This is part three in my selling and buying a house in the UK series, where I will attempt cover some of the legal points. I found this post difficult to write because this was the worst part of the process in terms of frustration! Hopefully my experience will help you avoid (or be prepared for) some of these challenges. I’ll go into more details about the challenges of moving house in a future post, and for previous posts in this house buying series see:
Step 9: Make an offer
Carefully monitor how much similar houses are selling for in the area. Know what an appropriate offer is and be willing to justify your offer price. It might be obvious, but unless you are in a bidding war, or there is some other unusual circumstance, do not offer the full price right away. Chances are, you can meet somewhere in the middle.
In terms of selling your property, the price will be determined by your circumstances. For example, if you are ready to move now and need a quick sale, you might be willing to take a reduced offer.
Step 10: Anti-money laundering check
This is simply a phone call or email from a contracted company who make checks on behalf of the seller’s estate agent to ensure that you aren’t a criminal. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
Step 11: Surveys
Your mortgage provider will likely do a survey to ensure that the property you are intending to buy is worth the value they are lending. You can also commission an independent survey. There are typically two types: firstly, a homebuyer’s survey includes a property survey, but the surveyor doesn’t do any invasive checks, such as drilling into walls or lifting flooring. Secondly, a full property survey is a useful option if you are buying an older or listed house.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, we used Allcott Associates. I was very impressed with the homebuyer’s survey as they made the report easy to understand, and included photos. It was certainly worth the money!
Step 12: Legal Stuff – A stressful game of chasing up paperwork
My best piece of advice if you are looking to sell and/or buy is keep every bit of important paperwork somewhere safe and get the necessary certifications. Your boiler services, gas certificates, window certificates, planning permissions etc. will all be required paperwork in a sale. It will make the process more straightforward if you have all these documents ready to go.
A fittings form is the paperwork you need to fill out when you are selling your property that lists all the items included (and excluded) in the sale. It can also list items for sale at an additional cost, like appliances. As a buyer, you need to review this document carefully so that you know what you are buying. I think the rules are a bit different in the UK, where anything not specified as “included” on the fittings form isn’t guaranteed, including things that are fixed such as lighting and even carpeting.
Be very clear about what you expect to include/be included, and what you are taking/don’t want to pay extra for. For example, our sellers offered to sell us light bulbs and wanted us to pay extra for the fixed blinds. You can also stress to your solicitor the condition you expect the house to be left in (i.e. holes filled if sellers decided to take fixed items).
Our buyers’ solicitor wanted us to pay indemnity insurance for our property that was in good condition and had all the necessary paperwork. Thankfully, we had a good solicitor who flatly refused this. Your solicitor should be willing to put in the work and collect the necessary paperwork – that’s what you pay them for! Indemnity insurance is only needed if there are questionable or missing legal documents, or a dicey state of the property, like a renovation.
Local Authority Search
This is the check that the council does for all the official paperwork of the property, including but not limited to: the deed, the property plan (boundaries), and the certificates. We had difficulties getting original paperwork for our new house.
I found our situation incredibly frustrating because it took an extra month between the time we had all our paperwork in and the point we were ready to exchange, and this was primarily down to our sellers’ missing paperwork.
A giant game of telephone tag, which very much relies on all parties being prompt and efficient communicators. We had one failed exchange because our solicitor couldn’t get in touch with our buyers’ solicitors. I really do recommend getting a decent solicitor who you can get in touch with as needed. Exchange (in the UK) is the point where the sale becomes legally binding and you would face a hefty fine if your pulled out of the sale. You also need to know the day you are going to complete before you can exchange, and have valid home insurance.
This part of the process was awful for us because nobody was communicating properly. Our sellers were insistent on a set few days, our buyers wanted to move earlier, and we were caught in the middle. It took us proposing several dates (and the owner of the estate agency having a word with his clients) before we were able to settle on a completion date and proceed with the sale. My advice is go into the process with flexibility and don’t just suggest one date, give your solicitor several options to work with, otherwise the process might drag out!
In the UK, this is the point that the money and property deeds exchange hands. I found this process very straightforward! However, I’ve heard that it is best to avoid a Friday if you are in a long chain, as you need to complete before the banks close. We moved mid-week and the completion was done by about 1pm. Because we were selling a property and moving into the house straight away, this meant that completion and moving dates were the same. It’s a bit stressful, but as long as you’ve done all of your packing and have a good moving company lined up, they should be able to get your belongings loaded in the truck in a few hours, ready to move to the new location by the time completion is finished.
Step 13: Mail Re-Direct and Update Addresses
For a lot of things, you won’t be able to update your address until you actually move. However, it’s a good idea to set up mail re-direct for at least a few months, in case you forget to update an address. Just as a note, with Royal Mail, each individual costs a set amount to re-direct, not just one cost for the household.
In case it’s helpful, here is my list of “addresses to update”:
- Visa (if you are on a visa, this must be updated quickly!)
- Drivers License
- HMRC, if applicable
- County Councils you are leaving and joining
- Shops you have loyalty cards with
- Health Care (GP, Dentist, Optician)
- Friends and Family
- Alumni Accounts
- Any company you have automatic billing/shipping with (PayPal, Etsy, Amazon etc.)
- Utilities that carry over (e.g. mobile phone contract)
My next post on selling and buying a house in the UK will cover the challenges of moving. I’ll go into more detail about insurance and setting up utilities!