Actually putting yourself into any sort of position where you can contemplate buying your own first home these days is itself worthy of congratulation!
Unless you’re privileged, you’ll have spent years saving up for that home deposit and keeping your bank account and credit habits in order so you could convince your mortgage lender that you’re a good risk.
This is all well…but now, when it comes to the actual buying process, you’ll have to keep even more eagle eyes on the ball if you want to end up with those wonderful front – and back – door keys of your very own.
You’ll want to do your best not to get gazumped, for example and you particularly don’t want to have your property undervalued by your lender. And you can do a great deal for yourself if you have an excellent conveyancing solicitor on your side to guide you through the necessary legal conveyancing process.
This article gives you some insider tips of what you can do to be in control and less stressed when navigating through your conveyancing process.
- Make your offer the most attractive to your seller
It’s going to be a long while, judging by present conditions, before the supply of housing in the UK outstrips supply so you’re most likely always going to be competing with offers from perhaps 20 to 30 other people for that property you’ve got your eye on.
Your best suit here is to think about what any vendor wants: a quick sale for a good price and that their buyer has funds in place and is ready to go.
So you really must get that mortgage in principle sorted and instruct a conveyancing solicitor – which you can even before you have an offer accepted – then your seller will know that you at least are ready to proceed.
Being a first time buyer actually works in your favour here – your seller knows that you don’t yourself have a property to sell which might draw out matters further than is ideal.
- Research property prices…again and again…
Property prices, depending on the area you want to buy in, can change very rapidly, particularly given the number of external factors in our modern times. But this is an area you’ll want to be most thorough in because you’ll have to come out with your best possible offer for your seller.
The best advice is to look for properties that have sold in the local area to your property to make sure that what you are offering is not too high. You can check sold house prices on Rightmove, Zoopla and the UK House Price Index.
Bear in mind also that for some considerable time, most properties (at least 70%) are sold for below asking price.
Your mortgage lender will confirm whether they feel what you are paying is correct when they carry out their mortgage valuation – note ‘their’; even though you’re paying for the valuation – If the bank feels the property is not worth what you are looking to pay for it then you’ll be left having to either make up the difference yourself (and it’s unlikely you’ll have the spare money to do this), or to renegotiate with the seller.
- Instruct a great value, responsive and communicative solicitor!
Using an experienced solicitor is essential to guide you through your conveyancing process – you really don’t want to conduct your conveyancing yourself! – and the best ones keep you in touch with what’s going on, answer your calls and respond to your queries.
You can check a solicitor firm’s Google reviews online as well as taking the traditional approach of getting recommendations or from friends and family. Bear in mind, however, that if you’re asking your parents for a recommendation, they might not have moved for more than 10 years so their experience may well be out of date, particularly as conveyancing now embraces modern communicational methods (telephone and email).
It isn’t a bad idea to test out your prospective solicitor’s responsiveness by calling the firm’s office 2 or 3 times to see if you can actually get through.
And please, don’t just plump for what immediately appears the cheapest option. Many firms still lure people in by advertising a low estimated price – which is by no sense a full quote –and you might end up having palpitations when you view the final bill which includes all those extras that were buried in the terms and conditions.
Consider going for a great fixed fee first time buyer conveyancing quote: that way, you’ll be able to budget more easily because you’ll know what balance you’ll have to pay on completion. And a No Sale No Fee Guarantee is a real comfort if your conveyancing doesn’t complete – perhaps as many as 1 in 3 matters do not.
- Book that mortgage valuation immediately once your offer has been accepted!
Once you’ve got the go ahead from having an offer accepted, don’t waste time: book your mortgage valuation is your next job. Bear in mind that you have to book it with your lender, who has to book their surveyor’s time and the surveyor needs further time to form their report after the valuation inspection and send it to the lender.
This can take 4 weeks and delaying booking the valuation only adds to the length of your conveyancing process.
You’ll also want to find out as soon as possible if your lender takes a view that your property is worth less than you’ve offered for it – as referred to above – because this can ultimately derail everything.
- Get a home buyers survey
By getting a home buyers survey, you’re essentially getting in an expert to check for suspicions of property defects i.e. baddies such as subsidence and damp. But your RICS surveyor, who carries out the inspection and produces the report, will also be able to give you an opinion on things like how well the place is insulated and if an area needs attention before something goes wrong. You really don’t want to cut corners on this.
The report you’ll get is invaluable both to you and your solicitor because if signs of a problem are found, the findings can form the basis of negotiations for a selling price reduction or even make you decide to pull out. The converse is that if everything seems to be in order, you’ll have more confidence about proceeding to exchange of contracts. And in the event that your surveyor makes a critical mistake, they all carry indemnity such that you can sue them to get remedy.
- Don’t make yourself homeless
This has been known to happen, unfortunately.
You hand in your notice to your landlord the moment you get your offer accepted but at some point later, the purchase falls through – this can happen for any number of reasons – and you’re left homeless because you’ve had to vacate the rental.
The safe thing to do is to hand in your notice once you’ve exchanged contracts – you can always opt for a completion date after which allows for your notice period.
- No Sale No Fee Guarantee
As briefly referred to above, a No Sale No Fee guarantee will protect your money in the event you are gazumped. These vary in exact nature from firm to firm however; you should ensure you read the terms and conditions involved.
- Keep your eyes on the property market until you’ve actually exchanged
Don’t relax until you’ve exchanged contracts, which is when ‘things get real’.
It’s an idea to keep going to more viewings and looking out for properties which have just come onto the market; you just don’t know if something’ll go wrong just before you’re expecting to exchange.
That way, you won’t ‘put all your eggs in one basket’ (however tempting); it’s always good to have options in life.