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Guidance - Home Buyers

Guidance On Buying A Property

  1. Find a property on Agent Free Properties.co.uk
  2. Find a Mortgage Deal - Get an Agreement In Principle
  3. Instruct a Solicitor
  4. Make An Offer - Get It Accepted - Own A New Home!


Deciding On A Property

When you find a property you should arrange to look at it to make sure it is what you will need and to get some idea of whether or not you will have to spend any additional money on the property, for example, for repairs or decoration. It is common for a potential buyer to visit a property two or three times before deciding to make an offer.

After finding a home you like, which can take anything from a few days to many months, the process from having your offer accepted to completion of the sale takes about 12 weeks.

It is important to have a good understanding of the process as it will help you to avoid some of the most common hazards of home-buying.

The Buying Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Work out how much money you can afford.
  2. Get a mortgage agreement in principle.
  3. Instruct a solicitor.
  4. Make an offer.
  5. Once the offer has been accepted, have a survey and valuation done.
  6. Arrange for life, building and contents insurance.
  7. Exchange contracts.
  8. Organise your house move.
  9. Arrange for completion to takeplace.
  10. Move in.
Buying A Home For The First Time:

High property prices have made it difficult for many people to afford to buy a home. This may be a particular challenge for you if you are a first time buyer, as you will have many one-off initial costs including:


· a deposit

· Stamp Duty Land Tax, survey and valuation fees

· solicitors costs

· mortgage lender and / or mortgage broker fees

· Land Registry fees and local authority searches

· removals/or moving in charges


If you are thinking of buying a house for the first time, make sure that you have planned for all the costs that you will face.


How much can you afford:

The first thing you need to do is decide how much you can afford. You will need to look at how much money you have available yourself and how much you can borrow. There are a number of different financial institutions which offer loans to people buying a property, for example, building societies and banks. You should find out if you are able to borrow money and if so, how much (for information on mortgages, see under heading Mortgages).

You should be aware that if you start the process of buying a property and then the sale falls through you may have already paid for a valuation or a survey. If the solicitor has started any legal work you may also have to pay for the work done.

You should also take into account the running expenses of the property you wish to buy. These may include:-

  • council tax
  • water rates
  • ground rent, if the property is leasehold
  • service charges, if the property is a leasehold flat
  • insurance costs, including life insurance, buildings and contents insurance
  • heating bills. An energy performance certificate can help you work out how energy efficient your property is.

You will have to pay a deposit on exchange of contracts a few weeks before the purchase is completed and the money is received from the mortgage lender. The deposit is often 10% of the purchase price of the home but it can vary.

Making an offer

If the owners do not accept the first offer put to them by you, you can decide to make an increased offer. There is no limit on the number of times you can make offers on a property. If you make a written offer it will always be made subject to contract. This means that you will not be committed to the purchase before finding out more about the state of the property. If you make an oral offer this is never legally binding.


When the offer has been accepted

When your offer for the property has been accepted you will have to consider the following:-

  • whether a holding deposit is payable
  • arrange a mortgage
  • whether a survey is necessary
  • who will do the necessary legal work

Arranging a mortgage

If you have not already begun to arrange a mortgage, you should start to do this now. It should take about three weeks from the application for the mortgage to the formal offer being made by the lender. However, this timescale may vary.

Whoever agrees to lend the money will want to have the property valued. This is to make sure that the lender could get the loan back if for any reason you stopped paying your mortgage and the house had to be sold again. The valuation will be done by a surveyor on behalf of the lender but you will have to pay for this valuation. The fee will be payable in advance, usually when the you send a completed mortgage application form to the lender.

If the amount of money to be borrowed is more than a certain percentage of the valuation of the property (usually 75-80%), your lender may make it a condition of the loan that you take out extra insurance to cover the extra amount. You pay a single premium to your lender which is usually added to the loan. This is known as a higher lending charge (or mortgage indemnity guarantee).

Arranging a survey

The valuation which is done for whoever is lending the money is not a survey. You should consider whether or not to have an independent survey carried out in addition to the valuation. The survey would not only consider the value of the property but would also examine the structure of the property and should identify any existing or potential problems.

There are two levels of survey that you can choose between:-

  • a full structural survey. This is suitable for a property which is large, more than 80/90 years old or in doubtful condition
  • an intermediate or 'house/flat buyers report' that gives a report on the condition of the parts of the house that are easy to see and to get at and may recommend further tests or investigations, for example, a specialist check for woodworm. This is particularly suitable for properties built this century which appear reasonably sound. It is much cheaper than a full structural survey.

It is possible for you to use the same surveyor who does the valuation to carry out the survey and this may be cheaper. However, you can use a different surveyor if you wish.

Choosing who is to do the legal work (conveyancing)

The legal process of transferring the ownership of the property from the present owner to the buyer is known as conveyancing. You should decide who you want to do the conveyancing work.

  • use a solicitor; or
  • use a licensed conveyancer.

Using a solicitor

Most firms of solicitors offer a conveyancing service. Although all solicitors can legally do conveyancing, it is advisable to choose a solicitor who has experience of this work.

Please contact us if you require help in finding a suitable solicitor.

Finding out how much it will cost

Before making a choice as to who will do the conveyancing, you should be advised to find out the probable costs of the conveyancing. It is important to contact more than one solicitor as there is no set scale of fees for conveyancing. You should:-

  • check whether the figure quoted is a fixed fee or depends on how much work is involved
  • check that the figure includes stamp duty, search fees, land registration fees, expenses and VAT and get a breakdown of these costs
  • find out what charges, if any, will be made if the sale falls through before contracts are exchanged.

Steps in the legal work of buying a property

Although it is impossible to give a precise idea of how long the legal work involved in buying a property takes, it is possible to offer guidelines. From having an offer accepted to exchange of contracts can take up to seven weeks and from exchange of contracts to completion can take up to four weeks. However, if there are any problems the time taken may be longer.

Enquiries made by the solicitor or licensed conveyancer

Once you have instructed the solicitor the seller's solicitor draws up a contract which will eventually be signed by you and the seller. However, before the contract can be signed, your solicitor must make sure that there are no problems with the ownership of the property, rights of way, access, or future developments in the area that might affect the property. This is called 'making enquiries and searches'. The solicitor makes the enquiries and searches as follows:-

  • local searches. These are enquiries made to the local authority about any matters which affect the property which involve the local authority, such as whether there is a compulsory purchase order on the property. Local searches also include questions about any proposed changes or development in the area that might affect the property such as roads, housing, shops. During the local search, the local Land Charges Register is also checked. This gives information about any matter which affects the property such as tree preservation orders, if it is a listed building or in a conservation area; and
  • enquiries made to the seller by the solicitor. These are a set of standard questions about the property, boundaries, neighbour disputes and fixtures and fittings that will remain in the property. There may also be additional questions that the solicitor thinks are necessary, such as the transferability of guarantees for any work done on the house, for example, a damp proof course; and
  • from the Land Registry.

Arranging to pay the deposit

Whilst the solicitor is making the enquiries, you should sort out how you will pay the deposit that has to be made when the contracts are exchanged. This deposit is often 10% of the price of the home but it can vary.

If you are also selling a house, it is usually possible to put the deposit on the property being sold towards the deposit on the property you are buying.

Insuring the property

You should make sure that buildings insurance is arranged from the date of exchange, because once contracts have been exchanged you are responsible for the property.

You may be able to get information on buildings insurance from your mortgage lender or solicitor.

Exchange of contracts

The final contract between you and the seller is prepared when:-

  • the solicitor and you are satisfied with the final outcome of all the enquiries
  • any surveyor's report has been received and any necessary action taken
  • the formal mortgage offer has been received
  • arrangements about the payment of the 10% deposit have been made
  • the date of completion has been agreed.

You and the seller each have a copy of the final contract which you must sign. These signed contracts are then exchanged. At exchange of contracts both you and the seller are legally bound by the contract and the sale of the house has to go ahead. If you drop out, you are likely to lose your deposit.

You should make arrangements for the supply of gas, electricity and telephone service and make sure that the seller is arranging for final meter readings to be made.

Completion

Completion of the purchase usually takes place about four weeks after exchange of contracts, although it can be earlier. On the day agreed for completion:-

  • the mortgage lender releases the money
  • the deeds to the property are handed over to your solicitor
  • the seller must hand over the keys and leave the property by an agreed time.

The solicitor will usually request their fees to be paid on, or soon after the completion date.