During my two years as a property writer for a national newspaper, my inbox was always crammed with questions from people on the brink of buying a home (and not just from first-timers). Often, they would ask the ‘basic’ questions that I just assumed everyone knew the answers to (it turns out they don’t!) That’s what prompted me to write by book – Property Uncovered. It’s not a book for seasoned landlords or property investors, but is written as a ‘how to’ guide, answering all those questions you wanted to ask about all things home and property.
Moving anywhere for the first time can be a daunting experience, and London has its very own idiosyncrasies. For one, things move much more quickly in London so you need to be prepared for the fast pace of the big city, and interesting new areas to work and live are springing up on a weekly basis. As with anything, preparation is key, so to help you – here’s my handy top tips for moving to London.
Get your mortgage in place first.
Before you start house hunting, it’s important to understand how much you can afford. There’s no point in falling in love with a place, making an offer and then finding out you can’t raise the money you need. Also you’ll get treated much more seriously as a buyer – particularly in London where property is in high demand. In London, you’ll likely be competing against a number of other offers, so you’ll need to be able to move quickly.
Do your research.
There are so many great resources available for free online, so there’s no excuse not to be a savvy buyer. It’s worth spending a couple of hours researching on the web to really understand values in the area you’re considering buying, because you need to be confident that the place you’re purchasing represents the best value for money possible. If you have set your heart on a particular area, but just can’t afford it, it may be worth considering purchasing somewhere close by that’s not quite as fashionable/desirable, as the ‘ripple effect’ in London means that it’s quite possible that you’ll see the benefits of gentrification in years to come.
Make yourself a checklist.
Before you even go online, make yourself a top ten list of the must-have, can’t live without attributes you are looking for in your new pad. How many bedrooms do you need? Do you need to be close to the Tube? Or require off-street parking? What about outside space?
Take your time.
Recent research has revealed that the average buyer spends less than 25 minutes viewing a property they are about to buy. This is the biggest purchase you’ll ever make so make sure you try and do at least two viewings, ideally one during an evening and/or weekend, so you can gauge how busy the road is, how much noise you can hear from next door, how much light the property gets and how much traffic there is in the surrounding area.
Get a solicitor on the case early.
In a busy London market, once your offer has been accepted, be prepared for things to move quickly, especially if the person you’re buying from is buying another property themselves. Whilst your estate agent may recommend a solicitor, you can in fact use any solicitor you want, so it’s worth shopping around. Make sure you use a member of the Law Society or a Licensed Conveyancer, and if you can, use a member of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme – many lenders prefer you to use a CQS member, and they really are the cream of the crop. Also, ask your solicitor about Residential Abortive Transaction Insurance (or ‘after the event insurance’) It means that if your purchase falls through before you exchange, the costs of your legals that you will have racked up are covered. It costs about £80, so well worth taking out if your Solicitor offers it.
About the Author.
Property expert and consumer champion Louisa Fletcher has over fifteen years’ experience in the property industry.
In that time, Louisa has run and successfully exited two property dotcom startups that both changed the way that property in the UK is bought and sold. She has also consulted at board level to the some of the largest estate agents, new home builders and property websites in the country, including Zoopla.co.uk, Redrow, Countrywide and SpicerHaart, as well as advising celebrities and high net worth individuals on their property assets and portfolios. Louisa is also an accomplished developer, refurbishing properties (both residential and commercial) for her clients and herself.
Using her professional background together with her own experience of being a landlord, tenant, buyer and seller, Louisa provided advice to millions of consumers via a national newspaper column which she wrote for nearly two years. She now regularly appears on ITV’s This Morning as a consumer champion for all things homes and property, together with writing for national magazines and newspapers.
Louisa’s first book: Property Uncovered – Trade Secrets of a Property Expert, is out now, priced £12.00 from Amazon or £8.99 Kindle download.