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Property Boom not Property Gloom

Why We Believe NOW is the Best Time to Sell Your Property

On the one hand, the UK is facing a shortage of housing with the number of properties available to buy on the market at a 10-year low, Brexit is (still) looming but mortgage rates and interest rates continue to be at favourable levels. The UK Government continues to put measures in place to keep first-time buyer activity stimulated at the bottom of the property ladder yet there is still caution among homeowners about whether to sell….or wait?

So, why do we think NOW is the best time to sell your home?

Mortgage Rates

Despite a rise in the Bank of England’s interest rate from 0.5% to 0.75% in August, mortgage rates in the UK are still some of the lowest in Europe and are marginally higher than the all-time lows recorded in 2017 (2-year, 3-year & 5-year fixed rates).

The table below shows the current average published rates of mortgages available from high-street lenders vs this time last year, five years and ten years ago:



2 year (75% LTV) fixed rate 3 year (75%LTV) fixed rate 5 year (75% LTV) fixed rate 2-year (75% LTV) variable rate Standard variable rate
31-Oct-08 5.83 5.95 5.88 5.94 6.91
31-Oct-13 2.48 2.89 3.37 2.91 4.37
31-Oct-17 1.55 1.7 2.04 1.46 4.31
31-Oct-18 1.76 1.83 2.07 1.69 4.39

When we hear news about rises in interest rates, it is all too easy to forget the current landscape and it helps to visualise the context of the current base rates upon which most mortgage lenders base their own borrowing fees. In this chart, you can see the base rate set by the Bank of England over the last 39 years. As you can see, the UK is still enjoying a period of low interest borrowing and, whilst the interest rates are low, borrowing is at its most affordable.

bank of england base rate

The Danger of ‘Timing the Market’

We are hearing quite a bit of commentary about people who are waiting for a drop in prices before they buy a property and, on the face of it, this may seem like a good idea. The problem with this strategy is that doing so is taking a huge gamble on the fate of interest rates.

Did you know that a 10% decrease in house prices is immediately negated by a 1% increase in interest rates (based on a 30-year mortgage)?

Don’t believe us? Here are just two examples of how a drop in house prices, coupled with an increase in interest rates can affect monthly mortgage repayments:

  Buy Now 5% Fall in Property

0.5% Rise in Interest Rates

10% Fall in Property

1% Rise in Interest Rates

House Price £400,000 £380,000 £360,000
Mortgage Amount £300,000 £285,000 £270,000
Interest Rate 4.39 4.89 5.39
Mortgage Payments £1,501 £1,511 £1,514
Total Cost of Mortgage £540,184 £543,902 £545,201

Illustration based on 75% LTV, standard variable rate as of October 2018 (4.39%).

Trying to ‘time the market’ almost never works and most people forget that in order to take advantage of the market, they have to be on it in the first place.

When it comes to buying a property, the main issue about trying to ‘play the market’ is knowing, at the time, when the market has reached the bottom. We can look back retrospectively to see how house prices have risen and fallen but, in the moment, there is no way to tell if your strategy has worked.

The truth is that UK house prices fluctuate all the time and in response to an enormous number of influencing factors. From basic economic-recessionary cycles and growth to socio-political reasons.

Here, we can see the trends of the average house price in the UK over the last thirty years. There is variability in prices over the decades with the sharpest change occurring during the period 2006-2011. This coincided with the global financial crisis and followed a period of slow down for house price inflation.

A similar (but less marked) reversal occurred between 1990-1992 as the UK moved through a period of recession.

The commonly-held opinion by many economics advisors remains, that, given the long term above-inflation rise in house prices, property is a safe investment. This is true for homeowners but also for other investors and for property developers. This is even more the case when interest rates are low and alternative investment opportunities become less attractive.

average house prices uk since 1987

Brexit: The Elephant in the Room

We couldn’t put together an opinion piece of this nature without addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ and, whilst the word ‘Brexit’ is as unpopular as Christmas adverts in June, the fate of the UK’s economy post-departure from the EU is of prime concern for all of us. However, the speculation, just like the run up to Y2K is polarised in its opinions. Some believe that Brexit will have a huge impact on house prices in the UK whilst others believe that the current (and growing) domestic demand for housing is enough to keep the market buoyant.

brexit uk property prices

Image via Pixabay.

There is no doubt that the process of Brexit is an uncertain period and one that is expected to continue for a long period. Although the deadline for the framework of the UK’s departure from the EU must be completed by 11pm on Friday March 29th 2019, a 21-month transition period has been agreed until the end of 2020. The transitional period is expected to lessen the immediate impact that Brexit will have on the economy.

So, what will a post-Brexit world, look like for the UK property market?

Chancellor, George Osbourne has predicted an 18% fall in house prices over the two years of the transitional period in the immediate aftershock of a post-Brexit dip in the economy. Some forecasters predict that this drop (if it happens) could be a very positive factor for the market and allow many first-time young renters the chance to get on the property ladder.

Popular BBC property analyst, Henry Pryor, has predicted that the impact of leaving Europe could be much less shocking than feared with a possible decline in prices of around 5% with some of this slow-down already having occurred in some areas of the country. Whilst house prices in London may have fallen by 1%, other areas of the country have seen healthy increases (6% in the Midlands and Scotland).

The likelihood of a ‘crash’ in the UK property market is, by most analysts’ reckoning, ‘very low’ and ultimately the supply of houses coming to market will still be driven by the three D’s in a post-Brexit world; Death, Divorce and Debts.

And our final word on Brexit? The impact of the UK’s departure from the European Union cannot be known in advance but the likelihood of a property ‘crash’ is very low and, even if the housing market recoils during this period, it is important to remember that owning a property is a long term investment. Peaks and troughs will be ridden out over a period of many years and as long as you can continue to afford the monthly repayments (see Mortgage Rates), your home is not at risk from fluctuations in the market.

Autumn Budget

In the Autumn 2018 Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced some good news for the UK’s property market. Since October 2017, first time buyers do not have to pay Stamp Duty on properties worth up to £300,000 and Philip Hammond has further extended this incentive to include first time buyers of Shared Ownership homes.

The result is likely to improve the number of new buyers at the bottom of the housing chain and this can only mean greater mobility for the rest of the market.

Since 2017, the abolishment of stamp duty in this bracket has helped an estimated 121,500 people to buy their first properties and has boosted the number of first time buyers to an 11 year high.


property boom uk property prices

The number of first-time buyers are at an 11-year high. Image via Pixabay.

In addition, the Government also extended the Help-to-Buy Scheme. Originally intended to come to an end in April 2021, this government loan initiative will now run until 2023. The additional impetus that this financing provides for first time buyers is an important one and has so far helped more than 420,000 people get on to the housing ladder.

Buying & Selling: Two Sides of the Same Coin

In a market where a sense of caution is being fostered, it is only natural for sellers to be anxious about the value of their home falling. However, it is important to look at the fact that any reduction in the sale price of a property will also be seen with a commensurate drop in the purchase price of a new home.

So, whilst a 5% drop in the sale price of your own £350,000 home may feel like a big loss of £17,500, a similar 5% decrease in the purchase price of your dream £500,000 property will realise you a £25,000 saving!

In Summary:

We believe that there are a number of good reasons why now is the perfect time to sell your home and trade up:

  • Number of first-time buyers on the market is at an 11-year high.
  • More incentives announced to increase the number of first-time buyers.
  • Mortgage rates are still low and borrowing is at its most affordable.
  • Impact of Brexit will be a gradual and transitional process
  • A fall in the value of house prices will see commensurate savings to be made on trading up to a bigger property.

At the end of the day, the decision to sell your home will have many influencing factors and only you can make that judgement call about whether it is the right time for you. However, we strongly believe that the current landscape of the UK property market is a favourable one and are continuing to help clients maximise their purchasing power to secure their dream homes for the future.

If you’d like to know more about the local housing markets, get a current valuation on your property and find out how you can take advantage of low interest rates to trade-up your home then contact us today on 0118 912 2370.

6 Things Every First Time Buyer Needs to Know

We think the property ladder is an exciting place to be but do you know the main pitfalls that can rapidly turn house-buying into a game of snakes and ladders?

In this guide, we give first-time buyers six pieces of advice to help them navigate their first rung on the ladder.

Get an Independent Check on Your Finances

It goes without saying that becoming a homeowner can be an expensive process but, in the long term, can be significantly cheaper than renting. However, in order to get your foot on the property ladder, you will need to have some cash to get you started as well as a good credit rating to get a good mortgage.

As well as saving for that all important deposit, you need to factor in the associated costs of buying a home including solicitors fees, survey charges and removal fees. This is in addition to the cost of Stamp Duty and Land Tax (SDLT) which, for first-time buyers, is waived on the first £300,000 for homes worth up to £500,000.

check your finances first time buyer

It goes without saying that you should fully understand the finances before committing to a property purchase. Image via Pexels.

Once you are installed in your new home, you will need to have factored in those all-important running costs that can differ from renting or living with family. As well as paying for contents insurance to cover your possessions, you will also be paying for buildings insurance as well as putting aside some money for those all-important (and ongoing) little maintenance jobs. It is usually a condition of your mortgage that you rectify any defects as soon as they are noticed in order to avoid more serious problems at a later stage.

If this is your first home then factoring in all the monthly costs such as utilities, council tax and other household bills is essential.

It is a common mistake that many first time buyers make by simply looking at the mortgage repayments as a way of assessing the affordability of owning a home. Always look at the full picture.

So, our first piece of advice is to get some advice from an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) who can help sort out your finances and help you decide on what you can afford to buy and, more importantly, to run. A good IFA can help you decide on a suitable mortgage product that reflects your income, credit rating and level of debt.

If you need any recommendations of a good IFA then contact Property Assistant on 0118 912 3270 and we can offer the services of several reputable companies in the Thames Valley area.

Seek Help Where You Can

If that first meeting with an IFA reveals that your finances are less than ideal then don’t give up on your dreams of becoming a homeowner. The government has backed several schemes aimed at giving first-time buyers a helping hand to access the housing market.

There are three main affordable ways to buy including:

  • Help to Buy
  • Right to Buy
  • Shared Ownership
  • Shared Equity
  • Starter Home

help to buy first time buyers

As well as government backed schemes, you might already be closer to the property ladder than you think. A poor credit rating is easy to earn but difficult to escape the consequences of and poor money management stays on your record for many years. If you are struggling to find a mortgage lender willing to make you an offer, then you might want to consider a guarantor mortgage. A parent or relative might be willing to stand as a guarantor on your mortgage enabling you to secure a property in your own name. Such a decision should not be taken lightly and must be given full consideration by both parties. If you are unable to meet the repayments of your loan then your guarantor must be able to afford to do so for you. You should always ensure that you can afford to meet your financial responsibilities and this kind of solution is not for everyone.

Likewise, with a deposit, if you have a good credit rating and can easily repay a mortgage but struggling to build a deposit then you might find that asking relatives for help could offer you the solution you are looking for. With rising house costs, many children are living at home for longer and equity release on the family home might be an option to help parents become free of their dependents sooner. No offence but your parents might appreciate your asking for help rather than have you live with them indefinitely!

Finances First, House Hunting Second

Always, always get your finances in order before starting to shop for a property. Starting the other way around often means making an emotional decision rather than a practical and sound financial one. Once you have met with an IFA, sorted out your deposit (or home-buying scheme) and been preapproved for a mortgage only then should you start looking for a house. Not knowing your budget in advance is a big mistake and can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort as well as heartbreak. Certainly do not put in an offer on a property without having your finances tied up first, doing so is unfair to the seller and can cause a lot of aggravation later, even if you do get the mortgage and finances agreed.

Seek, and Take, Advice

In the thrill of purchasing your first home, it can be tempting to ignore the offer of assistance from the professionals. From people like estate agents, mortgage advisers, solicitors, surveyors and even family and friends who have done it all before. However, these people are often very experienced and have been through the process of buying a home many times. And, as an added bonus, most of the advice they will offer you is free.

first time buyers

Buying a house is an exciting prospect but can also be expensive and stressful. Let others help where they can. Image via Flickr.

Get recommendations from friends and family about which estate agents to use to help you find the perfect home. A good independent agent will go out of their way to make sure they find you something you need not just offer you what they have to sell.

It is always worth asking for a second opinion on a potential property purchase from all aspects, not just financially. Properties have the capacity to capture our hearts as we imagine how life will be behind our own four walls. Unfortunately this can mean making a decision without always engaging our heads. Take a friend or family member along to a second viewing to get their opinion and listen to what they have to say. You might not want to acknowledge that the house of your dreams is a money-pit but your parents might just make you see sense…maybe.

Don’t Count Your Chickens

Though most first time buyers will be aware of how property chains can collapse, most do not think it will happen to them. However, recent research shows that almost 4 out of ten house sales fall through before completion. It’s a figure that has been steadily rising with the lowest rate being 20.5% in 2013.

It’s a harsh reality of the property market and one that can be incredibly frustrating for buyers, sellers and the related professionals working on their transactions. The government estimates that almost £270 million is wasted each year in failed housing transactions.

property chain falling through

Housing chains are fragile and the contract process can collapse at any time. Be cautious. Image via Public Domain Pictures.

In most instances, there is very little that can be done to avoid the collapse of a chain. Situations such as gazumping where a seller accepts a higher offer mid-contract are becoming far more common and much still needs to be done to legislate against this.

However, there are ways to help reduce the chances of this happening including having your own finances in order before making an offer, being prompt when responding to queries from your seller and their agent as well as returning documents accurately and swiftly to your solicitors.

There is also a new process of buying and selling a home to avoid the uncertainty of a traditional housing transaction. The service aims to streamline the contract process and reduce the incidence rate of failed contracts. You can find out more about this service by contacting the office on 0118 912 3270 or reading our guide on ‘How to Slash the Risk of House Sales Falling Through‘.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

A lot of first-time buyers like to stretch their budget to the max and buy the biggest house they can afford. In doing so they are often left with no savings or cash reserves for the period prior to the contract completing. In some cases, this can mean borrowing to make ends meet until moving. For others who are excited about their new home it can mean opening credit accounts to fund purchases like sofas, beds and carpets. Unfortunately, this can adversely affect your credit rating and push you to the wrong side of solvency in the mortgage lenders eyes. The result can, unfortunately, be the withdrawal of your mortgage offer even after the exchange of contracts has happened.

Either delay your credit spending spree of ensure that you have enough in reserve to afford the extras to go with your new address. It is also worth having some extra cash for any remedial work or redecorating that needs doing once you move in.

credit rating first time buyers

Don’t spoil your credit score by taking out new accounts once you have been approved for a mortgage. Image via Picpedia.

At Property Assistant, we know all of the pitfalls and problems that come with any house purchase and not just those with first-time buyers. Fortunately, because we’ve seen it all, we’re well prepared and extremely patient at making sure you make it through the property jungle. From helping you find the right home to suit your budget to ensuring that the process is as straightforward as possible, we take pride in welcoming new buyers to the marketplace.

For more help and information on the costs associated with buying a home read our comprehensive guide here plus you can also download our full guide to Home Buying by registering for our newsletter, here.

Featured image via Public Domain Pictures.


A Comprehensive Guide to House Moving Fees from Stamp Duty to Removal Costs

With the average UK home costing £253,521 (June 2018), buying a property is, for most people, the single biggest expense they will ever have to pay out. Whilst most people will rely on a mortgage to cover much of this expenditure, there are plenty of other costs associated with a house move which are important to factor in.

In this guide, we’ve taken a comprehensive view of all the costs associated with moving house so you know how much money you really have to buy your next home with.

Before you even begin looking at the market to consider a property, it is imperative that you understand what price range you can afford and this should include, not only the extent of the mortgage that you can be approved for but also, the associated costs of moving.

house buying and selling fees

There are lots of costs associated with buying and selling a home. Have you considered them all? Image via Pixabay.

If you are a first-time buyer then you won’t need to factor in costs such as estate agency selling fees but all buyers will need to consider costs such as:

  • Deposit
  • Mortgage arrangement fee
  • Stamp duty
  • Legal fees
  • Survey costs
  • Removal fees
  • Solicitors costs

And that’s just covering the main elements of a property purchase. Depending on the type of property you are buying, the kind of mortgage you are arranging and even the process of where you buy (such as an auction), there may well be additional charges that apply.

So, in order to understand what you can afford, let’s start by looking at the financial side of buying and selling a property.

Arranging a Mortgage

Most lenders do not offer 100% mortgages anymore and you will have to have a deposit to put down against the purchase of your home. Depending on the mortgage you arrange, this is usually upwards of 5% of the agreed price of your home.

Your mortgage lender will usually agree to fund the rest as long as you can meet the monthly repayments. Applying a ‘stress test’, lenders assess an applicant’s income along with fixed outgoings and assess the current (and future) rates at which the borrowing is calculated.

They will also assess your credit history and any debts that you have before giving you an idea of what they can lend you.


Many mortgage lenders will charge an arrangement fee to set up your loan, but this is often added to the cost of your mortgage rather than being an upfront charge. However, if you use a mortgage broker or an independent financial adviser then there may well be fees associated with using their services. Some receive commission from lenders based on their recommendations whilst others make a direct charge to the customer.

You should also be aware that some lenders insist on obtaining an independent valuation of a property but this too is often added to the cost of your overall loan. Such a report can cost from £150 to £1500.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Also known as SDLT, this is a tax payable to the UK government when you purchase any residential property over the value of £125,000.

Since 2014, the rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax is applied on the proportion of the value of the property that falls into each charging band. The level of tax also varies if you are buying a second home or a buy-to-let property.

The current rates of SDLT are as follows:

Property (lease transfer) value First Property Additional Properties
Up to £40,000 0% 0%
£40,001 to £125,000 0% 3%
£125,001 to £250,000 2% 5%
£250,001 to £925,000 5% 8%
£925,001 to £1.5 million 10% 13%
Over £1.5 million 12% 15%

For example, if you purchased a house for £350,000 then you would pay zero tax on the first £125,000, 2% tax on the £124,999 that falls into the second bracket with the remainder (£100,000) being charged at 5%. The total stamp duty would therefore be £7,500.

First time buyers do not pay SDLT if the property they are purchasing is £300,000 or less.

SDLT is payable within 30 days of completion of contracts and is usually handled by your conveyancing solicitor.

Capital Gains Tax

You may have to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the sale of a property which isn’t your primary residence, for instance a buy-to-let home, inherited property or business premises.

The rate of CGT is dependent on your tax-free allowances but is currently 18% on any profits which fall within the basic Income Tax band and 28% on any amount above this band.

Removal Fees

Most property purchases (and sales) will necessitate some kind of removal fees. Whether you simply hire a large van yourself and bribe a few friends and family who can help you move your belongings or pay for a full packing and removal service there is a cost involved.

Professional removals companies can charge from £500-£1500 for their services and usually include full insurance for any damage, both to the old and new property as well as your belongings.

Van hire can cost a lot less and you might be able to hire a small van for just £50-£150.

Legal Fees

When purchasing (and selling) a property, you must appoint a conveyancing solilctor to act on your behalf. Your representative handles the contract paperwork and the transaction process upon completion of the sale.

house buying fees land registry

A convenyancing solicitor handles all the legal side of your house sale and purchase including lodging change of title deeds with the Land Registry. Image via Wikimedia.

There are two types of fees that are payable to a conveyancing solicitor; direct legal fees and disbursements. The former are charges levied by your representative for work undertaken and are often calculated on a fixed fee basis although some do charge hourly. The latter are fees that are payable to third parties and include:

  • Obtaining Title Deeds – £6 (freehold) or £25 (leasehold). Additional copies £3
  • Land registry ownership transfer fees – approximate cost £200-300
  • Searches (local, drainage and environmental) – approximate cost £250-300
  • Transfer fees – charged to electronically transfer funds from your lender to the vendors solicitors. Typically, around £40-50.

These charges are common to all conveyancers, but the direct legal fees vary depending on who you instruct to act on your behalf. However, you should factor a cost of between £300 and £1500 depending on whether you are buying or selling only or both; the figure will depend on the nature of the sale and whether there are any complicating factors such as foreign currency, unregistered land etc.

As with an IFA, mortgage lender and removals company, it is best to get a few quotes to ensure that you get the best conveyancing deal.

Survey Costs

Your mortgage company may stipulate the minimum level of survey required in order to release funding for your new property with a valuation survey costing anywhere from £150-£1500 (see Arranging a Mortgage, above).

However, even in the absence of a mandatory need for a survey, all homeowners are recommended to obtain a survey that is appropriate to the age and type of property they are buying. There are three main options:

  • A RICS Homebuyer Report which costs around £400 and is a basic inspection or £250 for new build (known as a condition report). This kind of report is normally recommended for buildings under 10 years old.
  • A Home Condition Survey which offers a more detailed inspection of a property and identifies defects along with possible solutions. You should expect to pay around £500 for a survey of this nature. This level of survey is suitable for properties under 50 years old and which are a traditional design and build.
  • A full structural survey that is more extensive in its detail. Best used for buildings over the age of 50 years old or that have been designed and built outside of the ‘norm’, a survey of this nature can cost at least £600 but for more complex properties may be over £1000.
building survey fees guide to house moving

Building surveys vary in cost but you should always opt for one that is right for your home not just your budget. Image via Wikimedia.

Other Fees

Depending on the type of property you are buying, the mortgage you arrange or the circumstances, there may well be additional costs to factor in, including:

  • Insurance – Some properties may require specialist insurance policies, particularly those that are at risk or have been subject to subsidence, flooding or other issues. Some insurance companies may insist on a survey of things like drains, trees or foundations prior to issuing cover.
  • Indemnities – if you sell your house without the relevant certification for matters like double glazing, electrical works or building certification then your buyer may wish to take out a policy to insure themselves, the cost of which is usually charged to the seller.
  • Leasehold fees – if you are purchasing a leasehold property then you may have to pay your annual ground rents and other service charges up front. Your estate agent should be able to advise you of these costs.
  • Post Redirection – don’t forget to have your mail redirect from your old address to your new.
  • Cleaning fees – if you are selling a home or leaving a tenanted property then you will need to ensure that the house is clean upon handover. Whilst you may want to save money to do this yourself, it can be easier and less stressful to have someone else do this for you. A professional company can clean carpets, kitchen appliances and windows etc for less than you might think. It might be worth considering if you are relying on a landlord returning your deposit for you.
  • Storage costs – not all moves are to upsize with some families, couples and individuals downsizing their property. If you are doing this and haven’t completed the process of depleting your belongings then you might need to pay for storage until you unpack the majority of your stuff.
  • Kennels – if you have pets then packing, moving and unpacking can be a stressful time. You may have to rely on family and friends to look after animals such as cats, dogs or small caged furries. If you don’t have access to this kind of support then you may need to budget for boarding facilities until your new home is ready to welcome your four-legged friends.

Moving home can be an expensive and challenging experience and is regularly ranked as one of the most stressful life events you can encounter. Here at Property Assistant, we want to make the process of buying and selling a home as stress-free as possible. We go the extra mile to make sure our customers achieve the best price for their home so they can afford to make their budget go further on moving day.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you maximise the market value of your property and secure the best price for your new home then contact us today on 0118 912 3270.

Don’t forget, you can also download our free copy of the Home Buyer’s Guide for simply registering for our newsletter.

Featured image via Public Domain Pictures.


Homes on Safari: A Guide to House Hunting in 2018

So, you’re in the market for a new property and want to start house hunting.

Looking for the perfect property can be an exciting time, but it can also be a frustrating process. Fortunately, we’ve put together a guide to help you out in the field so you can find your ideal home.

Making a Wish List

Before you start looking at the online particulars of houses in your area, it is a useful idea to make a list of the things that you are looking for. It might seem like a dull way to start your hunt but preparing a list of those things that are essential and those that are optional can really help you use those online tools to your advantage.

Start with the immovable needs of your next property such as the absolute upper budget, number of bedrooms and features such as a garage, large garden or within a set distance of schools.

Next, make a second list of those things that you would like but aren’t critical.

house hunting wish list

Setting down your requirements is useful to establish what you will and won’t compromise on. Image via Pexels.

If you are part of a couple or have other family members to accommodate then it is always useful to involve them in this process. This is particularly helpful with older children who may not be as keen to move from their existing home. Having ownership and some control can help eliminate anxiety over a move.

Lastly, make a list of those things that are instant ‘deal-breakers’; these are just as important as your vital wishes and can include things like being on a busy main road, being close to a river or a period property. Think carefully about whether any of these ‘no-nos’ could be changed to make them tolerable.

Successful house hunting is about the preparation so do yours thoroughly. Too restrictive a search could mean you miss out on an ideal property, not restrictive enough and you could waste a lot of time wading through inappropriate listings.

Doing Your Research

If you are moving to a new area then it is absolutely vital that you do your research into those postcodes that you are considering. Use an online tool such as StreetCheck to find out about house prices, local schools, internet coverage and crime rates. The latest census records will give you an overview of the demographics for any area.

Take account of all those aspects that are important from a budgeting perspective such as council tax as well as practical matters including parking facilities, shops and services. Of course, you will also need to consider any commuting distances and vary these to allow for rush hour traffic.

There is no substitute for spending some time in the local area and even asking around the local neighbourhood. Local estate agents are an excellent source of information for providing housing information.

House Hunting: Shortlisting Properties

Once you’ve settled on a postcode around which to base your search, set parameters for the distance around this area you are prepared to locate yourself.

house search

Spread your net wide and use as many online search sites as possible. Image via Flickr.

Always set the upper limit of the price of the properties around 10% above your maximum budget. Some sellers are prepared to negotiate on their asking price, particularly if they have been on the market for some time.

Perform a search using both Zoopla and Rightmove as well as Prime Location; the latter specialises in upmarket properties but can include some surprise listings that are not as expensive as you’d expect!

Using your wish list, shortlist those properties that match your requirements most closely and remember to be open-minded to those aspects which don’t quite meet your current demands. Your perfect home might be one that needs some adjustments.

Get Professional Help

If you are still finding it hard to locate a suitable property then it is enormously useful to employ the services of a dedicated search agent.

With experience in satisfying demanding clients, a property search agent can free up your time, save you money and often uncover new listings before they even hit the internet.

You can read up more on a guide to using a property search agent here.

Based in Wokingham, Property Assistant is a local estate agent providing specialist property search assistance. As well as providing clients with dedicated and experienced support in finding the perfect home, we offer practical and independent advice on buying and selling, letting and renting.

Contact us today on 0118 912 2370 to find our how we can help with your property search for 2018.

Featured image via Pixabay.


A Guide to Homebuyers Surveys

Want to know more about homebuyers surveys?

When you place an offer on a house, the term ‘subject to survey’ is often used, but what exactly does this stipulation mean and what kind or survey should you commission on your intended new property?

In this guide, we take a look at the various homebuyers surveys available, the difference between a mortgage valuation and a structural report.

Mortgage Valuation

If you are financing the cost of your property purchase through a third-party lender then it is common practice for that lender to independently assess the value of your home. It’s good practice to ensure that the money you are borrowing is safely invested in a property that is worth what you are paying for it.

A mortgage valuation report is the most basic of surveys conducted on a property but for one in five people it is the only form of independent assessment they invest in before completing their purchase.

This kind of report does not focus on any structural defects or condition assessments. They are a basic valuation report usually undertaken by a surveyor appointed by the mortgage lender.

Mortgage valuations can cost from £150 to £1500 depending on the size and value of your home and the mortgage lender you are using. Sometimes, the cost of this report can be added to your overall borrowing.

If there is a discrepancy between the valuation calculated by your mortgage assessor and the offer you have made then you have two choices:

  • Renegotiate your original offer with the estate agent/seller based on the mortgage valuation report.
  • Dispute the mortgage valuation by providing your lender with any evidence that could support your making a higher offer than they have deemed appropriate.
home valuation reports

Mortgage valuation reports are no substitute for building surveys and are not designed to identify remedial works. Image via Flickr.

RICS Condition Report

This kind of report is the most basic and cheapest homebuyers survey you can commission. It is designed for properties which are conventional in design and are relatively new in age. They will usually identify potential risks and legal issues relating to the property as well as highlighting obvious defects.

A RICS Condition Report does not include any advice or valuation nor estimated costs for remedial works required. In general, they are used to broadly describe the overall condition of the property and do not include any detailed information on the structure.

A report of this kind must be completed by a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and they cost around £250.

RICS HomeBuyers Report

A mid-range survey, the HomeBuyers Report is suitable for conventional properties whose condition is deemed to be reasonable.

They are not a comprehensive structural assessment of your home and will not involve any detailed analysis of floors, walls or roof covering. They are designed to provide more information than the Condition Reports and provide feedback on common issues such as damp, subsidence and rot.

The reports can vary by assessor but can be quite detailed with possible remedial options. This is useful to understand what (if any) work you have ahead of you, and equally you might feel you want to renegotiate your offer price to cover any necessary repairs to the property.

These reports should also be undertaken by an accredited RICS surveyor and cost from £400.

RICS Building Survey

Suited for unconventional and older properties, a building survey provides a detailed report on the structural integrity of the property. The analysis provides in-depth information on defects, maintenance and repair options.

Building survey reports start at a cost of around £600 but can be substantially more depending on the size of the property concerned.

Full Structural Survey

The most comprehensive kind of survey you can have is one which covers the structural fabric of your home. Designed to provide extensive feedback on all aspects of a building, the surveyor goes to some length to provide homebuyers with as much detail on potential maintenance issues, defects and remedials as possible.

homebuyers reports

Structural surveys are recommended for older properties or those that are obviously in need of remedial repairs. Image via Pixabay.

The assessor cannot get under the floorboards or behind walls but uses high-tech equipment and their expertise to give you as much prior knowledge of a buildings problem areas as possible.

A structural survey can start at £800 but depending on the age and size of the building could be substantially more.

New Build Snagging Survey

If you are buying a new home then you can commission an independent surveyor to produce a snagging report before you complete your purchase. Whilst you can produce your own report for the developers to fix, an assessment by a qualified surveyor can highlight issues that you might miss as well as formalise the matter in the contract process.

A snagging survey by an independent surveyor should cost no more than about £300.

Problems Identified with Homebuyers Surveys

If your survey report comes back with problems, the first thing to do is not to panic or to make any hasty decisions. Many survey reports highlight even the smallest of concerns and details so as to be thorough. Though this is good practice, it can sometimes be alarming to see so many defects listed against a property, particularly if the supporting documentation on remedials and options for maintenance run to multiple pages.

Our first advice is to take stock of the findings and to get some advice on how much the remedial works will cost. Many issues can be fixed inexpensively or are matters that confident DIYers can undertake themselves.

Once you have assessed the findings and have come up with a rough approximation of the repair costs, then you could renegotiate your offer to take account of the works needed on the property. Some sellers may offer to fix defects themselves.

If the seller is unwilling to reduce the price to reflect the works needed then you will need to consider whether you are prepared to take on the property with its flaws.

rising damp homebuyers report

Damp can be a common, but costly, problem in older properties. Reports can often identify damp using specialist moisture meters. Image via Wikimedia.

Common problems that are found in survey reports include:

  • Damp
  • Rotten or damaged timbers in floors and roof structures.
  • Subsidence
  • Issues with the electrical installation.
  • Issues with the central heating installation.
  • Issues with the drainage installation.
  • Issues with the roof including ingress of water, unsafe chimneys or slipped/damaged tiles.

Based in Wokingham, Property Assistant is a local estate agent providing comprehensive services for customers selling, buying, letting or renting in the Thames Valley Area. We think that knowledge is power which is why we like to keep our clients informed at every step of the way.

Why not sign up for our ‘Home Buying Guide‘? A free pdf download, the guide gives you more information on surveys, insurance as well as information on the whole buying process.

Featured image via Pixabay.

New Housing Developments in Wokingham Area

These are the current new housing developments in the Wokingham Area for Q1 2018:

  • Persimmon Homes Hatchwood Mill, King Street Lane, Winnersh RG41 5AZ
  • Redrow Addington Place, Headley Road East, Woodley RG5 4SL
  • Berkeley Homes Eldridge Park , Bell Foundry Lane, Wokingham RG40 5QF
  • Crest Nicholson Mulberry Grove, 1 Wheeler Avenue, Wokingham RG40 5AH
  • Highfield Place, Diamond Jubilee Way Berkshire 5AP, Highfield Cl, Wokingham RG40
  • Persimmon Homes Clarence Place, Tawny Owl Square, Bracknell RG12 8EB
  • Crest Nicholson Barkham Place, 3 Waterman House, Oak Drive, Arborfield Green, Wokingham RG2 9GL
  • Charles Church Wellwood Place, Upper Redlands Rd, Reading RG1 5JE
  • Dinton Heights & Sandford Place, Sandford Farm Cottage, Woodley, Reading RG5 4TE
  • Taylor Wimpey Croft Gardens, Hyde End Road, Spencers Wood RG7 1DG
  • Crest Nicholson Nightingale Fields, Off Sheerlands Road/Nine Mile Ride Extension, Arborfield Green, Wokingham RG2 9ND
  • Berkeley Homes Woodhurst Park, Harvest Ride, Warfield RG42 2PN

Finance Focus: How to Improve your Mortgage Credit Score

Do you need to improve your mortgage credit score?

For many of us, finding the right home can be the easy part of buying a home; arranging a mortgage can be the hard bit. Since the financial crash of 2008, mortgage lenders have tightened up their lending criteria and often, particularly with high-street banks and building societies, the best mortgages are only available to people with perfect credit scores.

Many of us fall short of this holy grail of the world of credit; some due to failure to meet regular payments in the past and others because they do not use credit. In some circumstances, an individual’s credit score can also have been adversely affected by mistake.

What is a Credit Score and How Does it Affect Getting a Mortgage?

Every time you borrow money, the company you are borrowing from will create a file of your account to share with a credit bureau. The information contained in the file relates to the total sum borrowed, the amount still owed and a record of how well you manage your repayments.

Your file will also contain details on your credit search history (who you applied with for credit in the past) as well as a full report on any linked accounts such as a joint bank account, mortgage or other form of borrowing. As well as your personal details, the file also lists any known addresses you have been associated with, registered at or used in your credit application history.

In short, your credit file is a complete record of any borrowing you have, have had or attempted to have in the last seven years.

The file is the basis on which other lenders judge your suitability as a customer and this includes mortgage companies.

Improve Your Mortgage Credit Score

Check Your Credit Report

Get the Facts

Starting from a position of knowledge is the most important part of improving your credit score. You can access your credit file by contacting one of the main credit agencies such as Equifax of Experian.

experian credit repot - mortgage credit score

Start from a position of knowledge and get a free copy of your credit report. Image via Experian.

Check the Detail

When you receive your credit report, go through the detail with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that all of the information relates to credit accounts and searches that you are aware of.

All credit accounts include a score based on your payment history so be sure to check that any payments listed as being late are correct.

Clear up any Misunderstandings

Credit reports can and do contain errors so it is important that any errors are cleared up with the relevant company and the credit bureau as soon as possible.

Common errors include:

  • Payments being incorrectly listed as late or missed;
  • Incorrect balances being attributed to an account
  • Incorrect address being attributed to a person
  • Accounts being attributed by association without due cause

Whilst some mistakes cannot be amended, you can have notes added to your credit file which can help explain circumstances surrounding any ‘blips’ in your credit history.

If your credit file is linked to someone with a poor credit history then it is important to have this relationship clearly defined with your mortgage lender. As your credit report details your full history it is not possible to have joint accounts removed from your file but if you are no longer associated with this person and their history is affecting yours then you can apply to have the link removed. Be aware that you may need to prove the connection is no longer valid.

Taking Positive Action To Improve Your Score

If you have missed payments in the past and have a poor credit history then you will need to take some action to improve it.

Mortgage companies will complete a credit check, not only to see what kind of history you have in making repayments to other companies but to assess your overall credit liabilities. If you owe a lot of money on credit then this affects your affordability assessment and can jeopardise a mortgage offer.

If you are struggling with debt then a mortgage may not be the most sensible of options if the circumstances of arranging one means paying lower monthly mortgage fees. This kind of scenario is best dealt with by a debt management company or using advice from the National Debt Line.

Make Sure You On The Electoral Roll

Being registered on the electoral register validates your identity with potential lenders and improves your credit score providing this matches the address which you are applying for credit from. It’s free to register and easy to do; get in touch with the electoral commission via gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Pay Your Bills On Time

Set up automatic payment reminders or use Direct Debit to avoid missing payments on your credit accounts. Late payments harm your credit score whilst timely ones will help to boost it.

Your payment history contributes 35% towards your score and demonstrating the ability to service your debts is a good things.

paying bills on time

Always pay bills on time to avoid late repayment charges and a black mark on your credit history.

Prioritise Your Debts

Any credit accounts that have moved to the collection stage should be prioritised to avoid further and more harmful action being taken. Unpaid accounts that are sent to collection agencies can ultimately end up going to County Court and result in a judgement against you.

Just remember that even when you pay off an account the details stay on your files for seven years.

If you are contesting an account then make sure you follow due process and keep everything in writing. Sometimes it is easier to pay a bill and contest it for a refund than to deal with the implications on your credit history for the next seven years.

Pay Off Your Credit, Stop Moving it Around

Firstly, paying off your credit rather than moving it around is the single most important thing you can do to improve your rating.

Lowering your overall debts on credit accounts will impact your credit score as the total amount owed contributes 30% towards your rating.

Get Credit to Improve Your Mortgage Credit Score

Some people have a poor credit rating which can affect their chances mortgage credit score due to the fact that they do not have or have never had any credit. If you have never borrowed on credit then your initial rating could be low. To increase your credit score it is worth taking out a credit card to make a few monthly purchases on and then pay it off in full each month. This is a fast way to show credit companies that you can borrow and pay your bills on time.

Any well managed credit account will improve your credit score and the longer you hold an account the better it rates on your score.

Close Unused Credit Accounts

As per the last tip, well managed credit accounts are a positive boost to your history but having access to too much credit even if you don’t use it) can reduce your standing.

mortgage credit score

Access to too much credit can negatively impact your mortgage credit score. Image via Pixabay.

Don’t Open Too Many New Credit Accounts at Once

In a bid to try to improve their rating to increase a mortgage credit score, many people try to open as many accounts as possible. This can immediately lower the average age of your other credit accounts which is a negative thing.

Avoid Applying for Too Many Loans

Whilst you may want to search for the best loan or credit card, always make sure that any searches performed in your credit files are a ‘soft’ search. Hard searches on your file indicate to a lender that you have applied for an account and failed. Too many of these can signal that you are a risk even before they get into the detail of your file.

Consider the Alternatives

Unfortunately if you have a bad credit history, for whatever reason, then there is no magic wand that will boost your score overnight. A combination of patience and a dedicated attitude towards servicing your existing debts responsibly will eventually pay off.

That might not be the best news for anyone looking to arrange a mortgage in the near future but there are also alternatives.

High-street mortgage lenders may not be so willing to open a mortgage account for an individual with a less than perfect credit history but some other companies will.

Rates are not always as high as you would think and can still be affordable within your budget. For the best information on alternative mortgage providers and improving your mortgage credit score you should seek the services of an independent financial advisor.


Property Assistant is an independent estate agent covering the Thames Valley who works within the Keller Williams network. We provide advice on all aspects of the home-buying process and would love to be able to help you in your search for a property, whether that is buying or renting. If you’d like to know more about our services, call us today on 0118 912 2370

Featured image via Pixabay.