Congrats! Your offer has been accepted.. but now what?

By Iona Bain
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So, you're one step closer to your dream house *woo* but what happens when your offer is accepted?

A deposit should be given to your estate agent or solicitor who holds it in an escrow (ring-fenced) account, then sends it on as appropriate to the seller’s solicitor.

Gazumping

Even after your offer has been accepted by the seller, it is not legally binding on either side in England and Wales – though in Scotland it is binding on you as soon as it is made.

Unfortunately, right up to the exchange of contract, which may take on average 12 weeks, unless the seller can pull out if he sniffs a better offer from elsewhere – though you can pull out too.

Being gazumped is expensive. To avoid losing large sums in wasted fees your only hope is to beat the gazumper’s offer.

But you can guard against gazumping by insisting that the property is taken off the market. That is more difficult now that some websites tend to list properties long after they are under offer or even sold, and there is no obligation on the seller to do so.   But you can ask for it as a sign of their good faith, that they are serious about accepting your offer. If you want to know how to minimise extra costs - this article will help.

Valuations and surveys

Once your mortgage offer is in progress, your mortgage lender will send out a local surveyor to value the property. This is not a survey; it’s a reassurance to the lender that the property is worth what you are paying for it – or rather, what they are lending on it. It is an overview of what such a property is worth on the open market, with a note about any major works that might be necessary and would affect its value.

Lenders often throw in this valuation for free as part of their mortgage deal. If they don’t, it could cost you £300 to £400, or one per cent of the value, though fees vary between banks.   If the valuation looks low, don’t panic, it will always be a conservative one for the lender.

A real survey is supposed to be a detailed analysis of the property, describing its fabric and insulation, and identifying any structural problems, signs of subsidence, major repairs needed to a roof or chimney stack, and the state of the wiring.

Local surveyors should have local knowledge of market values, but all surveyors have a professional qualification with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and indemnity against mistakes.

However, buyers tend to find that surveyors are over-cautious about missing anything important, and will write a report which tells you things you had already spotted, with the advice to ‘get it checked’.   They can also be over-zealous about wanting things doing, which the lender will then insist on.

It explains why four out of five buyers do not commission a full survey, because they are expensive - at £600 or more. But you should consider it if the property you have picked is old or unusual, or you have any concerns about its underlying condition.

If you do unearth any hidden nasties, it’s time either to review your offer, ask the seller to put things right first, or cut your losses and walk away.

Five survey options

1A Condition Report is a very basic ‘traffic light’ survey and the cheapest, costing around £250. It is most suitable for new-build and conventional homes in good condition. It provides ‘traffic light’ indicators on the state of various parts of the property: green for OK, orange for some concern, red for serious repairs needed. There is no advice or valuation.

2. A HomeBuyer Report is said to be suitable for conventional properties in reasonable condition. Costs start at £400 on average. It is supposed to signal any structural problems, such as subsidence or damp, as well as any other unwelcome hidden issues inside and outside. But it doesn’t look beyond the floorboards or behind the walls.  Some reports include a valuation, which can be useful if it is lower than your offer, and can be used as a bargaining chip. If there’s no valuation included, but repairs are suggested, you can use it to bring down the price – say £5000 to sort out a dampness problem.

3. The Home Condition Survey (£400 to £500) or full building survey (£600 upwards) are useful if your property is old, or obviously in need of some fixes. 

 

4. The cheaper version offers general advice on tackling the types of problem identified in the property, while the full-blown structural survey provides more detailed advice on repairs – though it probably won’t give a valuation. At last the surveyor may probe under floorboards or behind walls, venture into the attic, and produce a detailed report on the property’s condition.  This is the right option if your property is old, in poor condition, and with potentially serious issues.

5. Surveyors will offer a new-build snagging survey – an independent inspection of a new property to make sure the developer has done everything he should.  At a cost starting at £300, this could be worth the money if you suspect, or hear about, any potential problems in a brand new development. The survey gives you the ammunition to insist that any faults are fixed before you move in.

Surveyors

To get the best out of a survey, ask around for a good conscientious surveyor. Ask for a sample report to see if it is likely to tell you anything useful. Make sure you accompany the surveyor on his tour of inspection, ask questions, be sure you understand the answers, and don’t let him take shortcuts or miss things. He may be the professional, but you are the paying customer.

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