Q.Dear Russell, I am a first-time buyer, please can you advise me on the buying process?
A.Before you have found a property and agreed to buy, you need to make sure that you have your finances all in place. It is also really important to have your solicitor set up – the longer you leave it to shop around for the solicitor, the more you undermine your position as a serious buyer. If you are ready, then it shows that you are a decisive buyer. This will stand you in good stead if there are any problems further down the line. Don’t be tempted to cut costs when hiring a solicitor – you want a recommended specialist in residential law where possible.
If the mortgage lender down-values your property, then try not to panic. Ask yourself if the lender is justified. If you feel that it isn’t, then see if you can create a case for why the valuation should be boosted. But if you think the bank has a point, then do your research and be prepared to renegotiate with the seller. You might be able to reduce the selling price at least partially. You also need to be thinking ahead about what work you might need to do to the property. Get a quote for this before you agree.
Q.Dear Russell, I hear you get more for your money from lower ground floor flats. What do you think?
A.You certainly do get more square feet for your money but lower ground floor flats are less popular than flats on the ground or first floors. Not all lower ground floor flats are dull and dingy – some are set back from the walls, are extremely light and spacious and a lot come with outside space and separate entrances, which are important to people.
But they are more prone to damp, usually have lower ceilings, and you do have to put up with people living above you. Lower ground floor flats are also more difficult to sell because most people just won’t even look at them. Consequently, they tend to sit on the market for longer and it will be even tougher to sell one in a bad market. If your budget does stretch to a ground or first floor flat then I would go for that. Whatever you do and however much you spend on a lower ground floor flat, it will still be difficult to sell and you won’t recoup your costs.
Russell Hunt is managing director of Property Hunt, a search agent for London and the Home Counties. www.property-hunt.co.uk