Make the most of the buyers’ market
With a record one million properties on the market, sellers are dropping their asking prices in a bid to compete for a limited number of buyers.
Many potential buyers have been priced off the ladder as a result of rising mortgage prices. But if you are lucky enough to be in a position to buy, then you should make the most of the current market conditions to find the house of your dreams.
Making the most of the credit crunch:
* If you haven’t yet secured a mortgage, then maximise your assets to get the best deal possible. Work out exactly how much you can afford to borrow, taking into account the cost of moving, from stamp duty and buildings insurance to legal fees. Before you apply for a mortgage, you should also consider checking your credit rating.
* Do your research. Arm yourself with as much information as you can about the local market and prices in the area. This will help you identify if there are any bargains on offer, and avoid paying over the odds.
* Write a wish list. While it would be nice to have an indoor swimming pool or enough parking to fit a fleet of cars, the chances are these factors will not be your most importance considerations. Be realistic about what you want – and need – from the property, such as number of bedrooms, outdoor space and parking arrangements.
* Look at a property objectively; does it offer you the local amenities that you need, such as public transport, schools or local shops? You should also think about the realities of living in the property, and the area itself. Take a close look at the street, the amount of traffic in the area, and your neighbours.
* Once you have identified a property you would like to make an offer on, be prepared to promote yourself. If you are a first-time buyer, or are chain-free, then make sure you make this clear to the seller. Being commitment-free means you’ll be able to move quicker, and also puts you in a stronger position to negotiate on price.
* The downturn in the housing market means many sellers are having to reduce their asking prices. This gives buyers the chance to haggle over the price - especially if the property has been on the market for some time. Don’t go too low – you’ll only risk alienating the seller. But, equally, don’t be afraid to offer what you think is a realistic price and go from there.
A hugely unpopular tax paid on property and share purchases. Stamp duty on property is levied at 1% for purchases over £125,000 (£250,000 for first-time buyers) which then moves up at a tiered rate. For property between £125k and £250k you pay 1%, then 3% from £250k up to £500k and then 4% from £500k to £1m and then 5% for properties over £1m. But unlike income tax, which is “tiered” and different rates kick in at different levels, stamp duty is a “slab” tax where you pay the rate on the whole purchase price of the property. On shares, stamp duty is charged at a flat rate of 0.5% on all share purchases. Figures correct as of May 2011.
A property chain is a line of buyers and sellers (the “links”) who are all simultaneously involved in linked property transactions. When one transaction falls through – for instance, someone can’t get a mortgage or simply withdraws their property from sale, the entire chain breaks and all the transactions are held up or even fail entirely.
This type of insurance covers the structure and fabric of your property – the bricks and mortar, not the contents (for which you need contents or home insurance). If you have a mortgage, the lender will insist you have a suitable buildings insurance policy in place. Many lenders offer their own building insurance policies, but you don’t have to buy it from your own lender but you have the option of shopping around. The insurance covers you for the rebuilding costs, not the market value of the property.