out what you're going to do. Because a lot of people put their houses on the market thinking that they'll have months to have a look for somewhere to live et cetera. However sometimes you may get an offer, a good offer on the first day.

I did. I put mine on the market, and I had two viewings on the first day, and I had nearly the asking price offered to me, on that first day and I took it. In reality the first offers you get are generally the best, so you want to be in a position to snap their hand off. It's really important when you're choosing your selling agent not to be a cheapskate.

You don't go for the one who's offering you the lowest fee, and you don't go for the one who's offering you to sell your house at what even you know is an over-inflated price. It'll come back and bite you. You need a good quality agent, who's going to get good quality buyers, and do a darn good job at negotiating the very best price for you.

And for that, you need to actually pay a reasonable fee. When you're selling your house, and you got a viewing, get out of the house. Honestly, nobody likes the seller being in, it makes them feel uncomfortable, and awkward. Get out, leave it to the agent.

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Video transcript

Unless you have a stack of cash sitting around, getting a mortgage is the essential part of buying a home. But how is a mortgage different from a loan and what type should you get? Unlike a normal loan, a mortgage is specifically tied to the house you're buying. You usually borrow a percentage of the value of that property repaying the amount you've borrowed plus interest charged by the mortgage lender.

If you fail to repay your mortgage, your house could be taken away and sold to cover the loan you've taken out. When you are buying a house, for yourself, there are two main types, of mortgage to chose from. With a repayment mortgage, you gradually repay the amount he borrowed, this is known as the capital.

Each month, some of what you pay goes towards paying off the capital, while the rest covers the interest. By the end of the mortgage, usually in 25 years, you would have repaid everything you've borrowed. An interest only mortgage usually has lower monthly payments because you're not paying off the actual money you borrowed, just the interest.

It's up to you to pay off the capital at the end of the term. By paying a separate amount in to an investment for example. New mortgages usually charge you a lower rate of interest in the first few years to entice you in. This can be fixed or variable. A fixed rate is usually slightly higher, but gives you the security of a regular payment each month.

On a variable rate mortgage, the monthly repayment can change. If the interest rate goes down, you could pay less, but there's a chance it can go up, leaving you to pay more each month. Whatever type you decide you can use the which mortgage comparison tables to search through hundreds of deals from different providers to choose the best deal for you.

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Video transcript

I think what I was not expecting is, it takes so long to move in, after making an offer on a place, offer being accepted, contracts going back for some forwards lots of badly photocopied contracts we couldn't read it, we don't want to sign somethings we can't read, so that was a fault that took a long time, and then when it's all accepted the lady who owned the house was a landlord she had tenants and they had to be given notice, and I guess the lady who owned the house wanted to make sure that all fell through, that still have someone in the house and renting. So they got told that they had to leave out, that was four weeks which meant we had to stay where we were and rent for another month, and I think it wasn't quite expected, we would like to move in sooner.

I think conditions of the property wise, we knew the guy had been smoking, the tenant had been smoking in the house, and he was told not to but he had been. So it did kind of smell inside, and we had to open the windows and air it out. Plus also, he had a decorator come in for like one day, and painted the whole house, and you can kind of see little smudges of paint where it gone on the floor, it gone on the side, it gone on the fittings, and I think I pretty would have preferred if just leave it as it is, I'll come in, I'll decorate it, I'll do it the standard I wanted and not just spray painting the walls or whatever they did, kind of mad actually.

I think, we're thinking there's going to be a mortgage coming out and the mortgage payments and that's about �1000 a month. We know our total income is. We spoke to this mortgage adviser inside the bank, and we went through the questions like foods, clothes, going out, petrol, and I think you ask the questions and you think you're being honest but you don't really know because you've never done these things before.

How much do I spend on food? How much is gas and electricity? How much is it for the place we've bought? We don't really know, so we need to make sure that when we move in, we're not going to be screwed over the money. So you wanted to keep a track on the bank account as the months go past, and not make any extravagant purchase.

I think actually, you probably feel it. You just move into a house let's buy stuff, let's fill it up. And we're OK now, but you're probably not OK because you don't know how much you've got to pay for stuff here. So I guess the advice would be after moving in, don't be spending all your money. Yes, there's going to be things you want like sofas and there's going to be decoration you're going to want to do, but you don't really know how much our going are going to be yet.

So just wait three to four months, get an idea how much it's costing you, then you know what you can do with the rest of the money.

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Video transcript

After we sold our house back in December last year, it went through quite quickly we never actually officially marketed the property. So as the property market around where we live is so competitive, we weren't able to view any properties that we wanted to buy, until we would have enough for our own house.

We were lucky that the people that were made the offer on our house, the first time buyers they prepared to wait for us and we were patient enough to wait until we found our perfect home. And ended up taking us six months or so to find the house. By that time, the house prices had increased massively where we live, which meant that we needed more money from them to be able to buy the house that we wanted, because that had increased in value.

So, we ended up having another couple come in and offer more money which enabled us to buy the house. So fortunately, we went with them which was really difficult decision because we'd come quite emotionally attached to the first couple. So my tip could be to try and leave the negotiating and the relationship of the buyers and the sellers to the estate agent because I think it would make things cleaner in the long run.

We initially wanted a detached house, with a drive, with lots of parking I went into a [xx] terraced house which was a newly built. So I wish they would be probably more eco-minded from the beginning, and look at houses that didn't fit our strict criteria sooner, because actually the one we found works really well for us as a family.

Our estate agents were quite high pressure I think, because there was shortage of houses at the time when we were looking to buy. They were quite keen to get a fare on that book because I think, and they were constantly saying that we were the ones that were behind who didn't think that we need to send these information immediately and I didn't think we were given that much time to think about the things they were asking from us.

In hindsight I probably take a step back from every phone call I had with them and asked just for a couple of minutes to think about what they were saying, probably call my husband and asked him to help me with this decision rather than just feeling pressurized to say yes or no in a firm straight way.

The most surprising thing when we moved into the house, was the amount of things that take with them when they had left. These were things like were curtain bows, toy backs, mirrors that were fitted at the sinks in the bathroom, and these are things that we had thought were going to be left behind when we had gone to picture the fitting forms with them. We'd negotiated with them to leave some of the white goods, and then we had also agreed verbally to fix a key [xx] front gate and to go through and to cut the grass in the garden which had massively overgrown, but none of those things they did.

So I found that it cost us quite a lot more than we had budgeted to put right the things that weren't when we moved in. This process is definitely been worth it, it was stressful at times there were days we didn't think would exchange leave alone complete. I don't know if this is our dream home is definitely a step in the right direction to buying a dream house and we're really happy here.

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