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A Guide for First-Time Buyers

A Guide for First-Time Buyers: Completion Timescales

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Buying your first home is an exciting time, and a huge milestone in itself, but as it’s something you’ve never done before, the home-buying process can be a little tricky to navigate. From finding the perfect property to getting the keys, we’ve outlined the completion timescales and some of the milestones you can expect to encounter along the way.

The first stages 

Finding the perfect property

After you’ve spent so much time clocking in the hours and saving for your deposit, it can be easy to become a bit carried away and want to put an offer in on the first property you view.

Buying a home is a huge step, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re making the right decision for you. When it comes to searching for the perfect property, you’ll want to consider a number of factors: 

Location 

Is the location ideal? If you have, or are planning to have, children, are there plenty of good schools nearby? It’s also important to consider your commute to work – whilst an extra 20 minutes of commuting time might not seem that big a deal now, try to imagine the impact it will have after a year of living in your new home. If socialising is important to you, you might also want to consider the location in terms of bars, restaurants, shops, and other activity spots. 

Suitability 

Does the property offer everything that’s on your list? Whilst things like the decor, fixtures and fittings can always be updated, there is only so much that can be done with a given space. Is the property big enough for your needs? Try to think ahead, too – if having a family is part of your plan, will the property be big enough to house whoever comes along in the future? 

Affordability 

Perhaps the most important factor to consider is whether or not the property is realistically affordable for you. If you’re not sure about how much you might be able to borrow, or what you can afford for your monthly mortgage repayments, consider speaking to an independent mortgage advisor. 

As a result, the house-hunting part of the process can last anything from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the properties available on the market. 

There are new properties being listed for sale every day, so try not to lose heart if this part of the process is taking a little bit longer than you would have liked. 

Making an offer 

Once you’ve found your dream home, it’s time to make an offer! This part can be completed in a matter of days – the timescale will all depend on whether or not your offer is accepted by the seller. It may be that you enter into a bit of a negotiation with figures being thrown back and forth, which will mean this part of the process is drawn out a little longer until you both reach a figure you’re happy with. 

Agreeing a mortgage in principle 

When you’ve had your offer accepted, if you intend to take out a mortgage on your property, your next step should be to secure a mortgage in principle. This stage will involve finding a mortgage provider (perhaps through an independent mortgage adviser), discussing your finances with them and providing any evidence they may require before you can receive your mortgage offer. Overall, this can take a few weeks, so this may be something to bear in mind when it comes to assessing your completion timescales. 

The middle stages 

Appointing a conveyancing solicitor 

With your mortgage in principle agreed, things can really start to progress! Now is the time to appoint your conveyancing solicitor, who will take care of all of the legal aspects involved with the property transaction. 

When it comes to deciding on who to work with, there are a number of elements you should take into consideration, including the solicitor’s: 

  • Cost 
  • Reputation 
  • Credentials 
  • Expertise in the local area 
  • Customer service ratings & communication 

At DRN, we know that buying a property is often one of the most important, and expensive, decisions you’ll ever make. To alleviate some of the stress involved, we offer a comprehensive range of fixed-price services, helping you to keep your legal costs to a minimum. 

With years of experience in dealing with all manner of conveyancing transactions, we’ll be on hand to guide you through the process, from issuing your first instructions right through to final completion, and we work to minimise completion timescales as much as possible. 

Committed to providing all of our clients with an excellent, stress-free service, we make sure to keep all lines of communication open and will retain regular contact to ensure you’re kept up to date at every stage of the process. 

Conducting surveys and legal checks 

Over the following months, your solicitor will be working hard on your behalf to conduct the searches, property surveys, and legal checks on your future home. During this time, they’ll also be spending time drawing up the contracts. 

This part of the process is likely to be the one that takes the longest amount of time, and it’s worth noting that a lot of solicitors are currently under a lot of strain trying to meet and maintain expectations amidst the property market boom. Many are currently working with a bit of a backlog, so it’s a good idea to speak to your solicitor about any potential delays you might expect. 

The final stages 

Once all the legal aspects have been sorted, you’ll be moving into the final stage of your property purchase! 

Mortgage offer: confirmed 

It can take a few weeks for your mortgage offer to be finalised and confirmed by your lender, especially if there is any delay in getting any evidence or supporting documents sent across to them. Being quick to respond to any of their requests will help to speed this part of the process along. 

Paying your deposit and exchanging contracts 

These aspects may have been sorted by your solicitor at an earlier stage, but if not, now is the time to transfer the funds and agree a completion date so that you can move on to exchange the contracts of the purchase. This part of the process can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months, depending on how quickly each party involved responds to requests and provides what is required of them. 

Completion!  

With contracts exchanged and funds transferred on the day of completion, you’ll be able to collect your keys, and officially start to enjoy your new home! 

Looking for a conveyancing solicitor in Lancashire? 

We’ve been in practice since 1924 and have extensive knowledge of the local area, years of experience in facilitating the conveyancing process, and a dedicated team of professionals who are here to help every step of the way. 

To get started with purchasing your dream property, contact our team today on 01282 433 241.

5% Deposit Mortgages Announced in the 2021 Budget

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In his delivery of the budget on 3rd March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Government will be introducing a mortgage guarantee scheme which will allow buyers to purchase a property with a small deposit of just 5%, guaranteeing a loan of up to 95% on properties valued up to £600,000

The new scheme is similar to the Help to Buy scheme which closed in 2016, but will be available to current homeowners as well as first-time buyers, and is not exclusive to new-build properties. It’s set to run from April 2021 to 31st December 2022, and should give buyers the option to fix their mortgage rate for at least five years, if they wish to do so. 

 

What type of home can I buy using the new 95% mortgage scheme? 

You will be able to purchase any property with a value of up to £600,000 with the new scheme. 

 

Which banks are associated with the new scheme? 

Amongst those that will be offering 95% mortgages from April are Lloyds, Natwest, Santander, Barclays, and HSBC, with Virgin Money expected to follow shortly after. It’s expected that more lenders will be joining this list over the coming months.

 

What are the downsides? 

Whilst this new scheme may make it easier for you to get onto the property ladder, it is worth remembering that paying a lower deposit will mean you will need to take out a larger mortgage, perhaps over a longer repayment term too. 

Lenders in the UK will currently only lend up to 4.5 times your annual salary. So, if 95% of your property value equates to more than 4.5 times your salary, you may struggle to find a lender for your mortgage. With this in mind, it’s likely that couples will benefit from the scheme more than those looking to buy on their own. 

 

What additional costs should I take into account when buying my first home? 

As well as your monthly mortgage payments, you should also factor in the cost of a life insurance policy, if you do not already have one in place, as this is something many lenders will insist on before offering you an agreement in principle. 

One of the costs you can cross off your list is the Stamp Duty Land Tax, and the holiday first introduced last year is set to be extended, with no Stamp Duty charged on properties with a value of up to £500,000!

You should also bear in mind that there will be conveyancing costs involved. Here at DRN, we offer a fixed price, comprehensive conveyancing package, allowing you to rest assured that for a set fee, with no hidden costs, all bank transfers, forms, leasehold title documentation, mortgage documentation, and administration fees will be covered. 

 

Ready to buy? Get in touch with our team today! 

DRN is a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme – a nationally recognised standard of excellence for conveyancers across the country. The scheme is only open to firms which meet the high standards set by the Law Society, and has the support of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Building Societies Association, the Legal Ombudsman, and the Association of British Insurers. 

We have also succeeded in building excellent working relationships with a number of local estate agents over the years, having become known for our efficiency and effective communication. 

 

Fixed fee conveyancing packages from a team you can trust. Contact our offices on 01282 433241 to get the ball rolling with your new property purchase! 

 

 

 

COVID-19 – Stamp Duty Holiday Due to be Extended!

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According to a report made by The Times, Rishi Sunak is reportedly preparing to extend the stamp duty holiday that’s currently in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Initially set to end next month, it’s now expected that the Chancellor will announce an extension to the scheme in his budget announcement on 3rd March, which will see it run until the end of June. 

Launched in July 2020 in a bid to boost the UK property market as the country was battling with the impact of the national lockdown, the stamp duty holiday allows first-time buyers to purchase a home up to the value of £500,000 without having to pay stamp duty land tax. 

A similar offer was made to existing homeowners, who would only have to pay 3% stamp duty on the purchase of a property with a value of up to £500,000. 

It is also reported that the Chancellor may be expected to extend the furlough scheme once more, from the existing closing date of 30th April, to the end of June. 

 

Are you looking for a reliable solicitor to help you complete the sale of your home? 

At DRN, we know that buying a house is one of the most important, and expensive, decisions of your life. 

Our dedicated team of conveyancers are all highly experienced and fully qualified, committed to ensuring every stage of your property purchase goes smoothly. 

We offer a comprehensive range of property services, many of which are available as part of our fixed price conveyancing package. 

At DRN, we aim to offer complete transparency, which is why there are no hidden costs added to our conveyancing fees. We don’t charge anything extra for bank transfers, completing forms, dealing with leasehold titles, handling mortgages, or any other general administrative tasks. 

We’re also accredited by the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the mark of excellence for those involved in property law. 

 

Ready to buy or sell your next home? Contact our team today on 01282 433241, and we’ll be happy to help! 

Stamp Duty Rates Temporarily Reduced!

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The UK Government recently announced a reduction to Stamp Duty Land Tax rates for properties purchased between 8th July 2020 and 31st March 2021.

Here’s what you need to know…

 

Will I have to pay Stamp Duty on my property?

First-time buyers can expect to pay zero Stamp Duty Land Tax on any property valued below £500,000 and purchased between 8th July 2020 and 31st March 2021.

 

For properties valued above £500,000, the following rates will apply:

 

Property value                                                              Stamp Duty Land Tax rate

£500,001 – £925,000                                           5%

£925,001 – £1.5 million                                         10%

Anything above £1.5 million                                      12%

 

 

What if I’m not a first-time buyer?  

The revised rates as outlined above will still apply, with the additional 3% higher rate which is applied to the purchase of additional properties.

Here’s what you’ll be expected to pay in Stamp Duty Land Tax if you purchase a property which is not your first between 8th July 2020 and 31st March 2021:

 

Property, lease premium or transfer value                  Stamp Duty Land Tax rate

Up to £500,000                                     3%

£500,001 – £925,000                                8%

£925,001 – £1.5 million                             13%

Anything above £1.5 million                          15%

 

 

Are you looking for a reliable solicitor to help you complete the sale of your home?

At DRN, we know that buying a house is one of the most important, and expensive, decisions you’ll ever make.

All of our conveyancers are fully qualified and experienced solicitors who you can trust to work on your behalf and ensure everything goes smoothly.

We offer a comprehensive range of property services, many of which are available as part of our fixed price package.

There are no hidden costs on top of our conveyancing fees. We don’t charge anything extra for bank transfers, completing forms, dealing with leasehold titles, handling mortgages, or any other general administrative task.

 

We’re also accredited by the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the mark of excellence for those involved in property law.

Ready to buy or sell your next home? Contact our team today on 01282 433241, and we’ll be happy to help!

 

A Landlord’s Guide to Tenancy Agreements

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Once tenants have been found for a property you intend to rent out, a contract which outlines the terms of your agreement will need to be signed by both parties.

The tenancy agreement should be used to set down the legal terms and conditions of the tenancy, and it can be presented both written and orally.

 

What types of tenancy are there?

The majority of properties within the UK will be rented out with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement in place. This particular type of contract is applied in circumstances when the rent is between £250 and £100,000 per year, and is the only type of contract that will offer protection for the deposit paid by the tenant.

Most new tenancies will automatically be issued as AST agreements. An AST agreement may apply as long as all of the following requirements are met:

  • If you’re a private landlord or housing association
  • If the tenancy began on or after 15th January, 1989
  • If the property will be your tenant’s main living accommodation
  • If you do not live in the property yourself

An AST cannot apply if:

  • The tenancy began or was agreed before 15th January, 1989
  • The rent amounts to more than £100,000 annually
  • The rent is less than £250 per year (or less than £1,000 in London)
  • The agreement refers to a business tenancy, or the tenancy of a licensed premises
  • The property is a holiday let
  • You are a local council

Other forms of tenancy agreement can include:

  • Excluded tenancies or licenses, which will usually apply to those who share their home with a lodger and also share facilities, such as a bathroom or kitchen
  • Assured tenancies, which can apply to tenancies with a starting date between 15th January, 1989 and 27th February, 1997
  • Regulated tenancies, which can apply to tenancies with a starting date before 15th January, 1989

 

What should I include in a tenancy agreement?

As with any contract, a tenancy agreement should include the basics, such as the personal details of all people involved, the address of the property and the date from which the contract will be in effect. Make sure all of these details have been inputted correctly. The starting date of the tenancy should also be clearly highlighted, as well as the end date if the agreement is for a fixed term.

The agreement should also outline the length of the lease (i.e. six months, 12 months or more), the cost of the rent and the basis for payment, whether that be monthly or annually. In either case, the document should also include the dates on which any recurring payments will be required. All of the details regarding the deposit made by the tenant, including the amount of the deposit and how it will be protected, should also be included.

You should also consider including the details of any obligations on your part or the part of your tenant, which can include an outline of any bills (such as utilities) your tenant will be responsible for paying in addition to rent. You may also wish to outline who will be responsible for any repairs, aside from those that are your legal responsibility.

It’s common practice to outline the length of the notice period that would be required to terminate the contract should the tenant decide to end the tenancy at any point, as well as any terms which relate to ending the tenancy early. You should also make it clear within the tenancy agreement whether or not you will allow your tenant to sublet the property, or share the property with lodgers.

Please be aware that it is unlawful to include any clause within your tenancy agreement that may directly or indirectly discriminate against a tenant.

 

How can I prevent discrimination when drafting a tenancy agreement?

When it comes to outlining the terms of your tenancy agreement, you will need to be open to making adjustments. For example, if your tenancy agreement refuses to allow for pets in the property, but your tenant requires a guide dog, the term will need to be amended in order to allow guide dogs in the property. The only time a change such as this can be refused is if you have a very strong reason for not agreeing to it, for example if another tenant residing in the property is seriously allergic to dogs.

A tenancy agreement may not outline discriminatory terms against tenants on the grounds of:

  • Age
  • Being or becoming a transsexual person
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Any disability
  • Race
  • Religion, or lack thereof
  • Sex, or sexual orientation

Can I make changes to a tenancy agreement once it’s been signed?

If you wish to make any changes to the agreement shared between you and your tenants, your tenants will need to agree to said changes before they are implemented in the terms of their tenancy.

 

How can I end a tenancy agreement and have a tenant move out of my property? 

If you would like for your tenants to vacate the property, you will be required to provide them with notice. The methods via which you can give notice will be dependent upon the type of tenancy agreement that has been entered into, and the terms that are outlined therein.

Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs):

In some cases, it is possible for you to request for a tenant to vacate your property without providing a reason for making such a request. This can only happen if all of the following apply:

  • You have protected your tenant’s deposit in a deposit protection scheme
  • You have given your tenant at least 2 months’ written notice that they must vacate (a notice to quit), and have outlined the date they must leave by (which has to be at least 6 months after the original tenancy began)
  • The tenant has a periodic tenancy, or if they have a fixed-term tenancy and you have not requested for them to leave before the end of the fixed term

You can make a request for your tenants to leave during the fixed term of the agreement, however you will need to have a valid reason for wanting possession of your property as outlined by the Housing Act 1988.

Examples of such a reason can include:

  • If your tenant is behind (in arrears) with rent payments
  • If you tenant has used the property for illegal purposes

In such circumstances, the notice period you are required to give varies from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the reason you have for making your request.

Assured tenancies:

Your reason for requesting for your tenant to move out of the property will need to be supported by the House Act 1988.

Excluded tenancies or licenses:

In the case of an excluded tenancy or license, whereby you share your property with a lodger, you only need to give ‘reasonable notice’ to quit. Usually, this means the length of the rental payment period, so if you collect rent weekly, you’ll need to give one weeks’ notice. The notice does not have to be in writing.

 

What should I do if I have provided notice for my tenant to vacate my property, but they have not moved out before the notice period has expired?

You cannot remove a tenant from your property by force. If you have provided your tenant with fair notice that they are required to vacate your property, and they do not leave the property by the end of the notice period, you will then be able to begin the process of eviction through the courts, if this is the action you wish to take.

 

At DRN, our team of experts is dedicated to resolving any landlord and tenant issues, providing you with clear, practical advice to help you achieve your desired outcome. Call us on 01282 433241 for further advice and guidance.

An Update on Moving Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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In a lockdown update last week, the Government announced that, from Wednesday 13th May, property viewings for purchases, sales and lettings would be allowed to recommence. The surprise announcement has led to an increase in work for estate agents and conveyancing staff across the UK, many of whom are planning to reopen gradually and are now putting protective measure into place in branch to make the workplace safe for staff and clients.

The announcement has been met with various queries and concerns from those planning a house move. We’ve put together a general overview of the changes that have been announced, addressing the questions that our team have recently been asked.

 

My sale was put on hold during lockdown. What should I do if my buyer now wants to renegotiate the price?

This has been a difficult time for everyone, including those who have been left in limbo with their house move as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. As a result, circumstances may have changed for some buyers and they may now wish to renegotiate the agreed purchasing price for your home, which is a perfectly legal request for them to make if you have not yet exchanged contracts.

Whether or not you would like to remain open to renegotiation is entirely up to you. However, it’s never guaranteed that another buyer will be found quickly, so if you’re in a rush to sell, it is advisable to properly evaluate your buyers’ new offer before you make your decision. It is worth noting that, should you agree to negotiate a lower price, the buyers’ mortgage lender may then want to have the property revalued, which could delay the selling process further.

If, however, your buyer has expressed a wish to pull out of the sale after you have already exchanged contracts, this would then be deemed as a breach of contract on their part, and you may be able to issue legal proceedings against them to seek compensation for any losses this may cause for you.

 

Can I conduct house viewings now?  

In short, yes. House viewings can now be conducted, but you should to your part to ensure that they are conducted safely. This includes disinfecting all surfaces before and after a viewing appointment. You might also consider replacing the hand towel in your bathroom with disposable paper towels for guests to dry their hands on to prevent the spread of any bacteria, or making hand sanitiser readily available.

It’s also a good idea to leave all of the doors in the house open when viewings are due to take place so that visitors can move freely from room to room without having to touch door handles. In order to respect social distancing rules, many of those conducting house viewings are now waiting in the garden until potential buyers have finished looking around their home. If this isn’t possible, make sure to stay 2 metres apart from your guests at all times.

If your children are likely to be present at the time of the viewing, be sure to brief them on maintaining social distance in the home and try to keep them away from any surfaces that you have disinfected.

If a couple are interested in your home and wish to make a viewing appointment, but do not currently share a home, they should be encouraged to make separate appointments.

 

What will happen if someone in my chain gets ill, or if there is a second lockdown?

Those involved in buying or selling their home are now being advised to build an additional clause into the contract which acknowledges and makes exceptions for scenarios such as these.

You may also wish to consider building a long-stop completion date into your contracts, for example a date close to the end of the year. This way, if the pandemic is still ongoing, either party are free to back out of the contract without losing their deposit or facing interest charges.

 

How can I speed up the buying/selling process?

The best thing you can do right now to speed up the process of buying or selling your home is to get your solicitor, valuation and survey sorted and organised as soon as possible. There will be a lot of people in a similar position of wanting to get their move finalised now that restrictions have started to ease, and as a result, those who deal with property transactions are likely to be in high demand.

 

At DRN, we offer an unbeatable service credited by The Law Society, and always put our clients first. Contact our Conveyancing team today to find out more about our property services and the fixed price packages that we offer.

 

How can I witness and sign paperwork whilst respecting social distancing rules?

With a number of safety measures now in place in our offices, it is entirely possible to witness and sign any necessary paperwork whilst still respecting and practising social distancing.

Those who are required to visit our offices to provide signatures on any documentation are advised that such visits are available by appointment only. We are not able to grant access to our offices for non-scheduled visits at this time.

Visitors are also advised to maintain a 2-metre distance from staff and any other visitors at all times, taking care to make no physical contact with any other person. As well as this, visitors should, where possible:

  • Bring their own pen to use
  • Wear protective gloves
  • Arrive to the appointment on time, with the aim to complete the process as quickly as possible
  • Wash their hands before and after signing or handling any documentation

Many of our staff are working remotely, and are available to provide updates on the progress of your sale or purchase via telephone or email. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you require any assistance with buying or selling your home.

COVID-19 – Advice for those Moving Home

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In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, which has seen a number of countries across the globe be placed into some form of lockdown, the UK Government has provided advice for those buying and/or selling a property during this time.

Whilst the Government have assured buyers and sellers that they need not pull out of a sale that’s already been agreed, they’ve also urged people to be flexible with regards to the process and adapt if required. They’ve also requested that all buyers and sellers respect the advice to stay at home and minimise direct contact with others.

“Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction, although you should follow the guidance on home removals.

“Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measure against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.”

 

Can I still go ahead with my house move?

In short, yes, but only if you are:

  • Buying a vacant property
  • Buying an investment property with a sitting tenant
  • A cash buyer, with no plan to occupy the property immediately after the purchase is completed

Where possible, buyers and renters should seek to delay moving into a new house whilst measures to fight the virus are in place.

If you’re buying a house and have already exchanged contracts, and if the property is currently occupied, all parties should try to work together in order to delay the move and determine an agreed moving date at some point in the future, or an alternative resolution.

If it’s impossible to avoid moving house due to statements written into your contract, or if both parties are unable to reach an agreement on delaying the moving date, you can carry out a house move, but you will need to pay special consideration to the government advice on social distancing, and make plans to move with this in mind.

We encourage you to communicate with your DRN solicitor to discuss the options which are available to you.

 

Will this affect my mortgage agreement?  

As everyone in the UK, and much of Europe, is currently in this same situation, all mortgage lenders are currently working on putting plans into place which will allow those who have already exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months, which will allow you to push your moving date back.

Please let us know if you would like us to contact your mortgage lender on your behalf to gain further information.

 

Can I still carry out viewings on my home?

The Government’s outlook on home visits has been quite plain amidst the outbreak – there should not be anyone visiting your home (unless for essential care reasons). For this reason, you should not let people pay visits to your property for the purpose of viewing it. Some estate agents are currently conducting virtual viewings – perhaps consider asking your agent about their online services if this is something you might be interested in.

 

Someone has made an offer on my property – should I accept it?

The Government has not put restrictions into place on the act of purchasing a house, so, if you receive an ideal offer, you should accept! You should also, however, remember that the process of selling your house may take slightly longer than perhaps it would under normal circumstances.

 

Buying or Selling Your House with DRN

We would like to reassure our clients that we are here for you, and open for business as much as any business can be in these troubling times. The experienced specialists of our Property/Conveyancing department are currently working remotely, ensuring that all emails are being responded to, calls are being returned, and transactions are being processed. Purchases are still being completed, so don’t hesitate to get in touch today to find out more about our conveyancing services.

 

 

When is the Best Time to Sell my House?

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When is the best time to put my house up for sale?

When you get the itch to move, whether it be to upsize or downsize, it can be difficult not to let impatience get the better of you. However, putting your house on the market as soon as you’ve made the decision to move may not be the best idea.

Some seasons will see houses sell in less time, and for more money, than in others. The best time to list your house is when there is the highest number of buyers actively looking to buy, as competition in the market increases the likeliness of you not only selling quickly, but also achieving your asking price.

 

Is summer a good time to sell my house?

Whilst the lure of completing a move in the sunshine and having good weather to get the DIY done may be tempting, putting your house up for sale in summer may not necessarily have the best results.

The garden will be in full bloom and the natural lighting will be brilliant, so there shouldn’t be much to worry about when it comes to prepping for viewings. The key thing to consider when selling in summer is that many people, particularly families, will find themselves prioritising other things and won’t necessarily be actively looking to buy.

Summer is the time when most people will book their holiday, and the children will all be off school, leaving parents too busy entertaining the kids to think about house hunting.

 

Is autumn the best season to put my house on the market?

Putting your house up for sale in autumn can have its benefits, however you will also need to be prepared to make some compromises, particularly if you’re looking for a quick sale.

In autumn, the weather is generally fair and the natural daylight is still good, so your property can still look great. In addition, whilst the garden might not be in full bloom, autumn colours can be just as attractive – you might just like to do a quick sweep of the outdoor areas to clear them of any fallen leaves prior to a viewing.

There are no major holidays to contend with in the autumn months, so it’s a great time to sell from that perspective. However, as we move into the later part of the season you will find that the property market begins to quieten down, as many will decide to settle in for winter and wait for the new year to arrive before they start to look into moving again. If you do manage to sell in autumn, you will need to be prepared to execute a quick move, as you won’t want to get caught out by the varied (generally bad) weather and long nights of winter!

 

Is winter the best time to sell my house?

Selling your house in winter can be particularly difficult, as you will find that there are fewer people actively looking to buy, so your house may be on the market longer than it would be if you had decided to sell earlier in the year. The length of time your house has been up for sale will also have a negative effect on buyers – the longer it’s on the market for, the more people will start to question what could be wrong with it and why it hasn’t been snapped up already.

Most people will also have different priorities during the winter months, and even if they are considering to move, they are more likely to hunker down for the winter and start their search properly after the festive season is out of the way. Christmas can be a hectic time, with family and friends paying visits, a busy social calendar, and all the preparations that go into the big day – few people will want to factor a house move into the equation as well!

 

Is spring a good time to sell?

Spring is probably the best time to sell your house. In spring, the garden will be in bloom, the natural lighting is fantastic, the days are getting longer and it’s the season of new beginnings. Many families will start to look at what’s out there on the property market in spring, as a sale in spring will most likely lead to a house move which lines up with the end of the school term.

Selling your house in spring will allow you to be settled in time for the summer months, when the school holidays start and we’re treated to barbeque weather, late nights and garden parties! You’ll also find that the housing market “booms” in spring – with more people buying and more people selling, the competition can produce positive effects on the price you receive for your house and the length of time it takes to sell.

 

Making the decision to buy or sell a house can be tricky, as it is a huge move for most people. With so much to plan for and such large sums of money involved, it can also be quite stressful.

At DRN, we aim to make the process of buying or selling your home as quick, simple and hassle-free as possible.

Find out more about our property buying and selling services here, or call us today for more information on 01282 433 241 (Burnley) or 01282 864500 (Colne).

Six Things to Consider When Signing a Student Tenancy Agreement

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Summer is coming to an end and for many it will mean either starting the first year of university or returning to complete their studies.

Hunting for the perfect student accommodation can be a stressful process, but even when you’ve found the right place it’s important not to rush into signing a tenancy agreement before you’ve checked through all the details.

A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract and if you’ve never rented before, reading through these types of documents can be confusing, and maybe even a little bit overwhelming.

We’ve broken down a typical tenancy agreement and highlighted six key things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

 

 

1. Know your contract

Although some landlords of student tenants may be willing to offer a long-term contract, the vast majority will use a shorthold tenancy agreement for a fixed term to cover the length of your academic year.

A 12-month contract will provide you with accommodation for the whole year, including the summer months, whereas a 9- or 10-month contract will only provide accommodation for the months that you attend university, meaning you will have to vacate the property for the summer. It’s important to read your contract carefully as some landlords may allow you to pay a reduced rent fee in summer, or they may stipulate that rent must be paid in full even if there are only one or two tenants present.

 

For those entering into a rental agreement as part of a group of students, there would usually be two main types of tenancy contract offered by the landlord.

  • A joint tenancy agreement sees all tenants as one, meaning if any of the joint tenants decide they want to end the agreement and move out, the remaining tenants may also be asked to vacate the property unless they can come to an agreement with the landlord.
  • An individual contract is the more desirable option, as an agreement is signed on an individual basis between each tenant and the landlord. This means that if one person of the group decides to move out of the house, or if they fall behind on their rent payments for any reason, the rest will not be liable to cover for them.

 

 

2. Read the small print

Contracts and tenancy agreements are generally long documents and it can be easy to dismiss the legal jargon and settle with a skim-read. However, agencies and landlords can often use the small print to highlight certain allowances and restrictions of your tenancy agreement, and not acknowledging the information that’s outlined in the small print can lead to negative repercussions later down the line.

 

Key things to look out for in your tenancy agreement documents:

  • Check that the start date and end date of your tenancy are correct
  • Make sure the name of each tenant is listed, as well as the landlord’s
  • Give the section which outlines your obligations a thorough read through. It’s important that you know what will be expected of you as a tenant before you go ahead and sign
  • Double check that the rent amount is correct, along with the details outlining who is liable to pay it
  • If the property is advertised as being fully- or part-furnished, make sure you know which appliances, pieces of furniture and accessories (if any) are included, and what your responsibilities are for maintaining and/or replacing them
  • Make sure the agreement allows for general wear and tear. Many of the complications which arise as a tenancy expires are disputes relating to the condition of the property. Whilst you should make minimal changes to your living quarters (including things like hanging pictures or repainting walls), a landlord should also expect some general wear to the furniture and living space
  • Make sure that any repairs you would like to be carried out prior to moving in are outlined in the contract and have been agreed to before you sign

 

If any of the details outlined in your contract seem incorrect, or if you have any questions or would like to amend any part of your agreement, don’t be afraid to raise the subject with your landlord or agent.

 

 

3. How a bond works – deposit protection schemes

Before your tenancy commences, you will be required to pay a deposit (or “bond”). This upfront fee usually equates to the same amount as one month’s rent, although it can sometimes be slightly more. The deposit not only secures your tenancy for the property, but it is held for the duration of your tenancy and will only be returned if the rent is fully paid and there has been no damage caused to the property when you move out.

From a student’s point of view, the most important thing is to make sure that you know how much you’re expected to pay and that the full amount is protected for the duration of your tenancy.

By law, your landlord must ensure that your deposit is registered with a government-backed deposit protection scheme within 30 days of him/her receiving the funds.

In the UK, there are only three approved deposit protection schemes: the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), My Deposits, and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). Be sure to check that your landlord is registered with an official scheme and that your deposit has been submitted for protection after you’ve transferred the money.

 

What if my landlord isn’t registered with a deposit protection scheme?

If you are ever concerned that your landlord is not doing things by the book, you can check to see if the property is on record with DPS, My Deposits or TDS for yourself. If it isn’t, your landlord would be breaking the law and you could be entitled to compensation (potentially up to three times the amount of your deposit).

It is well known that many students often lose a good proportion of their deposit at the end of their tenancy. This is usually due to damage caused to the property and/or furniture, however it’s an unfortunate truth that some landlords will take advantage and try to take from you what they can.

You are entitled to get your money back at the end of a tenancy, and there should only be a deduction made from your refunded deposit if the reasons for that deduction and the amount(s) requested are fully justified, with supporting evidence. The registered deposit scheme will keep hold of your money until you and your landlord have come to an agreement.

Should you find yourself having trouble with your landlord, we offer expert legal advice and representation (when needed), helping to resolve all tenancy-related issues. An early assessment of your case will allow us to explore all possible options, whether that be solving the situation through amicable negotiations or by initiating immediate legal proceedings.

 

4. Guarantors

For student tenancies, most landlords will require each tenant to have a guarantor. Usually a parent or family member, a guarantor is someone who agrees that in the very worst case scenario, they will cover the cost of your rent if you can’t afford to make the payments yourself.

A guarantor isn’t someone to take advantage of or call upon lightly. The guarantor predominantly acts as a reassurance for the landlord that the rent will always be covered, even if you cannot physically cover it yourself. If the landlord has to pursue your guarantor for a rent payment one month, your guarantor can actually be taken to court, so it’s important that you only sign up for a property that you know you can afford the maintenance fees of, and that you team up with a guarantor who knows they can trust you.

Under normal circumstances, the landlord won’t require your guarantor to be present to sign the contract, and will usually accept a signed and scanned copy of the tenancy agreement along with photocopied proof of identity and proof of address.

 

 

5. Inventory – check and check again!

The inventory is something which is common to both student letting agreements and standard letting agreements, and it’s basically a checklist for both the landlord and the tenants to list any faults or damage they may have noticed in the property before anyone moves in. For fully- or part-furnished properties, your inventory should also include a list of the furniture and appliances that have been supplied by the landlord, and the condition of these should also be noted.

Completing the inventory in as much detail as possible will ensure that no tenants are charged for any damage that was already there, and will enable both parties to avoid any arguments surrounding the quantity and condition of the furniture at the end of the tenancy.

The landlord will often make sure to be present with you in the property so that you can go through the inventory together. If they haven’t said they’ll be there, don’t be afraid to ask for them to be, as having them around to discuss things will help to prevent any arguments later down the line.

It’s also a good idea to keep your own record and photos of the condition of the property and the furniture prior to moving in so that you always have extra evidence should there be any disputes at the end of the tenancy.

 

 

6. Be budget-wise

There’s a lot to think about and budget for when moving into a new property – the cost of rent each month, the deposit that you’ll need to pay upfront, the money that you’ll need to spend to furnish the property and even the cost of hiring a van or seeking out a company to help you with the big move can all add up to one big expense.

Setting a budget for the move itself is always a good idea, but the most important budget to set is one that considers the long-term responsibility of making rent payments. Although it can be easy to get carried away and splurge for the bigger apartment with the flashier kitchen and grand, city-centre location, it’s essential that you plan out your finances and set a realistic budget to ensure that your rent will always be covered.

 

 

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when committing to your new home, but the most important thing is to make sure you’re not rushing into anything. Allowing yourself the time to properly check through your tenancy agreement will ensure that there is little confusion in the process and minimal disagreement later down the line.

DRN can help you to settle any complication you might face relating to your landlord or tenancy agreement. Get in touch to speak to an expert or click here to find out more about the services that we offer.

 

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What Happens on Completion Day

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Even the smoothest of property transactions can seem to last a lifetime. You’ve been waiting for this moment for weeks, maybe months, and finally your completion day is on the horizon. Here’s what you need to do and what to expect.

Complete your packing up

Between exchange of contracts and completion you should’ve almost finished packing up all your belongings from your current property ready for the move, except for maybe a few essentials. On completion day you move into your new home, so you need to spend the morning making sure everything is packed away – minus anything that you have agreed will remain in the property for the new owners.

Clean

Once you’re all packed and ready to go, it’s good practice to make sure the house is free from rubbish and ready for the new owners to move right into. After all, you’d be disappointed if you got to your new home and you had to spend hours cleaning before moving in.

Get confirmation from your solicitor

The solicitors complete the transaction and the sale/purchase is now finalised. Your solicitor will confirm this with you and at this point you must vacate your property and you’re all set to…

Get your new keys!

It’s now time to head to your estate agents and hand over your keys ready for the new buyers to collect. You can then go to the estate agents dealing with your new purchase and collect the keys to your new home. Keys can also be picked up from the seller directly if there are no estate agents involved.

Move in

It’s up to you when you move into your new property. You could do so straight away, or stay with friends or relatives for some time beforehand if you’re going to do renovations to your new home prior to moving in. Even if there is no work to do, you may choose to wait a few days before moving in to take your time unpacking and waiting for any new furniture to arrive. It’s your house now so the choice is yours.

After completion

Your solicitor will be working away in the background for you, making sure that the transaction is registered with the Land Registry and transferring monies as required. Please note that it isn’t uncommon for any monies to arrive to you after completion and you cannot wait until monies are received before you vacate your old property. We always request monies from you and your mortgage lender (if applicable) prior to the completion date, to minimise the risk of any issues with money transmission on the day that could delay completion taking place.

After completion, your solicitor will write to you to confirm completion has taken place and provide you with a final statement of account. Any documents that you receive relating to the property should be kept in a safe place.

The DRN difference

At DRN we have a highly skilled team of conveyancers to help with your new house purchase and the sale of any existing property. We also have an online conveyancing quotation tool which allows you to get a no obligation quotation immediately, just click here to access it and to find out more about our service — DRN buying and selling your home

How Much Does Conveyancing Cost?

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Buying a home is likely to be the biggest financial transaction most people will make in their lives. Conveyancing is a critical part of the transaction, as it is essential to transfer the title of the property correctly, and to make sure there isn’t any legal reason why you might not want to go ahead with the purchase.

Equally, when selling your beloved home, you want to make sure that the transaction goes through hassle-free, leaving you free to focus your attention on planning your move into your new home.

 

Conveyancing Fees & Disbursements

Conveyancing can often present would-be buyers and sellers with some confusion as to what exactly they’re paying for, so we are going to try and clear it up for you. And most importantly – make it easy for you to understand in the future.

Firstly, there are the legal fees – our fees for carrying out the process for you. Fees can vary depending on the type and value of the property, and whether it is freehold or leasehold. Whatever the nature of your transaction, we will make it clear what our fees will be upfront.

Then comes disbursements. Again, these will vary depending on your property and its location. Disbursements are ancillary payments to third parties necessary to complete your transaction. These payments cover things like searches, bank transfer fees, land registry fees, and stamp duty land tax (SDLT).

As disbursements can vary, some properties need additional searches, such as a coal mining report, for example. Some buyers naturally feel that conveyancing costs lack clarity. Again, we are going to put these problems to rest from this point forward.

 

How are we going to do that?

By providing you with an instant, online conveyancing quotation tool that will detail all the costs that will be involved in your transaction, before you even speak to us.

This service is now available via our website. Designed to be quick and easy to use, we are confident that you will find the tool extremely beneficial. If you know the basics of your transaction, such as purchase/sale price, and whether the property is freehold or leasehold, we can provide you with a full quotation immediately.

You can then select to go ahead there and then, without the need for a conversation with us – unless you’d like to discuss your requirements in detail of course.

You can access the service here: DRN Conveyancing Quotation Service

Or to find out more about our conveyancing services, just click here: DRN buying and selling your home.

Finally, if you would like to talk to one of our expert conveyancers, please call us on 01282 433 241.

Making Sense of the New Stamp Duty Rules

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In the Autumn statement 2017, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced new Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) cuts for first time buyers. Cuts which on the face of it looked set to save the average first time buyer circa £1,600.

Approximately 80% of first time buyers now look set to pay no Stamp Duty at all, with homes costing less than £300,000 exempt from the tax. However, individual circumstances have come to light since the announcement that have caused confusion for many, with couples in particular raising concerns.

Here we look to make sense of the new Stamp Duty rules for you, so whatever your situation you can understand if you’ll be able to benefit from the new framework or not, and what rate of Stamp Duty you’ll likely need to pay.

 

What is Stamp Duty?

SDLT is a tax you pay when you purchase property or land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There is a threshold currently in place of £125,000, meaning that you don’t need to pay SDLT on any purchases costing £125,000 or less.

 

When does SDLT need to be paid?

Stamp Duty is usually payable within 30 days of the completion of your property purchase.

 

What are the changes?

First time buyers will now not need to pay SDLT on purchases of £300,000 or less.

For properties purchased up to £500,000, first time buyers will pay 5% SDLT on the amount between £300,000.01 and £500,000 only.

Based on the average first time buyer purchase price of £208,000, the average first time buyer is now set to save £1,660 under the new rules.

For purchases over £500,000, first time buyers will receive no benefit and the transaction will be subject to standard SDLT rates:

 

 

Source: Gov.uk SDLT Rates 

 

When did the changes occur?

The changes apply for all completions taking place on or after 22nd November 2017.

If you exchanged contracts prior to this date and are still awaiting completion, you may qualify for the new exemptions – contact us to discuss your specific situation, or ask your conveyancer.

 

How is a first-time buyer defined?

Anyone who hasn’t owned a property before, anywhere in the world.

If you have previously inherited property, this will count as you having owned property before.

 

My partner has previously owned a home, but I haven’t, will I still be able to benefit?

If you are buying a property jointly, unfortunately you both need to be first time buyers to qualify.

 

What if I am buying solely in my name?

If you are married or in a civil partnership this will affect your status as a buyer.

If your partner currently owns another property your purchase will NOT be eligible for first time buyer relief. Not only that, you will also have to pay an SDLT surcharge of 3%, on top of the standard SDLT rate. This is because your purchase will be classed as an ‘additional property’, unless your partners property is to be sold as part of your transaction. In this case you would just pay normal SDLT.

 

What should I do if I have unusual circumstances?

As you can see, the rules surrounding couples can make the interpretation of the SDLT rules increasingly complex. If you have unusual circumstances, or your transaction is particularly complex, it is always prudent to speak to our Conveyancing Team prior to proceeding with making an offer to purchase.

Speaking to one of our expert consultants before a purchase price is agreed can help you to avoid many potential pitfalls as your transaction progresses. You can contact the team on 01282 433 241.

How to find the right conveyancer – top 3 tips

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You shouldn’t need the services of a conveyancer too often during your lifetime – but when you do, these tips will help you find the right one.

 
Don’t end up paying more for ‘cheaper’

One of the main advantages of using a conveyancer rather than a solicitor is the fact that their services typically cost less.

But conveyancing is a complex process involving large amounts of documentation, so be sure you’re confident in their attention-to-detail.

Any lack of diligence during the paperwork stage could come back to haunt you in the form of lengthy and costly delays, wiping out any low price advantage.

Make sure any quote provided includes a full breakdown of precisely what is covered by the fee.

 

Shop around before committing

When you come to sell your property, your estate agent may well recommend a conveyancer.

This could be in good faith, due to a great reputation, long-standing relationship or local convenience.

But it may well be because they’ll be set to earn a big commission if you follow their recommendations.

Try and secure some alternative estimates to compare, or if you don’t have time, ask for transparency on commission agreements.

 

Stay informed

Another advantage of using a conveyancer over a solicitor is that you don’t have to meet face-to-face.

This lack of requirement has led to many businesses to offer conveyancing as an online service for extra convenience.

But the flipside of added convenience can be reduced transparency, if you don’t know how your transaction is progressing.

With only an email address for comfort, you could be left in the dark as to whether your purchase or sale has suffered any setbacks.

If you opt for online, make sure you are able to contact someone too, for your own peace-of-mind.

 

More information on conveyancing.

As long as you remember that a cheap headline fee may not represent the great value it appears to and do your homework, you should have no problems.

But if you need to talk to an experienced professional in plain English about what you require we’re happy to help.

If you’re buying or selling a property and would like to discuss conveyancing services with a member of our helpful team, please contact us.

Stamp Duty Rates

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Are you concerned about the higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) which will take effect from 1 April 2016?

The Government has now closed its consultation on their plans to increase the rate of Stamp duty payable on the purchase of additional residential properties.

They are due to announce the final policy details during the Budget taking place on 16 March 2016, with the higher rates of SDLT applying from 1 April 2016.

Applying the new rates, the Stamp Duty payable on purchases of second homes will be as follows;

 

No stamp duty payable on a purchase price up to £40,000

Additional 3% payable on a purchase price between £40,000 and £125,000

Additional 5% payable on a purchase price between £125,000 and £250,000

Additional 8% payable on a purchase price between £250,000 and £925,000

Additional 13% payable on purchase prices between £925,000 and £1.5m

Additional 15% payable on purchase prices above £1.5m

 

Crucially, the higher rates will not apply where somebody is replacing a main residence, even if they own more than one property.

A re-imbursement of any higher SDLT paid can be sought where somebody buys a new main residence and sells their old main residence within 18 months.

If you require any further advice please contact a member of our property team on 01282 433241 (Burnley) or 01282 864500 (Colne)

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