As I am in the stressful process of trying to get on the property ladder (buy a house) in London, I thought I’d share with you some tips and interesting vocabulary. Bear in mind that I am a first-time buyer (never owned a house in my life) and I’m looking for a flat where to live (therefore I’m not interested in any buy to let).
This post might come in handy should you want to buy a property in the UK which, let’s get things straight, is likely to be a long and nerve-racking experience!
Apart from the fact that house prices have rocketed over the past couple of years, another annoying thing is that if you’re looking into buying a flat -as a house would be far too expensive!- most of the properties on the market are leaseholds (which means that after the lease expires, the flat goes back to the landlord). Finding a freehold (which means that you own the house) nowadays is a real stroke of luck! Adding to this, there is the chance that even when you think everything has gone smoothly and you’re about to complete the purchase, some other buyer jumps in and then you’re gazumped!
If you’re not a cash-buyer, you then need to apply for a mortgage (this is a type of loan you take out to buy a property) and choose the lender (bank) who offers you the best deal in terms of interest rates etc. You might want to rely on a broker to help you find the best products.
Obviously, while applying for a mortgage, you’ll need to start arranging viewings with real estate agents to go and see properties. It might be good to ask a couple of questions on the phone before setting on a trip to go and see a house. Here are the ones I suggest:
- How much is left on the lease? (if it’s less than 80 years, I’d leave it)
- Is the house in good condition? Does it need any major work?
- Is it chain free? (if it’s not, typically you’ll need the vendor to find a house to buy before completing the purchase)
It might be good to think carefully about what kind of property you’d like to live in. Some people might not like the idea of living in a block and would rather live in a converted flat which usually belongs to a house (the typical Victorian houses that are so common in London) which used to be a two/three-storey house and was then split into two/three flats. A flat in a block would be called a purpose-built flat as it was originally built as a flat and not as a house. Some blocks might be former social housing* that the council has sold and are now managed by private companies. Some of the oldest council estates in London are quite beautiful brick buildings which reminds us of a past where social welfare still mattered.
Once you’ve found your dream house, you’ll need to make an offer to the vendor. Once they accept and the property is marked as sold, you’ll have to get in touch with a solicitor* who will help you with the conveyance and your lender who will send a surveyor who will make sure the house is really worth what you’re paying.
I hope you enjoyed this post and learnt a lot of useful terms!
*Social housing is aimed at those in need who are struggling with their housing costs.
**What’s the difference between a solicitor and a lawyer? Lawyer is a general term for anyone who give legal advice and so a solicitor is a lawyer.