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FIRST STEPS Shared Ownership Buyers' Guide

I've found a FIRST STEPS Shared Ownership home I want to buy, what do I do next?

Check that you are eligible

Check the Am I eligible? page to make sure you meet the headline eligibility criteria.

User Account

If you have completed your FIRST STEPS user account and are logged in you can view the contact details of the housing provider selling the home or send them a property enquiry.

The housing provider will advise you on the next steps but normally these include:

Attending a financial interview

If you meet the eligibility criteria, the housing provider will invite you to choose an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) from an approved list of financial advisers. The IFA will contact you to arrange an eligibility and financial assessment.

When the IFA contacts you he or she will give you full details of the documents you need to bring to the interview. You will normally be asked to provide the following original documents:

  • Identification - for example your passport
  • Proof of your name and address - for example utility or council tax bill
  • Proof of your salary - for example 3 months' payslips or P60
  • Proof of your savings - for example a building society statement
  • Details of any children living with you
  • Any other appropriate supporting information.

At the assessment, the IFA will advise you about your financial obligations, what is financially sustainable for you, and any costs you will be responsible for.

The interview allows the IFA to assess whether you meet eligibility and financial requirements for buying the home you are interested in, and advise you on what share of the home you can afford to buy.

The IFA will be able to give you advice on mortgages. They will search for the best mortgage offers to meet your needs and refer you to a selection of lenders that will be able to help you. You do not have to use one of these suggested lenders; you can go to a different high street lender of your choice, but this could delay the buying process if the lender is not familiar with the Shared Ownership product.

Reserving a home

If you are interested in buying a home you can usually reserve it by paying a deposit of £200. This will vary depending on the housing provider.

Appointing a solicitor

Everyone who buys a property needs a solicitor to undergo the necessary legal work. Most housing providers have a panel of approved experienced solicitors that understand how shared ownership works. You do not have to use a solicitor from a housing provider's panel but it will often speed up the process.

Your solicitor will be responsible for:

  • Making sure you have everything necessary to help you buy your home quickly
  • Checking the lease for the home you wish to buy and speaking with your mortgage lender and the housing provider's solicitors
  • Carrying out what are known as 'property searches' - checking that the housing provider actually owns the property they are about to sell you and making sure there are no planned developments that are likely to affect your home in the future
  • Checking that the paperwork and your mortgage are in place in time for you to move into your new home.

After the Financial Interview

After your financial interview the housing provider will issue your solicitor with what is known as a 'Memorandum of Sale', which summarises the details of your proposed purchase. This will provide the intended 'exchange of contracts' date which effectively is the date when the proposed sale to you will be legally binding.

It normally takes about four weeks to exchange contracts and during this time your mortgage lender will be preparing your mortgage offer and your solicitor will be doing the legal work. An independent valuation of your new home will be carried out on behalf of the mortgage lender to verify the value of the property set by the housing provider.

Following these checks, and if the lender is satisfied that you can be issued with a mortgage loan, they will present you with a 'mortgage offer'. As soon as you receive this you will need to contact your solicitor who will make arrangements for you to sign a contract. At this point you will also be required to pay the housing provider the deposit for the home you are buying. Once you have paid your deposit and signed your contract you are ready to 'exchange contracts'.

Exchanging contracts

Exchanging contracts means that your solicitor and the housing provider's solicitor actually swap the signed contracts. At this point you are legally bound to buy the home and the housing provider is legally required to sell you the property. The housing provider will give you a date for when you can move into your home; this is the 'completion date', and will normally be within 10 working days of the date your home is ready to move into. If your home is still under construction the housing provider will let you know when it will be ready and then arrange a completion date, which is known as 'completion on notice'.

Completing the purchase of your home

On the completion date your mortgage lender will give your solicitor the money to buy your home. Your solicitor will then pass this money on to the housing provider's solicitor. When this is done you officially become the owner of the property and can...

Move in!

At this point the housing provider can give you with the keys to your home so that you can move in and make the property your home.

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