Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

12 common steps of a freehold property purchase

Buying a house is an incredibly exciting time, but it also has the potential to be an overwhelmingly stressful experience. To help you through the process, we’ve pulled together a series of articles that will guide you through the key areas of purchasing your property and help you to make the right decisions.

In the previous article, we looked at Stamp Duty Land Tax for first-time buyers.

In this fourth article, we’re going to take a detailed look at the process to purchase a freehold property, as we outline the 12 steps you’re likely to encounter…

Before we get into the detail though, what do we mean by “freehold”, and how does this differ from a leasehold property?

If your new home is a freehold property, it means you are purchasing the land the property sits on, along with the property itself. This is usually a house.

If your new home is a leasehold property, it means you are purchasing a temporary licence to occupy the land the property sits on, but someone else retains legal ownership of the land. A long, detailed document will provide all the rights and obligations that the property benefits from and this is known as a lease. The lease will include details of ground rent payable, whether there are any services charges, and any other areas of responsibility.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to concentrate on a freehold property purchase, by running through the 12 steps you’re likely to encounter:

  1. Before you start your property search, it’s sensible to see how much money you can borrow and secure a mortgage decision in principle. This sets your price range for the properties you know you can afford.
  2. With your finances secured, you can now start the hunt to find your property. And once you’ve found the right one, you can make an offer.
  3. Once the offer has been accepted request quotes for conveyancing services from some Solicitors. Ensure that the quotes you receive are provided with a breakdown of costs so that they can be easily compared, and that there are no hidden fees (see article 2 in this series).
  4. Once you are happy with the quote, you can formally instruct the solicitor to act on your behalf. Request that you will have one point of contact to ensure continuity throughout the process. And try to establish who will be looking after your file during any periods of absence – planned or otherwise (see article 1 in this series).
  5. Now your chosen solicitor can start work and will send you initial paperwork to review and complete. It’s important that you return this initial paperwork along with providing your ID, proof of address and money on account of the searches as quickly as possible to get the process started and avoid any unnecessary delays.
  6. At this point, you will need to consider whether to have the property surveyed.  It is best to do this sooner rather than later in case the survey identifies any problems with the property that need addressing.
  7. Your solicitor will then be waiting for a draft contract to come from the seller’s solicitor.  Once that has been received, the transaction can begin. The solicitor will check the contract paperwork, submit searches and raise any additional enquiries on the property and paperwork that they have received.
  8. The solicitor will then send you a plan of the property which you must check carefully that the boundaries correspond with those on the ground. They will also supply you with paperwork relating to the property which you will need to check and if you have any queries it is best to raise it then. If you believe that the property has been altered or extended let the solicitor know as soon as possible.
  9. The searches usually take approximately ten working days to return. Once received, the solicitor will check them and report back to you.
  10. Your mortgage offer will only be issued once the valuation has taken place and a copy will be sent to you and the solicitor. The solicitor will check through the paperwork and the conditions and then send the relevant paperwork to you for you to sign and return.
  11. Once the searches, mortgage offer and replies to enquiries from the seller’s solicitor have been received and are all satisfactory, your solicitor will report to you fully on the property with contracts and supporting paperwork to be signed and they will also send the completion/financial statement.
  12. Once you have returned the signed paperwork and transferred the funds to your solicitor, you can then discuss completion dates and start to plan to move in!

Selecting the right solicitor to act on your behalf is a crucial decision and could influence the speed and efficiency with which your purchase takes place. There are numerous benefits of using a good, local solicitor to handle your case, including:

  • Ability to use sound local knowledge
  • Convenience to make an appointment for a face-to-face chat if you need to
  • Speed to turn around the signing and return of documents.

This article was written by Sara Robinson, Chartered Legal Executive, at Tayntons solicitors.  If you would like to speak to Sara about this article or any property transaction, phone 01452 509842 or email

Next time, we’ll take a detailed look at purchasing a leasehold property and ground rent

Published on 3rd May 2018
(Last updated 7th May 2021)