House buying: estate agents' tips

For sale sign outside a house

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The average house now costs £254,000 and some experts are predicting prices will increase quickly.

Getting it right when it comes to buying is becoming more important than ever.

Estate agents from the BBC Two series, Under Offer: Estate Agents on the Job share their thoughts on what's most important.

Lynne Blaney

Lynne Blaney Lynne Blaney is based in Spennymoor, County Durham
Get your finances in place

Make sure you can get a mortgage and you have enough money for a full deposit before you start looking for a home.

Can you afford your mortgage?

mortgage application form

Mortgage calculator

An estate agent should not take an offer on a property without proof the perspective buyer has finances in place. This could be provided with a bank statement or letter from a solicitor or lender.

Don't dismiss a property before you see it in person

The more homes you visit the better. Pick a minimum of three.

Give yourself time to make any decision. There is usually time to shop around, depending on where you live in the country.

Get a survey

If you are looking for an older, run-down or unusual property it's worth paying extra for a homebuyer report or building survey.

Three types of survey you can choose from:

  • Condition report. The cheapest and most basic survey, it tends to be used on conventional homes or new builds. It doesn't include a valuation or investigate possible future repairs.
  • Homebuyer report. More expensive and thorough, this examines both the inside and outside of the property and includes additional valuation.
  • Building or structural survey. The most comprehensive option, this is more suited to older or unusual properties like converted barns.

Buying your first property

Your mortgage lender's valuation is a basic survey for mortgage purposes only and is not a full survey. It usually includes some recommendations for any obvious faults.

You can ask for a surveyor recommendation from people you know or a mortgage lender. Alternatively the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors can help you find a member in the area you need.

Budget for the extra costs

Mortgage arrangement fees, solicitors' fees, surveys: the costs quickly add up.

Make sure you have enough left over to cover your living costs.

Check the property is freehold or leasehold

The property will either be sold with the freehold or leasehold.

In some areas of the country, you may be offered a house at a cheaper price if you buy it with a leasehold.

If you are tempted, check for any charges that might be attached to the deal. Also, find out the length of the lease and its effect on getting a mortgage.

Lewis Rossiter

Lewis Rossiter Lewis Rossiter sells homes in Exeter
Get independent financial advice

Lewis believes you shouldn't restrict your mortgage research to the internet or through your bank or building society. The same applies to the estate agent's mortgage advisor.

Extra costs of buying a home:

  • £1,500 average mortgage arrangement fee.
  • £1,250 minimum on stamp duty - if you buy house or flat worth over £125,000.
  • £200 - £400 approx. valuation survey of the property from your mortgage lender.
  • £250-£500 approx. Homebuyers report or £500-£1,200 estimated cost if you choose a Building Survey.
  • £500 - £1,500 approx. to hire a solicitor (also known as conveyancer).
  • £600 approx. for moving costs to a small property.

Source: Which?

He recommends going to a independent financial advisor who can research the full range of financial products available.

Remember all financial advisers have to charge a fee. They must be clear and upfront about the costs and agree how they'll be paid.

The Money Advice Service has information on choosing a financial advisor.

Get to know the area before you buy

A good agent will describe an area honestly but it's always wise to revisit a property at different times.

Make a list of what's important to you. Consider how far you're willing to live from local shops, schools or public transport.

Choose the right solicitor

Make sure you choose a solicitor who has a good track record in the local area. Ask for recommendations from people you know or search the law society website.

When you contact a potential solicitor ask how long their average transaction takes to go through.

Use local estate agents' websites

Instead of just relying on big property websites like Zoopla or Rightmove it's worth checking the local agent's own site or registering for their updates. Often you may get to know about new properties sooner.

Have realistic expectations on period properties

There are buyers who want the space and high ceilings that a Victorian or Georgian house has to offer but expect it to be in new build condition.

Even the best period houses will need some ongoing maintenance.

Under Offer: Estate Agents On The Job - Wednesdays - BBC Two 8pm.

This material is for general information only and does not constitute legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Links to external sites are for information only and do not constitute endorsement. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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