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Selling Tips from Kimberley's Estate Agents Falmouth

Selling / Purchasing Tips

Advice for Purchasers

Before you look:

Prepare your finances: it is always a good idea to have your finances in place before you start looking at properties. Approaching an agent with a ‘mortgage in principle’ from your lender might give you an edge over other potential buyers and the estate agents will view you as a serious buyer.

Research the local area: sometimes local housing market trends vary from the broader national trends. A good local agent, (preferably one who is a licensed member of the National Association of Estate Agents), can help you identify trends in certain areas which can help in finding suitably priced houses for the area. Once a property is found always take a walk around the local area surrounding the property, check for anything that may cause annoyance like any main roads etc., that could cause a lot of noise pollution. Look at off-street parking and any planned developments as well.

During the search

Understand what is included in the purchase price: additional fees relating to white goods and removable furnishings are much more common in today’s market, and may even be used as a negotiating tool. Therefore it is vital to check the sales particulars to see what specifics are included. Generally, white goods that are integrated or plumbed in are included, but that’s not always the case.

Keep records: record details of any phone conversations, including who you spoke to, on what date and what was said. This will help to avoid any disputes further down the line if something you’d thought was agreed is later denied.

Decided to buy?

Don’t bid too low: offering a substantially lower price could increase the risk of you losing your chosen property and could position you as a nuisance buyer who is not serious about purchasing. Make a sensible offer based on the guide price and be prepared to negotiate.

Make an offer: this can be discussed with the agent over the phone or in person at the estate agent’s office. If you have offered the asking price ensure that the property is taken off the market immediately.


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Property Valuations & Surveys

Valuations

All building societies are required by law to undertake a valuation before making a mortgage offer on a property. A valuation is not a survey, it is a property inspection undertaken for the sole purpose of deciding on the amount and terms of any loan. Buyers can expect to pay for a valuation to be carried out and are usually given a copy of the report. However, the extent of the inspection is very limited when compared to a survey and no potential buyer should rely solely on the information provided by a mortgage valuation when deciding whether or not to buy a particular property.

Homebuyer Survey and Valuation

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) HOMEBUYER Service is in a standard format and is designed specifically as an economy service.

It is intended only for particular types of home: houses, flats and bungalows which are:

It focuses on essentials: defects and problems which are urgent or significant and thus have an effect on the value of the property. Because of the practical limits on the type of property and of the scope of its coverage, the HOMEBUYER Service is priced mid-range - more expensive than a Mortgage Valuation, but less than a Building Survey.

The main objective in providing the service is to assist the prospective homebuyer to:

The surveyor also gives his or her professional opinion on the particular features of the property which affect its present value and may affect its future marketability.

Building Survey

A Building Survey is suitable for all residential properties and provides a full picture of their construction and condition. It is likely to be needed if the property is, for example, of unusual construction, is dilapidated or has been extensively altered - or where a major conversion or renovation is planned. It is usually tailored to the client's individual requirements. A building survey is more comprehensive than a homebuyer report and includes extensive technical information on construction and materials as well as details of the whole range of defects, major to minor.

A valuation is only provided as an extra, by agreement.

Domestic Removals and Storage

Once a date has been set for you to move into your new home you need to start planning your move.

The first step is to book a removal company after obtaining estimates from two or three removers. Don't forget to include the contents of your loft, garage and garden in the estimates.

Before your moving date advise the removers of possible obstacles at your home, such as difficult access, narrow stairways or doorways or parking restrictions.

Remember to make arrangements well in advance with service providers such as your telephone company and gas and electricity boards so final bills can be prepared and also, if necessary, for the disconnection of appliances.

It is usually best to leave all the packing to the removal company. (Anything you pack yourself will not be covered by insurance, but your removal company can offer insurance cover.) Most companies supply free packing cases and wardrobes.

The removal company will advise how best to deal with fine art, antiques and pianos; in fact, some companies specialise in their removal.

Well in advance of your move you should start running down food stocks in your deep freeze and fridge.

It is not usually necessary to empty drawers containing clothes or small objects, but leave them unlocked.

Drawing up a plan of where you want your possessions positioned in your new home is helpful as is labelling the packing cases.

Remember to let your doctor, bank or building society, vet have your new address and telephone number.

Organise for your mail to be re-directed and send address cards to friends and relatives.

Storage

If you‘ve sold your house and plan to live in furnished accommodation while you‘re between homes, you may need to have your house contents put into storage.

Many removal companies offer containerised storage.

Self-storage systems are becoming more popular - these offer you your own private storage unit. You store your goods...you lock the unit...and you keep the key! Access is usually during working hours.

Your mover can arrange adequate loss/fire insurance cover which needs to be in effect before you move.

Storage charges are usually payable monthly in advance.

Check what the handling charges will be when you want to take your goods out of store.

If freezers or fridges have to be stored, they need to be defrosted and cleaned about a week before you move. Washing machines should also be clean and dry.

Ensure important documents such as passports or birth certificates are not put into store - you never know when you may need them!


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Advice for Sellers

Ensure that your property has the best chance to sell

The skill and expertise of your chosen agent will be instrumental in attracting potential buyers to your property and negotiating a successful sale.

The way a property is presented however is a key contributing factor to achieving a prompt sale at market price. Good first impressions are vital, as is the need to appeal to the broadest range of buyers as possible.

Below are some tips for ensuring your property is presented in a way that gives it the best possible chance to sell.

Pre-marketing stage

Listen to your Agent

Listen to your Agents advice on a realistic marketing price. You may have in mind what you think your property is worth but your property should be valued based on condition and comparable evidence of actual property sales not properties on the market. Properties that are pitched either too high or too low may limit viewing interest.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

People tend not to buy bricks and mortar, but a 'home.' If a house doesn't 'feel' right it will be difficult to sell. The 'feel' of your house can be influenced by a host of individual factors. Here are a few hints to help you make your house 'feel' like your viewers' new 'home.'

FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE VITAL. Ensure that the front garden is neat and tidy and that the front elevation of the house, at least, is well maintained - particularly the front door! A hanging basket by the front door is well worth the investment.

TIDY UP! Clutter really does make a house look smaller. A tidy house has the feel of a much larger one. Think about any unnecessary furniture as well. If in doubt - get it out!

PAY ATTENTION TO THE SMELLS. Homebuyers use all their senses when getting the 'feel' of your home. Clean the curtains and carpets and give the whole place a good ‘spring clean’. There's a lot of truth in the old adage of employing the aroma of freshly baked bread and a pot of fresh coffee. At least, use a little pot pourri around the place. A couple of bunches of fresh fragrant flowers make a huge difference.

In addition to preparation of the house itself, gather together a portfolio of paperwork that any serious potential buyer may very well want to see. Gas, electricity bills etc., plus any guarantees for damp proofing or other remedial work that have been undertaken.

Whilst these tasks may seem something of a chore, they really will make a tremendous difference to the saleability of your house.

Availability

Ensure your property is readily available for viewings as much as possible. Remember – everyday is potentially a viewing day!

Pets

If you have pets ensure they are out of the way during viewings, that the property is cleaned of any hair and that any mess in the garden is picked up.

Vacate the property

It is also important to give a true representation of the space in your property – too many people will reduce the size and may well make a real difference to how much a potential purchaser may offer you. During the viewings vacate the property if possible as potential buyers communicate more honestly with agents if vendors are not around, which in the long run will provide you with accurate feedback on your home.


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The Legal Process For England & Wales

Buying or selling your home has been likened to death or divorce: It can be a stressful experience. But a problem shared is a problem halved and we are here to help you through the process. We can advise and assist in many ways but perhaps the most important is our ability to liaise with all the solicitors to ensure as little hassle as possible:

In either case, your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will ensure that all the legal requirements are met and you are selling, or purchasing, in accordance with your instructions.

The legal process may seem a minefield but the sale or purchase of property is fundamentally different from buying or selling anything else. If you agree upon a price to buy or sell a motor vehicle, but then change your mind, you could be sued for breach of a verbal contract. This does not apply to property as there are many more obligations involved which need to be checked through and understood.

For over three hundred years, since the Statute of Frauds 1677, the law has required the sale or purchase of property to be set out in writing, signed and containing all the important terms. It used to be commonplace for any offer made, and any acceptance of that offer, which was in writing, to be endorsed with the magic words ‘subject to contract’ – this was to avoid either party being legally bound inadvertently. If those words were not used, then an exchange of letters could be sufficient to bind both parties.

You may find the term ‘subject to contract’ still in use but it is no longer so critical since modern legislation requires sales of property to be recorded in a specific format, called a Deed, which cannot be created unintentionally. That said, the expression remains in use as a convenient shorthand note to indicate that an offer is still provisional and not a firm commitment so the term may still appear in the correspondence.

At this stage there may still be minor negotiations to be concluded. For example, does the sale agreement include, or exclude, furnishings and fittings? By this is meant any of the moveable items which could be taken from the property without damage to the structure - ‘chattels’ in legal terminology. Misunderstandings can arise and should be dealt with at the outset. Carpets and curtains are the most common chattels. They can be excluded, or included, in the price.

As can other items. It should be remembered that the legal definition of ‘chattels’ is ‘personal property’. Often, a description of the property will include (or exclude) ‘fixtures and fittings’. This can be a trap for the unwary buyer or seller. As stated, in law, a ‘fixture’ is something secured to the property which cannot be removed without damage to the structure. For example, a hob which is part of a fitted kitchen. As such, it is part of the property and the seller has no right to remove it without notice. Unless the contract expressly makes reference to this item being excluded from the sale, it should remain. As it is fastened to the property it is, in law, an immovable. The same applies to plants and shrubs in the garden, although light fittings may generally be removed if this does not significantly damage the ceiling.

To avoid delay, expense and uncertainty, we always recommend spelling out exactly what is being taken and what will be left. With most properties being liable for Stamp Duty based on the contract price there may be more attention paid to the value of the ‘fixtures and fittings’ to avoid falling into a higher duty band.

A separate contract and price is then concluded for these excluded items, additional to the purchase price of the property. Please be certain, at the very beginning, as to what is, and what is not, included. The Inland Revenue has set up a team of investigators to look into the true value of ‘extras’. They can inspect property and there are now heavy fines for cases of tax evasion.

When all is agreed in principle, the seller‘s solicitor prepares a draft contract to send to the buyer’s solicitor for approval or suggested amendment. This is because only the seller knows what title he can give; whether freehold or leasehold and including any documents to any critical aspects, such as the death of the original owner and Probate of the Will vesting ownership in the seller plus any encumbrances (easements) against the title, such as rights of way.

Sales used to involve the physical transfer of the title deeds or lease which were handed over to your conveyancer or, if the property is mortgaged, obtained from the lending source. The last statement from your mortgage provider will be a great help. These days virtually all titles are registered, so all a conveyancer needs to know is the title number so they can obtain all the necessary information from the Land Registry. These will come electronically although they are still called ‘Office Entries’.

While the sale or purchase is going through the initial preparatory procedure, either side may withdraw without any liability and can do so until contracts are exchanged. When the market is extremely buoyant with prices rising, the inherent delays built into the system, may allow ‘gazumping’ to occur.

This term means the seller accepting a higher offer than the one already agreed with the first buyer. The seller may have previously agreed a sale verbally but then reneges on that agreement attracted by the higher amount – or perhaps a promise by the new buyer to move more quickly which may be more understandable. Incidentally, the word ‘gazump’ derives from an old Yiddish word ‘to cheat’.

When several people are interested in the same property various bids may be made as the seller is casting around for the best bid. That is the market operating to achieve a fair price: it is not gazumping which only occurs when he has already agreed to sell at a definite price and legal work is under way, but it is still, technically, ‘subject to contract’. There is little that can be effectively done to stop the practice, as the seller is legally entitled to proceed with the best offer but this is one factor behind the Government’s enthusiasm for HIPs.

Of course a buyer could, when the offer is accepted, ask the seller to agree, in writing, to treat with him alone for a specific period, to allow him to conclude his enquiries and exchange contracts within that time-scale. There are ways of avoiding much of the risk which we can suggest to you.

If an offer has been formally accepted and the owner wishes to keep it on the market hoping to attract a higher offer, the buyer should be told that this is happening as it is an obligation in the Estate Agency Code of Practice to which most estate agents subscribe.

Back to the procedures, after receiving the draft contract from the ‘seller’s’ solicitor, the ‘buyer’s’ conveyancer will send a long list of printed preliminary enquiries in return covering virtually everything that needs to be known about the property, including insurance, guarantees, disputes, any unusual charges and, if not already agreed, whether the seller intends to remove those fixtures, fittings, plants, aerial, burglar alarm, telephone, etc.

He will also send off an official search, with a printed list of further enquiries, to the local authority to see, for example, if the property is subject to any local land charge or any adverse entries; how drainage is connected, what building or other development has been granted, proposed roads, compulsory purchase or mining activities past, present or future.

When HIPs come into force most of this information plus some new items) will be included in the Package and available for inspection at the outset with the idea of saving significant time.

Once all these enquiries and searches are complete and satisfactory, the ‘buyers’ conveyancer will ensure that financial arrangements, such as the mortgage offer, are in place so that the purchase price can be paid on completion, with the date proposed inserted in the draft contract. At this stage, the deposit, normally 10% of the purchase price, is forwarded to the ‘sellers’ solicitor. If the mortgage advance is more than 90%, the balance is normally sent. The buyer signs the contract which is sent with the deposit.

The ‘sellers’ solicitor will ensure that his client is ready to be committed. If so, a contract in identical terms is signed and exchanged with the buyer. Both parties are now legally bound and neither can back out, without consent of the other, as that would be a breach of contract.

If the seller or buyer has another property to buy or sell in conjunction the conveyancers will normally ensure that all the properties in the chain of transactions exchange contracts simultaneously.

The ‘buyers’ conveyancer will make a few final checks to ensure that there is no undisclosed mortgage and the seller is not bankrupt, for example before preparing a Transfer Deed or Conveyance. Normally, prior to completion, the buyer will receive a statement of account from his conveyancer setting out the financial position, taking into account any pre-contract deposit paid to the estate agent and the deposit paid on exchange. On the day agreed for completion, the balance of the purchase price is paid to the ‘sellers’ solicitor, normally electronically. The keys will then be released to the buyer who becomes liable for the Council Tax and all other outgoings from that date.

Even with the best preparation, delays can occasionally occur or hidden liability surface after completion though this is increasingly rare.

Selling normally entails another purchase at the same time. Conversely, your buyer, unless a first time buyer, will also be trying to sell and cannot normally exchange contracts until his own property has been sold to provide the purchase money. With the additional delays in searches and enquiries, being involved in a chain of transactions effectively means you can only move at the speed of the slowest link in the chain. This is where we can assist as we can talk to other agents and other solicitors in the chain and keep you properly advised over what is happening. We will do everything we can to smooth out the delays that inevitably occur. Hopefully your solicitor/conveyancer will also do their best to keep you informed of progress. But always ask them the reason for delay; they are there to help and keep you fully informed.


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