The United Kingdom As the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its height, the British Empire stretched over one fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars and the newly independent Irish republic withdraw from the union. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union for the time being. Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999, but the latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process.

UK in the EU including links to UK government sites and tourist information.

Buying Process: As well as looking in estate agents’ windows, the internet is also an excellent research tool for finding properties. There are now many websites specifically geared for property searches, as well as those catering for people who want to sell without an agent altogether. Most estate agents also have their own websites. If you are an investor with funds wanting to buy properties for investment purposes, then below market value properties can be found on investor’s websites such as www.bmvleads.net    

 

Finding Property;   Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when looking for the house of your dreams:          

  • The general requirement is to View the properties as soon as possible. Leave it too long and you could lose out. However in the present downturn of 2008/2010 there are many properties that have been for sale for considerable lengths of time and these present bargain opportunities.
  • Make good use of your lunch hours or make appointments on the way to and from work. Because of work school and commuting lifestyles many vendors will only be able to accept viewings at weekends so be prepared to put whole weekends aside for viewing purposes.
  • If two of you are buying together, decide who will be the leading viewer, and weed out all but the most suitable property.
  • Don't be afraid to make numerous visits to find out what you're letting yourself in for and take professional advisers, surveyors or tradesmen to obtain quotes for work that you would want to carry out.
  • Make visits to the area at various times of the day especially nights and weekends to check on how noisy or quite it is and decide if you could live there.  
  • Check the history of any scruffy, run down and maybe cheaper looking property. If it's been rented it may have had a succession of landlords, all of whom may have done the bare minimum in repair and upkeep.
  • If you're tempted to buy a run down property to renovate and sell on, check how long it's been on the market. If it's been there a long time, it suggests there isn't a lot of profit to be made. Ensure that you get a structural survey to ensure there are no major faults that may point to why it is unsold.
  • New carpets, bathrooms and kitchens can be signs of a superficial renovation that is hiding more serious work to be done. However they can also be a sign of a genuine effort to sell the house by making it more attractive.

Making an offer;  It is human nature to try to strike a deal, but if you find your ideal home and it seems to be priced correctly, consider offering the full asking price. This means you'll be taken seriously, there won't be any time-wasting and it will lessen the possibility of another party stepping in or gazumping you.                         

All offers should be made with the stipulation of taking the property off the market. Getting a 'Sold' board outside is a good way to dissuade others from looking. You might also want to ensure that all internet adverts for the property have been removed, to prevent any further interest.

Property chains; On average one in three property chains fall apart. This can happen for numerous reasons, from one party not having their finances in order, to an unpleasant surprise in the survey, but the most common is that at least one vendor in the chain can not sell their own house.

Under present British house buying and selling practice, little can be done to alter the process, although the Government has introduced legislation that will require home owners or their selling agents to provide a Home Information Pack (sellers pack or HIP) to prospective buyers on request. You can find out more about this pack from our Free Report on Hip’s.

The best way to ensure a chain progresses smoothly is through good communication. Stay in regular contact with your solicitor and estate agent to make sure everything possible is being done to speed things along. A slow solicitor can effectively kill the sale so choose wisely.

Gazumping; Gazumping is a British term that refers to outbidding rivals at the last minute. It is a horror estate agents and buyers are powerless to stop. This refers to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland there are laws to protect the buyer. Under the Estate Agency Act, estate agents are obliged to pass on all offers they receive, although a determined buyer will probably go straight to the vendor who may be tempted by a higher offer.

There is little you can do to repel a determined bidder, but there are always ways that you can lessen the chance of it happening, or at least reduce the impact if it does:

  • Offer the full asking price and request that the property is removed from the market as soon as your offer is accepted.
  • Be flexible with the vendor and don't quibble over minor points.
  • Make it clear you're willing to complete on their timescale, not yours.
  • Be nice to the vendor - if you've established some kind of relationship with them, it should be harder for them to let you down.
  • Take out insurance and ensure that you must do this before you instruct your solicitor, so that if you're gazumped, you can be refunded the cost of your various fees.

Legal Process: Locate a property solicitor to carry out the legal aspects of the house buying process. This is known as conveyance, and your solicitor must also draw up any agreements if you are buying a house with a friend. This is vital - never leave it to chance whether you are buying with a spouse friend or partner. If you are buying with a civil partner or spouse, there are automatic agreements in place which will give rights to each partner in the event of a split. However unromantic it sounds, always make sure you are aware of your legal situation now, should you split up in future.

Instruct your solicitor to act on your behalf and give him the details of the property location, and the vendor's estate agent.

Your solicitor will contact the vendor's property solicitor requesting title deeds to the property. He will start contractual proceedings.

Your solicitor will check the property, carry out his local authority searches, which you may want to, add to, and find out if any alterations to the property have been made. This would be the time to negotiate a price for fixtures and fittings.

Your solicitor will finalise the details in the contract of sale/purchase with the vendor's solicitor and confirm mortgage details with your mortgage lender.

You will then pay a deposit into your solicitor's account. He holds it there until exchange of contracts.

On the day of exchange of contracts, your solicitor exchanges contracts with the seller's solicitor and sends your deposit over. A date for completion (when you can accept the key and move in), which will have been proposed before hand is then agreed upon. If you buy a new house where there is no chain, the step of agreeing a date is much easier than when a chain is involved.

Your solicitor will also liaise with your mortgage lender to ensure the mortgage is available for the completion date.

Your solicitor will prepare the property transfer deed, which is signed by you and the seller and lodged with the seller's solicitor until completion.

The mortgage lender transfers the money into your solicitor's account ready for completion.

On completion day, the day you can move in, your solicitor transfers the money to the sellers' solicitor in return for the transfer deed, Land Registry certificate and the keys. The sale is then completed.

Your solicitor arranges for the transfer deed to be stamped, pays the stamp duty and sends the transfer deed to the Land Registry to record you as the owner.

Your solicitor passes the deed to your mortgage lender to act as security for the loan and then he will send you the bill for his services and costs.

Costs/Fee’s:

 

Survey fees – your mortgage lender will insist on a survey of the property.

£300 up to a full-structural survey of over £1000

Valuation fee

£150 to around £300 dependant upon lender.

Mortgage arrangement fee

Varies by lender

Deposit for the property

Minimum 5%-10% of property price. Some lenders will also charge a Mortgage Indemnity fee if your deposit is small

Insurance

It is advisable to insure the property once exchange has taken place.

Solicitor’s fees

Vary but a likely cost is around £600 to £1,000 (including VAT) just for a purchase

Electronic transfer fees

Vary by solicitor but not expensive

Local searches

Vary by Local Authority but up to £200

Stamp Duty

A % of purchase price. Click here for current rates of duty.

Land registry fees

Dependent upon type of property. Click here to calculate the fee

Estate Agency Fee

Usually paid by the vendor

Home information pack

Usually paid by the vendor

Scotland: For anyone buying property in Scotland it is important to be aware of the correct way to go about it. This is particularly the case for anyone moving from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, as there are fundamental differences between the Scottish system and that operating South of the Border. The most obvious linguistic difference is that in Scotland, we talk of sellers (not vendors) and purchasers (not buyers). When in doubt, consult your solicitor, but make sure he or she is an expert in Scottish conveyance law.

Although the basics are the same it is the timing of when the contract becomes legally binding that has led to two different approaches. It is important to understand that there is no second step in the Scottish procedure and that the contract can become legally binding at a relatively early stage, unlike in England where contracts are often exchanged towards the end of the process. In Scotland they prefer not to wait until the removal men are at the door before concluding a binding deal!

In Scotland the contract takes the form of a series of letters known as "missives". There is nothing for the purchaser to sign to commit to the contract as the "missives" are generally signed by the parties' solicitors. Once the offer has been accepted on all points, you have entered into a legally binding arrangement and neither party can withdraw without potentially being held liable for the consequent losses of the other party. Accordingly, you should be careful and only submit a written offer through a Scottish solicitor and make sure your solicitor is aware of your situation. If you offer in writing yourself and this is accepted, you could end up being committed to buy a 'pig in a poke' which is a well known Scottish non-legal term! Once committed, if you want to get out of the deal, you might be liable for any loss on resale and other costs.

The different legal systems have to be considered particularly carefully if you have a house to sell in England and you are relying on that sale to fund the purchase in Scotland. You will require separate solicitors and it is important that your English solicitor is aware of the need to progress the sale procedures as swiftly as possible and the need to communicate effectively.

Scotland has its own separate and distinct legal system. The legal environment is different and you will require a Scottish solicitor to look after your interests. Although some agents, including solicitors, sell houses on either side of the border, the estate agency part of the selling process should not be confused with conveyance. You will still need a Scottish solicitor.

The Offer: In Scotland properties are usually marketed on an "offers over" basis. This is just an indication of the price that the seller is being advised to market the property at to attract interest and while a lower offer is rare in the current market it does not mean that a lower offer would be refused. In a sellers market where scarcity and demand combine to push up prices, 20% over has been the general rule but this should only be taken as a rule of thumb and trends can change. You should always start by considering how much you can afford and also how much it is worth paying to secure the deal. A property may also be offered for sale at a "fixed price". This should only be treated as a guide and you will still need to offer acceptable terms to be successful. For example a seller may be looking for early settlement and in that situation a "cash buyer" has an advantage. At the end of the day the selling price will depend on the interest and level of competition as well as various other factors such as whether the property has been on the market for a while. If the selling agents indicate that the sellers are prepared to consider realistic offers, it might be worthwhile giving an indication of your position and making your offer subject to survey. If the property is attracting a lot of interest due to the price sought, location or the type of property, you may have to pay well over the asking price to take it off the market or to secure it at a closing date where there are no certainties.

Subject to Survey; An offer "subject to survey" is less attractive to the seller as it puts the buyer in control, so if your offer were acceptable in principle a seller would generally set a time limit for the survey to be done. An offer "subject to survey" may be accepted at a closing date if it is the most attractive on the basis that the survey will be done within 48 hours. This approach is also useful where you test the seller with a verbal offer, reach an agreed price and then submit a formal offer "subject to survey" which is instructed on your solicitor being advised that the offer would be acceptable in principle. In that situation speed is of the essence and it is advisable that you arrange the survey through your solicitor and not the financial adviser or lender who will not generally act with the same haste as they are operating in the main south of the Border where a different approach and timescale applies. This tactic will also save wasting time and money on surveys for properties that you do not get.

Closing Date; If a closing date has been set and you have noted your interest you or your solicitor will be notified of the date set and invited to submit a formal offer. The Closing Date system has its critics as you are in the blind bidding situation but it generally means that the seller achieves the best price and where there are a number of interested parties it gives each an opportunity to submit an offer. The downside is that you may incur costs, particularly for a survey, which will be no further use to you if your offer is unsuccessful. If a closing date is fixed you will need to have done all your homework before you are ready to offer. If you are confident you will have the finance in place an offer "subject to survey" may be worth considering. It may be helpful to have a survey carried out and your funding arrangements should be in place. Your solicitor can instruct a surveyor (and obtain quotes from specialist contractors for woodworm, damp, dry/wet rot etc) and help you find a mortgage, either directly or through a broker.

Concluding Missives and Conveyance; If your offer is successful, your solicitor and the seller's solicitor will then negotiate the "missives" which are the formal letters passing between them dealing with the finer points of the contract which will finally be concluded. You should be kept involved throughout this process, as the solicitor is your agent and can only act with your express consent or implied instructions. Your solicitor is under a duty not to delay concluding missives and you should instruct him to delay to the prejudice of the seller. However you still have the final say on when to go that final step to enter into the binding contract but you must keep in contact with your solicitor and ensure that you fully advise him or her of your position and ability to proceed. Once "missives have been concluded" (roughly equivalent to the "exchange of contracts" in England) you are contractually bound to buy the property at the agreed date of entry and the seller is bound to sell. The date of entry may be some weeks, or even months ahead, and it is at that point that the full purchase price is payable. On occasions the contract provides for a deposit payable at an earlier stage but usually only in the case of a new house where the builders tend to dictate the terms, or in high value transactions. If a deposit is required this should be clear from the sales particulars. From that point, your solicitor will examine the title deeds provided by the seller's solicitor and prepare the "disposition" (the document which will transfer the ownership of the property to you), liaise with your lender, prepare loan documents for your mortgage, check all the necessary searches and ensure that the seller's title matches the title plan. Your solicitor will also report to you on any title conditions affecting the property and any relevant planning or other considerations. To protect your position the appropriate clauses will have been included in the offer and in the unusual situation where something unexpected crops up and either the sellers are unable to give good title or there is any other material failure to meet the conditions specified in the missives, the deal may fall through leaving the purchaser to seek remedies for breach of contract. However that will only apply if this situation arises after missives are concluded.

Loans/Mortgages: There are a full range of loans and mortgages available from banks, building societies and specialist lenders throughout the UK. Many of these are offered through specialist brokers who have access to the whole range of mortgages therefore they are often in the best position to offer you the best deal.

We fully recommend our specialist broker for the best customer service and competitive quotations, Click here to contact them for no obligation advise and quotation for any area of the United Kingdom.

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Disclaimer: This guide is for information only and should not be relied upon as definitive. Details have been obtained from various sources and although we have done everything possible to ensure that it is correct, we cannot accept responsibility for it or guarantee its accuracy. This is because processes and laws change frequently, and may also vary dependant upon personal circumstances. You are welcome to use the information provided, but should always obtain confirmation of specific details and get independent specialist and legal advice in the country that the information refers to.

12-12-2009