A guide to buying your dream home

Buying a house is probably the most expensive purchase that any of us will ever make. It is exciting but stressful at the same time. At McArthur Stanton, we are here to try and make it more enjoyable and (hopefully) less frightening for you. Take a look through our quick guide and checklist, and if you have any more queries, just let us know.

Finding your dream home

There are many ways to find the house of your dreams, and by now you may have noticed the great number of estate agency websites all covering the area you are looking for.

To save you a little time and effort therefore, we would suggest that the best way to begin your search properly would be at Rightmove. Depending on how long a property has been on the market, you can normally view and print off its schedule (in other words, the page detailing most of the things you need to know about the property) to take with you when you set out to view the place.

You should always see as many properties as you can within the budget you have set. You will soon recognise which ones offer better value and suit your own personal needs, but if you need any specific advice on the property, just give us a call today on 01436 672212 or 01389 762266 and we would be happy to help.

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The Home Report

All properties which come onto the market have to have what is called a "Home Report". This is in addition to the Sales Schedule and is made up of a Single Survey, an Energy Report and a Property Questionnaire, and is full of useful information aimed at making it easier for you to decide whether or not to buy the property. The Home Report will be available from the Agent marketing the property, although you will need to provide your full name and address, and may need to pay a fee. The Agent has 9 days in which to provide the Home Report, and a Seller is entitled to refuse to make one available if he or she considers that you cannot afford the house, are not really interested in buying the house or are not someone that the Seller would wish to sell the house to. If you are serious about offering for a house, it is very important that you read the Home Report carefully and discuss it with your solicitor. Our property team will happily discuss this with you if you would like some more help.

The Single Survey gives you information on the condition of the property, but you may find that your chosen lender still wants to obtain their own mortgage valuation survey over the property which you will need to pay for. The Energy Report will give you more information about the current costs of running the house, and what you could do to make it more energy efficient. The Property Questionnaire is completed by the Seller and should give you information about alterations, factors fees, council tax charges and other things that will help you decide if you can afford to buy and run the house.

There are a few exceptions where a Home Report does not have to be provided however, so please feel free to talk to us if you are unsure.

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How properties are priced

Most properties will be priced as 'offers over'. This means that the figure quoted in the schedule is lower than the price the seller actually wants to achieve. How much higher the property will sell for depends on the strength of the market in the area, plus the number of other potential buyers who are interested, and you can usually phone the agents selling the property for some useful information on this. For example, houses in some very popular areas such as Bearsden or Helensburgh, can sell for prices much higher than the one you see quoted in the schedule.

That said, a property may be advertised as being on sale at a 'fixed price'. These situations normally occur where a seller is looking for a quick sale, and he or she will usually accept the first clean offer that comes in at the price quoted. However, it would be worth checking with the selling agents how long the property has been on the market, as sometimes, where a property has just not been selling at the offers over price, perhaps because the surveys have been revealing various problems with the property, the seller will decide to change it to a fixed price to attract more interest.

Do remember that both you and the Seller will know what the property was valued at in the Single Survey in the Home Report. The Seller is not obliged to accept an offer at the figure in the Single Survey, and may consider that the property is worth more. In addition, your own lender may insist on their own valuation survey which may produce a different figure. Where there are several interested people wanting to buy the house, it may go for a higher figure than the valuation would suggest, so we would always recommend that you speak to our helpful property advisers or legal team before you decide on the price you want to offer.

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I’ve found a place I like

To make sure that the seller does not sell to someone else while you think about whether to buy and perhaps arrange your own survey, you should give us a call and ask us to 'note interest' in the property on your behalf. This lets the selling agents know that you are interested in the property, so that you will then be told if there is a closing date set, or if the seller wants to accept an offer.

If we do this for you, you will not be obliged to follow up the note of interest, so if you change your mind about the property, you are not committed to anything. Nevertheless, noting interest does lessen the risk of the seller taking the property off the market or selling to someone else while you think about what you want to do next.

At this stage, you should also speak to your lenders to see if they are going to require their own survey over the property. Remember that they will expect you to pay for this. You should also read carefully the Single Survey that is in the Home Report. A surveyor can identify defects in the property that you might not be aware of. If you have ever watched Tom Hanks in The Money Pit, you’ll know that a lovely house could still cost much of your hard earned cash to repair! If your lender wants a separate survey, you may want to use this as a chance to get a more detailed report yourself and order a "Scheme 2" or "Home Buyers" Survey rather than the basic Valuation Report. Of course, if you are not sure about which survey to instruct, we can point you in the right direction.

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Can I afford it?

Most people need to borrow large sums of money to purchase a house, with a secured loan or mortgage over the house itself. These are provided by banks and building societies, but the choice of loans on the market can be fairly bewildering.

If you do not have a financial adviser, we would be happy to introduce you to one who can help you find the perfect mortgage package for you.

If applying for a mortgage, you should remember that you will normally require to produce copies of a number of recent wage slips as proof of income, along with your passport, driving licence or other photographic ID, and a copy of a recent utility bill or bank statement to confirm your identity and current address.

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How do I actually buy my new home?

Once you have sorted out your mortgage offer and survey, we will submit on your behalf a written offer to the agent acting for the seller. This will be in the form of a letter which contains a number of clauses (rather like a shopping list), including the purchase price, the date of entry (in other words the date the price is payable and the keys made available), plus details of any extras such as curtains and carpets which may be included in the sale.

If more than one person wants to submit an offer, a 'closing date' may be fixed, and as we mentioned earlier, you will be advised of this date if you've asked us to note interest in the property. Once the closing date has expired, and we have submitted your offer, the seller can elect which offer he or she wishes to accept, which will depend largely on the prices offered but also on how suitable the dates of entry are. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any particular offer will be accepted.

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And what is the solicitor's role in all this?

Many people wonder why a solicitor is necessary in this process. Wouldn't it be easy if we could just phone the seller up, offer a price and move in when it's convenient?!!

However, the role of the solicitor is absolutely vital to the successful purchase of a house. Once you instruct us we will have two main tasks:

Firstly, we will have to negotiate a legally binding contract between you and the seller, by the exchange of lawyers’ letters (commonly known as 'missives'). The starting point is the offer which we mentioned earlier, and which is then partially accepted by the seller in writing via a 'qualified acceptance'.

Many detailed letters may be exchanged before the contract is concluded, and the completed missives that you end up with will set out in full the basis upon which the property is bought and sold, ensuring that neither party can walk away without penalty.

Secondly, we will also have to carry out the actual 'conveyancing' of the property. Your new home sits on a plot of land which is described in various title deeds. We will need to check that those deeds are correct and that all is in order. We will also draft the 'disposition' (or deed of transfer) which is the formal legal document changing the ownership of the house over to you.

At this stage, we will be looking to complete the mortgage documents on your behalf, so it is vitally important that you apply for your mortgage finance as soon as you see the house you like, and again we can introduce you to a financial adviser to help ensure everything goes through smoothly. Needless to say of course, you must have the funds in place in time to pay the price on the date of entry.

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When do I get the keys?

The keys are made available once the price is paid. Having sorted out the mortgage funds and so on, we will pay the price on your behalf using your mortgage funds plus any deposit you are paying, and will attend then to the registration of the title deeds for you. Once we receive confirmation from the seller's agents that the purchase price has been received by them, you will get the call you've been waiting for to collect the keys.

So all in all, buying your dream home may well appear daunting at the outset, but if you give us a call today to get the ball rolling, we'll be sure to make the whole experience as swift and hassle-free as possible, leaving you free to pack the goldfish and tick off the moving out checklist. 

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You can view our purchasing checklist here. 

Contact our Property Solicitors Dumbarton & Helensburgh, Scotland

We also offer packages tailored to your needs, allowing you to buy, sell and let your home guided by our professionals from start to finish. Contact Our Specialist Property Lawyers today to find out how we can help, give us a call today on 01436 672212 or 01389 762266.

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