Homebuyer’s Guide

If you are beginning the process of buying your first home, selling to buy a bigger property or even downsizing once the kids have flown the nest, you may find that the property market is an unknown entity, full of potential pitfalls, doubts and unexpected costs. In this home-buyer’s guide, we aim to demystify the process and give useful advice for each stage of the process.

FIRST-TIME BUYERS

So, you’re about to make the biggest investment of your life so far. Scary, right? There’s a lot to think about, and a lot of costs you will not have even considered until the process has started. Where to begin? Your mortgage is the first thing you should think about, because until you have your decision in principle, you will not know what you can afford to buy. Make an appointment with a bank or an independent mortgage advisor who will talk you through the options available to you, ask you about your savings, incomings and outgoings. By going independent, you will have the choice of many different banks and building societies, so you can assess options like the term of your mortgage, fixing interest rates and any cash back offered.

Help to Buy

Help to Buy has enabled many more people to get on the property ladder. It allows the buyer to have access to an equity loan from the government of up to 20% of the property value, meaning a deposit of 5% or more is needed. If you are ready to move on, but are struggling to save up the deposit, this is a great option.

Viewing Houses

This is probably the most fun bit of the process, because you get to know your tastes and can have a look around some lovely properties in the process. Rightmove is a great resource, as is Zoopla for comparing prices in an area. As well as relying on these sites, it is vital that you make yourself known to lots of different local agents. Let them know in as much detail as possible what requirements you have (location, number of bedrooms, garden, garage etc) and your upper price limit.

A good agent will let you know about properties about to come to the market, helping you get a head start on other buyers.

Viewing Tip – When viewing houses, try to take some pictures (with the estate agent’s permission) on your phone as an aide memoir and if you have furniture from renting to fit in, take a tape measure and see if it would fit in the space.

CONVEYANCING

So, once you’ve found the property you want, you will need to employ a solicitor to do the conveyancing for you. Before deciding on one, we recommend emailing or calling around for some quotes to make sure you get a competitive rate.

Conveyancing Tip

Stamp duty is a big consideration, as are the other disbursements and legal fees that come with buying. It is imperative that you have enough money to cover these costs. The current stamp duty rates and thresholds can be found at gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax/residential-property-rates

CHARTERED SURVEY

Unless the property you are buying is less than 10 years old, it really does make good sense to have a survey. Most surveyors offer a choice between a RICS Homebuyer Report or a Building Survey. Send over the property details you have and they will help you decide on the best survey for peace of mind. Once again, it does pay to enquire with a few different firms to keep prices competitive and to find the right surveyor for the type of property you buy.

Surveying Tip

If you are buying a flat, it can be difficult to know whether you need to have a full building survey (formerly called a structural survey). If you are buying a flat in a listed or older building, talk to your surveyor about whether they can offer a special package for you to give you peace of mind about the structural soundness of the building, particularly the roof and basement.

SELLING

Over the past few years, the property landscape really has become a seller’s market. With a high demand for property but a slump in new home building, estate agents are having to be creative in the way they compete for instructions. This is great news if you are selling, as you can ask them to be competitive in the rates they offer.

Selling Tips

• It is likely that you will need to provide certificates or documentation of any major work you have had done on your home in the last 10 years, primarily electrics.

• De-clutter before the estate agent comes to take photos. Your home needs to be a blank canvas, so the potential buyer can imagine their possessions there, without yours dominating their vision.

MOVING

So, you’ve accumulated quite a lot of stuff eh? Good news is, between an offer being accepted and sale completion you have lots of time to get your home sorted.

Here are our top tips to make moving easier:

• Start packing the areas of your home that you use the least. Pack your essentials last so you have easy access to them.

• At least 8 weeks before the date, notify change of address for any subscriptions.

• Pack early if you are using the services of a moving company. Also be sure to label clearly and keep heavy boxes double taped so they don’t collapse.

• Bin anything you don’t love anymore. Start this process early, using a skip for unsellable items and recycle others. Get family to help – it’s easier not to hang on to clutter when someone not emotionally attached if doing the sorting. Removals companies sometimes charge by volume, so reducing the amount you take with you cuts costs.

• Picture frames, mirrors, electronics, and lampshades can easily be damaged. Be sure to bubble-wrap as much as possible.