Should I get a mortgage broker or find my own mortgage quotes?

When you’re looking at buying your first home, or moving up the property ladder - deciding on how to finance the move isn’t should be taken lightly. You want to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and there are lots of options available. However, there is one choice you need to make earlier on: Go it alone, or get the advice of a mortgage broker. 

Using a mortgage broker

View a mortgage broker as your personal guide to the mortgage market. They are regulated (by the FCA - Financial Conduct Authority), and have to pass strict exams to enable them to give mortgage advice. When discussing your options with a broker, they’ll take your financial circumstances in to consideration, along side your property aspirations and recommend the very best deal for you. 

An experienced broker will be very familiar with the different criteria of each lender, so by following their advice you’re most likely to be accepted for a mortgage. They may also have access to exclusive broker-only deals that members of the public aren’t able to find.

Most mortgage brokers make their money in two ways: firstly from the lender and secondly from the client in the form of a mortgage arrangement fee. Both sets of fees will be laid out to you at the outset so you’ll know exactly what it’s going to cost you. One thing to bare in mind is weighting up an up front cost in comparison to the save you make due to the deal the broker has arranged. However, not all brokers will charge an arrangement fee!

TOP TIP! Choose a ‘whole of market’ broker, they are not restricted on which lenders they can use. Some brokers choose from a select panel only. 

Finding your own mortgage

Finding your own mortgage will be dependant on your house-buying experience, knowledge of the market, and your confidence. If you're a seasoned buyer and you have the time to put in the legwork, the do-it-yourself approach could be for you, but for the most of us, it’s the hard way of doing things. However, it’s never been easier to scope the market, with a whole host of comparison tools available online. Whatever you choose to do, it’s best do do some research so you’re able to build a picture of what is available to you. 

Due mainly to the FCA's Mortgage Market Review in 2014, going it alone today is a bit tougher than it used to be. Banks and building societies have to be much more rigorous about who they lend to, so don't be surprised to see things like childcare, commuting costs and pension contributions crop up in a mortgage application interview - they need to be very thorough. 

Another thing to bare in mind is that your bank is now obliged to provide you with an appointment before they can sell you a mortgage. This means that when shopping around, you might sometimes face long waits for an appointment, which should be kept in mind if your transaction is time-sensitive. If time is sensitive aspect of your move, speaking with a mortgage broker is probably going to be your best bet. 

If you want to speak to one of our recommended brokers, please call our office on 0116 456 0131.

Make it love at first sight when a buyer views your home

Home buyers are very decisive - for most of us it only takes a few minutes having walked through the door whether or you can imagine yourself living there. The nature of buyers means that for sellers, the very first time a buyer sees your property, they must do everything possible to leave a positive lasting impression. It takes a staggeringly small amount of time for a buyer to decide whether or not they would like to purchase a property, and it’s therefore vital that both you and your home make a great first impression.

Getting your property in shape for a property viewing needn’t be a difficult task. It’s crucial that even in winter, the front garden is tended to and has been tamed, and that the front door is given a fresh lick of paint.

It doesn’t need to be a difficult job getting your property viewing-ready. There are some simple tips to follow to make sure you’re making the most of every viewing.

  • Make sure the front door has a fresh lick of paint and the garden is well tended - even during the winter.
  • All rooms must be neutral colours - themed rooms are highly personal and can be an instant turn-off for buyers
  • De-personalise - buyers have got to see your property as a potential home. Your choice of art, ordainments, colours, textiles etc can be a great way to express your personality in your home, but can be off putting for buyers and limit the price you could get for your property.
  • Concentrate your efforts on the ground floor - it’s the first thing they’ll see and what they’re most likely to remember. It’s also likely to contain your kitchen, which is a subconscious indicator to a buyer about how much work they’ll need to do.

We’ve written a whole posts curb appeal and preparing for viewings - please take a read.

When viewers come to visit your home, it’s important that the right atmosphere is created. In these colder, winter months your home must be well lit and warm. For example, an open fire can create a cosy and inviting home. For bonus points, providing your viewers with drinks and nibbles will often go down well too. 

TOP TIP - During the winter months, you’re property is empty, get there 20 minutes early and turn the heating up.

Although you may think the pressure is just on what your property looks like, they are also more likely to want to put in an offer or want to view the property again if the person conducting the viewing is polite, informative and not too pushy. So if you are doing the viewing, start building a relationship with the buyer - ask them about how their search is going and what is important to them in a new house. Your knowledge about the local school, church, doctors surgery etc may be very helpful for a buyer to hear! Know one knows the property, neighbours and what it’s like to live there as well as you do - so use this to your advantage. By staying positive a buyer will pick up on it and and feel at ease and leave feeling positive about their experience. 

Make sure your estate agent follows up on every viewing and provides informative, detailed feedback. If you don’t sell your property straight away, you can take the feedback onboard, sort anything that is fixable and make tweaks so every viewing gets that little bit better. 

If you would like more advice for getting the best results when selling your home, please feel free to give one of our property experts a call on 0116 456 0131.

Investing in your first buy-to-let property?

Where to start

Purchasing a buy-to-let can be a great investment, but there is also substantial risk. Whether you’re buying a property for security in retirement or aspire to build a portfolio to provide a full-time income, we have put together some key points to help make your first step into property investing successful.

The first thing you should do is establish a clear vision of what you hope to achieve by making a buy-to-let investment. You will then be able to work backwards to set out a clear, structured plan about how you will get there. It will also enable you to make clearer decisions on opportunities based on whether they will help you take the next step towards achieving your goal. 

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

Research

Having a deep understanding of the local market is the best way to ensure you’re buying a property that will meet rental demand, at the right price. Spending time researching can pay off massively in the long run. One way to get started is by talking to the experts in your area. Someone with years of experience in selling, letting and advising on property investments will know instantly what type of property and in what area will deliver the income and capital growth you hope to achieve. They will also be able to help with other services you need when buying a buy to let investment, such as knowing who the best local solicitor is, help preparing a business plan and securing finance. 

Present your property in the best light

If you want to achieve the highest rental income possible, presenting your property in the best light is essential. People will pay more for properties in perfect condition - doing things ‘on the cheap’ often costs more in the long run.

Great property, fantastic tenants

It might sound obvious, but the right property, in the right location, marketed at a fair price, really will attract the very best tenants. Getting the best tenants is one of the easiest ways to maximise your return. Bad tenants can miss rent payments, fall into rent arrears, and poorly maintain or damage the property - all of which will cost time and money. Going the extra mile initially to ensure you’re attracting the right kind of tenant almost always pays off.

Maximising and protecting your assets

The ‘easy part’ is often considered to be buying the property and finding a tenant. Making profit is where it gets tricky. One of the hard things to balance is expenditure on maintaining and updating the property, to maximise the rental income and attract the right tenants, but without over-spending and causing a negative impact on your returns.

Changes to property investment returns

The legislation to protect tenants has changed a lot over the past decade and keeping on top of new rules is essential. Securing appropriate safety certificates, complying with deposit schemes and potentially having to update properties in the future to comply with regulations can add a lot to your costs.

Taking the next step

Hortons are well-placed to guide you through the buy-to-let process, from sourcing property to and advising on letting, competition from other landlords and how best to present the property once you have purchased it. To speak to one of our property experts, please call us on 0116 456 0131.

10 steps to buying a property off-plan

Buying off-plan is something many people shy away from because they feel it's a complicated process that is best left for people with a lot of property experience. The truth is it’s really simple and can be a very intelligent investment. Here are 10 steps to purchasing an apartment off-plan.

1. Speak to a financial advisor before you do anything

You won’t be able to get a mortgage offer until about six months before completion, however it depends on which lender you use. A financial advisor will give a good steer as to what can be borrowed and when you should begin the formal application process.

2. Decide what your aims are

Are you looking to live in the property or is it an investment?  If it’s an investment, are you looking for a solid rental yield or long-term capital growth, or both?

3. Find an appropriate development and then select the right apartment

There are a huge variety of locations and price points available. Our specialist residential development sales team based in Margaret Street, London, will be able to help you select the perfect product to suit your needs.

4. Pay your deposit

Once you have agreed a price, you will need to pay your reservation deposit which takes the apartment off the market and goes towards the purchase of the apartment. You will also need to fill out a reservation form and appoint a solicitor. If you do not have a solicitor, there is often a suggested solicitor who is familiar with the specific process for that development, which can make exchanging contracts simpler.

5. Let the solicitors do their job

The exchange process usually takes around 3-4 weeks.

6. Time to exchange

You will usually be required to put down 10 per cent of the purchase price (minus your deposit already paid). Depending on the development, there may be further staged payments due before completion.

7. Watch and wait

Now you can sit back and watch the building going up, and your apartment being constructed. The developer will often send updates during this period to let you know how construction is progressing.

8. Get your mortgage sorted

After you have exchanged, check with your financial advisor when you should start your formal mortgage application process. It depends on the lender but generally it is around six months prior to completion.

9. Preparing for post-completion

If you are thinking about letting the property, speak to our Residential Development Lettings team to make sure you are prepared. The team will be able to help you furnish the property and pre-let it for you so that you have a tenant in situ from day one.

10. Completion

When your apartment is ready, you will be sent a completion notice telling you how long you have to complete on your purchase - usually about two weeks. You just need to let your mortgage company know and your solicitor will do the rest. You will be able to collect the keys on the day of completion.

Top 10 ways to increase the value of your home

Here are our top 10 tips to consider when trying to increase the value of your home. The tips are in no particular order - as some of them may be easier than others to for you to implement, and depending on the property, others some can have a bigger impact than others. It’s always important to consult experts before committing to any major expenses - we’re always on hand to help point you in the right direction. However, tips 4 and 10 will apply to every property and are often easily to complete. 

1. Upgrade your kitchen

For the vast majority of home buyers, one of the first things they will look at is the quality, age and style of the kitchen. The kitchen is the ‘hub’ of the modern home, and if it’s dated most home buyers will automatically discount the value of the property to account for the cost of an upgrade. Unlike replacing carpets or decoration, the cost of the kitchen buyers are accounting for is something that is often over inflated because they know it’s a major expense. By investing in a new kitchen, you’re taking control of the cost and increasing the chances of buyers not having to think about it. Remember though, when choosing a style, don’t over personalise. To get the best price, think about what your target market is looking for in a kitchen and remember this when making your choices.

2. Upgrade your bathroom

Similarly to point 1, bathrooms have the same effect on potential buyers. If you get your kitchen and bathroom right, you’re well on the way to achieve a top-end price. However, it it comes down to making a choice due to a limited budget, refreshing the bathroom is often a lower cost process. 

3. Create a new bathroom and downstairs toilet

A en-suite or convenient downstairs toilet is almost always a winner with potential buyers. Do you have sufficient space under the stairs to create another loo? Or a bedroom you can reconfigure to accommodate an en-suite. Changes like this have the potential to add 6% to the value of a property. 

4. Tend to the garden

This is an absolute must! When selling a property, in order to achieve the very best price you need to avoid creating ‘hassle factors’ for buyers. One of the most commonly overlooked areas is the front and rear gardens. A beautifully landscaped outside space adds so much potential to a property and is well worth the investment. At the very least, ensure the space is tidy and weeded.

5. Add an extension

Adding an extension that increasing floor space, improves the layout, usability and image of a property can add a lot of value - often around 20%. However, it isn’t an exact science. A badly done extension, cramming bedrooms in at the expense of usability for example (an all to common mistake) can have the opposite effect. As this is one of the most expensive undertakings, seeking the advice of the best architect and estate agent in your area will help you construct a plan that will be most appealing to your target market, whilst also ensuring it is making maximum use of space and style. 

6. Convert the loft

Making use of existing and unused space and turning it into bedroom or living accommodation is a great way to add value. One of the best ways to do this is by converting your loft space, and often with a lower cost to typical extensions - it’s an easy way to open your property up to a new market. For example, in most areas there is a big jump in values from 2 to 3 bedroom properties - as 3 bedrooms are more likely to be suitable for accommodating a family. 7. Reconfigure the layout

Providing there are no structural issues, knocking walls down to open up spaces can be a hugely cost effective way to transform a property. Increasing usable square footage can be achieved easily by transforming small and awkward spaces into light, fairly and spacious living accommodation. 

8. Be eco-friendly

We’re living in an ever increasing eco-conscious world and buyers are becoming more and more interested in the eco-friendliness of potential homes. Simply looking at your EPC, reading and executing some of the suggestions to make improvements will be looked favourably upon by buyers. 

9. Create or restore a feature

Adding a feature, like a wood-burning stove, can give a room the ‘wow factor’. Or, you may already have features than could be given a new lease of life. Putting the time and effort into creating these unique selling points can help give your property the edge over others you are competing against in the market. 

10. Get the basics right

A beautifully designed loft conversion with leaky windows and a saggy roof defeats the purpose. Your first port of call is getting the essentials done right: double-glazing, central heating, updating electrics, fixing a porous roof and layering in a damp-proof course are basic, sound investments.

If you’re thinking of selling your home and want further advice on maximising the value of your property, please give Hortons a call today.

How and when to pack for your move

There have been numerous studies that rank moving home as one of life’s most stressful events. Even being recognised as causing more anxiety than being sacked or even divorce! However, it doesn’t have to be this way. We are very proud as an agency to enable our clients look at moving as a happy and celebrated time of new beginnings by offering support throughout the process – this is done by good communication and management of the overall deal, putting our clients in the driving seat. We always make sure we’re on hand to help - never be afraid to call and ask us for advice: that’s what we’re here for.

It’s easy to assume that the stress is caused by major aspects of moving, such as the legal process – but often it’s actually some of the tasks that appear to be simpler, that are often left late and creep up on you. One of those things is the process of actually getting packed up and ready to move into your new home.

WHEN


Fitting what seems to be your whole life into the back of a removals van may seem daunting, but if the process starts early on and is broken down into manageable chunks, it’ll seem like a much more natural process rather than a mad rush.

One thing to bear in mind that there is no guarantee on your moving date until your solicitor has formally exchanged contracts. It is then quite common for there to be a week between the exchange of contacts and the moving day – so it doesn’t leave much time between knowing you’re definitely moving, and the actual day.

Therefore, as soon as the offer is accepted, you should begin the process with some small steps that will help a lot further down the line. There will still be a lot of uncertainty because it’s so early on, so start with the things that regardless of what happens, you’ll benefit from anyway. A good example is sorting through things that can either be thrown away, donated to charity or sold. You’ll make life a lot easier when it comes to boxing things up, but you’ll also be de-cluttering at the same time.

Now is a good time to start to collect boxes and as time goes on, judging by how quickly progress is being made, you should start to pack your non-essentials – things you’re not using on a daily basis.

It is also a good time to compile a document box with all the important paperwork relating to your old house and the new, including electricity and water bills and contact details for your new utility suppliers. We have a free moving guide to help you make sure you notify everyone you need to – download it here.

HOW


Once you’ve exchanged contracts, you can start to pack your essentials. If you have a week between the exchange of contracts and your moving day, start by assigning a room or two for each day. You’ll soon make progress by working through it methodically.

TOP TIP - Make sure you mark your boxes with the room the contents are destined for in your new home. This will make it a lot quicker and easier to unpack!

As you’re getting to the final stages of packing, make sure you keep aside a box of anything you’ll need immediately – the Kettle, a few pots and pans, clean clothes and a wash bag for example. After a long day shifting boxes, the last thing you’ll want to do is search through them again to fine a few things you need in the evening. Asking kids to do a similar thing is a great way to keep them entertained – ask them to put together a box of their favourite 3/4 toys so it’s easy for you to dig out once you arrive at your new home.

YOUR AGENT


Your estate agents can be invaluable when it comes to removing the stress. Some people buy a new home maybe once or twice in their lifetime, but your agents deal with house moves on a daily basis. They’ll be guiding you through everything step by step, but if there is anything you are unsure about, make the most of their expertise and ask – we’re here to help.

5 signs that you’ve found the right home

Whether you’re searching for your first home, or your firth, the market can seem quite daunting. It involves trawling through hundreds of pages online and booking lots of viewings, most of which will be for properties that won’t meet your exact needs so the ones that are closest doing so will ultimately requires some compromise. But when you think you have found one that is right for you, how can you be 100% sure you’re making the right decision?

You’re able to overlook imperfections
We all know every property has imperfections. However, if you’re looking at imperfections as opportunities then you may like the property more than you think. Think about properties that you’ve seen that you can see obvious imperfections but you aren’t looking at them assessing the potential - it’s probably because you didn’t like the property as a whole to begin with. 

You’re convincing yourself to buy it
If you’ve visited a property and have since found yourself convincing yourself it’s the one, this is usually a very positive sign. You may even find yourself ‘selling’ it to friends and family whilst discussing your search. Comparing it to other properties that you may liked but doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor, you probably won’t find yourself doing the same thing. 

You’re comparing other properties to it
I there is one property that has set the benchmark for what you like, and you keep coming back to it and comparing other properties to it - you may want to think about putting in an offer! This often a very clear sign that it ticks most of the boxes. 

Don’t want to leave? 
It’s not uncommon to walk through the door of a property you are viewing and want to leave right away. An instant feeling that it isn’t the right one and it doesn’t fit your requirements - something we’ve all experienced and it’s a feeling we’ll all be aware of. However, consciously be aware of the complete opposite to that feeling. Does the property have a nice feel? Do you find yourself wanting to stay and move in straight away? This is perhaps the clearest sign of all. 

You can imagine yourself living their
If you’re walking around a property deciding where your furniture would go, how you would decorate it or imaging yourself and your family enjoying the space in a way that you haven’t done so with other properties and you’re excited by the prospect of living there, you’ve probably found the right home.

What is Gazumping and Gazundering?

Gazumping

Gazumping happens when a seller accepts a different offer on their property after agreeing to another offer from another buyer. It’s important to remember that a sale isn’t legally binding until contacts have been exchanged. Either side is free to walk away from the deal until this point, and in most cases it takes around 3 months to be in a position to exchange contracts. Gazumping doesn’t necessarily mean excepting a higher offer than the one agreed - the motives of the seller can vary. For example, they could receive a slightly lower offer from a buyer that is in a stronger position (e.g. a cash buyer) that they could give as lower risk. As a buyer, if the vendor of the property you are buying decides to accept another offer, you may be liable for legal fees to cover the work already undertaken, and any surveyors you have paid for also would be lost. Without prior written agreement, there unfortunately is nothing you can do about the lost money.

Gazundering

Gazundering happens when a buyer reduces their offer amount, potentially putting the vendor of the property into a difficult position and having to consider the lower amount if they have no other buyers waiting. An example situation is for a buyer to wait until the very last stages of the transaction before making their lower offer. If there is a chain involved in the sale, this can almost force the seller into accepting the lower offer or have to start the process of finding a buyer all over again. Gazumping is more common in a ‘sellers market’, where house prices are rising. On the other hand, gazumping tends to occur when prices are in decline - a ‘buyers market’.

What can you do to avoid it?

Gazundering can be very difficult to avoid if you don’t have another buyer that you are able to fall back on. If you are hit with a lower offer, make sure you understand the buyers reasons and ask if they can back up any concerns - for example, is it something in relation to an issue raised on the survey or is it simply that they’re having second thoughts about the price? Try making a counter offer if you feel able to, this can help cover some of the difference. However, it is sometimes worth holding out and calling the buyer’s bluff. It’s a very difficult situation, so make sure you ask the advice of your agent at every stage. They deal with buyers on a daily basis and will have dealt with gazundering before.

As a buyer, you can reduce the risk of gazumping by asking the seller to take the property off the market once they’ve accepted your offer, building a good relationship with them and, of course, working to get to the exchange of contracts as soon as possible. It may also be worth checking whether your seller's agent has a policy on gazumping, meaning they require the seller to turn down any offers made after the initial acceptance.

As a buyer, the risk of gazumping can be reduced by doing the following:

Asking the seller to take the property off the market as soon as they’ve accepted your offer.
Make sure you provide proof of your funds and solicitors details as quickly as possible
Complete all legal paperwork as quickly as possible to help your solicitor to move to an exchange of contacts
Work with the estate agent selling the property and make sure they are communicating with the seller so they know that you’re doing what you can to move things forward.

If gazumping and gazundering are real concerns for your sale, you could get your solicitor to draw up an agreement between both parties. This might prove expensive, but it might be worth it to avoid the headaches associated with either gazumping or gazundering.

If you have further questions about anything in this article or want to speak to a solicitor, please call our office on 0116 456 0131.