Buying a House in England
How to Buy Real Estate in England
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The UK has no shortage of choice of mortgage deals, including a wide variety of investor mortgages (known as "buy to let"). A properly qualified and licensed independent mortgage broker should be able to guide you through the maze.
Before consulting a broker it helps to make some decisions regarding the kind of mortgage you require, eg fixed or variable rate, special features like early repayment or overpayment facility etc.
Choosing a Property
Choosing a property in England is much the same as choosing a property anywhere else. First decide on location, type of property and budget. Create a prioritized list of desirable features. It may also help to get a mortgage agreement in principle (ie the lender will state how much they are prepared to lend you) to show sellers you have the available finance.
Approach all suitable estate agents (realtors) with your requirements. Realtor fees are paid by the seller, so there’s no restriction how many you contact. Many (but not all) agents publish their listings at http://www.rightmove.co.uk/.
Consider also the growing number of “for sale by owner” Web sites used by sellers wishing to avoid agent’s fees. Sites include http://www.propertiesdirect.co.uk/, http://www.first4sale.com/, and http://www.internetpropertyindex.com/.
Traditionally, the majority of transactions have been handled by agents, but with the growth of the Internet the “for sale by owner” route is set to become increasingly common.
Consider also property auctions. See below for more details on this option.
Take your time to get a feel for the market, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the locality. View several properties, comparing the price and what’s on offer for each. Most importantly check the prices that properties have actually recently sold for. This is a much more accurate indication of market value than the seller’s asking price. See http://www.nethouseprices.com/.
The Purchase Process
The purchase process begins with the making of an offer to the seller. In England offers are often made orally via the estate agent and often don't include the number of "subject to" statements common in North America, and significantly don't usually include completion and possession dates!
There may well be some negotiation and counter offers before agreement is reached. In any case all offers to buy should be made "subject to inspection (survey) and contract".
Once an offer is accepted you will probably wish to arrange for a property inspection (survey). Different levels of inspection are available. If you are buying on a mortgage the lender will almost certainly require a valuation to be carried out to protect their capital in the event of default.
The lender's inspector (surveyor) may also offer to carry out more detailed inspections (at extra cost) or you may wish to shop around or employ an inspector on personal recommendation. Be sure to check their qualifications and professional body memberships.
A valuation merely consists of the inspector's opinion of the market value of the property. No details are included. A "Home Buyer's Report" is the next level of inspection. The inspector will make a more detailed inspection of the property and provide a report of around 20 pages highlighting potential problems. The home buyer's is usually based on a visual inspection coupled with the inspector's experience and does not carry any guarantee in the event of problems that were not identified.
The most comprehensive inspection is the full structural survey. This does include certain tests and it is possible to sue the inspector in the case of problems found later that should have been identified but were not.
There may also be a need to obtain specialized inspections, eg for electrical or plumbing installations. This need may be highlighted in the general inspection, from information communicated by the seller, or your own observations.
In the light of the inspection(s) results you may decide to go ahead, walk away, or re-negotiate price taking account of necessary repairs.
Be aware that builders and engineers in England don't come cheap, and are of variable quality and efficiency. If you do decide on professional renovation be sure to get several detailed quotes for each task. Don't necessarily take the cheapest, instead select the one that will do the best job for the money. Go for an established and experienced tradesman, preferably one that has been personally recommended. Don't entertain unsolicited canvassers.
Unless you have an aptitude for DIY, or have had recommendations of competent, reputable, and AFFORDABLE professionals, fixer-uppers may be best avoided.