The House Buying Process Timeline for First Time Buyers (Including Help to Buy)

Buying a house for the first time can be a very daunting experience but if you go into it feeling clued up and aware of what's actually going to happen then you shouldn't feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing. I did it on my own (I had support from my family in terms of them just being there but I was the only person signing on the dotted line so-to-speak) and I am so proud of myself now, I'd definitely put it down as one of my biggest achievements in life. I'm going to focus this post more on the paper work side of buying a house rather than the fact that it's a new build because that'll be a whole different post.

Luckily I actually kept a timeline of dates so I knew exactly what happened and when. From the date of receiving a mortgage in principle to legal completion it took just over 3 months. This can differ quite wildly even with new builds depending on your site and build stage so the dates I give obviously don't provide a hard and fast rule but they do give an idea of the process...

10th September - Mortgage in Principle

After viewing one of the houses similar to the one I was interested in, I went into the sales office and used Persimmon's recommended financial advisors from Safeguard Financial Services who assisted in getting me an agreement in principle (also known as mortgage in principle). An AIP is basically where a lender will tell you that they are prepared to lend you money. They ask you a few questions relating to your incomings and outgoings and they assess whether you can realistically afford to buy the house you're interested in. Luckily I was given an Agreement in Principle there and then; sometimes it can take 30 minutes or so for a decision. This doesn't mean you've got a mortgage, it means in theory based on your income they would be willing to lend x-amount.

An agreement in principle is usually valid for 90 days but this can vary.

16th September - Plot Reservation

So I knew that they would lend me the money I needed 'in principle' but I gave myself a few days just to mull it over in my head so I wasn't making any rash decisions - this was buying a house after all!! After weighing up the pros and cons and making sure in my own head that I could afford it, I decided to reserve the plot with Persimmon. This was £100 and was refundable if the mortgage offer fell through. 

17th September - Finishing Touches

With new build houses, depending on the build stage you can choose extras and upgrades (believe me pretty much everything costs extra in a new build... but more on that in another post) and because mine was approaching the cut off point for ordering finishing touches I decided to get on with it and I paid for a kitchen upgrade to full choice of cupboard door colours and designs, stainless steel hob and an extra TV aerial port upstairs in what would be my bedroom.

18th September - Instructed Solicitors

The next step is to instruct your solicitor to do the conveyancing on your behalf. What you can usually do is get a rough quote before you choose who you go with and bare in mind that it will probably cost a little more if you're doing Help to Buy due to the extra paper work. 

19th September - Mortgage Application Submitted & Valuation Fee Paid

For me, this is where Safeguard Financial Services really were very helpful for me as they were a really good helping hand in getting all this done properly. They went through all the questions with me on the phone and although there's a LOT to answer they're really good at making you feel at ease with everything. So my mortgage application was submitted and as part of getting a mortgage you need to have the property valued by the lender so that they know that they're lending on a house that's worth the money you're paying. This cost £315 and was payable immediately. 

21st September - Mortgage agreed subject to valuation

I think those two days were some of the longest I've ever experienced; waiting for a mortgage offer is torture because I personally thought of a million different stupid reasons as to why they wouldn't lend to me. They were all unfounded worries because I'd passed the credit check stage of it and just had to wait to make sure the house was worth what they were selling it for. 

25th September - Help to Buy application submitted

In my opinion this was fairly straightforward - most of it was filled out by Safeguard but I just had to check it over and make some minor changes to the property information form - small mistakes can be a pain in the neck which I soon discovered.

26th September - Help to Buy approved

Wahoo, that was quick....

28th September - Valuation done

29th September - Mortgage Offer Received

This is some of the most marvellous news when buying a house, especially for the first time because it means that everything should be able to get moving. Mortgage offers usually last 6 months though so it's important to make sure you complete in time otherwise you could end up having to re-apply which can be stressful.

4th October - Help to Buy sent back

So I got an email from Yorkshire Housing to tell me that they had in fact been handling my Help to Buy case in error, they approved it but realised that my Local Authority wasn't in their area. Durrr. So anyway it was re-done and re-sent to East Midlands Help to Buy. Just something that I didn't really need or want to happen because it involved a lot of paper work.

10th October - Help to Buy re-approved and Authority to Proceed re-issued.

This basically meant that again they had agreed to let me use the help to buy scheme.

9th November - Exchanged contracts

It was all quiet on the western front for a month and I was getting a bit anxious about the fact that nothing seemed to be happening and Persimmon like to keep to deadlines and timescales. I spent much of the month chasing my solicitor and pushing for an exchange. Basically exchange of contracts is the point where backing out would become very expensive - usually the majority of the deposit for your house will be transferred over (at least to solicitors who will then pass it to the bank) and you sign a legally binding contract to buy the house.

1st December - Notice to complete received

Once the building work is finished, Persimmon will give a 2 week notice to legally complete on the house which is when your solicitor should be putting all hands on deck to get everything in place ready for a specific date. 

15th December - Legal Completion

This part was probably the smoothest and most stress-free part of the whole buying process. I knew completion was the 15th, I had a home demo the day before where the site manager showed me round my newly built house and then on the day of completion I got a phone call from my solicitor to say we had completed and that the house was now legally mine! I then gave my Persimmon sales office a ring to see if she had had notification from their solicitors and she had so I could go and collect the keys whenever I wanted. That day was very, very surreal but the most amazing feeling!


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