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Great 'What I wish I’d known before I bought my first home' Hunt

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Comments

  • After moving into my new house about 9 months ago I think I picked up a thing or two!

    ~ Your solicitor doesn't have to be local. We used one that was over 40 miles away! They were cheaper (by about £200) than anyone local, they also had a brilliant reputation!

    ~ Take your time an visit at least twice before even hinting that you want to buy. Get someone else you know to look with you, look at different times of the day. Visit the area at night, see what its like. Have a third visit and measure everything!

    ~ After you know your moving and everything is ticking along nicely, buy any furniture you need. Take your house measurements! We nearly bought a sofa that didn't fit!

    ~ Get a surveyor and have that done properly. Get one with good reputation and don't skimp on price! Ours saved us £2500! If they find problems get reputable builders to quote to put it right. Approach the vendor and ask for the work to be completed before completion or ask to have the total knocked off the price!

    ~ Find out as much as you can about the house before you put an offer in. Download the title deed and plan for about £6. It normally contains a lot of history and what price the vendor paid for the house. Ask the council if the road your house is on is gritted. Find out if its on a bus route. Check with the planning team at the council if any work nearby is planned. We picked up one!

    I really do hope this helps someone, before they take the plunge in getting a house.
  • MrGumby
    MrGumby Posts: 174 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    I think you'd find that if a buyer insisted the vendor pay their legal fees, they'f tell them to sod off!

    That's just stupid, no-one's going to agree to that! There's plenty of buyers out there, so behaving like a demanding dictator ain't gonna work.
    Dead right. I've bought and sold many houses and never heard that idea. Very silly.
  • Neilus1
    Neilus1 Posts: 6 Forumite
    edited 2 February 2010 at 9:04PM
    Ive seen a lot of posts about solicitors and mortgage advisors based on fear and suspicion here!!! Even taking up a friend's or relative's recommendation is no guarantee that you'll get the service you expect.

    Key to getting a good solicitor:
    Unfortunately if you want to guarantee the service your after, you will most likely have to do some research. Picking locally can be advantageous in that the solicitor may have knowledge of local peculiarities that may effect the transaction in some way; that doesnt mean they will meet other aspects of the service youre expecting, especially as they are likely to be small practices.

    Larger solicitors may lack in the local knowledge, but will usually offer other aspects to their service such as online tracking of your case. This is useful if you have a demanding job and cannot afford the time to track your case and chase solicitors during working hours (although you should find the time if youre committing to something as important as a house move). In some instances, larger practices may employ a team of telephonists to provide updates to callers; such practices are designed to keep you from engaging too much with the solicitor to allow them time to deal with the paperwork. Obviously this comes at the expense of the personal touch and the opportunity to discuss legal matters in greater depth with your solicitor if you need to; the telephonists wont have legal training. If you understand how the solicitor you have chosen works, you should have an accurate expectation of service levels, and the solicitor should be able to meet your expectations.

    Personally, I find it hard to choose a firm without first having had a breakdown of their costs and service, and having had the opportunity to speak to them on the phone. If you have the impression from your first phone call that theyre professional, curteous and on the ball, chances are they will be for the duration of your transaction.

    Don't let price be your guiding principle if you can help it. Like many things in life, you'll get what you pay for. Low cost solicitors rely on a massive turnover of clients, which they invariably have. Often though, their relative inexpense comes at the price of customer service - they are simply inundated all day long, and very difficult to get hold of.

    If they dont meet your expectations, you'll gain little from ranting and screaming at them usually. Usually a word to the effect that you're going to invoke their complaints procedure delivers the kick in the pants they need, failing that a letter to one of the senior partners works wonders.


    Mortgage Advisors:
    Make sure the advisor youre picking is an IFA - Independant Financial Advisor. They are not affiliated to a bank or product, and are therefore not fettered in their ability to find you the best deals available. They have access to the whole mortgage market, and most IFAs rely on the same piece of software to source mortgage products based on your requirements, so there is no reason why they shouldnt be able to find you the best deal on the market to fit your circumstances.

    As with solicitors, the best thing is to call a few to get some quotes, and judge how well you think you'll get on with them during your telephone call. Remember, this person is going to have access to all your financial details, so for me picking someone you generally feel comfortable with is a good guiding light.

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  • MrGumby
    MrGumby Posts: 174 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    Hopejack wrote: »
    A few people have mentioned south facing garden here. South facing is not such a good idea reason being the 'front' of the house will therefore be North! If it is then it will be colder and darker. I know this as our house is like that - the back is lovely, sunny etc but the front is cold and barely gets any light - yuck! OK if you have all your rooms on the back!

    Instead opt for a west (much better as both sides of your house will get sun - rises in the east, sets in the west) or a south west so at least your front will be north east (ie gets the morning sun so has a chance to heat up/get some natural light).

    I know we don't get a huge amount of sunny/hot weather in the UK but one side of your house being dark and cold all the time is a massive turn off for me :)
    West-facing is bad for anyone who wants to use their back garden in the afternoon/evening - it will be shaded by the house.

    South-facing can work well for much of the year but gives you nowhere shaded to sit in summer. Also, when looking at the the garden from the house, you don't want to be peering into the sun.

    East-facing is arguably best for most people, maximising sun in the garden at the times they are most likely to use it.

    Conservatories can be particularly problematic (I'd recommend a 'garden room' instead - one with a conventional roof but lots of windows all round). Conservatories can overheat dreadfully in summer but are usually cold or expensive to heat in winter. If you will use one mainly for breakfast, east-facing might be best or, if it's for entertaining, then perhaps west-facing.

    There's no right or wrong way for a house to face. It varies by the way specific windows face, by the way the house is used and also by surrounding trees, views, etc.
  • Never believe a word the estate agent or seller says even if they seem like the nicest person on earth - check everything. Don't let them bully you because they think you're young and naive. I hated every minute of finding and buying my flat in London and I wish I'd been brave enough to stand up for myself a bit more but all in all it is worth it in the end.
  • november
    november Posts: 613 Forumite
    Ask for evidence that the gas installations (e.g. central heating) are safe. Or do they include that in the pack now? Just after we moved in I had to call Transco in the middle of the night...

    We thought we had flu. We had carbon monoxide poisoning and were alive due to a faulty cat flap venting out most of the co. Gas wasn't probably ventilated. :shocked: System was condemned but it was a very lucky escape. Never occurred to me to check yet a gas cert is one thing you ask for when you are renting.
    I live in my own little world. But it's okay. They know me here.
  • I'd like to point out what I was caught out on the most. The solicitors hidden fees. I'd spent hours working out every charge to the penny so I was absolutely sure they'd be no surprises. Alas...

    I'd budgeted for stamp duty, mortgage fees, surveyor fees, enviro searches, land registry fees, and when I was told by my solicitors that all in they would charge £550 + vat I budgeted for that too. I asked them lots of questions before going with them about hidden charges but they were adament there were none. Alas, 1 week before exchange, in came the letters asking for an extra £150 + vat if I wanted to complete in less than 3 weeks, £150 + vat if I did as that would put me on the fast track service. And the best part, an extra £275 + vat because I was taking out a mortgage so they had extra processing to do, even that was extra! Needless to say I didn't have this cash just lying around at that time.

    I was aware of the first fees as that had be explained early on, but it wasn't explained that it automatically led to the fast track service (which I'd earlier opted out of). But as I'd opted out it was easy to argue out of that one. But at no point did they ever mention extra fees for mortgagees even though they knew from the start that I, like almost every other buyer, would be getting one. After I bitterly protested this many times they eventually gave up and charged nothing. They do this right at the end when you're at your most vunerable because they know they have your head over a barrell. It's distgusting behaviour.

    I'd like to say always read the small print, but with solicitors all the wording is always ambiguous. My best advice is use a solicitor that is recommended by someone you trust who has gone through the same process you are about to go through, and that they were very happy. Don't ever use the solicitor that the estate agent recommends, they will almost certainly be on commission and will add extra fees to cover this.
  • MrGumby
    MrGumby Posts: 174 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    Your solicitor doesn't have to be local. We used one that was over 40 miles away! They were cheaper (by about £200) than anyone local, they also had a brilliant reputation!
    Good advice. Local knowledge is rarely important for conveyancing. Find a conveyancer with low charges but a good reputation.

    Over the last 20 years I have bought and sold houses in Cumbria, Cheshire, Sheffield and Berkshire...all using a conveyancer in Lancaster.

    Right now, I am helping someone buy a house in Sussex using a conveyancer in County Durham who is charging £183.50 plus the necessary fees (land registry etc). She is proving efficient, communicative and reliable. We have exchanged contracts and are on schedule to complete next week. If we are still pleased after completion, I will be happy to provide her details.

    Make sure you get the TOTAL cost, with vat, before choosing a conveyancer. There are nine line items in our £697 bill, including 'no completion, no fee' insurance, so check that everything is covered.
  • If you are buying a flat that was converted some time ago (the estate agents or vendors may not even know) then check that there is adequate soundproofing between floors. Before the 1998 Building Regs (I think) there were less stringent rules on soundproofing between floors.

    I found this out the hard way - bought my basement flat on sight, didn't have a survey because there was no access to the roof etc. Its an old conversion in a victorian terraced house. Moved in, and when tenants eventually moved in to the flat upstairs all we heard was BOOM BOOM BOOM as they walked around. At times I could hear them talking quietly on the couch, let alone when they would play speed metal at ridiculous volumes.

    In the end I had to pay £1200 to have just the living room insulated, and I lost 3 inches of ceiling height from an already-low ceiling. Its been a complete nightmare. This is compounded if your neighbours are renting as they are less inclined to keep on good terms with you so won't care if they keep you up all night with pounding music.

    So - short story: get a survey!! I would have made the vendor sort all this out or else knocked the price of it off if I had known.
    :mad:
  • Alas, 1 week before exchange, in came the letters asking for an extra £150 + vat if I wanted to complete in less than 3 weeks, £150 + vat if I did as that would put me on the fast track service. And the best part, an extra £275 + vat because I was taking out a mortgage so they had extra processing to do, even that was extra! Needless to say I didn't have this cash just lying around at that time.

    ... ...

    Don't ever use the solicitor that the estate agent recommends, they will almost certainly be on commission and will add extra fees to cover this.

    Re: your fees, even these fees should have been communicated to you from the outset. Solicitors should be completely transparent when letting you know about their fees, so if this ever happened to anyone, I'd suggest contacting the Law Society if the grievance procedure didnt yield a quick and satisfactory result.

    Re Estate Agent... the problem here is that practically ALL solicitors get the bulk of their business from referrals by agents and brokers. Its they way they work. Just because an agent recommends a solicitor doesnt automatically suggest expense and bad service; ultimately the solicitor needs to remain competitive, but I would still shop around.
    MrGumby wrote: »
    Local knowledge is rarely important for conveyancing. Find a conveyancer with low charges but a good reputation.

    True, it is rare, but very occasionally it can be vital. Ive heard and witnessed a few occasions when a remote solicitor has failed to pick up on the likelihood of a chancel repair liability, some abstract mining right or even some strange right of access across a property simply because they didn't know that the problem was peculiar to that area. If you are aware of these problems yourself, you can instruct any solicitor to conduct the right searches, regardless of where they are based.
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