The Process of Buying a Home in South West London


Looking to buy a house in Southwest London? Follow our step-by-step guide to acquiring a property in this vibrant segment of the capital city.

If you’re looking to buy property in Southwest London, you’ll find a good selection of modern apartments, attractive Victorian homes, and a wealth of family-focused shops and cafes. For example, Clapham is an excellent choice for young professionals drawn to its central location, great nightlife and transport links. Equally, Battersea is undergoing regeneration enhanced by the area’s new Underground connections. Meanwhile, the Wandsworth and Tooting Bec Commons provide ample green space a short distance from numerous local amenities.

Average house prices in Southwest London over the past year have been approximately £1 million, according to Rightmove. Flats have sold for an average of just over £725,000 and terraced properties have reached up to £1.3 million. The property market is always shifting, but house values in the local area remain high. While property prices fluctuate, they have risen by 5% since 2020, reflecting promising growth.

So, if you’re serious about your Southwest London move, get up to speed with the process of buying a house. To help you, we lay out nine key questions you need to ask yourself before you find a home and make an offer.

Buying a house checklist

1. Do I want to buy now?

House prices and mortgage rates have decreased slightly, while rents have risen sharply in the past year, which may prompt you to consider buying. To use one area as an example, Wandsworth rents have gone up by an average of £150 p/m according to Zoopla.

Equally, you should consider your motives for buying now – is there a compelling reason to move, such as a job or school application? Or, do you need more space? Think, too, about whether you want to buy and sell at the same time and what this will mean for your lifestyle and stress levels.

2. What is my budget?

Work out how much you can afford to put down as a deposit, what you can pay for your monthly mortgage, and how you’ll cover the costs of buying a new house. Research what your own property may sell for if you’re selling as well, explore mortgage deals, and seek advice from a mortgage broker. Assess interest rates and the pros and cons of fixed and variable rates before seeking an approval in principle for a loan from your mortgage lender.

Lenders’ valuations can cost around £1,000 and you may have to pay a mortgage arrangement fee of £1,000 to £2,000. Deposits are usually 10% of the sale price but can range from 5% up to 20% or more. A larger deposit nearly always opens up better borrowing rates and increases your buying power.

The additional costs of moving include conveyancing fees, stamp duty and removals. Conveyancing covers the legal side of moving, while surveys handle the condition of the property. Removal company costs are usually between £400 to £1,800, and estate agents’ fees can be between 1% and 3% of the selling price plus VAT.

3. Where do I want to live?

Narrow down your property search in Southwest London by considering your budget and priorities – good schools, transport links, green space or the local vibe. Think about the type of property you’re after – period, modern or new build.

Commuters can find great transport links close to traditional terraced houses and new build luxury apartments. In addition to local bus routes, the Balham, Tooting and Battersea areas are served by the Northern Line. Clapham Junction Station offers direct access to London Victoria, Brighton and South West Main Lines, and Gatwick Airport.

Southwest London benefits from many well-regarded independent day schools and state schools, bolstered by good and outstanding Ofsted ratings. Leafy, family-friendly areas are plentiful in areas like Earlsfield and Streatham, where local shops and cafes add to the community feel.

4. What should I think about when viewing properties?

Visit as many properties that match your needs and budget as possible. The key things you need to be looking for and asking about include:

  • Signs of damp – damp and mould can be an issue in older properties, so look out for visible watermarks on the walls, a musty smell and deteriorating plaster.
  • Potential structural problems – look over the roof, windows and adjoining walls with extensions for cracks and signs of bowing.
  • Be realistic about storage space – make sure there’s enough room in the linen cupboards, loft and built-in shelving or space for freestanding units.
  • How many rooms and how big are they? – make sure there’s enough space to work from home (if you need it), and remember that the furniture used to stage the property may be smaller than your own.
  • Energy performance certificate (EPC) – it indicates how high the bills are likely to be, so look for a good rating and consider how costly any improvements may be.
  • House and garden aspect – the orientation of a home’s rooms and gardens matters. Take a compass to check if the suntrap catches the light, or your living room will be dark throughout the day.
  • Does the plumbing work? – check the taps for water pressure by running them briefly, and ask about pipe insulation and heating system.
  • How good is the soundproofing? – Check for neighbour noise and bad soundproofing – if possible, attend another viewing at a different time of day.

5. What should I know about making an offer?

If you’ve found a property you want to buy, now it’s time to make an offer on the property. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Research properties like your dream home – find out what similar prices sold for, and what the asking price was.
  • Know your budget – get an accurate estimate and arrange a mortgage in principle if you’re borrowing.
  • Promote yourself as a good buyer – if you’re a first-time buyer or cash buyer without a place to sell, you’ll be more attractive to the seller – so let them know.
  • Make your first offer – approach the estate agent to make your first offer. They will pass it on to the seller and contact you with the outcome.
  • Stay within your budget – be prepared to negotiate, but stay within your budget. Don’t agree to raise it for fixtures and fittings unless it’s part of your plan.

6. How do I find a conveyancer?

Once your offer is accepted, you need a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to carry out the legal work. Conveyancing covers legal advice, communications with the seller’s solicitor, handling local searches and Land Registry, and transferring your payment on completion day. The speed and ability of your conveyancer can influence the speed and success of your home purchase, so choose very carefully. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Ask for recommendations – talk to your lender, mortgage broker, friends, and family.
  • Look online – find local conveyancers and read the recent online reviews for the firms you have been recommended.
  • Compare prices – seek a good price, but don’t necessarily go with the cheapest – this can be a false economy when the service fails to deliver.
  • Check their experience – look for someone with experience of properties like yours, if it’s leasehold, for example.
  • Ask about availability – make sure they don’t have a holiday booked before your move if you want a speedy sale.

7. Which survey should I have?

To get your sale moving, book your survey as soon as possible. You aren’t legally obliged to have a survey, but it is absolutely in your best interests to do so. These may reveal damp, deteriorating roofs or structural problems like subsidence. This may affect your decision or act as a bargaining tool for a price reduction.

These are the three surveys homebuyers can choose from:

  • RICS Level 1 Home Survey (Condition Report) – the most basic and lowest-priced survey, highlighting visible deterioration or faults, without recommendations.
  • RICS Level 2 Survey (Homebuyers’ Report) – the most common report for homebuyers. It gives an overview of the property’s condition based on a visual inspection of the property’s walls, floors, ceilings, outbuildings, roof and chimney, doors, windows, and pipework. It’s better suited to newer properties or those that haven’t been significantly altered, and includes recommendations.
  • RICS Level 3 Survey (Full Structural Survey) – the most in-depth, and costly, survey is suited to older or unusual properties. The report includes recommendations with projected costs and timelines to correct defects.

Remember, your mortgage lender will require a valuation survey as a condition of your mortgage application before they lend on the property. This is separate from the property survey.

8. What happens at the exchange of contracts?

Once the survey and searches are complete, your conveyancer will agree a date with your seller for the exchange of contracts. Exchange of contracts means you are legally committed to the sale. You will pay your deposit at this stage. Once you’re legally bound to buy the property, you can no longer pull out of the sale without the risk of losing your deposit. You will set a completion date – usually two to four weeks after the exchange of contracts. At this stage, arrange building insurance for the property and book a removal firm.

9. And at completion?

The completion date is when you pay the balance on the property and get the keys to your new home. If you’re selling too, vacate your own place on time and in a clean condition, leaving no belongings behind that weren’t part of the sale. You will take possession of your new home, and your solicitor will apply to the Land Registry to transfer the deeds to your name. You’ll settle up your solicitor’s fees and pay the stamp duty on your purchase at the same time.

Find out more

If you’re looking at homes in Southwest London, we’d love to show you our selection of properties and give you more advice about the buying process. Call us today to talk about your plans.