So, completion date is Friday, and unless somebody wants to lose a shedload of money, moving day is finally here. A full three months after I accepted the offer on my flat, and about two and a half months after I put in the offer on the house.
I wanted it to happen more quickly, and at times it’s been a painful process, with both my mortgage company and all the solicitors slowing things down considerably.
I still don’t have a good answer as to why it is so difficult to buy a house, but I have learnt a lot along the way (despite having done this house buying malarkey twice before), so I thought it might be nice to share my top tips to help others learn from my pain! Feel free to add your comments and advice.
Finding a house to buy
– It’s a cliche, but Kirtstie and Phil are right, you do have to compromise. It’s unlikely you will get everything on your wishlist, so go visit lots of properties to help you decide what is most and least important to you.
– Make friends with the estate agents. Internet listing sites like findaproperty.com and rightmove.co.uk are great, but agents will know about properties BEFORE they get on those sites. I have now bought two houses before they were marketed. This is particularly important if you are in a competitive market for instance if you are looking in an area where there isn’t a lot on the market, or are buying a type of house that is popular (e.g.near a good school). Agents have local knowledge about the local market, what types of houses are selling fast etc. obviously they are keen to make a sale, but I have found if you befriend them they are a really valuable source of information. Use your time with them when viewing houses to ask broader question about the market etc.
Putting in an offer
– Before putting in an offer do your homework. Find out as much as possible about the vendor (have they found anywhere they want to buy, what price does the agent think they are looking for, have they had any offers already, how many other viewings are booked, are they having an open ouse, are they in a rush etc.), how long the house has been on the market, how long have similar properties been on the market, use zoopla.co.uk to look at the selling prices of similar houses.
– Decide how much you want the house – if it’s really what you want and you’re in a competitive market, don’t mess about trying to get the deal of the century. Make a sensible offer, and accept you may have to pay the asking price, or even over to secure it. If on the other hand you are in no rush, but the seller is, try and get the best deal possible! I guess what I’m saying is don’t let your ego or competitive nature get in the way of securing the house you really want or make you pay over the odds.
Sorting out the mortgage
– Use an independent mortgage broker. They don’t usually charge you, as they take a fee from the mortgage provider for selling their products. moneysavingexpert.com has some good advice in this area. They tend to be able to track the process of your mortgage better than you could, and will know which lenders offer to different types of people (for instance if you have a bad credit record). They will also have a good idea of the type of information the lender will ask for so can pre-empt requests from the lender.
– If, like me you are porting an existing mortgage, and are therefore tied to the same company for additional borrowing, try and do it face to face. Go into the branch and talk to the mortgage adviser. I did it over the phone and I really regret it, as I was just a name and number to the people on the other end of the phone. They are call centre employees and I found a HUGE difference in the capabilities and knowledge of the many different people I spoke to. This delayed things by about a month as they kept asking for additional information despite my being reassured each time that there was nothing more to send. Having someone you have met and can call in the branch really helps (I had this previously and am kicking myself for not doing it again). They also know their internal systems and can help you navigate the complexities.
– Beware of mortgages that offer things for free that you wont use. For instance free legal fees may not be much use as they only appoint a solicitor when you get your mortgage offer. I was already most of the way through the process before I finally got my offer (due to enless requests from the lender for additional pieces of information).
– Remember when you send anything in to the lender it can take about 48 hours just to get looked at. Always phone to make sure they have received anything you send or email. Always ask if you can email things (access to a scanner is handy for sending in documents you only have in hard copy) and make sure they have your email address and mobile so they can contact you quickly.
– Get ahead of the game and start gathering the information you are likely to need. Lenders will ask for different things, but these are common requests:
– last six months bank statements – if you have an internet only account you may need to order them – check with the lender if they will accept printouts or pdfs. Some want originals from the bank, or stamped, signed copies of printouts
– last six months payslips
– your last p60
– evidence of your deposit (e.g. a bank statement)- they usually want to see that the money has gone in over time, not just one lump sum put into the account. If, like me your deposit is coming from a divorce settlement (and you don’t yet have the money), they will want to see evidence of that. In my case they wanted a letter from my ex husband’s solicitor
– if you are using maintenance payments as ‘income’ you will probably need evidence of 6 months of payments
– if you have accounts in different names (married and maiden names) you may need to show a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Either get a solicitor to certify it (they will charge) or take it into the branch and get them to send in a copy they have stamped and signed to say they have seen the original.
Lawyers and the like
– My personal experience (having tried both local and internet) solicitors is that using someone local is better. They will likely be more expensive, but you can go in and drop off and sign papers which will speed things up and have a personal relationship with someone so can leverage that to get things to happrn more quickly.
– Start looking for a solicitor when you are in the selling/looking phase so you can move quickly when you get/make an offer.
– Check that they will use email as much as possible. Many solicitors like to still send things by post, which creates unnecessary delay.
– Keep in regular touch with your solicitor. Ask for updates and give them updates of your progress. If something is going slowly see if you can help. In my case it was taking ages to get info from the management company for my flat I am selling. Turns out they had the wrong address, which I only discovered and was able to rectify when I was chasing the solicitor.
Things you can do to speed things along
– Chase chase and chase again
– Ask if things can be done more quickly. Suggest dates for exchange and completion. Get your estate agent to liaise with the other parties in the chain to get them to agree to dates and to chase their solicitors. I asked my solicitor how long between exchange and completion. She said ideally 4-6 weeks. We are doing it with 10 days between.
– Check that things you have sent have been received
– Use email and phone as much as possible
– Try and establish a personal, good relationship with everyone you deal with. They are more likely to do things for you if they like you. This includes your purchaser/vendor, estate agent(s), solicitor, mortgage advisor/broker.
– Start gathering documentation you will need, get your mortgage application in, and get a solicitor lined up, whilst you are in the looking/property on the market phase.
– If you are selling a property fill in the vendors forms your solicitor gives you very carefully, particularly if the property is leasehold as this is more complex. I made a couple of mistakes which slowed things down. Make sure you attach all of the documentation required. Again, you can get ahead of the game by collecting things together whilst your property is on the market. Things you are likely to need include:
– any certification about the property (building regs sign off, woodworm treatment, certification for any work done etc.)
– any communication between you and the management company or leaseholder, including accounts and budgets of the management company (last 3 years)
– energy certificate for the property
– Enlist the help of the estate agent(s) – they are as keen as you are to get their commission and can communicate between you and the purchaser/vendor. My estate agent was particularly helpful when my purchaser’s solicitor was not being entirely honest with my solicitor as he got the truth from the purchaser.
– Get your deposit together and make sure you tranfer money in good time to your solicitor. Most banks only let you transfer £10k a day.