For most people, buying a new place to live is an exciting time – often stressful, but always exciting.
Whether you’re a first-time buyer, or have been on more property searches than Phil and Kirsty, there are lots of ways to make the house-buying process a whole lot easier.
In this guide, we’ll share our top tips and advice on finding the perfect home for you and how to make your property journey as stress-free as possible.
Work out your property budget and stick to it
It sounds simple, but many people overlook this first vital rule of house hunting.
Or, they come up with a notional “ideal spend” but don’t limit their property search to homes in this price bracket.
Most of us will need a mortgage or loan of some description to fund our property purchase.
Finding the right mortgage can be daunting
With over 60 major mortgage lenders and hundreds of smaller and niche lenders trying to win your business and a choice of Fixed Rates, Capped Rates, Tracker Mortgages, Variable Rates, 2-Year Fixed, 5-Year Fixed etc., etc., etc., you need help!
We strongly recommend seeking clear, unbiased, professional advice from an Independent Mortgage Adviser before you start your property search.
Choose a mortgage adviser who speaks your language
At Sims Williams, we only recommend totally Independent Financial Advisers who use plain English and are regulated by the appropriate financial services authorities.
Good mortgage advisers will search the entire mortgage market to research and advise you on the most appropriate and affordable mortgage for your personal circumstances.
Once you feel comfortable with their recommendation, they will help you through the mortgage application process.
Evidence you need to apply for a mortgage
Most lenders will require the following information as a minimum.
- Proof of income
- Three months’ payslips
- If Self Employed, SA302’s for the last three years
- Most recent P60
- Last 3 months’ bank statements
- Two forms of ID
- Existing Mortgage Statement (if appropriate)
- Proof of deposit
- A mortgage application can take between 10 days to three weeks to be approved
Having a point of contact (your financial adviser) who is prepared to chase the application process will make sure you don’t need to spend hours on the phone to a call centre.
Set aside your moving in costs
Securing your mortgage is only one aspect of the cost involved when you move to a new house.
Stamp Duty, a property survey, solicitor’s fees and removal fees can all mount up and you’d be wise to budget for these as early as you can.
At Sims Williams, we make sure our clients understand all the costs involved and can help you to obtain quotes on all aspects of your move.
At last – time to actually start your property search!
Now you’ve taken care of all the boring but absolutely essential stuff, it’s time to start looking for your perfect home.
What type of property are you looking for?
We’d all love a few more bedrooms, a bit of extra parking and an indoor swimming pool (!), but we need to be realistic about what we can afford.
Tell your estate agent about your minimum requirements and explain in detail what’s important to you when it comes to a property.
For example, saying you need four bedrooms is fine if you need four bedrooms. However, if three bedrooms and a home office or hobby room is what you are looking for, share that with your estate agent at the outset.
Don’t pretend to be DIY Big Build if your skills are more 60-Minute Makeover!
“I’m happy to do work on a property,” is something estate agents hear regularly.
Are you really? Have you actually got the skills or funds to make structural changes to a new property? Will your mortgage lender provide the amount you need if the property you’re considering needs substantial work to bring it up to date and habitable?
A bit of redecoration and a new kitchen and bathroom is one thing, but having to deal with structural problems such as subsidence is not for the faint-hearted.
Be realistic about what you can do and what you can afford to do or your dream home may turn into the “money pit” and misery.
Location, location, location?
Of course, some of us would love to live on the beach and some of us would like a penthouse city centre apartment and that’s fine if we can afford these top dollar properties.
If not, identify your preferred geographical area and work out a radius for your property search.
You’ll get so much more “bang for your buck’ if you look at properties a mile from the beach or the city centre.
Obviously, if sea views are number one on your property wish list and you’re prepared to compromise on size, you may get lucky.
A good estate agent will always act on your wishes
The more information you share with an estate agent, the better placed they are to help you find the perfect property for you.
A good estate agent will probe to find out how important it is to be near the best schools in the area or to have easy access to good medical facilities.
And, they will also explain different Council Tax bands, broadband speeds and likely running costs of properties that appeal to you.
There’s no substitute for physically viewing a property
With property details, street views and satellite views available online, it can be easy to dismiss a property out of hand based on your split-second impression of the property.
In our 35 years’ experience, we’ve learned that there is no short cut for physically viewing a property and the surrounding area.
If a property matches your search criteria, it’s always worth arranging a viewing before you make up your mind about it.
Get the most from property viewings
Prepare yourself for viewings, plot your journey between houses and allow plenty of time.
If you can, leave little ones at home so you won’t be distracted. Take a note pad and a tape measure and jot down good and bad points after every viewing to help you remember important details.
At Sims Williams, we accompany as many of our viewings as possible.
We do this for several reasons – primarily because we think it’s our job as professional estate agents, but also so that we can obtain your initial feedback on a property and answer your questions there and then.
Accompanying you to viewings helps us to build a better picture of what you are looking for and allows us to suggest other properties that might better suit your requirements.
Be honest – it really is the best policy
We’ll contact you a day or so after every viewing to find out your thoughts once you’ve had time to reflect on the property you’ve seen.
Don’t hold back – it’s vital that you help us to help you by providing honest and constructive feedback. If you hate an area, it’s important for us to know that so we don’t suggest properties in the same location.
Always arrange a second viewing
You should arrange at least one more viewing of properties you like before making your final decision on whether to put in an offer.
Many of us like to take friends and / or relatives for a valuable second opinion.
It’s also sensible to visit at different times of the day, so that you can see what parking is like in the evenings or how busy the road is during rush hour.
Making an offer
If the second viewing convinces you this is the perfect property for you – what’s next?
Should you go straight in with the full asking price or start negotiating by putting in a cheekily low offer?
How much do you want the property?
If you feel the property is perfect and you don’t want to lose it, the best way to ensure it becomes yours is to offer the asking price.
We have seen so many potential buyers feel they have to ‘play the game’ and try and get the asking price reduced, only to miss out to another interested party.
As estate agents, we work for the seller and our aim is to achieve the best possible price for them. However, our role is also to negotiate on your behalf and we know that offers between 95% and 100% of the asking price will usually secure the sale.
Make an offer much lower than this and you may well hear the vendor’s response without the need of a telephone!
Be the most attractive buyer
If you’ve got your mortgage and deposit in place and have already sold your property, you are far more attractive to the seller than someone whose home has only just gone onto the market.
Make sure your estate agent shares all the pertinent facts, including evidence of your mortgage offer and any conditions you want to attach to your offer – for example, you want to move within three months.
Preparation pays off at this crucial stage
If you followed our advice at the start of the process and have all your documentation, including proof of ID and Agreement in Principle all available, your offer can be made immediately.
The seller is far more likely to accept an offer from someone who is obviously serious and ready to move.
With you every step of the way
Once your offer has been accepted, the sales process can be progressed and it could be a matter of weeks before you are enjoying your first cuppa in your new home.
At Sims Williams, once a sale is agreed, we appoint a dedicated property consultant to progress the purchase until completion.
It’s their job to keep everyone informed, chase all the parties involved, including solicitors and surveyors and make the process as speedy and stress-free as possible.
Unbeatable local knowledge and experience you can trust
Sims Williams has been helping clients to buy, sell and rent their homes for over 35 years and we have offices in Chichester, Arundel and Walberton.
If you’re ready to start house hunting, call us today for a free market valuation or to find out more about our “no sale, no fee” approach and, let’s get moving.