Property Buyers Guide

Property Buyers Guide

Finding a new home requires more than simply visiting estate agents and selecting properties. A good starting point is thinking about what is important to each individual family member. You may need to consider commuting times, local transport, schools, shopping and sports facilities, etc.

Have a look at potential properties in your price range by looking on-line or obtaining local newspapers. You can then contact the relevant estate agents to confirm your requirements and arrange a viewing:

Viewing Properties

Take time and care viewing a property, whilst a surveyor can provide a more detailed report later in the process, your vigilance in spotting obvious defects may help to avoid costly mistakes.

Watch out for:

  • Structural problems (sagging roof or cracked walls and brickwork etc.)
  • Is there sufficient insulation in the loft?– maybe ask the owner for an indication of average gas and electricity bills
  • Does the central heating work?
  • Electrical fittings and wiring – are there any obvious problems?
  • Rotting window frames – look at the other houses in the street; if they have different windows these will not have been fitted without good reason
  • Low water pressure is not uncommon, try all the taps, water pressure isn’t always rectifiable
  • Parking difficulties in a busy street or access to the garage
  • Look out for nearby community centres, pubs, schools, churches in the street as they could cause noise and parking difficulties
  • Return to the property at different times of the day and week – some areas are quiet on a Sunday morning but not necessarily on a Monday
  • Leaks – maybe view when it’s raining? Any leaks may be evident, particularly in loft space
  • Ask what the neighbours are like

Making an offer

Once you have decided on your new home, you should make an offer ‘subject to contract” and “satisfactory survey” to the seller’s estate agent. Most people will consider an offer that is below the asking price. However, before deciding on a figure, check:

  • Why are the current owners selling?
  • How long has the house been on the market? This can be an indication of overpricing, adverse survey reports, or a pointer to future difficulties in selling the home. Or it could be a genuine reason such as a collapsed sale
  • Gather any information that you can on comparable properties for sale or under offer in the area, as you can make an informed judgement on how much to offer

Once your offer has been accepted, try to ensure that the agent and the seller agree that higher offers will not be entertained (gazumping). Try also to avoid costly ‘contract races’ where the seller accepts several offers and the first buyer to exchange contracts gets the house. Your solicitor will tell you if there is a ‘contract race’ on a property.

Commissioning a Survey

There are several types of home survey:

Mortgage Valuation

Your lender will almost certainly require a mortgage valuation to confirm that the value of the property covers the mortgage advance you have asked them to provide. Whilst this valuation is prepared for your lender, you may be able to obtain a copy. The survey is usually only a brief visit but may result in recommendations from the surveyor. They will advise on improvements (if any) that they feel are necessary for the property to warrant the mortgage advance. The surveyor may recommend (or your lender may insist) that this work be carried out within a specific period after purchase. Alternatively, your lender may retain a portion of the finance required to purchase the property until the works have been completed.

We would not recommend that you rely solely on the results of the lender’s mortgage valuation when you decide to purchase a property, as it does not report on defects with the same thoroughness as other types of survey.

Homebuyer’s Report

More thorough than a mortgage valuation, a Homebuyer’s Report includes an inspection of structural aspects, like damp and subsidence. It will include information on the immediate surrounding area and an opinion as to the appropriateness of the offered price. The report will also highlight the main problems found or suspected and may recommend further specialist surveys.

Full Structural Survey

Included in a full structural survey is all the information detailed in a Homebuyer’s Report and an indication of the home’s construction. The report also recommends how to rectify any defects and gives a very detailed assessment of the condition of the home, but does not usually give an opinion ofvaluation.

Unless you are buying a brand new home which is covered by a NHBC (National House-Building Council) guarantee, we would recommend that you commission a Homebuyer’s Report. The results will not only give you peace of mind but may enable you to re-negotiate the purchase price. For older properties (pre 1900) you should seriously consider commissioning a full structural survey.

In addition, check with your lender before you instruct a surveyor, as most will allow you to combine the instruction with their own mortgage valuation, which could well reduce the cost. If your surveyorrecommends commissioning further specialist surveys for damp etc., or a full structural report, we would recommend you carefully consider the purchase of that property.

If, after a full investigation of the house’s faults, you wish to continue with the purchase, consider re-negotiating the sale price to take account of the defects. The vendor may accept a reasonable reduced offer based upon the cost of the remedial works. You may submit this offer either through yoursolicitor or directly to the vendor’s estate agent yourself.

Keep the Purchase Moving …

Your estate agent should take care of this! The legal process can be lengthy so your solicitor should keep your estate agent regularly informed of progress. The estate agent will also keep in touch with the vendor, making it clear that your interest is being maintained and you are anxious to proceed.

The Solicitor

Once you are satisfied with the property survey, your solicitor will manage the conveyancing to enable you to purchase the home.

When you are purchasing your home, your solicitor will:

  • Consider the draft contract sent by the seller’s solicitor and raise preliminary enquiries about the property with the seller’s solicitor on issues such as boundaries, fixtures and fittings etc
  • Send ‘searches’ to the local authority to find out whether the property will be affected by road widening, compulsory purchase etc.
  • Investigate ‘searches’ in more detail, if necessary
  • Approve the draft contract
  • Receive the mortgage offer from your lender
  • Arrange for you to sign the contract and fix a date for exchange of contracts with all parties concerned
  • On the day of exchange of contracts, arrange payment of a deposit (normally either 5% or 10%) to the seller’s solicitor
  • Confirm proof of good title to the property as submitted by the seller’s solicitor and carry out final official searches
  • Prepare the transfer document
  • Completion of the purchase – arrange for full payment in exchange for the title deeds and keys

The Process of Buying

The simple flow diagram below highlights the main factors of home buying illustrating the structure of the whole process: