5 Ways to Prepare for a Property Purchase

Buying a house. There isn’t a financial or legal job any of us are likely to have that is larger than this. Property purchase is not just expensive, but stressful and complicated - do you really know what your solicitor does for you in getting you the keys and the title? For most purchasers, there are pitfalls and unexpected turns along the way. That’s understandable, as it is not like buying a car or booking a holiday. Every property is different, and every deal is unique. Like so many other processes and projects, it is best to prepare, anticipate, and stay alert from the very start.

So here are five rules to apply when approaching the task of finding a new home.

1. Research the market

It is one thing to cast an occasional eye on property portals and glance at estate agent websites, but another to study thoroughly. Start with your own needs – what kind of house do you want, how many rooms (or how many square metres if you’re fancy), how many bathrooms, do you need a front and back garden, is parking space/garage essential? And always the prime factor – Location, Location, Location. 

Some of the online advertising sites allow you to spec out properties that might suit you, but it is not an exact science. You need to put in the hours searching, checking all possibilities. Avoid drifting into an estate agent’s office with only a vague fancy to discuss with hard-working property professionals. You will waste their time and yours.

2. Work out your price bracket, and link it to finances  

There are several aspects to this. You want to know not only if you can buy, but if you can afford mortgage repayments on top of living expenses, possibly repairs and works planned for your property once bought. Calculate your finances based on actual funds available, though for many younger buyers the bank of Mum and Dad or aunties and uncles may be needed. 

Be sure of what money you will have to play with or pay with. A good mortgage broker is often essential. And don’t forget that at the moment, decent property in a good area is going for a high price in competitive bidding (closing date), so you may need to pay much more than either the asking price or the home report value. Don’t think wishfully. If you can’t afford it, don’t get sucked into taking interest too far.

3. Understand the process

A substantial legal contract locks you in if your offer is successful. Our website gives information on our legal services. Our solicitors offer initial advice and consultation, to allow you to get to know us and for us to learn your needs. If you are going to jump into the water of property purchase (and /or sale) it is crucial that you know the steps to be taken on your behalf, and within that the point at which you may be legally bound to complete. That in turn informs your knowledge of the property and the finances. 

Everything works together in this sequence. Words like missives (and in particular The Standard Missives), disposition, standard security, legal report, coal authority report and lots more need to be understood and applied. 

4. Be property-savvy

It is an odd thing that many of us are prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds after having seen a property for maybe 20 minutes – and only once. No-one wants to be a nit-picking nuisance, but you have only a window of opportunity to see, ask, examine, and check. Once you sign up, you take the property as it is. Caveat emptor kicks in. There are some safeguards – for example, you have a period of days after getting the keys to check all the working systems in the house - gas, electricity, plumbing, kitchen fittings and white goods  - and if you find something is not working you can make the seller liable for repairing it at their cost, as long as you alert your lawyer in time. 

The solicitor will check all the searches and let you know if there are any problems allowing you to back out. And to some extent, you can legally rely on the home report survey even though it was the seller who instructed and paid for it. But do two things: learn all you can about building construction and maintenance, within reason, so you know what you are looking at; and be just that bit pushy by asking to see in cupboards, in lofts, under floorboards if possible, behind furniture, in electrical fuse box cabinets. Your money is as good as any other buyer’s, and it would be wrong to limit yourself to polite nodding when the seller takes you around boasting about the house you want to buy.

5. Once the process starts – i.e. when your offer has been accepted, be a good client

That doesn’t mean sitting silently waiting for your solicitor to contact you, but at the other end of the scale, it will not benefit the process to be calling and emailing him or her every day. Our solicitor will issue you a Terms of Engagement letter, which contains notes and useful information about what we are doing for you, and what you need to do for us. Read it right through, ask any questions that arise in your mind, and be ready to work with us to get the job done sensibly. 

We will indeed be doing lots of work that you don’t need to see, and we are well aware of the points at which we need your input or are best to inform you of progress and issues arising. Within this, for example, we need to manage your funds and account to the authorities for what is called Anti-Money Laundering. It is not assumed there is anything wrong with your funds or honesty. It is simply the procedure now that all money has to be vouched and accounted for. That is our job, but you are obliged to produce to us all the documentation we require, or we are not legally allowed to complete your transaction. The rules are set out in our Terms of Engagement.

This list of five steps is not exhaustive but is a good start and should help you as buyers in dealings with sellers, estate agents and solicitors. Happy house-hunting!

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