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5 things you should always do when buying a house

FILE PHOTO: Estate agent signs are displayed outside residential properties in London, Britain January 23, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Estate agent signs are displayed outside residential properties in London, Britain January 23, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

Buying a house is, even in the simplest transactions, never easy. It’s frustratingly bureaucratic. It’s stressful. But, if all goes well, it’s something you won’t regret.

And if you just want to kick back in your new home and relax without a care, here are five things you should do when you buy a home to give yourself peace of mind.

Make sure a full survey is undertaken

Always get a good surveyor to carry out full structural survey of the building before you sign anything.

Surveys should flag most if not all issues, both major and minor, with a property. This will give you an idea of how much you need to budget for to make good on any problems.

It could also be grounds to renegotiate the price.

You do not want to buy a house and move in only to discover a structural problem that will cost you tens of thousands of pounds to fix.

So look for a well-regarded surveyor in the local area and have them carry out the fullest inspection possible.

If they couldn’t access certain areas of the property, such as loft access issues, see if you can arrange another survey at a later date to cover what wasn’t seen the first time around.

Only if you’re happy with the survey should you proceed with buying the property.

View the property multiple times

Viewing a property once just isn’t enough. Some people, such as those investing at auctions, don’t even manage that, which is extremely risky.

You only ever get a proper feel for what a property is like — the space, light, condition, measurements for furniture, and more — by viewing it yourself.

To be sure of what you’re spending all that money on, and to get the best chance of picking up on issues missed first time around, view the property more than once.

Any serious vendor will have no problem with you viewing the property several times.

And If they do have a problem, it’s a red flag and you should probably avoid the purchase.

Know your budget

If you’re relying on a mortgage to purchase a property, you need to know just how much the lender is willing to give you.

There’s no point putting in an offer blind — you might just waste everyone’s time, including your own, if the bank won’t lend you enough money.

Use a trusted mortgage broker, one which conducts full-market searches for the best products (some only use a limited pool of lenders who pay them commission), to see how much your income means you can borrow from mortgage providers.

Typically, lenders will loan up to around 5 times your household income, though you will also need a deposit (likely between 5% and 10% of the property’s value) as they will only lend up to 95% of the purchase price.

On more expensive properties, the maximum loan-to-value percentage is often lower than this, so you’ll need a larger deposit or enough capital to make up the difference.

If you can, have a mortgage in principle lined up once you see a property you’d like to put an offer on.

Then a vendor knows you’re serious, can afford to buy the property, and are already a step along in the process.

It could also help you come out on top if there’s competition with other buyers and the vendor is keen to sell quickly.

Research the local market

Before making an offer, look at how much similar properties on the same street and in the local area have sold for recently. Not how much they are listed for, but the actual sale price.

Listing sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla have databases that show you this data and often store information, such as photos and floorplans, from past adverts.

Search Google for “house prices” and then a post code, and you should be able to find what you need.

Land Registry is also a good place to look for sold house prices by local area.

Once you get a decent idea of how much similar houses are selling for, you’ll have a good foundation on which to form your own offer, taking into account other factors, such as time on the market, the health of the economy, the survey, and so on.

Always remember: The value of a property is what people are willing to pay for it, not the price for which it’s listed.

Exchange contracts first, complete later

Your solicitor will need to review the contract sent over by your seller once you’ve had an offer accepted and the buying process is fully underway.

Ideally, they’d have time to do this to iron out any problems that suddenly crop up.

A week is normal. The less time you have, the greater the number of risks, especially if you try to exchange and complete on the same day.

The vendor could pull out right at the last minute, or threaten to do so and make a sudden demand, knowing you are in a vulnerable position.

If you are trying to exchange and complete on the same day, you have no time to consider any surprise issues, and may face a difficult choice of giving in to the seller’s demand or losing out.

You might get stuck with a packed up home and nowhere to go, losing money on removal costs. Or your chain could collapse if your purchase doesn’t complete.

You could also end up homeless if you need your sale to go through but cannot complete on your own purchase.

Mortgage monies might also not be released in time.

There are all sorts of risks if you have a limited amount of time between exchange and completion, so you should always give yourself at least a week between the two.

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