Congratulations! You’re one step nearer buying your property. The seller has accepted your offer which means, in theory at least, they are happy to let you purchase it at the agreed price.

Unfortunately, you can’t relax just yet so hold the celebrations and keep that fizz on ice for the time being.

That’s unless you’re buying a property in Scotland, where things are legally binding once your offer has been accepted by the seller. No such luck in England, where nothing is legally binding at this point and the seller can still accept another offer or even decide to take their property off the market should they get cold feet. On the plus side, you can walk away from purchase without facing any financial penalty if you change your mind.

Things are only legally binding when you have signed and exchanged contracts. However, there are a few things you can do to make this stage a little less nerve wracking.

Off the market

The most important thing to do is ask them to take it off the market. That way, other buyers won’t be tempted to put in a higher offer and gazump you (more of this later). If they’re unwilling to take it off the market, it could be a sign that they are holding out for more money so proceed carefully if the ‘For Sale’ sign isn’t taken down. You could get your fingers burnt arranging things like conveyancing only to find someone else has snatched the property from under your nose.

Sold….subject to contract

You’ll have seen this on online property ads and emblazoned across the ‘For Sale’ signs and cards in estate agents’ windows. If you’re reading this section of the Smoove Move moving guide, this could well apply to your chosen property. During the ‘sold subject to contract’ period, you should start the conveyancing process by choosing a solicitor. That will eventually lead to the contract being drawn up that the sale is subject to.

Get your mortgage moving

If you’ve been mega-organised and arranged your mortgage in principle, completing the application should be relatively easy. Otherwise, now’s the time to arrange your mortgage. To help them process your application fast, ensure you can provide proof of ID, proof of earnings, proof of address and bank statements.

Gazumping and gazundering

As mentioned earlier, it’s not a done deal just yet. Though not as common as it once was, you could still be gazumped. This refers to the practice of a seller accepting a higher offer from someone else. It’s also used when the seller raises the asking price after previously agreeing to your lower offer. Though deemed very bad form by most sellers and estate agents, this does happen. Which is why, once you have an offer accepted, you should move quickly to keep the process moving, particularly in areas where homes are in high demand.

Gazundering, on the other hand, is where you threaten to withdraw your offer unless the seller agrees to sell at a lower price. This normally happens in a falling market where the value of the property has decreased since going on the market. Yet again, most people in the property business see this as not playing nicely and we most certainly wouldn’t suggest that you gazunder your seller.

The valuation

Your mortgage lender will have insisted on a valuation to let them know that the property they are lending on is worth the same or more than the amount of the mortgage. This is because they own it until your mortgage is paid off. If you can’t afford the payments, they want to be able to sell it to recoup the money they’ve lent you.

You’ll normally pay for the lender’s survey which will cost around £150, though if your preference is for the palatial, this could reach the £1,000s.  The good news is that many mortgages include a fee valuation as an inventive.

Sometimes the valuation will tell you the property isn’t worth what the seller is asking. This can work in your favour as you can then use the valuation to ask the seller to drop the price.

Our survey says

Of course, at this point you are relying on your viewings and the information supplied by the seller to assess the condition of the property. So now’s the time to get serious and sort out your survey.

Even if you’re buying a new build property, this is very important. An independent assessment by an expert will help give you a true indication of the condition and quality of the property, and could save you the expense of repairs or building work you didn’t realise was needed. In most cases, a survey will also be required by your mortgage lender. Different levels of survey are available to suit your needs and the type of property you’re interested in. Here are the most common you’re likely to come across:

New-build snagging survey
Even if a property is BNWT, it won’t necessary be free from problems or faults. In fact, a home that’s never been lived may have issues that haven’t been noticed by anyone. That’s why a new build snagging survey is a great idea for peace of mind before taking the plunge. They cost around £300 (depending on the size of the property) and will highlight anything the builders need to fix according to the NHBC guarantee before you move in.

RICS Condition Report
This is the cheapest type of survey and is recommended for new build and standard homes in good condition. No advice or valuation is provided in this survey. A Condition Report should cost you around £250.

RICS HomeBuyer Report
The most popular type of survey and the right choice for conventional residential properties in reasonable condition. The HomeBuyer Report should identify any structural problems like subsidence or damp, and also uncover any hidden and potentially expensive problems the untrained eye could miss. As a surface survey, it won’t look under floorboards or behind walls, but will provide a good overall impression of condition. A HomeBuyer Report will set you back around £400.

Home Condition Survey
A Home Condition Survey is the next level of inspection and goes even further to identify problems, often using an easy-to-follow 1, 2, 3 rating system to help you get a clear picture of any issues and their implications. It should also give you advice on how to sort out these problems. The typical cost of a Home Condition Survey is around £400-£500.

Building or full structural survey
If you really want to get the lowdown on the true condition of a property, this is the survey to choose. Though the most expensive of the bunch, it could save you thousands of pounds in future building or repair costs or tell you that your dream home could be a nightmare waiting to happen and you should look elsewhere.

It offers the most in-depth checks and opinion and is a sensible choice whatever type of residential property you’re looking to purchase. If you’re considering an older home, this is definitely the one to choose.

It comes at the highest cost but will give you a really accurate picture of the condition and work you’ll need to get done. A building or full structural survey will normally cost £600 or more.[i]

Buying or selling in Scotland?

Sellers in Scotland have to arrange a Home Report to show to buyers before they can market their property. The report may include a survey by a RICS qualified surveyor. It can also include a mortgage valuation and must be prepared within 12 weeks of putting the property on the market.

Next step: Conveyancing

Previous step: Negotiating and Making an Offer