Tips to buy


Buying a property, whether it’s a new family home, a starter for the kids, or a place to secure your savings is a stressful experience. It’s right up there with all of life’s major hurdles.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a first time buyer or a seasoned veteran, there’s always room for a few more tips, tricks, and useful pieces of advice. So we’ve compiled a just scratching the surface list of just such information that will hopefully assist you in your hunt for the perfect property.

Get Online
We all know how easy it is to while away a few hours on the SmartPhone. Games, music, video, and social media gives us quick fixes of relaxation. But what if we put that time to good use? Especially when you’re going through the logistical nightmare that is buying a property. There are a huge amount of cheap or free applications available for your phone that could prove valuable assets when you’re on the hunt.

Some of our favourites include Mortgage Assistant (free) which comes from independent mortgage advisor, London and Country, and lets you easily compare loan rates and costs – it might not be fun, but it’s definitely useful.

The community based Property Network on Facebook lets users post information about prices and areas in an open forum, which others can then access and compare their own information with. Think of it as your personal insiders guide. Then once you’ve found your property, Home 3D will let you create your vision even as you slump in a pile of unorganized boxes. This iPad app (£3.99) lets you draw a room, and then pick colours and move furniture around, letting you picture and plan your future.

Get Your Finances In Order
This might sound like we’re telling you how to suck eggs, but it cannot be stressed enough: you need to know everything about your financial situation. Because of the recent Mortgage Market Review (MMR), buyers will face far stricter checks when applying for a mortgage. The MMR rules have been introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority and they will involve stringent tests to ensure you can afford a mortgage.

Decide Where You Want To Live
You will have a vision of where you want to live, probably a specific house. But the reality is that location is usually one of the first things that buyers – especially first timers – have to compromise on. There simply aren’t enough houses, and if you’re looking to lay roots in a specific street, you may be disappointed unless you’re in a very strong financial position.

Even so that doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. With good research you can find a fantastic new home. See Marc Da Silvas column in this very issue for detailed tips on searching for new areas.

Speak To The Local Council
Find out what plans are afoot for the area you’re interested in. There might be plans to build a convenient shopping centre or supermarket, or even a new outdoor space. But equally, there might be plans for new build flats or student accommodation. As ever, just ask.

Budget For The Hidden Costs Of Buying
Putting aside the price of the property, there are many other costs involved in purchasing a home, and you would be wise to factor them into your overall budget to avoid any nasty surprises. These include a mortgage arrangement fee (around £1000), legal fees, including conveyancing (somewhere between £500 - £800), stamp duty (a percentage of the property price, visit to work out your potential stamp duty), surveys, removal costs, renovation, and new furniture (you deserve a treat).

Acknowledge That The Process Will Take Time
Sure it would be great if you could find, make an offer, buy and move into a new home in a month, but it’s not going to happen. With some many variables involved, it takes time. If you acknowledge that at the start, you’ll save yourself a great deal of stress. On average, in England and Wales, the process can take over a year if you factor in 6 weeks to 8 months in order to find a property and make an offer, 2 to 6 weeks to exchange. And then a final month before completion and can finally move in.

Choose The Right Solicitor
When selecting a firm to handle your paperwork, look for one with experience in the area you’re buying in. Even better is if a friend can recommend a firm to you.

Ask Questions
You’re about to make a significant life decision, so you’re perfectly within your rights to grill every single person involved. Speak to your mortgage lender, your estate agent, other people’s estate agents, people in the area you want to move to, people in similar areas, call the schools, speak to shop owners, talk to the police (non emergency, of course). It doesn’t matter how insignificant you might think your question is, it’s not. even advises that you ask if anyone has ever been murdered in the property you’re interested in.

Visit A Property More Than Once
If you find a place you like, make multiple visits and take pictures. Try it on a weekday, in the evening and at the weekends. This will help you get a feel for the property and the area, while hopefully exposing any nasty surprises, like noisy neighbors or busy roads.

Bring a trusted friend or family member along for a viewing, someone who is not moving in and can look at the property with fresh eyes. In the excitement it’s easy to miss things like limited power points, poor water pressure, bad mobile reception. Go in the attic and under the stares. Check, check, check.

Think About The Future
Easier said than done when you’re right in the maelstrom of buying a property, but even so, you do need to think about your plans. How long are you planning on staying here? If it’s not forever, consider the resale potential for future buyers.

83 Is The Magic Number
If you’re buying a freehold property, and you have plans to extend, you need to ensure that the lease has at least 83 years left on it. Below 80 and applying for extentions becomes very difficult, which will make selling up very hard. You have to have owned the property for two years before you can apply for an extension on the lease, hence the magic 83.

Get Your Dream Home Off The Market
If you’ve made a generous offer, insist that the seller take the property off the market. It’s one more way to avoid being gazumped, although nothing is truly safe until contracts have been exchanged.

Write Stuff Down
If you ask the seller what fixtures and fittings are being left behind, ask them to put it in writing. And question anything they want to add on top of the price – research how much the fancy sink cost originally, and how much it’s currently worth.

Get A Second Opinion
If you are financially able, get a second survey carried out on a potential property. Start with an initial homebuyer’s report, and then consider a full structural survey, especially if you’re moving into an older property.

Check Your Connection
Whether you rely on the internet for work or play, its worth checking out who the best providers are in the area. If super-fast fiber-optic speeds are a deal breaker, you don’t want to find yourself living in an internet black spot.

Be Prepared To Compromise
No one ever said it would be easy. You can work your hardest to find the property of your dreams, but sometimes the many variables involved in buying a home conspire against you. Be prepared for that, and I will make the process run a lot more smoothly.