We have been in our home for half a year! Living in quarantine has certainly made me appreciate our new home, garden, and village, and just how lucky we were to get through the house buying process before the pandemic hit. Lockdown is gradually starting to easy in the UK and many people are keen to get going again in the housing market. I took a break from uploading these posts as it didn’t seem appropriate content, but hopefully those of you who are in the house buying process will soon be able to continue the exciting journey. That being said, in this second post on selling and buying a house in the UK, I will take you through all the fun adult things like contracts, mortgages, and viewings! See Selling and Buying a House in the UK: Part 1.
Step 5: Get valuations
These are free of charge in the UK! I assumed there would be a fee for a valuation because nothing in life is free. The general advice I found online is to get three different estate agents in, and the average price they value is quite likely what your property will sell for. In our experience, we found that this entirely depends on the volatility of the market, and also how long you are willing to wait for the right buyer.
Though there wasn’t anything specifically right or wrong with all three of the estate agents we picked, we settled on the one that appeared to offer us the most professional service and price. I also surveyed colleagues about which estate agents they had used and who to avoid, but it really comes down to the individual staff at each branch, and your situation.
Step 6: Sign contract with estate agent
It’s a good idea to make sure you’re clear about how long the contract is for, where they will list your property (which websites), what their fees are (if they include VAT), and how the process of viewings will work. Maintain communication and make sure they are doing everything they said they would do to sell your property.
We were disappointed with the first company we used, as they made empty promises. Lucy had to do all the chasing and they were horrendous at communicating. For our personal situation, we found that going with the company offering the highest valuation was unrealistic, but this may differ for you if you’re selling a large property, or are not in a rush to sell.
After three disappointing months with few viewings, we switched to another estate agent. They gave us the lowest but most realistic valuation and were motivated salespeople. My advice is don’t be afraid to change to a different estate agent if you’re disappointed with the service being provided!
Step 7: Mortgage
Unless you’re a cash buyer, or the money is not held in equity, chances are the value of the mortgage you can get is tied to the sale price of your current property. That means you need to have an offer before you can get a mortgage in principle. You also need to have a mortgage in principle before you can make an official offer on a new property. This is the conundrum of buying and selling simultaneously; you need to find somewhere new to live but must have an offer first. But, why would you list your property if you had nowhere to move to? At least estate agents are well aware of the chain scenario.
There are a myriad of factors that will determine your ability to borrow: from credit ratings, to visa status, to salary. We had a complicated situation so we decided to use a mortgage broker instead of approaching banks directly. Actually, we initially tried to approach banks but so many branches have closed and customer service is non-existent. Our town didn’t even have a mortgage advisor in the branch, only someone who roams the county. It saved us time and hassle to use a mortgage broker. Plus, some brokers don’t charge if the amount you’re borrowing is under a certain threshold so it’s worth shopping around for a good broker!
Step 8: House viewings
Stay on budget
I guess the most basic piece of advice is to only look at houses within your budget. No point in scoping out the £1 million pound homes when your budget is £300.000! However, do look at the next bracket above your budget because people always list at a higher price than they will usually take (or what the house will actually sell for). This will depend on the state of the market in your area. I also recommend looking in the bracket below your max. budget. We ended up with a house that we love that was comfortably below our maximum.
Do you like the neighbourhood?
My main criteria are safety, and reasonable access (i.e. not full of cars parked outside the house, which stresses me out). I also look at the state of the neighbours’ gardens to see if the area is well cared for. For me, the house had to be walking distance to a bus route. One of our favourite things about our new house is the neighbourhood!
Ignore the décor
Someone else’s personal taste has nothing to do with the structure and potential of the house unless you are literally not even willing to paint. We absolutely hate the colour of our walls, but now we have a fun project of doing the house up to our tastes!
Check size of rooms
A house could be listed as three bedrooms, but if one of those is a Harry Potter cupboard, then it might not be right for you!
Look for damp and obvious structural issues
A survey will highlight these issues, but there is no point in putting an offer in and paying for the survey only to find major issues which are deal-breakers that you could have spotted yourself (you don’t get that survey cost refunded!). There were a couple of houses we looked at that we so saturated in mildew that I had an allergic reaction so there was no point in pursuing them further.
How much work are you willing to do?
Are you willing to invest in new carpets, electrics, plumbing, heating, windows, roof, changing walls, or just cosmetics? Remember that necessary renovations to make the house livable need to be factored into your budget.
Will the layout work for you?
Some people want open plan, others want small, cosy spaces. The space needs to work for you, or at least have the potential to be re-modeled.
What features made you go look at that house, and did they meet your expectations? We went to view one property primarily because of the promising back garden from the photos. The garden was so disappointing (small, smelly, and too dark) that none of the other compromises made the house good enough to put in an offer.
What are the circumstances of the sale?
Are the sellers in a chain? Do they need a quick sale? Is it a listed (historic) property? All things to consider.
The general advice is to have at least two viewings on a property before making an offer. However, if there are no red flags on a property you view and you’re gut instinct is that it will work for you, there is no real reason to go for a second viewing. I think this would be more pertinent if you have specific furniture that needed to fit in a space and you wanted to take measurements. Any structural concerns would come up in a survey. That being said, if you’re on the fence, ask for a second viewing before making an offer. We bought our house with only one viewing, and we have no regrets!
Similarly, if you’re looking at a house in one area, try and make viewings for several properties on the same day as it saves you time and allows you to compare the houses while they’re all fresh in your mind.
Viewings to sell your current home:
As someone who is house proud, I found it a difficult balance to know what degree of clean and tidy is acceptable. For photos of your property, put all clutter away and hide any personal belongings like family pictures. For viewings, make sure it’s reasonably tidy and clean but don’t go overboard. We had so many disappointing viewings and even cancelled viewings so we didn’t want to spend all our free time cleaning. Also, once we initially put the clutter away it stayed put away, which made last minute tidying for viewings easier.
Time your laundry if you have to hang washing on clothing racks.
I made a ‘to do’ list on my phone that I could run through every time we got a viewing, which included things like: clean bathroom, vacuum, clean mirrors and surfaces, tidy kitchen.
Be flexible, but also respect your own time. Our property sold when we got asked to do a viewing while we were on holiday. It meant a frantic last minute tidy before we hit the road, but I’m thankful we didn’t say no to the viewing!
That’s all for part 2, but stay tuned for part 3 coming up soon!