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Jul 5, 2024 Understanding Exchange and Completion of a House: A Step-by-Step Guide

Exchanging contracts on a house marks a pivotal moment in the home-buying journey. It signifies the point where the sale becomes legally binding, setting the stage for the final steps towards ownership. Here’s what you need to know about the process, from preparation to completion. Preparing for Exchange of Contracts Before contracts are exchanged, several key preparations must be completed: Agreement on Purchase Price: Buyer and seller must agree on the price. Financial Readiness: Buyer secures a formal mortgage offer and prepares the deposit. Legal Checks: Buyer’s solicitor conducts necessary searches and verifies the EPC. Insurance Arrangements: Buildings insurance is arranged. Agreement on Fixtures and Fittings: Details are finalized. Exchange of Contracts Explained What is Exchange of Contracts? Exchange of contracts is the moment when buyer and seller swap signed contracts, legally committing to the property sale. When Does Exchange Happen? Typically occurs 5-28 days before completion, often around 10-14 days prior. Understanding the Exchange Deposit Buyer pays a deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) to confirm commitment. This deposit is non-refundable and protects the seller if the buyer withdraws. Completing the Purchase Setting the Completion Date Agreeing on the completion date involves coordination, especially in property chains. Flexibility may be necessary, particularly in larger chains. Completion Day: What to Expect On completion day, all financial transactions are finalized. Once funds are received, keys are released to the buyer. Completion Checklist Ensure these steps are covered: Funds are ready. Removal company is scheduled. Buildings insurance covers the new property. Key collection logistics are clear. FAQs Can I Exchange and Complete on the Same Day? Possible but uncommon due to logistical complexities. Typically, a gap of at least 5 days is advised. Can I Change My Mind After Exchange? Yes, but consequences are significant, the seller can issue a 'Notice to Complete' and retain the deposit if the buyer defaults. Costs Involved in Exchange? Usually a deposit of 10% of the property price, but first-time buyers might negotiate a lower amount. Can I Proceed Without a Solicitor? Not recommended. Legal intricacies require a qualified solicitor’s expertise. Conclusion Navigating the exchange and completion of a house involves careful planning and adherence to legal procedures. Understanding these steps ensures a smoother transition to homeownership. For personalized guidance through this process, contact Howards today. Discover your path to owning a new home with confidence.

Jul 5, 2024 What Happens after Your Offer on a Property is Accepted in the UK?

Congratulations! You’ve found your dream home, made an offer, and now it’s been accepted. What comes next? Ask the Seller to Take the Property off the Market Once your offer is accepted, it’s wise to request that the seller removes the property from the market. This helps prevent other buyers from offering more money and reduces the risk of losing out to a higher bid ('gazumping'). The estate agent will typically require details of your solicitor and your mortgage offer in principle to proceed with this. Complete Your Mortgage Application Unless you’re paying in cash, you’ll need to finalize your mortgage application. This involves submitting documents such as proof of address, ID, earnings, utility bills, and bank statements. Find a Conveyancing Solicitor Selecting a conveyancing solicitor is crucial. They handle legal aspects such as drafting contracts, conducting local searches, and managing funds. Your solicitor will provide legal advice throughout the process. Arrange for a Property Survey It’s recommended to arrange a property survey to assess its condition. There are different types of surveys available, ranging from basic inspections to more detailed structural assessments. Sign and Exchange Contracts Exchanging contracts makes the sale legally binding. At this stage, you’ll typically pay a deposit (usually 10% of the sale price). Once contracts are exchanged, neither party can withdraw without financial consequences. Completion Completion is the day agreed upon by both buyer and seller for transferring funds and finalizing the sale. The timing of completion can vary based on factors like chain length and removal company availability. Frequently Asked Questions How long does completion take after an offer is accepted? Completion timelines vary, but on average, the process takes around three months. Delays can occur due to property chains or issues revealed during surveys. What if my offer is accepted but then rejected? Unfortunately, a seller can still consider other offers after accepting yours, potentially leading to ‘gazumping’. You can counter-offer, but the outcome depends on the seller's decision. Is an offer on a house legally binding? No, offers are not legally binding until contracts are exchanged. Does ‘under offer’ mean a house is sold? No, a property ‘under offer’ indicates that an offer has been accepted, and the property is temporarily off the market pending the buyer’s next steps. Conclusion Understanding what happens after your offer is accepted is crucial for navigating the property buying process in the UK. From legal steps to financial considerations, each stage plays a vital role in securing your new home. For more information or to start your property search, contact your local Howards branch today.

Jul 4, 2024 Understanding Indemnity Insurance

Indemnity insurance plays a crucial role in property transactions, offering protection against potential financial losses arising from specific issues related to the property. Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding indemnity insurance, its purposes, costs, and common types relevant to buyers and sellers. What is Indemnity Insurance? Indemnity insurance is a specialized type of insurance used in property transactions to safeguard both buyers and sellers from financial risks associated with certain property issues. These issues, if left unresolved, could potentially jeopardize the sale or lead to legal disputes in the future. Why Do Solicitors Recommend Indemnity Insurance? During the conveyancing process, solicitors may advise their clients to obtain indemnity insurance when there’s a concern about a property defect or legal compliance issue. This precautionary measure helps mitigate risks that could affect the transaction's completion. For example, missing planning permissions or building regulation certificates are common triggers for indemnity insurance requests. What Does Indemnity Insurance Cover? Indemnity insurance does not cover the cost of fixing a property defect itself, such as replacing a boiler or upgrading windows. Instead, it provides financial protection against any legal costs or claims that may arise due to the uncovered issue after the property sale has completed. How Much Does Indemnity Insurance Cost? The cost of indemnity insurance varies depending on the type and extent of coverage needed. Typically, premiums are paid as a one-time payment and can range from several hundred pounds upwards, depending on the perceived risk and the financial limit of coverage required. Who Pays for Indemnity Insurance? In most cases, it is the seller who pays for indemnity insurance. This is because the policy relates to potential issues or defects within their property that could affect the sale process or property value if not adequately addressed. Common Types of Indemnity Insurance Restrictive Covenant Insurance: Covers breaches of restrictive covenants, which are legal restrictions on property use specified in the property deeds. Planning Permission Insurance: Protects against issues arising from alterations made without proper planning permissions or building regulation compliance. Boiler Installation Indemnity: Ensures coverage if the installation certificate for a boiler cannot be located, providing protection against safety claims. Window FENSA Certificate: Covers properties where the FENSA certificate for window installations cannot be found, protecting against enforcement actions. Chancel Repairs: Provides coverage for potential liability to contribute to church chancel repairs, a legal obligation in some properties. Absence of Easement: Covers loss of property value due to lack of legal rights (easements) for access or utilities. Insolvency Cover: Protects against financial risks if funds from a third party (e.g., for deposit assistance) become subject to creditor claims. Conclusion Indemnity insurance is an essential consideration in property transactions where potential issues could impact the sale or future ownership. Understanding the types of risks covered and the role it plays in mitigating these risks is crucial for both buyers and sellers. If your solicitor recommends indemnity insurance during your property purchase, it’s important to weigh the advice and understand the protection it provides. Stay informed about indemnity insurance and other aspects of property transactions to make informed decisions. Register for property alerts by Howards to stay updated on new listings and opportunities in your area, ensuring you’re ready to navigate the property market with confidence. By understanding indemnity insurance and its role, you can protect your interests and ensure a smoother property transaction process.

Jul 4, 2024 Help to Buy Schemes

Howards-Help to Buy is a comprehensive government initiative aimed at facilitating homeownership in England. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to move up the property ladder, understanding the various schemes available under Howards-Help to Buy can significantly aid your journey towards owning a home. This detailed guide provides an in-depth look at each scheme, eligibility criteria, and how they can benefit prospective homeowners. What is Howards-Help to Buy? Howards-Help to Buy encompasses a range of schemes designed to assist individuals in purchasing a property. While some schemes have closed to new applicants, others remain active, offering valuable support tailored to different stages of the homeownership process. Howards-Help to Buy ISA and Lifetime ISA The Help to Buy ISA, which closed to new applicants in 2019, allowed savers to receive a 25% government bonus on their savings towards their first home purchase. Existing account holders can continue to save until November 2029 and claim the bonus until November 2030. The Lifetime ISA replaced the Help to Buy ISA and offers similar benefits but with additional age restrictions and criteria. Shared Ownership Scheme The Shared Ownership scheme enables buyers to purchase a share (typically between 25% to 75%) of a property's value and pay rent on the remainder. This option is suitable for first-time buyers, existing shared owners looking to increase their share, or those who cannot afford to buy a property outright. Help to Build Equity Loan For individuals looking to build their own home, the Help to Build equity loan provides financial assistance covering 5%-20% of the total costs, up to a maximum of £600,000 (£400,000 for those who already own the land). In London, the loan can cover up to 40% of the costs, making it a significant support for self-build projects. New-Build Property Equity Loan Previously available until October 2022, the New-Build Property Equity Loan offered buyers up to 20% off the cost of a new build home, requiring only a 5% cash deposit. This scheme aimed to make new build properties more accessible to buyers. Right to Buy and Right to Acquire Under the Right to Buy scheme, council tenants have the opportunity to purchase their home at a discounted price. Discounts can vary based on tenure length and property type, offering significant savings for eligible tenants. Similarly, the Right to acquire scheme applies to housing association tenants, providing discounts on the purchase of their property under specific conditions. Applying for Howards-Help to Buy Applying for Howards-Help to Buy schemes involves several steps: Research and Preparation: Understand the eligibility criteria for each scheme and assess which ones align with your financial situation and homeownership goals. Seeking Guidance: Consult with estate agents and developers who specialize in properties eligible for Howards-Help to Buy schemes. They can provide insights into available properties and recommend mortgage advisors who are familiar with the application process. Application Process: Once you’ve identified a property and confirmed your eligibility, work with your chosen mortgage advisor to complete the application process. Ensure all required documents are submitted accurately and promptly to avoid delays. Completion and Ownership: Upon approval, finalize the purchase of your property and complete all necessary legal and financial transactions. Enjoy the benefits of homeownership with the support provided by Howards-Help to Buy. Conclusion Howards-Help to Buy schemes play a crucial role in making homeownership achievable for many individuals across England. Whether through financial assistance like equity loans or savings schemes like the ISA options, these initiatives cater to a wide range of home buyers’ needs. By understanding the nuances of each scheme and navigating the application process effectively, prospective homeowners can take significant steps towards securing their own property. If you’re considering buying a home and seeking financial support, exploring Howards-Help to Buy schemes is highly recommended. Stay informed about updates and changes to eligibility criteria to make the most of these beneficial opportunities. With the right information and guidance, achieving your dream of homeownership can become a reality with Howards-Help to Buy.

Jul 4, 2024 Exploring Maisonettes: A Comprehensive Guide

When you’re house hunting, you might encounter the term "maisonette." This guide aims to explore what a maisonette is and whether it could be the right choice for your next home. What exactly is a Maisonette? The term "maisonette" has varied meanings globally. Originating from French, it translates to "little house." In the UK, a maisonette refers to a self-contained two-floor apartment within a larger building. Unlike flats, maisonettes have their own staircase and entrance. They're often found in converted period homes or above shops in town centres. In Scotland, a maisonette is part of a duplex flat complex, accessed through a communal entrance. In the US, they’re often called duplexes, typically occupying the top floor of high-rise buildings, akin to penthouses. How Do Maisonettes Differ from Flats? Flats are usually stacked vertically in blocks with shared entrances and communal spaces. In contrast, maisonettes offer direct access to the outdoors from your front door. They span two levels, resembling a house layout more than a flat. Maisonettes may also include private outdoor spaces like gardens, distinct from the communal areas typical of flats. Maisonettes vs. Houses: What Sets Them Apart? While maisonettes share some similarities with houses—such as private gardens and direct outdoor access—they are generally smaller in size. Maisonettes typically offer up to two bedrooms, whereas houses can accommodate larger families with four or five bedrooms and often feature attic spaces not found in maisonettes. One significant advantage of maisonettes is their affordability compared to houses, making them an attractive option for first-time buyers. Leasehold or Freehold? Maisonettes can be leasehold or freehold properties. Leasehold maisonettes involve paying ground rent to the freeholder, with potential service charges for shared outdoor spaces. Acquiring the freehold grants ownership of the entire building, allowing the collection of ground rent from other occupants, usually in converted period buildings. Understanding these distinctions is crucial when considering maintenance responsibilities and potential costs associated with owning a maisonette. Pros and Cons of Buying a Maisonette Pros: Affordability: Maisonettes are often more affordable than houses, offering better value for money. Unique Living Spaces: Unlike flats in uniform blocks, maisonettes can be unique and offer bespoke layouts and features. Additional Storage: Maisonettes may come with useful storage spaces like garages, which are less common in apartments. Cons: Limited Expansion: Maisonettes may require planning permission for significant alterations, unlike houses with permitted development rights. Space Limitations: They offer less space compared to traditional houses, which may be restrictive for growing families. Shared Responsibilities: Owners of maisonettes may need to collaborate with neighbours for exterior maintenance and repairs. Is a Maisonette Right for You? Choosing a maisonette depends on your space needs and preferences regarding leasehold versus freehold ownership. For first-time buyers or those seeking affordability and manageable space, a maisonette could be ideal. However, larger families or those planning extensive home expansions may find traditional houses more suitable. At Howards, we’re dedicated to helping you find your perfect home. Contact us today and let us assist you on your journey to finding the right property. Explore our range of guides and resources, from buyer advice to house viewing checklists, designed to support you every step of the way.

Jul 3, 2024 Understanding Property Deeds: Their Importance and How to Keep Them Safe

When you purchase a property, there's crucial paperwork that establishes your ownership. Among these documents are your title or property deeds, mandated since 1990 for properties in England and Wales. This guide clarifies what property deeds are, their significance, and best practices for safekeeping. What Are Property Deeds? Property deeds are legal documents that officially record property ownership and any associated land. They are securely stored by HM Land Registry, it's necessary to register your property with them whether you've bought it, inherited it, received it as a gift, exchanged it for other property or land, or taken out a mortgage. Upon initial registration with the Land Registry, a scanned copy of the original title deeds is retained and returned to the submitting party, typically a solicitor or conveyancer. Regional Variations in the UK HM Land Registry exclusively manages land and property records in England and Wales. Residents of Scotland or Northern Ireland should refer to their respective land registers for property transactions. What Do Property Deeds Look Like? Property deeds aren't typically physical documents unless they are the original copies. Instead, they are maintained electronically and updated with each change of ownership, akin to an ongoing ownership log. Unless your property has never been registered before, it's unlikely you possess the original deeds. You can verify registration status by searching the Land Registry. Upon property purchase, your solicitor should furnish you with a copy of the 'registered title,' ideally within a month of completion, although delays may occur. Land Registry Fees Land Registry fees vary based on transaction type, such as first registrations versus transfers of property shares. Your solicitor will provide detailed fee information specific to your property. For complete fee schedules, visit gov.uk. Do You Need Deeds to Sell Your House? If your property is registered with the Land Registry, original deeds are unnecessary to confirm ownership and complete a sale. The Land Registry maintains the official record of ownership for land and property in England and Wales, providing all necessary information for property transactions. However, retaining a copy of your deeds is advisable, as they can offer additional insights into legal boundaries and history. Safekeeping Your Property Deeds Since copies of property deeds are stored digitally by HM Land Registry, it's improbable they'll be misplaced. Nonetheless, if your property isn't registered, safeguarding the original deeds is crucial, as the responsibility lies with the seller to produce them. Keep your own copy of property deeds along with other essential documents at home. Ensure they are stored securely in a folder or filing cabinet to maintain their safety and organization. What If You Lose Your Property Deeds? With digital registration at HM Land Registry, the likelihood of losing property deeds is minimal. However, for unregistered properties, preserving the original deeds is essential. If you can't locate proof of ownership, contact the solicitor who handled your property transaction to submit a deeds request form to HM Land Registry. A nominal fee is applicable for this service. If the original deeds cannot be found, you must provide alternative evidence of ownership status. Considering a Property Purchase? At Howards, our commitment is to facilitate your move smoothly. Our Buying Process guide outlines the steps, responsibilities, and tips to streamline your experience.

Jun 19, 2024 What is a Guarantor?

A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay a tenant’s rent if the tenant is unable to do so. This individual, often a family member or close friend of the tenant, provides assurance to the landlord that they will not incur financial losses if the tenant experiences a change in circumstances. Typically, a guarantor covers the full rent amount specified in the tenancy agreement, not just a portion of it if there are multiple tenants. When Might You Need a Guarantor? A guarantor becomes essential if there is a possibility that a tenant or co-tenants might struggle to meet their rental obligations during the tenancy. Common scenarios where a guarantor is beneficial include: Starting a new job with an uncertain income. Having an irregular income or being on a low income. Being a student. Experiencing any sudden change in financial circumstances. Landlords may request a guarantor if they have concerns about a tenant’s ability to consistently pay rent. This might be due to a poor credit history or if the tenant has recently moved to the UK from abroad. While not mandatory, having a guarantor can provide landlords with additional security. Who Can Be a Guarantor? Suitable guarantors are typically close friends, parents, relatives, or family members of the tenant. However, landlords usually look for guarantors who meet specific criteria, such as: Having a good credit history. Residing in the UK. Owning property. Having a regular income or significant savings. Individuals who are retired or living abroad are generally less likely to be accepted as guarantors. Landlords will conduct a credit check on potential guarantors to ensure their financial reliability. What Does a Guarantee Cover? A guarantor agreement specifies the liabilities that the guarantor will cover, which mainly include rent arrears and property damage costs. The agreement will detail: The individuals covered (usually all named tenants in the tenancy agreement). The duration of the guarantor's liability (often the length of the tenancy, but this can vary). There is no fixed rule regarding the duration of a guarantor agreement; it depends on the terms agreed upon by all parties involved. Rights and Responsibilities of Guarantors A guarantor is responsible for covering any unpaid rent or property damage costs incurred by the tenant during the period specified in the guarantor agreement. It is crucial that guarantors receive copies of both the guarantor agreement and the tenancy agreement before signing. Guarantors should not be coerced or misled into signing the agreement. If the terms of the tenancy change, such as a rent increase, the guarantor agreement is typically invalidated unless the guarantor agrees to the new terms. Claims against Guarantors Landlords can make a claim against a guarantor if the tenant fails to pay rent or causes property damage that is not compensated. If the guarantor does not fulfil their obligations, the landlord can seek a county court judgment (CCJ) against both the tenant and the guarantor. Seeking Assistance from Howards For further assistance with tenancy matters, including finding a rental property or understanding the role of guarantors, contact your local Howards branch. Start your property search today with Howards and benefit from expert advice and support. This guide aims to provide clear and precise information on the role of guarantors in the UK rental market, ensuring landlords and tenants are well-informed about their rights and responsibilities. Summary What is a Guarantor? An individual who agrees to pay rent if the tenant fails to do so. When Might You Need a Guarantor? When there is uncertainty about the tenant’s ability to pay rent. Who Can Be a Guarantor? Close friends, family, or relatives who meet specific financial criteria. What Does a Guarantee Cover? Rent arrears and property damage costs. Rights and Responsibilities of Guarantors: Cover unpaid rent or damages, must receive and agree to the terms. Claims Against Guarantors: Landlords can claim unpaid rent or damages; a CCJ can be sought if the guarantor defaults. For more detailed advice, contact Howards for expert guidance and support in managing your rental properties and understanding guarantor agreements.

Jun 19, 2024 A Tenant's Guide to Ending a Tenancy Agreement

Tenancies can end for various reasons, and as a tenant, it's essential to know how to navigate this process smoothly. This guide provides clear information on how to end your tenancy agreement, the notice period required, and how to plan your move. Understanding Your Tenancy Type Before you proceed with ending your tenancy, it's important to know what type of tenancy you have. There are two main types: fixed-term and periodic. Fixed-Term Tenancy: This type of tenancy runs for a specific period, usually six months to a year. After this period, it can become periodic if neither party takes action. Periodic Tenancy: Also known as a rolling contract, this type runs on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis. Knowing your tenancy type will help you understand the notice period required to end your tenancy. Notice Periods for Ending Your Tenancy Fixed-Term Tenancy with a Break Clause: If your agreement includes a break clause, you can end your tenancy early. Check the agreement for details on when the break clause applies and any conditions that must be met. For example, if your tenancy runs from November to November, your break clause might allow you to end the tenancy after six months with one month's notice. This means you can move out in April by giving notice in March. Be sure to check for conditions such as no rent arrears. Fixed-Term Tenancy without a Break Clause: If there is no break clause, you cannot end your tenancy early without the landlord's permission. You don't need to give notice to leave on the last day of the fixed term unless specified in your agreement. Periodic Tenancy if You Live with Your Landlord: You can agree with your landlord on a move-out date or give notice as specified in your tenancy agreement. There's no set notice period, so it's whatever works for both parties. Periodic Tenancy if You Don’t Live with Your Landlord: You can end your tenancy at any time by giving the appropriate notice. Typically, this is four weeks' notice for week-to-week tenancies and one month's notice for month-to-month tenancies. If your rental period is longer, you must give notice equivalent to that period. Remember, you must pay rent until the end of your notice period. How to Give Notice to Your Landlord Once you know how much notice is required, make sure you provide it correctly. Ending Your Tenancy Due to Landlord Issues: If you're ending your tenancy because of issues with your landlord, such as failure to make repairs or breaches of contract, it's important to address these issues legally rather than just moving out. Both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities, so make sure you understand them to take appropriate action. Timing Your Notice: Your notice must end on the first or last day of your tenancy period. For instance, if your tenancy runs from the 5th of each month to the 4th of the next, your notice should end on the 4th or 5th of the month. Ending a Joint Tenancy Joint tenancies can be more complicated to end. All joint tenants must agree to end a fixed-term tenancy early. You can use a break clause to give notice or negotiate with the landlord. If some tenants want to stay, you might consider finding a replacement tenant. However, this requires agreement from the landlord and all remaining tenants, and a new joint tenancy agreement will be needed. Writing an End of Tenancy Letter Your end of tenancy letter should be clear and can be sent via email. Keep a dated copy for your records. Here’s an example of what to include: “Dear [Landlord’s Name/Company Name], I am giving [notice period] to end my tenancy as required by law. I will be leaving the property on [date]. I would like you to be at the property on the move-out day to check the premises and return the keys. I also request the return of my tenancy deposit of [amount].” You might also need to include details of any furnishings you’re leaving behind or any repairs made during your tenancy. Getting Your Landlord’s Agreement to Leave Early If you need to leave a fixed-term tenancy early and there's no break clause, you can discuss this with your landlord. They may agree to end the tenancy early, but they are not obligated to do so. If you leave without an agreement, you might still be liable for rent and bills until the tenancy ends. If you're uncomfortable speaking with your landlord directly, you can contact the company managing your contract or seek advice from Citizens Advice. Leaving Without Giving Notice Leaving without notice is not advisable. It doesn't automatically end your tenancy, and you will still owe rent until it officially ends. Additionally, you might be responsible for other bills, and your landlord can seek a court order to recover the owed rent plus court costs. You also risk losing your deposit, which could be crucial for securing your next home. Leaving at the End of Your Fixed Term You don't need to give notice to leave on the last day of your fixed term unless specified in your tenancy agreement. However, informing your landlord of your plans can facilitate a smoother transition, prompt return of your deposit, and possibly a good reference for future rentals. Preparing to Move Out Moving can be stressful, so it's essential to prepare thoroughly. Ensure the property is clean, return any furniture that came with the rental, pay all outstanding bills, and redirect your mail. A moving-out checklist can help you cover everything before you leave. Looking for a New Rental Property? If you’re planning to move and need a new place to rent, Howards can assist you. Our estate agents use their local knowledge to help you find a property that fits your budget and needs. Check out our renting process, and feel free to ask us about tenant rights and expectations under your tenancy agreement. Conclusion Ending a tenancy agreement involves several steps, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a straightforward process. Always check your tenancy agreement for specific terms related to notice periods and break clauses. Communicate clearly with your landlord and keep records of all correspondence. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a tenant will help ensure a smooth transition to your next home. By following these guidelines, you can confidently end your tenancy agreement and move on to your next adventure. If you need further assistance or have any questions, the team at Howards is here to help.