Moving house is an expensive and stressful event in our lives – some of the costs you will face cannot be avoided, such as taxes and legal fees, and neither can some of the stress be avoided. But you can minimise the stress in many ways and also cut down on some of the costs and that’s what this guide to moving house will help you do.
However, before you even get to that stage you need to find a house to buy – and that is no mean feat. It is often not just about looking at those houses you can afford; there are other considerations such as transport links, schools, space within the house and outside space, particularly important if you have young children or pets. And it is also about balance – the perfect house with perfect schools in a gorgeous countryside location is no good if you or your partner are exhausted commuting into the city every day. Or, even worse, rarely see your family as you spend most of the week in town missing out on your children growing up and indeed missing out on the “perfect” home.
A house move is indeed a serious business – not just because of the sums involved but because mistakes can be costly in other ways – having to move you children from a school mid-way through, all of you having to start again forming new friendships and getting to know a new location.
Be prepared for some seriously hard work if you want to get the best house for your money in a location where you can really put down roots – build a family, a career and good friendships – and be happy. Sometimes it isn’t the huge house and garden in a perfect location that will make us happy but smaller things such as good neighbours, a safe, friendly community, the sound of birdsong and the way the sun shines in your kitchen in the early mornings.
So before you embark on finding a new house, whether you are a seasoned house mover or a first time buyer start off by reading this guide to moving house and then making a list of what is important to you. But leave plenty of blank space as you may discover something in a home that you hadn’t thought of but is the one thing that makes you want to buy a particular home.
It can help to start writing a list of all the things that are most important to you about a location. Think about what you like and dislike about the location where you are currently living and where friends and relatives live. You may need good transport links for an easy journey to work, you may also want to be close to pubs, restaurants and shops. Or have easy access to the countryside for the week-ends. Whatever matters to you, start writing it down as it will help to focus your search.
Now start to draw up an initial search area – don’t be too set on a certain town or postcode as you may find it is too expensive or simply that the type of property you want is not available on the market in that area. You may also find that once you start looking at properties that location isn’t, after all, everything and you may be tempted by a larger home in a less favoured area. Choosing a home is a very personal decision and you may not know what you want until you see it.
Once you have a rough search area start to view properties with the features you are looking for – you will probably have an idea of number of bedrooms so that is always a good starting point.
You will quickly get an idea of what homes cost with certain features in your chosen area and it is then time to find out how much mortgage you will be able to take out. Unfortunately most mortgage lenders no longer offer a “mortgage in principle” where you have documented proof of the amount you can borrow. But once you have had a few quotes you will be able to fine tune your house search with a much better idea of your budget.
Judging by the number of house magazines and TV programmes designed to encourage us to create our dream home it seems many of us are a little bit obsessed with the idea of a dream home. We can see them being built, extended, renovated or refurbished step by step on TV programmes by the brave few so it’s clear that dream homes do exist.
But what do we really need in a home?
To help you decide first establish what your goal is. You cannot achieve a dream if you don’t know what you are looking for and every dream is different so start by deciding just what it is that would make a dream home for you. Some people will be focusing on good schools, country air or village life. Others will be after good restaurants, art galleries and a lively buzz.
The perfect home is not always the most expensive or most impressive to look at; remember you will be living there so it needs to feel comfortable not just look good. For instance large gardens may be impressive but they take time and/or money to maintain. Large houses are expensive to run – fuel bills, repairs and council tax will all cost more.
Do you really need that guest bedroom that is rarely used or the conservatory that can only be used for half the year. On the other hand how would it improve your life to be able to walk to work (or at least to the station) and to your children’s school or to the park?
Take a long hard look at what you really need.
Every guide to moving house will tell you that compromise is always necessary. If you find a place that meets most of your needs then that is a pretty good going. If the things you will have to compromise on are easy to change or fix then be willing to compromise – provided the price is right and allows you to make any changes. But don’t compromise on major factors, such as poor parking in a busy town location; this could spoil your enjoyment of the home.
A little bit of flexibility may help you find the property that could become your dream home even if it may not quite be there yet.
Also accept the Limitations of your budget. More money won’t necessarily lead to more choice of homes but do think laterally to make your budget go further, for example, don’t be too rigidly fixed on the idea of a period property in areas where more modern homes are significantly less expensive – and probably have more space and light too.
Many home buyers in the UK, given the option, would have a period home, with all the quirks and features that entails, combined with modern conveniences such as double glazing, cavity walls, good insulation, and contemporary kitchens and bathrooms. Sadly, few houses combine these duals wants, or at least not at affordable prices.
So the choice of a period or more modern home is a major factor when we choose to buy a new home. Depending on where you live and your budget the decision may be made for you as many period properties command a substantial premium over the price of a more modern home (say from the 1960s onwards, although 1940s and 1950s houses are not technically “period” homes they are often of a similar style to 1930s homes)
So what are the main advantages and disadvantages of newer versus period homes:
Sometimes hard to define but you know instantly if a home has it and so will estate agents, home owners and other home buyers so be prepared to pay a premium for character. Sometimes it is purely the build style and sometimes the proportion and layout of the rooms that lends character.
Open fires, high skirting boards, wide staircases, original oak floors, detailer plaster cornices. Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian homes have these by the bucket load.
It’s not just the character of the buildings that create a well-established feel to an area it is also their gardens and especially the surrounding trees. It is easier to build a new home with “character” than it is to instantly create a well-established garden, which is almost impossible to do even with a huge budget.
Homes built in the last 10 years will almost certainly have conveniences that older homes lack particularly when it comes to plumbing, heating and insulation. But sometimes much older houses actually have more modern conveniences that those that are, say, 30 years old. This is because the odler the property the more likely it is to have been updated. So don’t make any assumptions – check everything out.
Period homes are less likely to have a truly open plan feel even if walls have been knocked down because they were no designed for this type of living. Many Victorian houses for instance are long and thin so there is a limit to how open plan you can make it feel.
We tend to assume that older homes have larger rooms and there is a lot of truth in that. However, there are certain home with a very modern feel that also have large rooms, particularly those built in the 1970s that can have very spacious rooms with plenty of light.
Unless you are very fortunate to find a period home that has been completely renovated, the maintenance of an older property is a major consideration to factor into any purchase. Any period home should have a full structural survey done before exchanging contracts and remember that repairs to period features will typically cost more than to their modern equivalent.
Buying a home is an expensive investment but remember it is a home and not just an investment. Nevertheless it is always worth keeping an eye out for a home with hidden potential, although depending where you live they may be few and far between.
A home with hidden potential doesn’t have to be a complete wreck – often it is the homes with very dated décor and fittings (especially kitchens and bathrooms) that can be bought for a discount. Only take on a project if you know you will have the time, money and enthusiasm to see it through – for those of us still hankering after a renovation project here are some tips for finding that hidden gem.
Home buyers always worry about whether it is the “right time” to buy a home but, as with many other things in life, buying a house may not be able to wait. If your family is growing, or your job has been relocated, or you are getting divorced these are just a few examples of when you may choose to buy even if the time is not quite right in the marketplace. Just remember to buy somewhere that can serve as a home even if your circumstances change in the next 5-10 years (you don’t want to end up being forced to sell at a loss, after all). But if you still want to play the guessing game take a look at some of these indicators that suggest when might be a good time to move:
Each year there are changes in the budget that affect how much tax we pay; sometimes those changes specifically affect house buyers (such as rises in Stamp Duty Land Tax). Fortunately we are warned of most changes in advance so if there’s a looming deadline that might increase the cost of buying then try and buy before that deadline (but don’t get desperate!)
If you have a significant amount of savings or have recently received an inheritance then you will receive a pretty poor interest rate so investing in a more expensive home could be the perfect safe haven for you cash. Just remember that it will be locked in to your home so only spend an amount you know you won’t need anytime soon.
If your children are about to start at a new school you can be as sure as anyone ever can that you will be staying in the same area for the next few years so moving house now would be a fairly safe bet.
It would be nice to think that buying a new home could be stress-free but unfortunately that is probably never the case. However, it is possible to keep that stress to a minimum.
Buying a home is a complex process that most of us do only a few times in our lives. It affects our emotions and our finances so it’s little surprise we find it stressful. But the professionals such as the estate agents and solicitors do this sort of thing every day so trust their expertise.
If you are moving to a new area or even a new country then do your research in advance – the more you know about a new area the less worried you will be about moving there.
Prepare yourself mentally for a range of outcomes to avoid the emotional rollercoaster that will simply fuel your stress levels. If you have thought through your worst case scenario then you can handle bad events relatively calmly if they actually happen.
In an ideal world you would find a dream home at a price you could afford and no other buyers would be interested. Sadly that is extremely unlikely to ever be the case. So how can you maximise your chances of having your offer accepted?
Making an offer requires some strategy – the seller, naturally, wants the full asking price but, hopefully the estate agent will be skilful enough to recognise a good offer when it comes along so if you deploy some of the following strategies that dream home could soon be yours.
Don’t insult the seller by making a ridiculously low first offer – this will not work in your favour if other more realistic buyers are also making offers. On the other hand don’t offer your maximum straight away. Nor just pick a figure out of the air. Make sure you have seen plenty of similar houses for sale and also check the recently sold house prices for your area (Zoopla is good for this). Also check the condition of other similar houses for sale or recently sold homes.
Poor condition such as a poor roof or old wiring (switches and sockets are often a clue) will affect the mortgage valuation so make sure those were taken into account in the asking price. If not, get a rough estimate of costs to rectify the problem and use that to explain your offer.
If you can reassure the seller that you are a serious buyer with finances in place already that will help when the negotiations become close and could mean the difference between your offer being accepted rather than another interested party if you both offer the same amount. Don’t underestimate the advantage it will give you so inform the buyer and estate agent in advance of your readiness and ability to move to a swift exchange of contracts
A good estate agent will help the transaction complete quickly and smoothly so treat him/her like your best friend. Stay in regular phone contact (not just email) and make sure you provide proof of your ability to move quickly such as a letter from your mortgage provider or proof of an offer accepted on your current home or of the deposit funds you have available.
The house you are interested in is somebody’s home right now so make sure you express your enthusiasm to live there. Even if it is dated and you plan to rip out the kitchen and bathroom as soon as you can, don’t tell the seller that (or the estate agent) just be endlessly positive about the house. Many people want to sell to someone they feel will take care of their old home – provided the price is right, naturally.
Once you have made your first offer it is almost certain that the vendor will try and negotiate a higher price. Don’t immediately jump in with a higher offer unless there are several other interested buyers. Consider your next offer carefully using the information you have gathered about the value of similar houses and the state of repair and costs to rectify.
At this stage the seller may be holding out for the asking price but if you are the only one to have made an offer so far then be patient. Talk openly to the estate agent – it is in their interest to secure a sale.
Once your offer has been accepted, you will need to arrange a survey. At the very least your mortgage lender will require a basic valuation before authorising your loan but if you are buying anything other than a new build it makes sense to have a more detailed survey for your own benefit so you know exactly what you are taking on.
But don’t forget, especially on 2nd or 3rd viewings to have a thorough look at the property yourself – some serious issues will be easy to spot such as damp.
This type of survey will document the condition of only the visible parts of the property so will not, for example reveal problems with the wiring or structural defects unless they are highly obvious.
This type of survey will involve a detailed examination of the property so will cost significantly more than a Home Buyer’s Report but the cost is negligible when compared with the cost of a home or the repairs to any potential problems it finds. It will also categorise defects into those that need to be immediately rectified and those that are longer term maintenance jobs so is useful for every home owner in helping maintain their property to a good standard.
If any serious defects are revealed by the survey then this may be an opportunity to re-negotiate a lower price, although estate agents will often tell you that defects were taken into account in the asking price, but use your own judgement before deciding whether to re-negotiate.
With your offer accepted in writing and the survey complete to your satisfaction you need to arrange the formal offer of your mortgage with your chosen lender. Don’t assume this will be plain sailing – mortgage criteria are much tougher than they used to be – taking into account affordability at levels never seen before. So the lender will want to know how many dependents you have (that includes non-working spouses), whether you have school fees to pay and other regular expenses so be prepared and start the process as soon as possible.
It should go without saying that you should employ a reputable solicitor or conveyancer to handle such an important transaction as a house purchase but if you feel the need to double-check everything has been handled correctly before you exchange contracts then here is a useful checklist:
You solicitor will prepare a draft contract ready for you and the vendor to sign at the appropriate point. Signing this contract is a legal commitment to buy even though you may not actually move in to the property for several weeks afterwards. Make absolutely sure you are happy with every part of the contract, with the price and with the arrangements to fund the purchase (e.g. the particular mortgage deal).
The contract will also define the amount of deposit to be paid at exchange of contracts – this is usually 5% – 10%. If you are selling an existing home it is normal to agree that the deposit will come out of the proceeds of that sale, otherwise you will have to pay the deposit at exchange. Your solicitor will handle all the monies.
Once contracts have been exchanged the purchase is a legally binding agreement and you will forfeit your deposit if you do not proceed. Completion of the sale is when you pay the agreed price less the deposit, receive the keys and can finally move in. Your solicitor will arrange to transfer the funds directly from the bank or building society providing the mortgage to the vendor’s solicitor.
Moving house will be much more stressful if you are ill-prepared. By taking the time to plan for the move thoroughly, you can reduce the stress you are feeling and make for an easier moving experience. Here are 10 top tips for getting ready to move to help you plan and prepare.
If you are in a rented property, much of the furniture may be staying and it might just be your personal possessions that need moving. But if you own your current home, then you are probably going to take everything. And if you have a freestanding kitchen, you may even actually take the kitchen sink. For small items, make an estimate of how many packing boxes you will require. Don’t use boxes that are too large – they will just become very heavy once full.
Be ruthless – if there are any possessions that you no longer want, then get selling on Ebay as soon as possible or donate to charity. The less you have to transport from your old home to your new home, the easier and less expensive it will be.
Start packing non-essential items as soon as you can. Books, DVDs, bedding, children’s toys, kitchen gadgets whatever you think you can do without for a couple of weeks. It will take much longer than you expected, particularly if you have to sort through cupboards, lofts, sheds and garages etc that have not been used for a long time.
Pack a small suitcase with all the items you’ll need for your first night in your new home such as toiletries and medicines, toilet roll, bedding, and a change of clothes. Use a small, separate bag for valuable items such as jewellery and important documents so these can be kept with you on the moving day.
It may sound obvious but pack a small box with the kettle, mugs, teabags, milk and biscuits. By the time you have arrived at your new home you will need a reviving drink and something to eat.
There’s so much to do if you’re planning a move, so here are the people and organisations you should definitely not forget to tell before the big day.
Here are some handy tips to help you pack and move house with less impact on the planet.
Use your own belongings as packing materials
Instead of using bubble wrap, which is harmful to the environment why not use your duvets, pillows, jumpers and blankets to wrap and protect items from being damaged or broken during the move?
Hire Plastic packing crates
Packing crates are usually used by businesses, but they are much more eco-friendly than cardboard boxes. You hire rather than buy them and because they are reusable and completely recyclable they are better for the environment.
Use recycled boxes
The pcking boxes used by removals companies are very sturdy so consider using Recycled boxes if they are available – it will save on waste, save you money and also be better for the environment.
Moving more stuff costs more: more boxes, more packing materials and a larger truck. So decluttering before you move is one of the best ways to minimise your impact on the environment.
Here are some clever little tricks for packing more efficiently from the experts, perfect to help you with your next house move.
Don’t clear out your drawers
Empty drawers are a waste of space. Leave some lightweight items in there, or even pack some clean underwear and pyjamas inside, so you know where they are when you arrive.
Order books by size
Books should be packed in smaller, easy to handle boxes. Arrange them in size order before you start to get a neat, snug fit in your boxes.
Put similar things together
Things like lamp shades will fit neatly one inside the other, so pack them together. Things like light bulbs or small ornaments should go in a box by themselves, protected with packing paper and marked ‘extra fragile’.
Tape small things to their larger partners
Tape things together to stop small items from being lost. The bolts that hold the bed together, the remote for the TV or the finials and rings for your curtain poles; all are too easy to lose in the move, so wrap them in tape and secure to the item they go with to make it easy at the other end.
Use old sheets for protection
Dress your mattress with two old sheets – one on the back and one on the front – to protect it from getting dirty or damaged in transit. Cover furniture, cushions and other easily marked items with old sheets, as these will be easy enough to launder or throw away when you get there.
When you’ve moved house, arriving at your new home and turning the key for the first time is a moment of pure excitement. As you step over the threshold, your first instinct will undoubtedly be to run round the house, checking out all the rooms and generally revelling in your new family abode. But before you get too over excited, there are a few things you really should do to make sure you and your family are safe, protected and ready to start off on the right foot.