Know-how Guide

Buying Guide

1) Can you afford it?

Buying a property is a big step involving a substantial long-term financial commitment, so think hard about what you can afford. You will need to consider the assets you have - like savings - as well as the money that's coming in and going out.

Although it may reduce your buying options, you don't want to commit to a mortgage and then realise you can't afford some of the nicer things in life! It may sound obvious but take time to think of all the things you spend money on throughout the year, even without a mortgage.

2) Getting a mortgage

For most people buying a property the biggest ongoing cost is the mortgage - simply a loan secured against a property. You can't sell the property without paying off the mortgage first and if you don't keep up the repayments the lender can repossess the property.

Because of the credit crunch, it is vital that you secure a mortgage with a lender before starting the searching process. This way, when you find the right property, you will avoid being beaten to it by another buyer and you will also be in a much stronger negotiating position.

Generally, the best mortgage deals are available to people who put in at least 15% of the property's value, leaving the mortgage company to lend the other 85%.

If you put in less than 10%, you may have to pay a "Higher Lending Fee" (sometimes called a Mortgage Indemnity or a Mortgage Guarantee Charge) which will add to the cost of your mortgage.

As a rough guide, providing the amount you are borrowing is at least 85% of the property value, budget to add 1.75% onto the Bank of England base rate, which will give you a ball park figure of the likely annual interest rate.

3) Finding a mortgage

Firstly, get a rough idea of what's available. Your estate agent should be able to help you with this as a starting point.

If you already have a relationship with a bank or building society, see what they have to offer.

If your circumstances or the property you want to buy are unusual it may be worth asking your estate agent if they know a good "intermediary" such as a mortgage broker who can help. Always ask if they search the whole market or just a small set of lenders, and how much they charge.

Home builders and developers often have attractive mortgage deals.

Your employer - some financial firms have mortgage schemes for staff.

4) How a mortgage lender assesses you

Mortgage lenders will take your credit history into account as well as your income. They are particularly interested in how often you have defaulted on other payments, your existing credit agreements, if you have any County Court Judgments or if you have been declared bankrupt.

If your credit rating is poor, you may be able to get a Sub Prime Mortgage deal where you'll probably pay a higher mortgage rate.

Alternatively, you could wait until your credit record has improved. With mortgage lenders tightening their criteria, 'risky' borrowers will unfortunately find it increasingly difficult to obtain finance.

It's possible to check your credit reference file with the UK's main credit reference agencies:

Experian, Equifax or Callcredit.

Access to your file only costs a few pounds. If you see anything that's wrong you can challenge its validity.

If you are self-employed you'll probably have to show the lender income from your business for at least two years and if you are a contract worker, you'll have to prove to the lender that your earnings will continue.

For couples, the lender will look at both incomes. Some lenders will consider groups of up to four people buying together. Think carefully before you buy with friends because each of you will be "jointly and severally liable" meaning you will have to pay the mortgage if one of the others doesn't pay their share.

If you can prove your income is about to increase substantially - perhaps you'll soon qualify as a doctor - some lenders may be prepared to lend more.

While a lender will happily work out what they think you can afford, remember you need to be comfortable too. Make sure you will be able to deal with unexpected extras that crop up. Key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Can I continue to live the lifestyle I want if I were to take on this mortgage?
  • What if my circumstances change, for example if I want to take a career break to study, have a child or have to look after a sick relative?
  • What would happen if I lost my job?
  • What would happen if interest rates went up?
  • If any or all of these things happen could I still keep up the mortgage repayments?

Budget for rises in interest rates - for example, for every 1% increase in the interest rate on a £100,000 mortgage the interest payment alone jumps by around £83 each month.

5) Choosing a mortgage

Once you have read through all the mortgages on offer, you are ready to compare mortgages. Here are some tips:

If you've got quotes from different lenders make sure you compare them on a like-for-like basis looking at payments, charges and flexibility.

Ask about the term of the mortgage. Most mortgages are 25 years in length, but you can choose a longer or shorter period if you wish, depending on what you can afford and how quickly you want to be debt free.

At the end of any special offer periods, you may be switched onto the lender's standard variable rate. So at the end of the period, remember to ask your lender if they have any better products available and don't be afraid to shop around to get the best deal.

6) Get a Mortgage in Principle

Once you think you've found a mortgage deal you like, the next step is to get a Mortgage in Principle agreement from a lender. AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE

Provided by lenders as a statement that this is what they are prepared to lend the named borrowers subject to approval of the property

To do this they'll need to do a full credit check on you. As each check leaves a "footprint" on your credit file, it's best not to do too many as it can hurt your credit rating.

A Mortgage in Principle will show agents and sellers that you are a serious buyer with a mortgage lined up - and put you a step ahead of other buyers.

Your mortgage company will provide a summary of the mortgage agreement, called the Key Facts Illustration showing the total cost of the mortgage, the interest rate, whether there are any penalties for early repayment and any other special conditions.

7) Finding the ideal property

You will need to consider what aspects of a property are most important to you:

  • Number of bedrooms / bathrooms.
  • Parking provisions.
  • Separate kitchen and dining room.
  • Private garden.
  • Conservatory.
  • How much time/money you may want to spend redecorating etc.

Tell your agent exactly what type of property you are looking for and the elements that you could possibly compromise on. Also inform them what you don't want and whether you have a mortgage agreed in principle.

8) New builds

You may want to consider buying a new build; which are growing in popularity and offer many benefits to homebuyers. The benefits of buying a new home include:

Not having to spend money or time redecorating or repairing your new home. You may even get to choose the design before it's built.

New build house developers registered with the National House Building Council (NHBC) provide a 10-year warranty. Similar guarantees can be gained from other providers.

You can avoid waiting for detailed surveys to be completed as your guarantee covers any unforeseen problems.

The average new home is up to six times more energy efficient than a traditional second-hand home.*

There are no upward chains when buying a new build house, so the whole process is quicker and less stressful. Some new home developers offer part exchange deals on your current home.

9) The area

If you are moving to a new area, you may want to do some research to see if it is suitable for your lifestyle. Useful information about house prices, school performance, public transport links and others.

The checklist below covers some of the most important things you need to know and where to get the information:

Use the Government websites to find out what the council tax bandings are in the new area. The VOA website can be used for England and Wales while the SAA website is for Scotland.

Get information on a variety of subjects including: population, crime, health and housing from the Office for National Statistics website.

Check out the public transport links on the Transport Direct or the TGL website for London.

Visit the Highways Agency website to check your road transport links and any plans for future road developments that may affect house prices in the future.

Look at the Environment Agency website to find out more about the local environment; from pollution to flooding.

10) Getting the most out of viewings

Use UKPropertydirect.co.uk to find out as much as you can about a property you like using the photographs, floorplans, virtual tours and local information that is available with most descriptions. Always call or email the advertising agent to check any missing information.

As soon as you have established the property is of sufficient interest for you, book a viewing with the agent or the private seller.

Also, don't forget to take a camera and tape measure on every viewing you go on - the camera is so you can avoid having to rack your brain about which property had the lovely en-suite. With cameras built in as standard on most mobile phones, this is easier than ever. But remember to always ask permission from the agent or owner before taking any pictures. The tape measure is for you to see if your large/favourite pieces of furniture will fit in the rooms.

11) Negotiating and making an offer

Once you have found the property of your dreams, the next step is to make an offer. It is important to consider a variety of factors when choosing your price level in order to achieve the right deal for you. Take a step back to logically look at all the things that matter before making your offer.

First time buyers, buyers with no chain and buyers who have pre-arranged mortgages have a head start on most of the competition. If this is you, then make the agent and seller aware of this, as this can put you in a very favourable negotiating position, especially if the seller is in a chain. Be sure to check if they are in a hurry to sell or have been trying to sell for a long time. If so, they may be willing to accept a lower offer to make the sale. Sellers who are not in a hurry to move are more likely to hold out for a higher price.

12) GAZUMPING & GAZUNDERING

A term used to denote a situation where the seller has accepted an offer but subsequently accepts a higher offer from another purchaser. This is legal and ensuring the property is taken off the market is one way of reducing this risk. Gazumping happens most frequently in a seller's market. Gazundering is the term for when a buyer reduces their offer just before the contracts are exchanged in the hope of forcing the seller to accept less for the property. Again this is considered legal.

Knowing your budget ceiling is crucial so decide your maximum limit from the start and stand firm. If the seller refuses to budge, you need to think very carefully if the property really is worth the extra money and of course, what you will have to live without over the long term. Do your homework and check what the property is truly worth. Whilst sold house prices can help give an idea of recent sales, it's better to see what the competition is like now. If there are few similar properties for sale in the area, chances are the seller has the upper-hand. Also, if there are any faults or repair work required, use this to justify a lower offer. In tougher times when there are fewer buyers, sellers may be more willing to negotiate on price.

Once you make an offer make it clear that it's subject to contract and a satisfactory survey. If you are buying from a developer, while selling an existing property, see if they will offer a part exchange to buy your existing house.

13) Offer accepted. Next step

Once the seller has accepted your offer, ask them to take it off the market. They don't have to agree to this, but doing so will shut out other potential buyers. Now you need to move fast - the seller will want to see progress so try to avoid any unnecessary delays in getting the surveys and other legal work done. Complete the lender's application form and send them the documents they require - this will include proof of your ID, evidence of your earnings, proof of your address over the last few months and your bank statements, so have these ready.

The lender will arrange for a valuation to be done on the property. If you are lucky enough to not need a mortgage, you don't have to get a survey done, though buying a property without one is not advisable and risky. If you are buying an older property, one that needs repairs or just for your own peace of mind, you could consider getting a more detailed survey done than the basic lender's valuation. Ask your estate agent or a surveyor at www.rics.org for a quote.

The lender will use the surveyor's Valuation Report and other information you provided to calculate how much it will allow you to borrow by way of mortgage secured on the property.

14) Conveyancing - the legal aspects

CONVEYANCING is the process of transferring the legal ownership of property or land from one person to another.

Here is our quick guide to understanding what a conveyancer does. They will:

  • Obtain sellers' responses to questions, such as who owns the boundaries, whether they have had any disputes with neighbours and what fixtures and fittings are included.
  • Check copies of any guarantees on the property, details of planning permissions and building regulation certificates.
  • Check the seller really is the owner of the property and prepare a Report on Title for you.
  • Check local authority searches and plans for the local area.
  • Pay stamp duty tax on the property.
  • Arrange registration of title in your name.

15) Tips for choosing and using a conveyancer

Get at least three conveyancers' quotes well before you start looking for property. Ask friends, family and your estate agent for recommendations.

Tell your conveyancer if you want answers to any specific questions in advance.

Let them know when you would like to exchange contracts and complete. Tell them you will require regular updates of how the purchase is progressing.

Try to negotiate a no sale - no fee deal, so if the deal falls through you don't pay anything.

Check and compare quotes carefully making sure they are like for like. Decide if you also want the conveyancer to arrange an Environmental Search, which will give information such as flood risk, radon levels and local mines in the area.

You can also help to keep the process moving ahead by:

Giving the conveyancer some basic information to get started; things like your mortgage lender details, the seller's details, proof of your ID and any specific questions you would like them to ask the seller.

Completing mortgage application forms and responding to solicitors' queries as soon as you can. Use registered post or deliver documents by hand to save time.

Checking seller's responses to questions carefully.

Asking your conveyancer if you don't understand anything.

It can take anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks from the day your offer is accepted to getting all the paperwork completed and queries answered, even where there is no chain.

16) What happens next?

In England and Wales, Exchange of Contracts is the last stage of the legal process after which you cannot pull out (without losing your deposit and any legal costs you may have incurred).

EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS - When copies of signed contracts are exchanged between the buyer's conveyancer and the seller's conveyancer.

Once everything is ready, you'll then be asked to pay a deposit- usually 10% (but sometimes 5%) of the property value before contracts can be exchanged. If the buyer pulls out after this stage, they will lose their deposit and may face legal action from the seller. It is essential to have Buildings Insurance cover in place at this stage and buyers should also consider other protection such as Life Insurance.

A date for completion is usually set for at least two weeks after contracts are exchanged. This should give you enough time to arrange moving in.

COMPLETION

The finalising of the sale when all the monies are passed over and the buyer has legal right to the property.

Your conveyancer will call you to tell you when your money has arrived - so you can get the keys and move in. The conveyancer will also send you a completion statement. Read it carefully - it should reflect their original quotation.

Buying in Scotland

In Scotland, the legal process is slightly different and buyers are committed at an earlier stage.

Here, the seller usually sets a guide price and interested buyers put in bids and suggested completion dates. Once the seller accepts their preferred bid, there is a compensation penalty to be paid if one of the parties changes their minds. For this reason, you need to have arranged your mortgage before you put in a bid.

Unlike in England and Wales, many conveyancing solicitors in Scotland also have an estate agency part to their business.

17) Preparing for Moving Day

It is unusual to hear from someone who didn't have a stressful time moving but being organised is the trick to minimise your stress levels during this time.

Here are some tips to make moving day as smooth as possible:

Use a good removal firm - seek recommendations from friends or get removal quotes. Look for members of the British Association of Removers who operate a strict code of conduct.

If possible, try to stagger moving days so you don't have to do everything all in one day.

This can also give you time to do any essential work to the new property such as carpet cleaning or any decorating that needs to be done before all your belongings arrive.

Try to avoid Mondays and Fridays which are the busiest days on the roads.

Save time and cost by doing some of the packing yourself.

Check out the best value utility contracts for your new property well in advance and read the meters in both properties on moving day.

Redirect post well beforehand - this is especially essential to protect yourself from identity theft.

If your new place has any appliances left behind, download the instruction manuals from the manufacturer's website.

First time buyers

As a general rule of thumb, the larger the deposit you save to buy a home, the better the mortgage deal you will be offered from a lender

When you buy a property, you are required to pay tax in the form of stamp duty.

First time buyers often fall into the trap of thinking that the only money needed to purchase a property is the price of the building.

It can be confusing to know where to start looking when faced with terms such as tracker or fixed rates, arrangement fees and the length of the initial deal.

A number of initiatives have been introduced to help first time buyers purchase a home. By far the most popular is Help to Buy.

FIRST-TIME BUYER CHECK LIST

Purchasing your first home can be a daunting prospect. So here is our checklist to help guide you through the process.

Things to consider before you buy;

Can you afford to buy now or would it be better to save a larger deposit, where do you want to live and in what type of property?

Choose a mortgage

Gather as much information about the different mortgage deals on offer for first time buyers, including the Government's Help to Buy Scheme.

Find a property

Start your property search and speak to local estate agents about properties available within your price range.

Make an offer

Discuss your offer with your estate agent who can then negotiate with the vendor on your behalf.

Appoint a solicitor and surveyor

They can deal with drawing up contracts and check if the property is structurally sound.

Exchange contracts...

...and move into your new home on completion day.

Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. We strongly advise that you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

Selling Guide

1) Preparing to sell

People have different reasons for selling, from disposing of an investment property to simply moving home.

Once you have decided to sell up, think about what you want to include in the sale. Normally, fixtures and fittings such as fitted storage heaters are included in the price but other moveable things can be up for negotiation.

If you are getting rid of items you no longer need, do it before you start marketing your property as the less clutter you have the faster your house will sell. Many councils take large items away, sometimes for free.

Give your agent other useful documents and facts about your property, which they can mention to potential buyers, such as:

Gas and electrical certificate checks.

Building regulations certificates.

Council tax, utility, buildings and contents insurance bills - so potential buyers can estimate running costs.

Service charges and ground rent bills (for flats).

In addition, you could ask your agent if it's worth going one better and giving potential buyers other information (which could also speed up the conveyancing process) such as:

Environmental Searches. These provide useful information such as the flood risk, radon levels or if there are local mines in the area

A Home Condition Report - provides more information about the condition of your property, although your buyer will probably still need to get their own survey done.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – to show the energy rating of your property.

2) How much is your house worth?

There are several ways to help you determine how much you should put your house on the market for:

Consult your local estate agent who can offer expert advice to help you determine a realistic asking price.

Use the House Price section on UKPropertyDirect to check out average sold house prices in your area from Land Registry Data.

Search for similar properties for sale in your area and see what they are currently being marketed for.

3) Selling through an estate agent or privately

It is possible to sell your property privately, but there are significant risks attached. For most people, selling a home is the biggest and most important transaction they will ever make. Using professionals for each part of the process provides you with expert knowledge and legal protection. Besides, selling on your own can be expensive and time consuming.

You will be responsible for:

  • Setting the price
  • Marketing
  • Arranging viewings
  • Negotiating the offers
  • Progressing the sale through solicitors and conveyancers.

However, UKPropertyDirect gives you the choice of both. You can sell your property privately on UKPropertyDirect should you choose.

In order to give buyers and sellers the best possible protection and service, UKPropertyDirect does accept property advertisements from private sellers or private landlords. All the property featured on our site must comply with the requirements of the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991.

PROPERTY MISDESCRIPTIONS ACT - The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 makes it an offence for an estate agent or property developer to make false or misleading statements in the course of their business. The Act is enforced by Trading Standards Officers. Find out more on the DTI website.

We recommend using an agent registered on UKPropertyDirect who can apply their expertise, local knowledge and marketing power to add real value to your sale.

4) The advantages of using an estate agent

Estate agents spend all day, every day selling property and as a result have built up a vast knowledge and expertise in the whole buying and selling process. They will conduct a valuation on your property, handle viewings and negotiations on your behalf and make sure your property is marketed properly. They will strive to achieve the best possible price for your property and the best buyer, thereby avoiding disappointment and stress from less serious potential buyers.

On top of this a good estate agent will also be able to offer you plenty of advice along the way. This includes guidance on conveyancing and financial services.

5) How to choose the right agent

Make sure your estate agent comes with a glowing reference. Ask your family, colleagues, friends and neighbours about their recent selling experiences.

Use the find estate agent on UKPropertyDirect, which is a simple way of short listing potential estate agents in your local area. Pick an estate agent with a proven track record in selling - a quick look around your local area looking for 'Sold' boards is a great indicator for this. Search for your selected estate agents on UKPropertyDirect to see if they have experience in selling your kind of property.

Once you have chosen your three agents, they will visit your property and recommend an asking price. Ask them how they plan on marketing your property. A good estate agent will invest in marketing on behalf of the seller, take photos of your property and compile the description; so be very wary of those that ask you to do this yourself.

Finally, check the small print. Once you have selected your agent, make sure that you check the terms of appointment. It is your responsibility to know what you have agreed to before signing anything legally binding.

6) Getting the most out of viewings

Now you have signed a contract with an estate agent, you need to get your home ready for viewings and give your house the best chance of selling. First impressions count so put yourself in the buyers' shoes and think about how you can enhance your property's draw.

Consider its "kerb appeal"; the first thing potential buyers will see before they even get past the front door. Here are some things to look out for:

Does the front of your house need smartening up?

Could the front garden be tidier?

Would the front door look better with a fresh lick of paint?

Could the front windows do with a clean?

Look at the inside with a critical eye too:

  • Keep it clean and tidy. De-clutter and use sensible storage. Potential buyers will want to visualise how they can fill the space
  • Undertake any minor repairs that need doing so buyers will need to really try hard to find any negatives
  • If you want to re-decorate, go for neutral tones, which will appeal to a wider audience
  • Make your house comfortable, cool on hot sunny days and warm if it's winter
  • Banish smoke or pet odours. Open the windows, brew some fresh coffee and add finishing touches such as fresh flowers, to brighten the place up
  • Bring out the best features such as fireplaces and use mirrors to increase the sense of space.

7) Negotiating offers

Once you have received an offer, be prepared to negotiate. But remember, you don't have to sell to the highest bidder. A lower bidder might be better if they:

Are paying cash (so don't have to wait for mortgage approval)

Already have a mortgage "agreed in principle"

Don't have to sell a property first (they could be first-time buyers or investors) or are in a short chain

Can fit in with your timescales better than other buyers

If you are buying from a developer, see if they will offer a part exchange to buy your property from you.

8) GAZUMPING & GAZUNDERING

A term used to denote a situation where the seller has accepted an offer but subsequently accepts a higher offer from another purchaser. This is legal and ensuring the property is taken off the market is one way of reducing this risk. Gazumping happens most frequently in a seller's market. Gazundering is the term for when a buyer reduces their offer just before the contracts are exchanged in the hope of forcing the seller to accept less for the property. Again this is considered legal.

Once you have accepted an offer you will probably be asked to take it off the market. It's your decision, but if you do, tell your agent that if the sale has not progressed after two weeks you'll want it back on the market.

9) If it is not selling

Ask your agent why they think it's not selling. What's the feedback from viewings?

Can your estate agent 'freshen up' your property details on UKPropertyDirect with better photos and a more engaging description?

Was the exterior photo clearly taken a long time ago in a different season? If so, ask the agent to take a new one

Do you need to reduce the price?

If a survey revealed a problem that led a buyer to renegotiate or pull out, consider getting repairs done.

10) Ensuring the sale goes smoothly

CONVEYANCING - The process of transferring the legal ownership of property or land from one person to another.

Conveyancing is very time consuming and complex, so you will need to employ either a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer to do it for you.

Here are our top tips on choosing and using a conveyancer…

Get at least three conveyancers' quotes. Ask friends, family and your estate agent for recommendations

Tell your conveyancer if you want answers to any specific questions in advance

Let them know when you would like to exchange contracts and complete. Tell them you will require regular updates of how the sale is progressing

Try to negotiate a no sale - no fee deal, so if the deal falls through you don't pay anything

Check and compare quotes carefully making sure they are like for like.

Once you have appointed a conveyancer, you will need to…

Give them some basic information to get started such as your mortgage roll number - so they can check you own the property and proof of your ID

Complete a detailed questionnaire on the property, covering things like who owns the boundaries and whether you have had any disputes with neighbours. It is a legal requirement to answer truthfully

Complete a form showing what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale

Answer conveyancing queries as soon as you can. Use registered post or deliver documents by hand.

11) Exchange of Contracts

In England and Wales, Exchange of Contracts is the last stage of the legal process after which a buyer cannot pull out (without losing their deposit).

EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS - When copies of signed contracts are exchanged between the buyer's conveyancer and the seller's conveyancer.

A date for completion is usually set for at least two weeks after the exchange date, giving you time to arrange removals. Your conveyancer will call your agent to tell them when the buyer's money has arrived so they can give the keys to the new owner.

Check the conveyancer's completion statement carefully - it should reflect the original quotation.

12) Selling in Scotland

In Scotland, the legal process is slightly different and buyers are committed at an earlier stage.

Here, the seller usually sets a guide price and interested buyers put in bids and suggested completion dates. Once the seller accepts their preferred bid, there is a compensation penalty to be paid if one of the parties changes their minds. For this reason, buyers need to have arranged a mortgage before they put in a bid.

Unlike in England and Wales, many conveyancing solicitors in Scotland also have an estate agency part to their business.

13) Preparing to move out

Moving out of the home you've lived in for a while can be stressful, but it's also a great opportunity to make a new start. Getting organised and planning ahead will minimise your stress levels and make it easier to move on.

Here are some tips to make the day you move out as painless as possible:

Ask your friends to recommend a professional removal firm - your belongings are precious so ask for references, membership of the British Association of Removers and get removal quotes.

Think about moving out and in on separate days so you don't have to squeeze everything into the same day.

Leaving a few days before moving in will free up time to get essential work to your new home completed without needing to work around piles of boxes. It's a great time for carpet cleaning, decorating or any DIY projects that might be dusty like sanding woodwork or floorboards, replastering etc.

If you can, avoid moving on a Monday or Friday: they are the busiest days for moving as well as for traffic on the roads.

Remember to take meter readings on both properties on the day(s) of the move.

Set up your post to be redirected a few weeks before you move with the Royal Mail - a good precaution against identity theft.

While you still have an internet connection (it could be a few weeks before your new property is connected), download any instruction manuals from the manufacturer's website for your new appliances.

Prepare a note for the new owners explaining how things work and where they can find useful items such as the boiler switches, aerial sockets and alarm codes. A few kind thoughts will go a long way when it comes to mail redirection and injects some humanity into the whole process.

Renting Guide

Most of us will rent at one time or another. Although it is often for the short term rather than the long term, there are various factors that can make or break the experience.

Tenants face a multitude of potential pitfalls when it comes to finding the right property, just as prospective buyers do. It's important to go through the all the elements with a fine tooth comb to make sure you're clear where the responsibilities lie.

A tenancy agreement is legally binding, and while landlords may make allowances beyond what is in the paperwork, they can also use it to enforce the law rigidly. So make sure you're happy with the whole of the rental agreement and not just the bricks and mortar.

Here are some top tips to ensure you have a happy rental.

1. Research

Before you start the process work out what you can afford. It's not just a case of the monthly payments. You can expect an agent, acting on behalf of the landlord, to ask for a deposit - typically one month's rent as well as one month in advance. When you know your budget make sure you thoroughly research the area as well as what is available to rent. A good place to start is the rent section on UKPropertyDirect.

2. Hidden costs

The agent, working on behalf of the landlord, will probably ask you to pay for a credit search and other admin fees which could be in the region of £40-£100. Make sure you also consider how you may move your worldly belonging from your current home to your new one. You may need to store some items which is when the costs can start to mount.

3. Terms and conditions

Make sure you look at the obligations of both landlord and tenant such as upkeep and maintenance of the property, respective liabilities, renewal processes and costs and query anything with the agent by email so you have a record.

4. Maintenance of the property

Make sure you're aware where the responsibilities lie. Who will react to any maintenance? If you think the property needs some maintenance, make sure you request for it to be done before you sign, or at the very least ask for it to be written into the contract. Alternatively, perhaps negotiate less rent until the issues are resolved.

Items often overlooked include the boiler and windows. In summer these are rarely an issue but a few months later, when the temperature drops, you want to make sure you have a fully working boiler, so ask to see any maintenance certificates. Similarly if you're starting you're rental in winter a few months later when summer is here, you don't want to find that the windows don't open.

5. Renewal costs

Some agents will charge renewal costs for extending and taking out a new contract so don't be caught out and ask the questions up front.

6. Utilities and services

Look at who is providing the utilities and what the process is to take over these services. Perhaps you may be able to ask the agent to speak to the landlord or existing tenants to ensure the services are still running thereby avoiding any reconnection fees.

7. Break clause

Check if there is a break clause. It's important to understand that it can be activated by both the tenant and the landlord. You don't want to be caught out with a week's notice. A month is the standard notice time for both tenant or landlord, but these will vary.

8. Tenant deposit protection schemes

Tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes ensure that money paid by tenants (as deposits) is kept safe. Landlords must use one of three government approved schemes. Whilst the letting agent may take the money, it is the landlord's responsibility so make sure you receive proof that this has happened.

9. Insurance

Is the landlord insuring the contents or is it your responsibility as the tenant? It is unlikely the landlord will pay for all contents, and is usually just his/her belongings. Check what it covers. At the very least it should cover the building. As with most of our advice it pays to find out the answers before signing your contract.

10. Inventory and moving in

Go through the inventory thoroughly. It should schedule what is the landlord's property and will be used at the end of the tenancy to attribute responsibility for any damage and ultimately, who should pay for the replacement costs. This is where many tenant disputes originate. Don't be afraid to take pictures of walls, rooms, carpets and so on to record the state of them as you move in. If you do this make sure you email them to the agent so they can be kept on file.

Student Guide To Renting

As a student looking for rental accommodation, it's essential that you know your rights and what is expected of you before entering into any kind of agreement with a landlord or agent.

Letting Guide

The Advantages of Letting Property

This guide has been designed to explain the key facts you need to know about becoming a landlord. By the end, you should have a good understanding of what's involved. However, your local UKPropertyDirect member letting agent will be able to answer any additional questions you may have.

Successful buying-to-let is dependent on:

Buying the right kind of property in the right location that appeals to a large range of tenants

Good tenants who will pay the rent and look after the property

Your ability to manage the tenancy properly

Compliancy with the rules and regulations on letting property

Not getting emotionally attached to your property. It's generally a long term investment and a mistake to treat it as your own home.

The UK has a housing crisis - a growing population and a lack of available properties has pushed up house prices beyond what people can afford in many areas.

This has meant some people have no option but to rent instead - it's usually cheaper and for those that want to eventually buy; it allows them to save for a deposit.

Why buy-to-let is growing

At the same time, lifestyles have become more flexible. Today people move between work and study frequently.

For these people being a tenant offers more flexibility than buying a house.

In 1988, the tenancy laws were changed to allow landlords to get their property back simply by giving sufficient notice to the tenant. In 1996, special 'buy-to-let mortgages' for landlords became available, making it much easier for people to borrow money to buy property to let.

All this is good news for landlords…

Understanding rental yield and capital growth

There are two ways landlords make money through property letting - capital growth and rental income growth. Let's take a look at these in more detail.

When a property increases in value over time, it is known as 'capital growth'. Capital growth, also known as capital appreciation, has been strong in recent times, but the value of property does go up as well as down, and of course the local conditions surrounding your property have a big effect.

Rental income is what the tenant pays you - hopefully this will grow over time too. In addition to the all important income, you will also need to budget for a number of necessary costs. It's worth highlighting what these costs are so you can budget for them. This is especially important as ultimately you are responsible for these costs whether the property is occupied or not.

Understanding your legal responsibilities as a landlord

There are some legal requirements you will have to comply with as a landlord. This section introduces some of these responsibilities.

The law states you must maintain the property and undertake any major repairs that are required. This includes anything that affects the structure and exterior as well as the electrical, heating, hot water and sanitary conditions.

In addition, there are special rules that apply to soft furnishings, gas and electrical safety, tenants with disabilities and shared houses. These rules can be found below.

Finding the ideal rental property and buy-to-let mortgage

As a landlord, you can use UKPropertyDirect in two ways…

To find a property to buy with the express intention of renting it out

To find a tenant to rent the property.

This section covers how to find a property to buy that can be rented out.

UKPropertyDirect is the best place to start your search, because 90% of property for sale in the UK is advertised on our website.

This gives buyers a huge choice of property for sale. Most listings on UKPropertyDirect have additional information such as extra photographs, virtual tours, floorplans and brochures so you can really get a good idea of what the property is like before you go on viewings.

To make your search easier, you can create an account to register for property alerts so you can receive automatic notification in your inbox of new listings that match your search criteria. Once you have found a property that interests you, contact the UKPropertyDirect member agent who is marketing the property to arrange a viewing.

Doing viewings and negotiating / making offers.

Use UKPropertyDirect to find out as much as you can about a property using the photographs, floorplans, virtual tours, online brochures and local information that is available with most descriptions.

Always call or email the advertising agent to check any missing information.

As soon as you have established the property has potential, book a viewing with the agent. Don't forget to take a camera and tape measure on every viewing you go on.

Remember - buy-to-let properties are not emotional purchases. So be sure to remain rational about what is right for the rental market, not yourself.

Once you have found the ideal property, the next step is to make an offer. This will be based on various factors such as:

Your position- buyers with pre-arranged mortgages have a head start on most of the competition. If you've a buy-to-let mortgage sorted, make the agent and seller aware of this as it can put you in a favourable negotiating position.

Your budget- decide your maximum limit from the start and stand firm - after all you've done your maths and know the investment's potential. If the seller refuses to budge, you need to think very carefully if the property really is worth the extra money.

Seller's position- are they in a hurry to sell or have they been trying to sell for a long time? If so, they may be willing to accept a lower offer to make the sale. Sellers who are not in a hurry to move are more likely to hold out for a higher price.

The market- in tougher times when there are fewer buyers, sellers may be more willing to negotiate on price. Once you make an offer make it clear that it's subject to contract and a satisfactory survey.

Finding a tenant

Some people try to find a tenant without using an agent. If you are lucky enough to know of reliable tenants, that's great. If not, finding and managing tenants can be expensive, time consuming and hard work.

UKPropertyDirect's agents are able to advertise your property for rent on the UK's number one property website - in front of millions of potential tenants every month.

Finding a good letting agent

A letting agent will save you time by showing potential tenants around your property, which is great if you haven't got the time to handle calls, stay in for viewings and respond to emails.

Managing the letting

Using a letting agent can be beneficial as they are able to look after the receipt of the rent, deal with tenant queries, get essential maintenance work done using their own network of tradesman and carry out regular inspections of the property.

Check what's included in the service and what's at an additional cost by reading the agent's contract carefully.

Ending and extending an Assured Shorthold Tenancy

Most Assured Shorthold Tenancies are six months in duration, though 12 month tenancies are common too.

Providing the terms of the tenancy have not been breached, you cannot regain possession until after six months (or longer if the 'fixed-term' is longer) unless the tenant agrees.

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