Buyer Beware: Tips to stop you buying a House of Horrors
Buyer Beware: Tips to stop you buying a House of Horrors
Caveat Emptor - put simply, ‘Let the buyer beware’.
Buying a property is usually the most important purchase you will make in your life.
You, as a buyer, are responsible for finding out as much information as you can and checking the condition of the property before completing your purchase.
Our theme for this article is “House of Horrors” and below are some tips to prevent your dream home from becoming your biggest nightmare.
WHY USE A SOLICITOR? – "What about DIY conveyancing?"
Yes, you can do this yourself, but if you are not familiar with the process, it can end up taking more time and you could potentially be missing key issues that need to be considered, not only for you now but for future re-sale. If you are obtaining mortgage finance, you will be required to instruct a Solicitor. A solicitor can shine a light on any scary surprises in the process.
ACCESS – "But there is a road outside my house?"
Your house may be in a quiet area, far away from any highways to hell, but do you have sufficient legal rights to actually gain access to your new property? Most of the time, a property will be next to a publicly maintained roadway. When a property is next to a private road way, we need to ensure there are sufficient rights of way to gain access. It may seem obvious but lack of rights (or lack of easement) to gain access to a property from the nearest publicly maintained road is one of the biggest issues we face. If you do not have sufficient access rights, from a legal point of view, your access to the property could be restricted and you may be required to pay towards the upkeep of the road. If there are no rights of access, you may have difficulties in selling the property.
NEW BUILD PROPERTIES – "Should I buy off plan?"
Great, you won’t be haunted by the ghosts of tenants past, the stairs won’t creak and there won’t be any cobwebs to clean - but is it all a dream? If you purchase one of the first properties to complete on a major site, be warned that the development is likely to continue after you move in and possibly for some months or in some cases, years. You might not have nightmare neighbours yet but the disruption could send shivers down your spine! You should also check that the new sofa and wardrobe you plan to buy will actually fit in your new property when buying off plan. Note services such as broadband and television may also not be immediately available when you move in, so you will have to face the real horror of a life without binge-watching Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. Essentials such as gas, electric and water should be connected.
SURVEY – "Do I really need one?"
A seller is obliged to transfer the property to you in the same condition as it is in at the date contracts are exchanged, apart from general wear and tear. This does not necessarily mean that the property will be in good condition. Before exchanging contracts, we always recommend that you have your own independent full structural survey carried out. Many standard valuation surveys carried out by a mortgage lender fail to identify common problems and in some cases you will not be provided with a copy of the mortgage valuation report. A reputable surveyor can help uncover any mysteries that lie beneath.
FLOODING AND SUBSIDENCE – "Unlikely to flood, surely?"
If your search results reveal any risks in respect of flooding or subsidence at the property, you should discuss the contents of the report with a surveyor and ask them to assess the property further to check for any signs of flooding or subsidence. You must also check that you are able to obtain affordable buildings insurance on standard terms before exchange of contracts. You should be sure that the house you are buying will stay bone-dry.
INSPECTION – "Already seen the property? Don’t be shy!"
Some buyers only view a property once before exchanging contracts. An additional inspection could reveal further aspects about the condition of the property that could not be seen before, especially if the property was previously let and the tenant has now vacated. If you can, try and visit the property without the seller (perhaps with the estate agent) and also visit at different times of day. What’s really hiding behind that secret door?
BOILER AND ELECTRICS – "It’s brand new so it must be fine?"
Generally this will be the case. A seller is not legally obligated to carry out any inspection of the gas or electrical services (if a property was let inspection reports may be available). If you have any concerns in respect of the installation or safety of gas or electrical services at the property, we recommend you arrange your own independent inspection by a qualified professional prior to exchange of contracts to avoid any hair-raising shocks.
AUCTION PURCHASE – "Hammer horrors?"
Buying a property at auction may seem wise, especially if you feel like you are getting a good bargain. But remember – the devil is in the detail. There may be a reason why the property is at an auction in the first place and this should be your first warning sign. The seller may have tried to sell on the open market but there may be defects in the title to the property or it may need serious redevelopment or refurbishment. If possible, you should have the property surveyed and your solicitor inspect the auction pack before the auction in order to advise you about the contract and any issues arising from the title. You should also ensure you have all your finances in place (especially if you require a mortgage) as completion is often only 20 working days after the date of the auction where you agree under a contract to purchase the property.
All in all, the above is not an exhaustive list. These are just some areas for you to consider before entering into a legally binding contract to purchase a property because once you do – it may be too late.
The Property team at Crane & Staples are experts in issues associated with buying a new home and will use their legal magic to make sure your new property leaves you spell-bound, not spooked.