Who’s who when you’re buying a home

There are lots of different people you’ll need to deal with when you buy a property.

Here, we explain who’s who and what they do, so you know exactly what to expect.

1. What does an estate agent do?

Their role: An estate agent’s job is to market and sell houses, so if you’re looking to buy, they will show you round properties they think you will be interested in. They should be able to tell you details about any property you’re considering making an offer on, such as how much ground rent is payable and what the service charges are, if any.

As well as selling properties, the estate agent is responsible for liaising between solicitors, buyers and sellers, with the aim of speeding the buying process along. It’s in their interest to do this, as they will be paid commission on any property sale that completes. Commission rates, which are paid by the property seller, typically range from 0.3% up to 3% of the property purchase price.

What else you need to know:
• It’s a good idea to register with several estate agents when you’re buying, so that you get to see as wide a selection of properties as possible.
• The estate agent may recommend a particular mortgage lender, surveyor, solicitor or protection provider, but you’re under no obligation to use the one they suggest.
• If you’ve asked for the property you’re buying to be taken off the market once your offer has been accepted, check the estate agent has done this.

2. What does a mortgage broker do?

Their role: The mortgage broker or adviser’s role is to research the mortgage market on your behalf and help you find the best mortgage deal to suit your needs. They will start by talking to you about what sort of mortgage you want and what sort of timeframe you are working to. They will also ask you about your income and outgoings, as well as your budget, so that they can establish how big a mortgage you might be able to get.

Your broker will then talk you through the different types of mortgage you can choose from. Once they’ve recommended a mortgage for you, they can then guide you through the application process.

What else you need to know:
• Getting all your financial information together before you speak to a broker, such as details of how much you earn and your household expenditure, can make it quicker for them to advise you which mortgages you might be eligible for.
• Some brokers and advisers are tied to just one or a restricted number of lenders, whereas others can recommend deals across the whole mortgage market, giving you access to a much wider choice of deals.
• Mortgage brokers must tell you how much you will have to pay them at the outset. All brokers receive a payment from the lender when the mortgage completes. Some, like L&C, don’t charge any fees on top of that, whereas others will charge you a flat fee, or a percentage of the mortgage amount.

3. What does a morgage lender do?

Their role: The mortgage lender’s role is to check that you can afford the mortgage you’ve chosen, and that it is suitable for you. Each lender will offer a range of different mortgages, so it’s a good idea to research what they offer, as well as what other lenders can provide, before you choose a particular deal.

What else you need to know:
• It’s often a good idea to get a ‘decision in principle’ before you start your property search. This shows how much they will provisionally be prepared to lend you.
• Before applying for a particular mortgage, make sure you understand what your monthly payments will be both during the term of any special deal, and what you’ll pay after the deal finishes.
• Remember to look at the overall cost of a mortgage rather than the headline rate alone, including any arrangement fees.

4. What does a solicitor/conveyancer do?

Their role: The solicitor is responsible for carrying out the conveyancing, which means the process of legally transferring the property you are buying from the seller to you. They will need to conduct various searches before your property purchase can go through.

The solicitor will arrange the exchange of contracts, as well as completion of the deal, which involves handing over the funds required to buy the property. They will also arrange for the property to be registered with the Land Registry. Conveyancing fees typically cost from around £850 to £1,500 depending on the purchase price, while searches are likely to cost around £200-£300.

What else you need to know:
• You will be asked to provide the name of your solicitor by the estate agent as soon as your offer is accepted.
• Solicitor searches typically take around two to three weeks to complete, but remember that their results may prompt your solicitor to make further enquiries.
• Once contracts have been exchanged by your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor, you will be committed to buying the property.

5. What does a property surveyor do?

Their role: The surveyor’s role is to check the value and the condition of a property. Your lender will require a surveyor to conduct a valuation, but the surveyor can also produce a more in-depth survey if you want one so that they can identify any potential structural problems, or issues such as damp or subsidence.

If the surveyor’s report shows major repairs are required, you could at this point reduce your offer to reflect the cost of carrying these out. Basic surveys typically cost around £250 (depending on the value of the property), but if you want a more comprehensive building or structural survey, expect to pay upwards of £600.

Surveyors can also advise on property renovations and obtaining planning permission.

What else you need to know
• Your mortgage lender will only provide you with a firm mortgage offer once they are happy with the surveyor’s valuation.
• Check that any surveyor you are considering using is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and is accepted by your proposed lender.
• Although it might be tempting to cut costs by going for a basic survey, opting for a more in-depth one could prove a worthwhile investment if it uncovers any major issues with the property you are buying.


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