Tell me about buying a house and getting a mortgage in UK

Mrs Aruns and I are thinking of buying a house here in Newcastle. That would be the first time both of us would commit to such a large financial commitment - even our car was bought with cash.

So we did our homework, you know, as you do; we borrowed guides from the library and went through quite a few websites to understand how things work for buying a house in this country and getting a mortgage arranged. We got a rough idea of how they work in theory, but that’s no replacement for experience.

And so I’d like to ask all UK-based Dopers: can you give us some practical advice? From tricks and tips about viewing a property to dealing with estate agents and solicitors and the like, to, I dunno, things to keep an eye out when talking with the banks? How fast to repay the lot? Anything that you think might be useful or interesting to know. Your personal insights about things that don’t often get written about, for example.

One thing we understood even now at the beginning, after seeing a few houses and talking to a few people, is that (1) we don’t like the attitude of estate agents, and (2) we don’t like the attitude of mortgage advisers that work with estate agents. Oh, well, you can’t like everyone :slight_smile:

So, um, well, we’re all ears. Hit us with your wisdom!

Any takers?

Well it’s a very wide question but you seem to have learned the main thing - that estate agents are envoys of Satan.

I don’t know about the estate agent side of things, but as someone who did conveyancing as a secretary for years, here’s a couple of things:

Realise that this is a slow process. There are all sorts of steps that have to happen before you complete on a purchase, and insisting on exchange and completion on the same day isn’t really the best way to go about it. You want to take some extra time so that if there are problems with the house, they show up before you’re committed to it. Lots of people want to agree to buy a house and get the keys on the same day. I’ve actually seen some issues crop up that stopped the purchase of a house, and rightly so, between exchange and completion.

Get your own survey done. It’s for the best, even if those couple of hundred pounds hurt.

Read everything your solicitor sends you, and ask questions if you don’t understand it.

Visit the property as often as possible. Sometimes on the third or fourth visit a problem will become apparent.

Understand that every property comes with its own problems, but don’t settle for a house with major issues - there are other properties out there that you will be happy with.

Go slow, be careful and thorough, and try not to get too stressed!

Not in the UK but some general tips:

Before you start looking make a list of what is objectively important to you (room for two in the kitchen, 3 bedrooms etc) Write it down. Make sure you and the Mrs agree and both understand the purpose of the list.

When you’re looking and you fall in love with a wonderful and yet wildly unsuitable house, take out the list and talk yourself back into reality.

We’re down in York and we bought a house around 18 months ago.

A couple of things:

  1. If you’re not from the UK, be aware that chains are very significant. Because you aren’t trying to sell a house yourself, you don’t come with a chain and so you are a very attractive buyer. Make this clear to the seller or the agent, and offer accordingly.

  2. In the current market, no one genuinely expects to get their advertised price. You can afford to offer low and then negotiate if you need to.

  3. Find your own solicitor if you can rather than getting one recommended by an estate agent.

  4. Get the loan sorted in principle before you offer if you can - again, it makes you a more attractive buyer, and stops you looking at things you can’t afford.

  5. We used a mortgage broker who was very good and helpful. Can give you details if you like. PM me if interested.

Yes, I do admit it’s a very wide question. You never know what you can learn from the experiences of other people, and so tried not to force the suggestions to be on certain issues only.

And yes, sorry for any estate agents on the board, but up to now the ones I met behaved like grinning lieutenants of the Enemy.

I’m in Ireland, not the UK, but I can’t imagine this being any different: don’t go near a mortgage advisor who’s affiliated with an estate agent. Why on earth would you go to the people whose job is to charge you as much as they possibly can, and tell them exactly how much you can afford? Yeah, sure, the mortgage advisors aren’t supposed to tell the estate agents that information, but…well.

Definitely make a dealbreaker list, like Moonlitherial suggested.

Talk to a couple of the neighbours before you make an offer. You can ask them whether the road is safe and so on, and it’ll help you get a feel for whether it’s friendly, whether everyone has a dog that barks 24/7, stuff like that.

Figure out in advance which of you is the better negotiator. The other one should keep his or her mouth shut around the estate agent.

We’re repaying as fast as we can, but that’s a personal choice. Some people like to invest any extra money where it’ll make them the most interest; others (like us) aren’t used to any debt and don’t like the feel of it, so it’s worth it to us to put any extra money into the mortgage account, even if that’s not the best financial choice.