The property law experts at Frances Lindsay & Co answer some frequently asked questions about how to negotiate the property market:
Q: When should I contact a solicitor when buying/selling a house?
A: It’s a good idea to find a solicitor you trust and get on with even before you find a buyer for your house or start looking for your dream home. Your solicitor can help you to understand how the process works so that you can factor all the costs involved into your budget before you start. If you’re hoping to sell a property quickly, it’s really useful to instruct your solicitor as early as possible so that you’re ready to go as soon as you find a potential buyer. Similarly, if you’re searching for your perfect house you don’t want to waste time trying to find a solicitor when you find it – you want to seal the deal and go and look at curtains!
Q: How can a solicitor speed up the process?
A: See question 1! Having a solicitor already appointed before you begin the process means that they will already be familiar with your situation and will be able to give you essential preliminary information or get ahead on filling out some of the necessary documents. Other ways to speed up your move include: researching your mortgage options early, keeping up to date on paperwork, staying in close communication with your solicitor and your estate agent, and, if you’re selling, making your house as appealing as possible.
Q: How can I keep property legal costs down?
A: We can offer you a fixed fee on property and conveyancing, and outline all the relevant costs and taxes involved in selling or buying property – unfortunately we can’t do anything about Stamp Duty Land Tax but we can help you to work out a realistic budget for your situation. Generally, the faster the process, the cheaper it will be, so get all your ducks lined up before you embark on searching for a new property.
Q: What red flags should I look out for when buying/selling a house?
A: Don’t be fooled by a house that looks pretty – give it a thorough going-over. Try out the kitchen doors, units, taps and appliances – a property might look flashy but underneath the facade the workmanship might be shoddy. Look for rust marks on the carpets under the radiators, or signs of damp on the walls behind furniture. Don’t be put off by garish colours – you can always paint the walls. And if need to visualise how big a room really is, lie on the floor and look at the ceiling. That way you can see the room without the furniture and imagine if yours will fit.
Another useful tips is to go and see the house both during the week and the weekend. Stand in the garden and listen for traffic noise if that’s something that would bother you. Drive by at different times to see what the parking and neighbourhood are like. See what the weekday traffic is like. If the sellers aren’t able to let you look round at a particular time (e.g. in the week with the excuse they are at work) then get the agent to take you. If they still won’t let you, then it’s likely they are hiding something.
Q: How can I protect my investment?
A: If you take out a mortgage your lender will want a valuation and home survey. Check out how detailed a survey the mortgage company requires as they may not need a structural survey. These can be expensive but if you are buying an old house you should find out if it’s going to fall down, if the damp course needs replacing, if the wiring is safe and the plumbing works.
Home and contents insurance are always necessary – when you’re looking around the house check for signs of major repairs that might need doing in the future, for example a boiler replacement, a new bathroom or an old roof. You might need to adjust your insurance policy or take out new insurance to cover these issues if you’re worried about the cost. Depending on your circumstances you may want to consider an insurance policy that would pay off the mortgage if you die or are critically injured, or covers you temporarily if you lose your job.
Q: How can I budget for my move?
A: Don’t forget when looking for houses you have to include the cost of buying the property – this might include Stamp Duty Land Tax which can add a considerable amount to the purchase price. If you are ‘trading up’ think about the cost of additional furniture, carpet and curtains. Consider making an offer to the seller for kitchen appliances and other items if you like them! You’ll also need to factor in moving costs such as renting a van or hiring a moving company. Consulting your solicitor early means you’re in a better position to put together a realistic budget before you get swept away by viewing the ‘perfect’ house (that’s way over budget…).
Q: Any last tips?
If you are buying and selling it can be useful to arrange for this to happen on the same day so that you don’t have to borrow more money than you need. And remember that you’ll need to leave your house clean and tidy so that your buyer can move in. Be kind and leave a roll of loo paper, working light bulbs and the phone numbers of some good local takeaways!
For more advice on buying and selling property in the Thames Valley get in touch with our property and conveyancing team at Frances Lindsay & Co. Call 01628 634667 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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