A brief step by step guide for first time property purchasers.

When people purchase their first property they are often quite shocked at how complex and time consuming the process can be. Quite frequently it is not a particularly enjoyable experience. Most first time buyers feel exactly the same.

A list of easy to understand tips may help first time buyers:

1. Contact a solicitor and inform them you are presently searching for properties. Ask them to act on your behalf once you find a property.

2. Once a property has been found, viewed and deemed suitable you can make an offer. A suggestion is that you start with an offer of at least 20% below the asking price (if the property has no chain and the owner requires a quick sale offer lower). Once you’ve made an offer you should visit the mortgage advisor again. They should give you more information and can arrange a mortgage in principle (this involves no commitment, but allows a definite borrowing figure to be given). If you can find better mortgage deals elsewhere they are worth looking into – although the mortgage advisors can often gain you access to higher borrowing amounts.

3. Once an offer is accepted you will need to provide the estate agent with your solicitor’s details. You will receive a letter confirming the acceptance. At this point there is no commitment from either the buyer or seller.

4. It is now time to decide on a mortgage. Once you have decided on the best mortgage deal you will need to provide the lender with:

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence
  • P60
  • Last three wage slips
  • A bank statement.

They will take photocopies of these for their files to protect against fraud etc. At this point you will also pay for the property survey to be done. On any property less than 10 years old a Homebuyers survey is probably sufficient. A more in depth survey is also available. (Check with the estate agent whether property is Leasehold or Freehold – If Leasehold you pay a small annual ground rent fee).

5. Once the survey is complete, and if satisfactory, the mortgage lender should send you an agreement to lend you the money. The survey results will have been viewed by your solicitor giving them the green light to carry out the land registry etc. checks. Please click here for more information. The solicitor should also draw up a list of fixtures and fittings which are included with the property.

6. Providing the owner is still willing to sell at this point, you are now in a position to sign contracts. You can sign contracts and agree on a date when you move into the property or move in immediately if no chains are involved.

7.The whole process usually takes between 6 and 10 weeks from a suitable property being found and contracts being exchanged.

You will no doubt encounter problems along the way when making a freehold purchase, but be reassured the high majority of them get sorted out with time.

Are you fully covered by your leasehold property insurance?

The perfect situation for most leasehold property owners is one where the freeholder doesn’t interfere every five minutes. Having said that, when you can’t get hold of your freeholder – ever – the dream can turn into a nightmare.

The freeholder, in the vast majority of cases, is responsible for providing buildings insurance, with the leaseholder providing reimbursement via the service charge.
This charge also covers the cost of the maintenance and upkeep of the communal areas, which is an additional responsibility of the freeholder.

Insurers are receiving more and more calls from homebuyers, interested in making a freehold purchase enquiring about whether they can pay for their own buildings insurance if they purchase a leasehold property. This is directly as a result of an increasing number of absentee freeholders who can’t be tracked down, so buyers have no proof that the building is insured. Without this proof, lenders won’t grant a mortgage.
It would seem to be easier and more straightforward to obtain a mortgage if you decide to buy freehold rather than leasehold

In many instances you can’t insure the property yourself, or at least not until you move in, unless it explicitly states in the lease that this is possible…and if you haven’t got insurance in the first place, your lender won’t let you have a mortgage.

To add to the problem, the situation isn’t always clear cut. There is no easy answer when it comes to who is responsible for insuring the property It depends on the terms of the lease…in some cases it is the leaseholder’s responsibility, but generally the freeholder provides cover and passes the cost on to the leaseholder…People need to engage a solicitor before signing a lease or obtaining a lease extension, to find out whether they are responsible for insuring the property. If they don’t have insurance and it burns down, they can find themselves responsible for the rebuild costs.