Collecting the keys to your new home is right up there when it comes to life's moments of joy. You made it through the wilderness (aka the conveyancing procedure), and now it's time to arrange your furniture and put down some roots.

But before you start making all those memories, there are twists, turns and jargon to navigate, and that's where our guide to buying a property comes in.

You can definitely speed up the process by getting organised from the start, so we’ve listed here the things that will help you avoid common problems, leapfrog hurdles and make your homebuying experience a positive one.


Money talk

Before you even start your property search, get familiar with the costs involved in buying a property and put your finance in place. Stamp duty rates vary not just with purchase prices but also for second homes and investments, so it’s wise to check your figures are correct. If you have a financial advisor we recommended you speak to them before doing anything ever; if you don't yet know anyone to speak to about mortgages, we can put you in touch with a London-based advisor. Whatever you do, don’t visit properties that are wildly out of your price range; you’ll only end up disappointed and annoying the owners!

What’s your perfect property?

Whether you are looking for your next home or for an investment property, think carefully about the accommodation and location. Do you dream of an Edwardian house in Wanstead Village, or a Victorian one near Leytonstone High Road? Perhaps a garden maisonette off Francis Road in Leyton, or a property in Forest Gate close to the Crossrail station? Strike a balance that keeps you open to suggestion, but clear on what is essential. Being open to suggestion doesn’t necessarily mean compromising, but it’s wise to be realistic about the type of property your budget your budget will secure.

Getting the most from viewings

It’s often joked that we spend longer choosing an item of clothing than we do a property. While it’s true you may get ‘the feeling’ very quickly from one property and not from another, it’s worth taking a breather to make sure you make the right decision. Seeing a property twice is always a good idea, and at different times of day. A street can be different in the daytime from evenings and weekends. If your first viewing is at night, go back in the day if natural light is a big factor for you. Have a checklist with you to tick off any essential qualities you seek. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – we love helping you choose the place you’ll call home.

Making an offer

It’s a wonderful feeling finding a property you love and want to own. So now it’s time to make an offer, and for the nail biting to begin! Estate agents must work to get the best possible price for the owner, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about the buyer: after all, you are tomorrow’s seller so you can be sure we’ll treat you fairly and squarely. You are free to offer what you want but, as a rule, opening offers too far below 95% of the asking price tend to annoy owners and are often instantly dismissed. In case there is more than one buyer interested, we’ll be clear about the process for multiple offers to give everyone a fair chance.

Having your offer accepted

Great news! You’re one step closer to moving home. Once a sale is agreed, you will need to appoint a conveyancer to carry out the legal process on your behalf. As soon as we have the details of the conveyancers acting for the buyer and seller, we’ll send everyone a Memorandum of Sale that sets out the terms of the sale. If you are getting a mortgage, this is when you complete your application to your lender. Generally speaking, it takes about 6-8 weeks to get to the point of exchanging contracts and then another 2-4 weeks until the purchase is complete and you can collect the keys. We’ll stay in touch with you and your conveyancer throughout.

Valuations and surveys

If you are getting a mortgage, your lender will appoint a valuer to inspect the property to ensure it is reasonably priced and suitable security for them. If you would like a more detailed survey for yourself, you can often arrange for the lender’s valuer to carry this out at the same time as their visit. If you are buying with cash, it’s entirely up to you whether you want a valuation at all, although your conveyancer will likely very strongly recommend it. As a rule, the older and less maintained a property is, the more detailed a survey you might request.

What exactly is conveyancing?

Your conveyancer is there to make sure the property you wish to buy is all that it should be. This includes checking that it and any extensions or structural alterations have permission to be there, that utilities and drainage are connected, and that there are no disputes that may affect your ownership or enjoyment. In the case of leasehold properties, your conveyancer will also check the lease for any onerous conditions. All this information if gathered from a Local Authority Search, a Property Information Form completed by the owner and, in the case of leasehold properties, from the freeholder of the building.

Exchange of contracts

Exchanging contracts means exactly that. There are two contracts in a property transaction; one for selling, and one for buying. They are exchanged when your conveyancer is happy with the legal status of the property (and, if applicable, when you have a mortgage offer). Up until this point, either party can withdraw from the sale without financial loss, but once you have exchanged contracts both the seller and buyer are legally committed. This is when you hand over a non-refundable deposit (usually 5-10% of the purchase price) and contracts are exchanged. If either party withdraws after this point, they are legally liable for the amount set out in the contract (usually 10% of the purchase price).

Planning your moving day

You are now officially allowed to get excited, but there’s lots to do. Usually you’ll have between 2 and 4 weeks between exchange contracts and moving in, so use the time wisely. First things first, book a removals company or a (wo)man with a van. Then you need to start notifying people of your new address: your bank, your employer, HMRC, DVLA, any insurances, council tax, doctor, dentist and any relevant schools. Transfer any phone lines, TV subscriptions and other utilities from your current home that are in your name and take meter readings. It’s worth having your mail redirected for a few months to cover anyone you’ve forgotten. Then tell your friends and set a date for the party.


Completion is the name given to the formal process of transferring the balance of the purchase price from the buyer’s conveyancer to the seller’s conveyancer. This can happen simultaneously with exchange of contracts, but usually there is a 2-4 week gap to allow everyone to arrange their move safe in the knowledge that both parties are legally committed. Usually your solicitor will send over the money first thing in the morning and the estate agent gets a call from the seller’s conveyancer as soon as the money is in. At that point, you are the legal owner of the property and can collect the keys. Congratulations!

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a guide only and may not reflect your individual circumstances. You should obtain professional advice when buying or selling a property and Eeleven accepts no liability if you rely on the content of this guide and do not obtain professional advice.