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Selling your home
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Buying a new home
Purchase Details
£
Tick if you are a first time buyer
Tick if the purchase is 'Buy to Let' or a Second Home
Remortgage a property
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Transfer of Equity
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Buying a house

Buying a house

A short guide to buying a property

The following is a concise guide to the process of buying a house in England and the professionals you will need to use.

You can help yourself to lower the stress by following a few simple rules:-

  • Get an ‘in principle’ letter from your mortgage lender first.

  • Instruct a good solicitor.

What is an ‘in principle’ mortgage letter?

Because of the ‘credit crunch’ securing a mortgage deal before you start looking for a new home is essential, for most people a mortgage is the biggest financial commitment. An ‘in principle’ letter is provided by the mortgage lender stating that they are prepared to lend a certain amount subject to approval of the property.

Finding a new home

After deciding you are going to buy a new home and finding out how much you can afford, it is worth sitting down to consider what you would like from your new home.  The following are all worth thinking about:-

  • Location, Location, Location: The neighbourhood.
  • The house.
  • Leasehold or freehold.
  • Registered or Unregistered property.

Location, Location, Location

Find out about the area you are intending to move to, remember you can change the house but not the neighbourhood so just because you can afford a bigger house in a not so nice area it might not be right for you.  Consider yourself living in the area.  Will you feel:-

  • Safe and secure in the area?
  • Is there a high crime rate?
  • Do the facilities meet your requirements?:
  • Schools
  • Shops
  • Sports and leisure facilities
  • Public transport
  • Restaurants and bars
  • How easy is the commute to work?
  • How much will the Council Tax be?

Watch out for high crime areas or electrical substations nearby or a shared access.  In addition check parking availability.  Choose a property with a light and south/west aspect if possible.

What lifestyle do you want?

Houses come in all shapes and sizes, but some are more suited to the way you live.  Open plan living spaces are great for entertaining but if you need a quiet space which is easy to heat it is probably not for you.  Traditional Victorian and Georgian buildings can offer fabulous spaces but are going to need more maintenance than a new build.  Consider if this home is for life or just a stepping stone; it may be cheaper to extend than move again, is there space to build an extension on the side or in the attic?  How many cars do you have; a double garage is so much easier than having to move one car out of the drive to get to the other behind it in the garage!

A few more important issues to consider when looking for your perfect home include:-

  • Does the garden face south; it is very annoying if the patio is plunged into shade at 4pm in the afternoon by either your own house or the neighbours.
  • Does part of the roof face south; you may want to fit photovoltaic solar panels in the future.
  • How important is parking to you, and how easy is the parking? Parking on the street may seem fine, but when it is raining and you are trying to unload the weeks shopping etc

Buying a new property

Advantages of buying a new home

New homes are built to the latest building standards and benefit from a 10 year warranty.  A new home will probably be better insulated and should require very little maintenance.  You will always be at the end of the buying chain and if you part exchange there is no chain at all.  You may also be able to specify your own features if you buy the house at an early state of construction.

Disadvantages of buying a newly built home

New homes tend to be more expensive and have smaller rooms.  They are also often closer to neighbouring properties.  High density of most new estates usually restricts the number of parking spaces especially for visitors.  Other issues include:-

  • You may be living on a building site for a while.
  • Your garden may need planting, which can be expensive.
  • New houses often have less character than older houses.

The purchase process for buying a property from a builder

House builders often place strict limits for exchanging contracts, usually from reservation to exchange in 28 days. If you already have a mortgage in principle letter and a solicitor this should be an easier process than buying an older property. You will need to make your selection of the builder’s options and extras as early as possible.

On or before the completion date your builder will give you a home demonstration, you should inspect your home for any defects.

  • For hot water and any leaks under the sink plus fill the sink and check the overflow does not leak.
  • The dishwasher, check for water leaks.

After you move in if you have any problems you should follow the builders’ customer care procedure.

What to ask the builder before you sign the reservation form

You must ask the builders the right questions before you sign the reservation form.  House builders have a legal obligation not to make misleading or false statements.  Ensure you ask about discounts, part exchange, the location of social housing, the completion date and what specifications and choices are available.  Useful information includes the level of Council Tax, postal address and postcode and the site manager’s professional credentials, who is responsible for walls, fences and boundaries and any adjacent public spaces.

Conveyancing

Conveyancing:  The Legal Issues

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the term used to describe the process of legal and administrative transfer of ownership of land and buildings from one owner to another.  The process of Conveyancing starts after an offer has been accepted and the buyer and seller have exchanged solicitors’ details.

Who does the Conveyancing?

You can use a solicitor or licensed conveyancer or even do it yourself.  But the risks and time involved usually outweigh the savings and the mortgage lender will usually insist on a solicitor performing the task. 

Title Deeds/Property Deeds

The deeds are very important.  Your solicitor should explain any unusual details within the deeds.  They will detail any limitations, legal obligations or restrictions that come with the property such as not keeping chickens.

Title Plan

The title plan shows the following details:-

  • A unique Title Number.
  • The scale the plan is drawn to, usually 1:1250 for urban areas and 1:2500 for rural areas.
  • The administrative area the property is in.
  • The direction of North.
  • Black lines indicate structures such as buildings, walls and fences.
  • Red line indicating the general boundary.

Shared Access

Neighbouring homes can share an access such as a driveway or the hall and stairs in flats.  It also covers cases where access is gained to other property via your property.  You should know details of any shared access including who is responsible for maintenance.

Rights of way and footpaths on your property

It is possible that some rights of way and footpaths can run across private property including gardens.  It can be very costly to get a right of way removed.

Restrictive Covenants

The Title Deeds of new homes will contain restrictions, most of these are limited to the time until the development is fully constructed and sold.  The restrictions can include parking commercial vehicles, caravans and trailer boats on the property.  Alterations and extensions may not be permitted without written permission of the house builder.

Other restrictions have no time limit and can restrict land use, preventing for example the operation of a business from the property or erecting an extension.  These can seriously damage the resale value of the property.

Making an offer on a property

Before making an offer on a property ask a few questions:-

  • Check the house is worth the price you are willing to pay.  You can use the Land Registry to compare the selling prices of houses that have sold in the same area.
  • Remember that other factors affect the value of two similar houses such as location or quality fittings.
  • Check if the property is freehold or leasehold.
  • Agree on a list of the fixtures and fittings which are to be included.

How much should I offer?

There is not a fixed price for properties.  Savings can be made by using the right strategy during the negotiations.  The opening offer is very important, usually it is a figure below the asking price depending on market conditions.  The price may be adjusted later depending on the survey results.

Stamp Duty

If the purchase price is above £125,000.00 you will have to pay Stamp Duty. The amount varies depending on the purchase price.

There are a variety of factors to take into account when negotiating.

  • Are there any other interested buyers?  If there are others interested you may prefer to offer the asking price before you get into a bidding war.
  • How keen is the seller to get a quick sale?  For a quick sale they may accept a lower offer if you have a mortgage in principle letter and a solicitor ready to act.
  • How long has the property been on the market?  If the seller is having difficulty selling then a lower offer may be accepted.  Ask if the price has been reduced since the property first went on the market.
  • Timing, demand for houses is highest in spring and summer therefore you often will get a better deal during the depths of winter.

You can also improve your negotiating position by:-

  • Not having a property to sell.
  • A mortgage in principle letter will show the seller you have the ability to pay the price you are offering.

When your offer is accepted

Once the seller accepts your offer it has to be made formally in writing and subject to terms and conditions.  Your offer will be ‘subject to contract and survey', this means that you are not legally bound to complete the sale until a satisfactory survey has been completed and signed contracts have been exchanged.  Also specify the fixtures and fittings to be included and if applicable any work to be completed on the property.  Request the property to be taken off the market to reduce the chances of gazumping.

The Conveyancing Process

  • The draft contract; this is drawn up by the seller’s solicitors stating the particulars and conditions of sale including the details of the accepted verbal offer.  This draft can/will be altered by both sides in the coming weeks.
  • Preliminary enquiries; the standard pre-contract enquiries are sent by the buyer’s solicitor to the seller’s solicitor requesting information such as any boundary disputes, restrictive covenants and rights of way.
  • Property Information Form; is a document which is sent to the seller to complete then sent to the buyer. The buyer should check it tallies with the agreed verbal agreement, including fixtures and fittings.
  • Title Documentation; the buyer’s solicitor reviews the Title Deeds and confirms that the seller actually owns the property.
  • Local Search; this checks for any Planning Permissions that may have been applied for relating to the property.
  • Draft Contract approved; once the draft contract is approved by both sides it is ready for both parties to sign.
  • Formal mortgage offer; at this point, if a mortgage is required, then a formal offer is required from the lender.
  • Arrange for completion; all parties (estate agents, solicitors, buyers and sellers in the chain) arrange an agreeable date for the completion.
  • Exchange; both the seller and buyer sign the contracts and copies are exchanged by their solicitor.
  • Completion; on this day funds will be transferred and transfer of ownership takes place.


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Nicola Welbourn

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Conveyancing

Nicola Welbourn BA Hons

Nicola Welbourn BA Hons

Head of Conveyancing

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