The evil chain that stole my dream home – House hunting in a pandemic

Part 2

When we started house hunting in March 2020 it was a ghost town.

We had agents at our beck and call and were spoilt for choice. The houses that were on the market had been there for a while, no real haste and vendors were happy to get people through their doors.

As the months progressed we took our time, looked around and didn’t make any real commitments.

Once the Chancellor made the stamp duty holiday announcement in July 2020, everything changed dramatically!

We noticed that as soon as a house came on the market, it was gone within 7 days.

I was set up for email alerts and was quite quick to book viewings, but before we could get through the door, the house had been sold subject to contracts!

A trend that was quite apparent was that home movers were making the most out of this stamp duty treat.

The stamp duty holiday meant that people could use this time to size up, relocate and make money! (Equity)

Let’s bear in mind that we were in the thick of a pandemic and forced to stay indoors for the foreseeable. If your 24 hours, 7 days a week is going to be your home, then it may as well be somewhere you feel comfortable and love being.

We saw city lovers opting for properties in the country/the outskirts of the M25 due to the flexibility of working from home and not having to commute in to corporate inner city offices. Not forgetting to mention that you get a lot more for your pound outside London.

What you’d spend on a 2 bedroom London flat, you could buy a 4-5 bedroom house with generous garden space outside London.

Ultimately the housing market was booming, it was the right time and everything was working in every home owners favour.

UNTIL we were all reminded time after time that we are in a pandemic, people are dying and services aren’t running at their usual speed.

Our chain fell apart because the upper upper chain had a Covid fatality and the middle chain participants had quite a bit of strain placed on their relationship due to lockdown Covid side effects.

All in all house hunting in a pandemic is not for the faint hearted.

Resilience, empathy and speed are key.

Chains fall apart, people let you down, but our lives are priceless and as long as we hold on tight to those, we have all that we need!

Join me next week for, “The evil chain that stole my dream home – No chain, no pain. New builds”

The evil chain that stole my dream home – Background Story

Part 1

In this series I will be detailing the personal experience of trying to buy & sell property throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 weeks ago I shared disappointing news on my Instagram I had received a week prior. 

My husband and I were in the process of selling our flat and buying a new family home with a garden in acknowledgement of our son turning 1 and the need to size up. 

This all fell through 1 day before exchange was due and 2 weeks before completion was due.

Many had questions, many were scared, many didn’t want this to happen to them, so here we are.

Enjoy the 4 part series.

March

In March 2020 we put our property on the market. A week later the country was placed in a lockdown due to the rapid spread and threat of the COVID-19 virus.

This was not a great start to a journey we thought would be quite simple given my background and the fact that we’ve bought a property before with ease.

Everything was bought to a dramatic holt. No movement.

May

Things began to ease and we started to house hunt and made Offers on 2 properties – these were accepted. Now we just needed to find a buyer for our flat. Fast forward a few weeks – we lost house 1 because we took too long. With the seller being on haste, she sold the house to a chain free first time buyer for a lesser amount.

The second house was still in the works and both the agent and seller were patient with us.

July

In July 2020 the Chancellor announced the stamp duty holiday. This was great news for us. This stamp duty holiday meant that our expenses were to be bought right down. We then understood that we had more money to play with. It was a matter of, do we look for bigger houses? Or continue with what we had been looking at, presenting more deposit bringing our mortgage down/doing a more luxurious Reno job. 

August

At this point we’ve had around 5 viewings. No serious offers and everyone commenting on our slightly dated kitchen. 

September 

Aware of the stamp duty holiday potentially coming to an end in March 2021, we started to house hunt in September 2020 with the hope to exchange contracts and complete on our Sale/Purchase around December 2020 – January 2021

October

The second house we had made an offer on in May had been sold at this point due to our lack of a buyer. We were okay with this as we wasn’t too keen on all of the works the electrics needed. The house was a detached Edwardian home and needed a full rewiring (alarm bells).

Later this month we had a buyer! We began to give up hope until this lovely man came for a viewing with his business partner, shook hands with my husband and determined a gentleman’s contract had been made. 

We began to scramble because we no longer had a house we wanted. We immediately started to view properties, short list and then we found the one!

It was beautiful, had a drive, garage and a newly fitted modern wood burning fireplace.

We made an offer, it was accepted and the rush was on!

Days later our solicitors couldn’t get hold of our buyer and he advised that he was no longer looking for an investment flat as he had previously only dealt with houses due to leases bla bla bla. 

This was very disheartening and meant that we were now causing delays for the house we were buying.

November 

The agent that was orchestrating  our purchase of the house was great and quickly helped us find suitable buyers. We had viewings after viewings and eventually accepted an offer with the condition that things had to proceed quite quickly. 

December 

Searches had been paid for. Leasehold paperwork had been paid for. The solicitors we’re going through the motions and satisfying as much as they could.

Everyone in the chain was getting itchy feet. Things were dragging and our buyers were taking their sweet time. Eventually they got their mortgage sorted, searches back and we all awaited exchange/completion dates. Given the festive season, we knew this wouldn’t take place until the New Year

January 2021

COVID-19 was lurking. Some in the chain became victims and there were layers knocked off of the upper chain – this meant that it went from 6 parts to 4 parts.

It was understood by all parties that completion had to take place 2 weeks after the exchange of contracts due to the top of the chain’s situation.

14th January – the day before the anticipated exchange of contracts. We receive a call from the agent letting us know that unfortunately the sellers of the house we were hoping to buy are no longer proceeding for personal reasons. Everything fell apart. 

FAQ’s

What is the Stamp Duty Holiday? 

On 8 July 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a temporary stamp duty holiday that cut the rate of stamp duty to zero per cent for all properties £500,000 or under until 31 March 2021.

What is Stamp Duty?

Stamp duty is the tax governments place on legal documents, usually in the transfer of assets or property. … These taxes were called stamp duties because a physical stamp was used on the document as proof that the document had been recorded and the tax liability paid.

What is a Chain?

A chain is a series of linked house purchases which are mutually dependent for a successful outcome. Your chain consists of the person you’re selling a home to, and the person you’re buying from.

Join me next Monday for post 2 of 4.

There will be a New Post every Monday of February 2021

8th February 2021 – “The evil chain that stole my dream home – House hunting in a pandemic”

15th February 2021 “The evil chain that stole my dream home – No chain, no pain. New builds”

22nd February 2021 “The evil chain that stole my dream home – Recovery. What’s next?”

“Movers are more likely to benefit from the Stamp Duty holiday than first time buyers”.

Original picture: Woburn Sands area

It’s no secret that we are in a pandemic. The Government has been updating us quite frequently regarding new procedures and initiatives to help the economy and those who are going through a really hard time.

One of the initiatives that was announced was the Stamp Duty holiday. This was a bid to boost Britains housing market.

What this means is that someone who decided to sell their home and buy a new one would no longer have to pay stamp duty on the new property providing it cost them £500,000 or less.

This initiative doesn’t do much for first time buyers as they haven’t had to pay stamp duty on the first £300,000 of their first property for some time, however, previously they would of had to pay 5% on the excess amount between £300,001 – £500,000. 

As soon as this initiative was announced, the housing market picked up massively. The boost most definitely took place!

Home owners used this opportunity to save thousands of pounds. 

To give you an idea of how great this initiative is, check out this example:

Someone sells their house for £350,000, moves and buys a house for £400,000 as they want to upsize and have enough equity to do so. In 2019 and even up to 8 July 2020, they would of had to pay £10,000 in stamp duty. 

Fast forward to now, this person would pay £0 stamp duty hence the urgency in the housing market.

Many people are trying to move, upsize, downsize and the rest of it before the end of March 2021. April 2021 is the beginning of a new financial year and looking at the deficit the country is currently in due to furlough, bail out funds and the rest of it, we are all going to pay with the potential increase of taxes and the return of stamp duty!

We also have another issue on our hands. Due to the property demand being high, many are prepared to pay a lot more for certain properties in the way of a bidding war…

This is a discussion for next week. 

Questions to ask when viewing a property

1. When was the last time the *electrics were checked? (Particularly important for Victorian/Edwardian houses, not so relevant for New Builds)

2. Has there ever been any water damage to the property? Flood, roof leak etc.

3. How long has the property been on the market?

4. Roughly how much are the monthly property related bills? Water, gas, electric, council tax, Building insurance2, internet

5. How old is the roof? (Particularly important for Victorian/Edwardian houses, not so relevant for New Builds)

6. Have the owners done any renovations within the last 5 years?

7. How long have the owners lived here?

8. How far is the supermarket/train station?

9. What is the parking like? Do you have an allocated spot, drive way or is it first come first served?

10. Whats the crime like in the area? 

11. Does the property have a restrictive 3covenant? If the Agent is unsure, dig!

12. Is there a 4chain? How quickly does/can the owner want to proceed to completion?

Ultimately, the seller/agent has one goal, sell the property! Take what they say with a pinch of salt and do some research of your own. Ask friends that live in/know of the area. Get a feel for the vibe on the street.

Go to your official viewing in the day and once you feel like you are willing to proceed with the purchase, visit the property and its surrounding area in the night to get a real feel for what it’d be like living there. Pay close attention to noise, anti social behaviour, over crowded parking etc. 

1Electrics are particularly important, you can reasonably knock off £10,000 from the asking price of a property if the electrics have not been given the once over within the last 10 years. This is something you will definitely have to get done as soon as possible, this involves checking plug sockets, making sure no wires/cable are frayed and checking that the lights are working properly with no buzzing sound. Worse case scenario you will have to rewire the property. Rewiring a property is not cheap, but if required, is essential for older houses to prevent electrical fault damage which can ultimately lead to fires etc. 

2Building insurance is a necessity and legal requirement for a House. It is not required for a flat as you are covered under the ground rent that you pay to the Landlord/Freeholder. 

3A restrictive covenant can encourage neighbours to be to create harmony and deter anti social behaviour. It can also prevent you from carrying out certain actions like extensions, loft conversions or converting the house in to flats etc.

Obtain copies of the properties title from the official Land Registry website to be sure there’s no surprises.

4A property chain is created when more than one buyer is involved in a transaction. For example, say you are buying a home from someone and they are moving to a new home they are buying from another. That is an upward property chain, meaning that your completion date (when you move in) is likely to be affected by the date when your seller can move into their new home too.

If you’d like to add to the list of questions to ask when viewing a property, feel free to comment below. Happy House Hunting!

What is the difference between using a Mortgage Broker vs. Going direct to the Bank? | Q&A Series

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Reading Time: 7mins

In 2015 my mother gave me some great advice. She knew that I had the desire to get my foot on the property ladder and as I had no idea where to start, she advised me to go to the Bank with my then fiancé and see what we were “worth”.

As my fiancé worked for HSBC at the time, we booked an appointment with a Mortgage Advisor, disclosed our salaries, savings, commitments etc and based on our situation she gave us a flat maximum amount that we’d be able to borrow.

This meant that regardless of what property we found, that’s the maximum Mortgage amount that we qualified for.

I can’t remember what that max lend was, but let’s just say for arguments sake that it was £300,000. This means that even if there were mortgage deals at HSBC where you could get a 90% Mortgage with a 10% deposit and the property we sought after was £450,00, we would have to cough up £150,000 and not the simple 10% deposit of £45,000 that the product suggests. This is due to what we were “worth” and the maximum HSBC was happy to lend to us based on our salaries, credit score etc.

I hope this makes sense.

Here’s where Mortgage Brokers come in to play…

There are numerous High Street Lenders, and I suppose my finance and I could of gone up and down the streets from various bank to the next getting a rough idea of what they’d lend us, but this is extremely tedious and time consuming.

Our next point of contact was a Mortgage Broker which my finance found on Google – Alexander Hall.

We got in touch with a Mortgage Broker who was amazing! He offered an amazing service and until this day, I still remember his name.

The Mortgage Broker took more or less the same information we provided to HSBC and sourced which lender would give us what we were looking for.

“Source” the phrase used to describe the action taken on a system similar to Google for lenders. Most lenders are on this system and the great thing is that some Mortgage Brokers get exclusive rates and deals from lenders. For example the lowest rate at TSB if you were to walk in to a High Street Bank could be say 2.04% however with a broker, they have access to exclusive interest rates like 1.69% for TSB opposed to the 2.04% High Street rate. That’s a huge difference!

To cut a long story short, the Broker found us a lender that was willing to lend us way more than HSBC and we were able to then look for an affordable property, make an Offer and secure a Mortgage.

Round up.

The 3 Major difference between a High Street lender and a Mortgage Broker are:

1. Time

High Street Lender

They tend to have a 2 week wait for you to be able to secure an appointment with a Mortgage Advisor.

Application to Mortgage Offer can take anything from 1 Month – 6 Months.

Broker

For many no appointment is needed. You can get in touch with your Mortgage Broker over the phone/on email with the option to book in a face to face meeting if that’s your preference. However some brokers require face to face interaction like Capricorn Financial and Alexander Hall due to verification etc.

You also have the option to do everything online and through a chat window. Convenient and no need for any face to face interaction or time consuming meetings. Brokerages like Habito and Mojo operate in this kind of manner.

Application to Offer can take anything from 3 working days to 21 days. (I’ve seen case where a full Mortgage Application was submitted and an Offer followed immediately after due to the lender being able to verify the applicants electronically and carrying out a desktop valuation) – rare but possible.

2. Interest Rates

High Street Lender
What you see is what you get.

Dependent on the Bank of England base rate.

Not many options

Broker
Options galore.

You can play with the term length and Mortgage features (E.g cash back, free legal representation, split terms, payment holidays)

The Broker will be aware of when new rates are going to be introduced/when old rates are going to be pulled off of the market.

3. Convenience

High Street Lender
They will require hard copies of documentation

Proof of ID

Proof of Address

Bank Statements etc.

Broker
Hard copies of documentation not required

PDF copies acceptable

The convenience of being able to email across any additional information required from you.

Some people don’t like the idea of using unpopular lenders like “The Mortgage Works” or “Atom”, but if getting value for your money is important to you, I highly suggest using a Mortgage Broker.

Help to Buy: Equity Loan

Help to Buy

Reading time: 3 mins

In this month of October, we have been solely talking about the various Help to Buy schemes available.

The Help to Buy initiative was a way of assisting young first-time buyers acquire their first home. At a time where it almost seemed impossible for the millennial to own a property in the ever changing and increasing property market, the government stepped in to lend a hand.

However, there is a catch. Nothing in life is free and that’s why it is important to know the pros and cons of any scheme you commit to.

These scheme consist of the following:

Help to Buy ISA

Lifetime ISA Post due 29th October

Equity Loan

Shared Ownership

Mortgage Guarantee Scheme Withdrawn November 2016

 

What is a Help to Buy Equity Loan?

 

The Government lends you up to 20% of the cost of your newly built home, so you’ll only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.

This scheme is available to First-time buyers and Home movers.

For example:

Purchase price: £200,000

Your contribution to the deposit: £10,000

The Governments contribution to the deposit: £40,000

Mortgage Amount: £150,000 75% LTV

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You won’t be charged loan fees or interest on the 20% loan for the first five years of owning your home, however you will have to pay £12 management fees each year.

After 5 years, you will have to start paying back the 20% you initially borrowed, plus interest and your monthly Mortgage payments

ALERT

Things to bare in mind:

  1. Interest kicks in after five years, and could amount to a chunky sum over time.
  2. The Government will take the same percentage of the sale price as you opted for when you took out your equity loan (regardless of how much the loan was originally for) when the property is sold.
  3. You can repay part or all of the loan early, but the Government will only accept this if it’s a minimum of 10% of the property’s current value.

Selling your property

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Home Mover

Reading Time: 2 mins

Selling your property can be basic, however with so many different schemes and second charges, there are multiple factors to consider.

Today we are going to focus on a basic sale.

You are either:

  1. A home Mover
  2. Deciding to sell and rent going forward/move in with family.

“I’m not too sure about when, but I know that I want to sell my property this year”.

“I’ve got my eyes on a property, I’m ready to make an Offer, but I haven’t even put my property on the market yet”.

“I want to move, but I haven’t got my eyes on a property just yet, they’re just not ticking all of the boxes”.

My answer to all of the above is to get in touch with the local Estate Agency’s in your area and put your property up for sale.

Once it’s up, you can always take it down if you change your mind. The longer you procrastinate doing nothing, no one is viewing your property, no one knows you’re considering selling up and once you see a property you are interested in and tight deadlines follow, you’ll be anxious and overwhelmed with the process.

STEP 1: Contact local agents and explain your situation

STEP 2: Get them round to view your property and give you a rough idea of what your property is worth, what properties in your area have been sold for of late

STEP 3: Understand the agents charge policy. Some charge 1% of the sale price, other 0.5%, 0.25% etc and there are a variety of packages including pictures, Zoopla listings etc that you need to be aware of

STEP 4: Solicitor – find one. Just like with a purchase, you’ll need a solicitor to act on your behalf. They will liaise with the buyers solicitors to arrange particulars of the contracts, exchange and completion dates.

STEP 5: Funds – Once the sale is done and monies are received, your solicitor will pay off your existing Mortgage and the excess will be yours.

STEP 6: Buying a new home – The excess funds will be used as a deposit towards your new home. That’s why it’s important to sell and buy simultaneously.

OR

STEP 6: Renting/Moving in with family – The excess funds will be wired to the account of your chance savings, current, bond etc.

FAQ’s

What about Tax?

Private Residence Relief. You don’t pay Capital Gains Tax when you sell (or ‘dispose of’) your home if all of the following apply: you have one home and you’ve lived in it as your main home for all the time you’ve owned it. you haven’t let part of it out – this doesn’t include having a single lodger.

What if I bought my house under a government scheme or have a second charge in place?

Consult a solicitor. One that specialities in properties sold under your scheme/second charges before you put it up for sale. You need to understand the process, legalities and personal cost to you.