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The Nested guide to moving home

Everything you need to know about buying and selling (with 0% jargon).

Will @ Nested
Property market insight

We’re not here to pretend moving home is a walk in the park. Property sales are complex, and we don’t sugarcoat the bricks.

Our aim is to provide the information you need to ensure your next move is smooth, orderly and stress-free. That way, you can navigate the buying and selling process and get to the exciting part — opening the door to your new place.

Before you decide to move

When is the right time to buy or sell?

Everyone’s circumstances are different, but ask yourself this: do you want or need to move?

In simple terms, the best months to sell a property are during the second half of the year. While conventional wisdom dictates that properties should go on the market when the weather is good, it doesn’t always work out like that. Estate agents do a lot of business in the run-up to Christmas, with minds focused on finalising deals before the big New Year freeze. You’re likely to receive less interest in the summer holidays, but family buyers are back on the market by September.

While there is no ‘right’ time to move per se, you can be reasonably sure when the wrong time might be; for example, if you’re in negative equity (where your mortgage is higher than your home value), or you don’t have the funds.

Ultimately, the right time to move means the right time for you and your loved ones. It’s easy to get distracted by external factors such as Brexit, but you shouldn’t let the trials and tribulations of the wider world stop you from putting down roots in your new home.

Should I move or improve?

In the right circumstances, you can always renovate your home as an alternative to moving. The obvious upshot is that you can create more living space, or make your long-suppressed Grand Designs dream a reality. Plus, staying put means you can save money on the costs of moving. But renovations aren’t a simple short-cut to making a profit.

A £45,000 loft conversion might make your property a better place to live, but there’s no guarantee you’ll see an uplift in your home’s value relative to the money you’ve spent. It’s sensible to set realistic expectations, and once you’ve worked out your needs, you may discover the best idea is to move.

How long does it take to move home?

Most of us underestimate the time it takes to move home. From putting a home on the market to finally getting the keys, it should realistically take between 15 and 25 weeks if you’re living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland (the process can be quicker in Scotland).

There are of course regional variations; traditionally, homes in London sell quickly, but not always. Even with the best laid plans, buying a property can be a long, drawn-out process, so it’s a good idea to prepare for the long haul.

You may hear the dreaded ‘chain’ word, and if you don’t know what this means, we’re not referring to the pretty picket fence at the end of your drive. In simple terms, a chain refers to the number of buyers and sellers who are dependant on each other to achieve their sale or purchase. If you’re buying or selling at the same time, you’re now in a chain.

How to get started

So, once you’ve decided you’re ready to move, what now? Before you start scrolling for that dream home, there are some fundamentals to put in place:

Figure out your budget

There is no cheap way to move house, so a little bit of number crunching goes a long way. If you’re selling a home, some of the typical costs for your spreadsheet include:

  • Legal fees
  • Estate agent fees
  • Stamp Duty
  • Conveyancing
  • Removals
  • Unexpected fees (it’s best to reserve £5,000 as a back-up fund).

You may also be liable to pay Capital Gains Tax if you’re selling a property that’s not your home, such as a buy-to-let property. Some costs, such as legal fees, may need to be paid upfront while others can be deducted from your sale proceeds.

Estate agent fees vary according to which type of agent you choose. You can expect to pay anything between 1 and 3% of your sale fee to a traditional high street estate agent, while online agents such as Yopa or Purplebricks charge a flat fee.

Stamp Duty is a sales tax paid by the buyer (but not the seller) after the purchase of a property. The tax is tiered, with rates ranging from 2% for properties valued between £125,001 and £250,000, to 12% for properties over £1.5m. You can use an online stamp duty calculator to work out how much you can expect to pay. You’re required to pay Stamp Duty within 30 days of completing on a property.

Find out how much you can borrow

If you need to borrow money to cover the costs of your new home, you’ll need a mortgage. You should speak to your current lender and find out how much you owe on your existing loan.

Porting’ (transferring) your current mortgage is an option with some lenders, but you effectively have to reapply for the mortgage and there is no guarantee you will be offered the same terms.

There are four main elements that determine your spending power:

  • Deposit — Most lenders will require a deposit, typically 10% (or more) of the value of the mortgage. Gone are the days of 0% deposit mortgages, which were a fixture of the property market before the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Income — Your ‘mortgage affordability’ is based on your annual household income (you can usually expect to borrow 3 to 5 times this amount).
  • Equity — You may have built-up equity in your home over the years, which some buyers choose to release if the value has increased.
  • Savings — Any increase in your savings can be put towards your new property

Speak to a mortgage advisor

Instead of going straight to a lender, it’s sensible to speak to a mortgage advisor, sometimes referred to as a mortgage broker.

The advantage of using a broker is that they can offer a wider range of products than a lender; they’ll scour the various options on the market to find the right mortgage for you. The earlier you do this, the more time you have to work out your budget for your new home.

Unless you’ve been recommended an advisor through friends or family, your estate agent should be able to help you find someone. But remember, your estate agent will probably receive a ‘kickback’ — a cash sum — for referring you, so you should always seek out independent reviews.

Once you have an agreement with a lender, you’ll be granted a ‘mortgage-in-principle’, which is an agreement that you can borrow the money to buy the property, subject to unforeseen hiccups like Japanese Knotweed spoiling the party.

Later down the line, when you agree on an exact purchase price on your new home, you’ll get your full mortgage offer which is usually valid for six months, so you must exchange and complete within this window.

Selling your property

In theory, you can start looking for your next home before you’ve accepted an offer on your current one. Estate agents deal with sellers at all stages of the journey, even those who have previously been on the market unsuccessfully. However, you’re more likely to have a bid accepted if you’ve already accepted an offer on your own place.

Before we get to that, here’s how to get the ball rolling on selling your property.

Choose an estate agent

There are some fantastic estate agents out there, but not every one is a Knight Frank in shining armour. Having a good estate agent on your side is really important for a smooth sale. Some of the main things to consider include:

  • How will they market your property?
  • Who will conduct the viewings?
  • What after-sales service do they offer?

Get a realistic valuation

We all love to be flattered, but just because you’re told your home is worth X amount doesn’t mean it will achieve that sale price. The short-term satisfaction of being told your home is worth a fortune will soon wear off once you’re forced to drop the price months later.

In reality, a home priced correctly will always sell. Any estate agent worth their salt will visit your home to understand the selling points, take the time to make a floorplan, and produce a written valuation using comparable sales to justify the price.

Online vs. high-street agents

In recent years, the traditional high street estate agent has been confronted by a new sheriff in town — the online estate agent.

On the plus side, online estate agents generally offer a cheaper service if you’re on a budget. However, you’ll receive less support during the process, which means there is a higher chance of something going wrong and your deal falling through. And of course, local estate agents have the advantage of knowing their neighbourhoods inside out.

Whichever route you choose, at an absolute minimum you want your estate agent to list your property on one of the major portals — Zoopla or Rightmove. They should arrange professional photos, a well-written description, and settle on the right price in order to generate the most interest.

A good agent will have a dedicated sale coordinator, or ‘progressor’, who will manage your chain from offer to completion. Having a safe pair of hands can drastically reduce the likelihood of issues cropping up in your chain.

When should you accept an offer on your home?

You shouldn’t feel pressured into accepting the first offer on your home.

Depending on market conditions, it’s not unusual to receive a cheeky bid of 5 to 10% under the asking price. If you’re not in a rush to sell, feel free to reject the offer and play the long game.

Think about your own position and whether you have any leverage; the ideal scenario is that you have a mortgage approved and can move quickly, rather than being stuck in a chain. Similarly, consider your prospective buyer’s situation, and whether they’re in a hurry, bogged down in a chain themselves, or flexible about waiting. You should be able to suss out this information through your estate agent.

And remember, asking prices aren’t the same as ‘sold prices’, so check out how much properties have actually fetched in your area. Sometimes, a ‘final offer’ really is a final offer, so once you’re satisfied with the amount on the table, pick up the phone and say yes!

The search begins

Once you’ve been granted your ‘mortgage in principle’, you’re in a stronger position to make offers as a buyer. Exciting times, right? Well, before you start measuring the curtains, here are some things to consider.

Download a property app

Property search tools like Rightmove and Zoopla should be your first port of call. Not only can you search for homes according to your budget, but you can also categorise by property type and locate the nearest transport links at a glance.

Rightmove has a handy ‘school checker’ feature, which lets you work out the distance to local schools, as well as admissions criteria and Ofsted ratings. On Zoopla, you can search for properties using a keyword, so if you’re after a ‘bungalow’, ‘coach house’ or ‘cottage’, you can tailor your search without mindlessly scrolling through unsuitable homes.

The leasehold v freehold conundrum

A key consideration is whether you’re buying a freehold or leasehold property. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, allow us to explain.

If you buy a freehold property, you become the freeholder, which refers to the person who owns the property and the accompanying land.

If you buy a leasehold property, you own the right to live in that home for a specified number of years — the lease. If you’re a leaseholder, the land your property is built on is owned by the freeholder, to whom you pay a service charge so that they look after the building.

Leasehold properties are not uncommon — there are 4.3 million leasehold homes in England, of which 67% are flats — but if you’re looking to buy this kind of property, it’s crucial that you find out how many years remain on the lease. If a lease drops below 80 years, the costs of a lease extension can spiral dramatically — think tens of thousands of pounds — and will make it harder to sell-on the property unless you renew.

Questions to ask when you view a property

Even if you fall in love with a home on first sight, it’s important to put head-over-heart just for now (there’ll be plenty of time to pop the champagne corks later).

Your estate agent won’t know everything about the property — your survey will ultimately throw up any structural concerns — but there are plenty of valid questions you can ask:

  • Why is the owner selling-up?
  • How long have they lived in the property?
  • Are there any major works due?
  • When were repairs last carried out?
  • Where is the boundary of the property and what is included?
  • Have there been any complaints about the neighbours?

While it’s easy to fall in love with period features, the facade outside or the owner’s furnishings, it’s important to think about the gritty details. Is the roof in good condition? When were the windows last replaced? Do the walls need plastering? This way, you can make your offer with some idea of how much cash you should hold in reserve for any renovations.

And of course, you’re playing a poker game when you view a property, so, by all means, look excited, but not too excited!

How to negotiate the best price

As the old adage goes, a property is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. But in order to decide how much you should offer, you should do your homework on recent sale prices for similar properties in the area (figures are published through the Land Registry).

As mentioned, it’s not unusual if your opening offer is between 5 and 10% under the asking price, but be careful about making a derisory offer as the seller (and estate agent) will want to be reassured you’re operating in good faith.

You can offer as many times as you like, but if you decide to make a final offer, remember that you usually only get to do this once. If you keep moving the goalposts over how much you’re willing to pay, your seller may try their luck at squeezing more money out of you.

Before you exchange

So, fingers crossed you’ve found your ideal home by this stage. But even if you’ve had an offer accepted, don’t put the bubbly on ice just yet, as there are still a few hurdles to overcome.

Get a survey done

Once you’ve had an offer accepted, you’ll need to get a survey carried out to highlight any defects with the property.

The idea of a survey is to highlight any structural flaws and concerns — from subsidence issues to broken drainpipes — so that you can proceed or withdraw from the purchase and budget for any necessary repairs.

Your surveyor should be fully qualified and a member of an accredited body, like the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

There are various types of survey available at different price points depending on how extensive you’d like the inspection to be. While a survey is not mandatory, it’s certainly advisable as it will help reduce your chances of getting hit with an unexpected repair bill further down the line.

Instruct a solicitor

You can hire a conveyancer — a solicitor who specialises in property law — when you make an offer on a property. Your conveyancer helps to oversee the legal process of the sale, from the draft contract to the eventual exchange and completion.

When you contact a conveyancer, they will provide a quote which details the breakdown of tasks and associated costs.

You’re not legally required to use a conveyancer, but trying to do the paperwork yourself is asking for trouble!

Exchange and completion

When both parties (the buyer and seller) are happy, you can sign and exchange contracts, at which point the sale is legally binding. As the buyer, you will pay a deposit at this stage and assume responsibility for the new property’s home insurance.

In theory, you can ‘complete’ on the property that same day, but it’s more likely that you’ll agree on a completion date in order to address any final odds and ends. On completion day, you simply wait for your mortgage lender to transfer the money to the seller’s bank account, and voila! Home sweet home.

Your conveyancer will register the property with the Land Registry, which records the ownership of property in England and Wales, and you should receive the title deeds — the legal documents which show the chain of ownership for the property.

Now you’re ready to collect the keys from your estate agent. With any luck, there’ll be a box of chocolates waiting on the kitchen table upon your arrival.

Moving day

The day you move into a new property is undoubtedly an exciting time. But let’s be honest — it can be stressful too. Here are some of the ways you can make the process as smooth as possible.

Create an inventory

Moving home will tell you one thing you didn’t know: you own a lot of stuff. Make a list of all the items you’d like to take with you, which will make life easier on the moving day itself.

Plus, use the opportunity to sell or give away those possessions you don’t need anymore. Out with the old…

Find a removal company

Unless you’re moving nearby and can transport and carry the furniture yourself, you’ll probably need to hire a removal company. You should get multiple quotes before you hire a firm, so take the time to read online reviews and assess what level of service you require; for example, some companies will pack your items for you.

Tell people you’ve moved

No one likes coming home to a pile of envelopes sent to the wrong address. You will need to inform the utility companies of your change of address, as well as the council so that you don’t pay extra council tax.

You can also sign up to the Royal Mail’s redirection service to ensure any post sent to your old home will reach you.

Prepare for the big day

If you have pets or young children, you will need to make provisions so that they’re looked after on the day you move. You may also need to take time off work to oversee a smooth and orderly process.

And…breathe

At long last, it’s time to kick off your shoes, pour a glass and toast your new home. That wasn’t too hard, was it?

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Nested puts homeowners in control of their sale. Our agents provide you with smarter insights so you achieve the best price for your home on your timeframe. When you’ve found your new home, you have the power to move chain free, while we take care of your sale. Our buying agent will even negotiate up to 5% saving on your new home, so you get more home for your money.

If you’re interested in selling smarter, get in touch today. Nested.com - The modern way to move.