How getting organised can help you to take the stress out of buying or selling a house
Stress and moving house go hand-in-hand — you can’t have one without the other. But does it really have to be that way?
The Government is asking estate agents, lawyers and mortgage firms how they can make moving home more straightforward and less stressful.
Currently, purchasers can withdraw from deals with no notice, sellers can accept higher offers that ‘gazump’ a previously agreed price and leave the original buyers in the lurch, while surveys and mortgage agreements are conducted late in the buying process, so can lead to more pull-outs.
Gazumping is on the rise and hits more than five per cent of house sales in some parts of the UK, according to Countrywide estate agency group.
‘Our biggest concern is the lack of certainty,’ says Paula Higgins, chief executive of consumer group the HomeOwners’ Alliance.
‘Buyers don’t mind how long it takes to move — they just want to know it is going to happen.’
Even estate agents agree there’s much room for improvement in England and Wales.
‘The Scottish model, where once a deal is agreed it’s legally binding, could be employed,’ says John Ennis, of Foxtons.
‘In England and Wales, it’s not legally binding until the exchange of contracts.’
In the US, too, a buyer’s offer on a home becomes a binding contract once accepted.
In Denmark, the estate agent provides a survey on a home going on the market, but the purchaser pays one per cent of the sale price if he changes his mind late in the process.
In Australia, just two per cent of sales fall through in those states with ‘vendor disclosure’, where the seller provides a pack of survey and search information to would-be buyers.
But even with the clunky system in England and Wales, there’s more that we can all do to reduce stress.
Get sorted: The better prepared you are before submitting an offer, the less time there will be for a rival purchaser to gazump you.
Don’t wait until you have found a home to buy before appointing a solicitor, securing a mortgage offer in principle and instructing an agent to sell your old place.
Pick a reliable estate agent: Sales progression is the phrase agents use when chasing buyers to make sure they keep on track.
Old-school agents based in High Street offices do this because they don’t get paid if a home doesn’t sell, but that’s not always the case with companies operating only on the internet.
Create a log book: ‘Put together a log book containing running costs, certifications and planning permission for work carried out, and surveys and guarantees,’ says James Greenwood, of Stacks Property Search.
‘Some of this will be required by the buyer’s solicitor; other bits can reassure a buyer and improve the chances of a sale progressing.’
Use a mortgage broker: ‘A trusted broker has a personal relationship with the banks’ underwriters and can make the process simpler,’ says Simon Tollit, of Tedworth Property estate agency.
‘If you don’t have your finances in order, a vendor is far less likely to take you seriously as a credible buyer.’
Consider a lock-out: This is a binding agreement where the seller takes a home off the market for a fixed period.
Both buyer and seller agree to forfeit a few thousand pounds if either backs out without good reason.
‘A buyer may go through this to give themselves time to undertake all the legal work,’ says Tollit.
‘The buyer can’t be gazumped and the seller knows he has some security if the purchaser withdraws.’