Top 20+ Buying a Home Questions

Below are the top 21 questions we've been asked about buying a home - so we thought it would be helpful to publish these so it's easy for you to find the answers. If your question isn't answered here, email or call on 0845 838 1763 and we'll answer your question FREE OF CHARGE!

Where do I find property?
You can find property to buy by going on-line to portals such as Rightmove or Findaproperty; looking in the local property press which usually has a property section on Wednesday or Thursday evenings; by driving around and looking for For Sale boards or if the property you want is not for sale you can drop a polite note through the door and ask if someone is thinking of selling!

How do I find property at a discount?
First you need to find someone that is a ‘distressed seller' ie someone that needs to sell fast. For example they may have a deadline to move abroad;  put down a deposit on a new home and must sell quickly or they will lose their deposit. Find someone who is about to be repossessed - you may save them from losing their home if you are willing to rent it back to them!
Need to find out more? Try our Property Shopping section [or Property Investment section] or join as a member of Designs on Property and receive bespoke answers to any questions you have as well as all of our factsheets and ebooks for free. We will even save you money when booking services such as conveyancing.

Is it OK to buy from a private seller?
Yes it's fine to buy from some selling privately, you just need to make sure they have priced their property fairly and both of you have independent and good solicitors. Check to that the seller gives you a copy of their Home Information Pack. The only time they won't need one is if they haven't advertised the property at all and are a friend/neighbour who happened to be chatting about buying/selling.

What is different about buying a new build?
There are lots of differences about buying a new build property. Firstly they are built to the latest construction, plumbing and electrics rules and regulations so they are likely to be quite safe. They would also be much more energy efficient than buying a ‘second hand home' so this means your utility bills should be lower. However they can be more expensive than other properties, are often on ‘estates' with lots of other properties and the room sizes and any gardens tend to be smaller. They also often have less sound insulation between the rooms, although the floors and ceilings of new build flats now have to have extra sound insulation. Be careful to ensure you always buy a new build subject to a ‘snagging survey' and use your OWN independent solicitor - not one recommended by the developer, even if they offer it to you for free!

How do I know how much to offer for a property?
A property is only really worth what you are willing to pay for it and what the vendor is willing to accept. You need to work out if the property is worth what they are asking by comparing against other similar sized and located properties that are under offer, or have just sold. You then have to consider, do you really want this property? Are you going to stay for a few years or for a many years? Are you in a cash buyer's position so can offer subject to moving quickly? Is the vendor desperate to sell or just wants the best price? Ideally offer the price that you are happy to pay for the property - as long as it's fair compared to others that have sold recently.

How do I work out an offer price?
If you want to find a ‘scientific' method, then you need to work out the square foot (or metre) of the property you want to buy, and then find three other properties that have sold within the last few months and are similar in size and location. Find out what price they sold for and work out their square footage/meter age and compare them to the property you are offering on. If they are £220 per square feet and your property is 1,000 square feet, then considering offering around 1,000 x  £220 = £220,000. If the asking price is £235,000 and there are no other features such as a larger garden or a garage etc then this would seem to be a fair price to offer.

Should I make an offer to the agent or to the owner?
Ideally you should make an offer to the agent, unless the property is being sold privately by the owner. If you do make the offer to the agent, they are legally required to put your offer in writing to the owner. There is nothing to stop you from making sure this has happened by putting a note through the vendors door, or given them a call. It is worth swapping numbers so that if there are any problems and the agent doesn't seem to be able to get any answers, it's worth talking to the vendor's directly.

How do I know the agent has passed on an offer?
Legally an agent must pass on any offer in writing to a vendor, so to check this ask for a copy of the letter and contact the vendor after a few days if you haven't heard anything to check they know you are serious and have made an offer.

What is gazumping?
This is where a buyer and a seller have agreed a price, say £150,000 for a property and then another buyer comes in and offers more - say £155,000 - which the seller then accepts. The first buyer is termed as ‘having been gazumped'.

Can I avoid getting gazumped?
Unfortunately not until you have exchanged contracts. Any buyer or seller can pull out of a deal prior to this time. To help, you can agree your offer to be exchanged by a certain period of time, say six weeks, and as a buyer, ask for the property to be taken off the market subject to the buyer having a survey. This should at least stop other buyers visiting the property.

What is gazundering?
This is where a buyer and seller have agreed a price, say £150,000 for a property and then typically, just before exchanging contracts, the buyer drops the price, to say £145,000 in the hope that seller will accept it so they can proceed with their purchase. This isn't a very nice practice, and ideally it's worth putting the property back on the market to see if there is another buyer that will offer the £150,000 even if it's just for a week or two.

Can I avoid gazundering?
Again it's difficult to avoid before you exchange contracts. You can however keep your property on the market until time of exchange, or at least until the buyer has had their survey done to ensure that you line up potentially more than one buyer just in case they try to lower their offer prior to exchanging.

What if an agent doesn't send me details of a property I wanted to buy?
This does happen, often due to regular staff changes within the agency. If you do find a property for sale that you would have wanted to view, then raise this politely with the agent. Find out why they didn't send it to you. Was it just that they made a mistake (it happens!) or is there something in your property description that meant you didn't get it. For example have you asked for three double bedrooms, and this property was two doubles and a single? Have you specified a garage and this property hadn't got one? Was it outside your price range? If so make sure you re-adjust your property request details accordingly.

How do I get agents on my side if I'm a buyer?
Believe it or not by being honest - and friendly! Many people treat estate agents badly. Chastising them for not finding a property to view that they want within their price range (when there probably isn't one) or for not valuing their property for sale at as higher price as the vendor wants (when it's not worth that much)!  As a buyer, make sure you show them a mortgage agreement in principle to prove you have the funds to buy and ideally a legal company that you are going to use (although they may try to sell you their package!) . Also ALWAYS turn up to viewings and ring the agent with your feedback. Be fair with offers too and if accepted, get your survey done quickly.

What should I look out for when viewing a property for the first time?
Check the property has the rooms that you need and anything else such as a garage or garden if you have specified one. Make a note of anything that needs work doing to it - check the roof tiles, the chimney has flashing, the windows and doors fit properly and whether they need replacing. Check things like the boiler - is it serviced every year? And ask if they have an electrical safety certificate. Find out if any changes have been made and if they have the relevant paperwork eg planning permission, building regulations, guarantees for timber and damp etc.

How many times should I view a property?
You should view a property at least twice to make sure it's right for you and then visit the property/area first thing in the morning (during rush hour), same in the evening and late at night. This helps you check how busy the road is. IF there is a pub/restaurants nearby see what happens when they close. You don't always have to visit the property at these times, but do check how long it takes to get to/from work and see what it's like at busy times such as school runs, rush hour and chucking out time, and even tourist seasons if the property is in a popular location.

What's a sealed bid?
This is where two or more buyers put in an offer ‘in a sealed envelope' to be opened at the same time. Typically the buyer that is picked offers the best price and/or is in the best position to move.

How much should I offer for a sealed bid?
Only as much as you want to. Just because it's a sealed bid doesn't mean you should offer more than you can afford or think the property is worth - unless you are planning to live in it for a long time. For more information visit ‘how much do I offer on a property'.

What are this year's price change predications?
2008's price predictions have gone from a 10% increase to a 30% decline! In general however most property price predictions are wrong and few companies/economists get them right. In general the overall fall in property prices for 2008 will be around -10%. However in some areas and for some properties, they could still grow at 10% and others could be falling by 20% - it just depends on local supply and demand!

Does it make any difference which legal company I choose?
Yes it really does! A good legal company will be proactive about your purchase/sale. A bad one will only ever worry about what is completing this week and then exchanging the next. Bad legal companies also only ever send letters asking for information - and if they don't get a response, just send another, rather than ringing and making sure they get your case. Ideally go for a ‘no sale, no fee' and ‘fixed fee conveyancing' package as they have an incentive to get through your case quickly or they won't get paid! You also don't pay the solicitors fee if your sale falls through and you won't have any nasty surprises with the bill as you know the costs upfront.

What are the different types of legal services?
There are six different types of legal services. A local solicitor that does all kinds of legal work; a local solicitor that specialises in conveyancing; a ‘shed' conveyancing company that has lots of clients, works out of a big office, often with lots of different people working on your case; a mortgage company which has a ‘panel' of legal companies working for them who your case gets referred to; ‘no sale', ‘no fee' conveyancing companies who fix the price of your conveyancing and don't charge the solicitors fee if the sale falls through; new build conveyancers, who work either for developers or will do other conveyancing work and know what to look for in new build contracts.



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