Category Archives: Property and conveyancing

Government schemes for first-time buyers – which could you be eligible for?

First-time buyers – Did you know there are several Government schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder? Our guide explains some of the main options available so you can work out if you are eligible and decide if any could benefit you.

1. Help To Buy Equity Loan

With a Help to Buy Equity Loan the Government lends you up to 20 per cent of the cost of your new-build home in England only. This means that you will only need a 5 per cent deposit and a 75 per cent mortgage to cover the rest. You will not be charged fees on the loan for the first five years.

To reflect the disparity in property prices across England, the upper limit for the equity loan in Greater London is 40 per cent. You can only use this scheme if you take out a repayment mortgage.

Who can apply?

  • first time buyers and homeowners purchasing a new build property costing up to £600,000.
  • In Wales, schemes apply to homes costing up to £300,000.
  • In Scotland the maximum threshold depends on the value of the property and when your application is completed.
  • In Northern Ireland there is a similar equity loan scheme available.

In order to qualify, you must not sublet the home or part exchange with your old home. You must also not own any other property when you purchase a home with a Help to Buy: Equity Loan.

This scheme is run by Government-appointed agents who guide you through the property purchase.

2. Help To Buy ISAs / Lifetime ISAs

Help To Buy ISAs

Help to Buy ISAs allow first time buyers to save up to £200 per month towards a deposit on a new home. The government then boosts these savings by 25 per cent. The maximum government bonus available is £3,000 for which you would need to have saved £12,000 in order to receive. The bonus is available to purchase homes costing up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 elsewhere.

Pease note, the scheme is only available until 30th November 2019. You are allowed just one Help to Buy ISA per person. Here is some more information about Help to Buy ISAs:

  • You can save up to £1,200 in your first month – £200 per month thereafter.
  • When you withdraw from your ISA to make a deposit on a home, a 25 per cent bonus is added.
  • A minimum of £1,600 must be saved to receive a bonus.
  • The largest bonus available is £3,000.
  • If two first time buyers purchase a property together, they can both use an ISA.
  • Your property must cost up to £250,000, no more (£450,000 in London).
  • You don’t necessarily have to use the ISA for a deposit. You can make withdrawals but would not get the bonus.
  • Help to Buy ISAs cannot be used with buy-to-let mortgages.

Lifetime ISAs (LISA)

A Lifetime ISA (LISA) is a scheme devised to help you buy your first home or save for retirement. You must be over 18 years old and under 40 years old to open one. Here are some of the basics.

  • You can make deposits of up to £4,000 every year and the Government will add a 25 per cent bonus
  • It can function as a savings account and accrue interest.
  • Alternatively, it can work like a stocks and shares investment.
  • The maximum bonus possible is £33,000.
  • You can use your LISA to help you buy your first home providing it costs £450,000 or less.
  • If you’re buying with another first-time buyer, you can both use LISA savings and bonus’

3. Right to Buy

Originally introduced in 1980, the Right to Buy scheme gives council tenants in England the opportunity to buy their home at a discount. Currently, the maximum discount available is 70 per cent off the purchase price. This is up to £108,000 in London and £80,900 elsewhere in England.

This scheme is available for those who have lived in a council owned property for 3 years or more. The property must be self-contained and your only/main residence.

Joint applications are allowed, meaning you are able to buy your home with a fellow tenant or your partner. You can also make an application with up to three family members as long as they have lived in the property with you for the past 12 months.

You will not qualify if you are or are about to be made bankrupt, if a court has demanded that you leave your home, You are a council tenant or you have “Preserved Right to Buy.”

4. Right to Acquire

The Right to Acquire initiative is similar to the Right to Buy scheme, the difference being that it applies to housing association tenants in England rather than council tenants. It was created in 1996 and updated in the Housing Act 2004. It means tenants have the right to buy their property at a reduced cost.

5. Shared Ownership

Shared ownership is a scheme whereby you purchase a share of your home from your landlord. This will usually be the council or a housing association. You will then rent the remaining share.

You will need to take out a mortgage which can be between a quarter and three-quarters of the home’s full value, paying a reduced rent on the share you don’t own. You can go on to buy a bigger share in the future – up to 100 per cent.

Anyone who has a household income of less than £80,000 (outside London) or £90,000 (inside London) can buy a home through shared ownership. Military personnel get priority over other groups and the scheme will apply across England only. To apply, speak to the Housing team at your local council or your housing association.

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10 things to consider when choosing a conveyancing solicitor

Picking the right conveyancing solicitor can be like picking a needle out of the haystack. Do you rely on recommendations from family or friends or pave your own way and select one yourself? Do you go for the cheapest fees? Or do you find the one with the best rating on yelp?

Our 10 things to consider when picking a conveyancing solicitor will give you all of the information you need to make the best choice.

Are they on your mortgage lender’s panel?

Picking a solicitor that is not on your mortgage lender’s approved panel of solicitors can lead to unnecessary complications or even a refusal to lend. Make sure that your appointed solicitor is on the panel of the bank or building society you’re using for your mortgage. If they’re not ask them to register with that lender. Registration can take time and, in a time dependent market this can cause issues.

Fees

Solicitors will all charge fees, these can be wide ranging, depending on location and reputation. Ordinarily a house purchase will be a trying time on your finances so make sure that you budget for your conveyancing costs. The cheapest conveyancer is not often the best solicitor so be cautious if the price is significantly lower than you expected.

Recommendations

A great way of evaluating a solicitor is to check what the previous clients have to say about them as a conveyancer. If a conveyancer has outstanding reviews from people that they have taken through the process you’re likely to be in safe hands. To find out more about how solicitors help during the house buying process you can get additional information here: https://righttobuy.gov.uk/apply/whathappensnext.

Ask your family and friends

At some point they our friends and family are likely to have been through the house buying process. Having a family recommended solicitor gives you a good idea of what expectations you should have. Likewise, if they have had a poor experience you know you can discount them from your list.

Check their credentials

Experienced solicitors are likely to be far better equipped to handle your conveyancing than a practice that is made up of legal juniors. Don’t be afraid to ask your solicitor what experience they have and what qualifications they hold. Woodgrange Solicitors advise that a good legal practice will always be able to demonstrate their capability to handle your conveyancing.

Don’t take an estate agent’s recommendation

Estate agencies currently face a vast number of financial challenges, one way they negate this is by having an agreement with solicitors. Often times an estate agent will recommend a conveyancer. This is normally because they have a financial agreement for every client they pass over. This can lead to you receiving a poorer service than if you had sought out your own conveyancer or solicitor.

Local knowledge could play a role

While you may be tempted to hire a conveyancer in a different location because they offer attractive rates, this may also have repercussions. Hiring a conveyancer from your local area puts them at an advantage because they specialise in that location. A local conveyancer will be abreast of local developments and news that could potentially impact your property purchase. Hiring a local solicitor could significantly speed up the completion process.

Find out your solicitors fee structure

Tying back to the original fee point, you should find out how your conveyancer’s fee structure operates and whether they charge a fixed fee or if they charge a percentage of the property value. Some conveyancers like estate agents will charge a percentage of the value of the property you’re purchasing which could drive up fees compared to traditional fixed fee conveyancers.

Make sure they provide a full breakdown of their fees

A reputable conveyancer should always provide a full breakdown of costs so you’re in no two minds about the services you’re paying for. Approaching a solicitor to manage your property sale or purchase should be transparent and clear from the very beginning.

Communication

The property buying process can be convoluted and confusing, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. A conveyancer that communicates with you as the process unfolds is definitely one you should seek out. Chasing solicitors as well as all of the other hassles that come along with buying a property is additional and unneeded stress. Good conveyancers hold your hand every step of the way. To find out more about the conveyancing process this article by money supermarket gives a clear and concise breakdown: https://www.moneysupermarket.com/mortgages/first-time-buyers/guide-to-conveyancing.

Choosing the right solicitor could be the single most important thing you do along the house buying journey. A well-qualified, communicative and informed solicitor can relieve you of any additional stress and allow you to concentrate on other things like choosing a removals service and getting set up in your new house.

 

Research settles age-old debate: property really was more affordable in your parents’ day

Despite salaries being higher, analysis of Government statistics verifies theory that it’s harder to get on the property ladder now than 20 years ago.

 It’s an age-old dispute: parents are eager for their grown-up children to get onto the property ladder and the twenty-something kids claim it’s not as easy as it was back in Mum and Dad’s heyday. But who is right?

To put an end to the debate once and for all, South Wales solicitors firm Howells has searched through house price history and income data from the Office for National Statistics to find out the truth.

The historic house price research found:

Properties are more expensive than ever – In 1980 the average home in the UK cost £24,000. By 1990, this had grown to £60,000, and ten years ago you could expect to pay just under £200,000.

As of June 2017, the average UK property costs £223,257.

House prices have risen well above inflation – In 1997, the average prospective homeowner could expect to pay up to 3.6 times their earnings on purchasing a home. Last year, the average person needed to pay around 7.6 times their earnings – more than double!

In this decade alone, residential property prices in England and Wales increased 259%, but median individual annual earnings grew just 68%.

First-time buyers are getting older – In the decade 2005/2006 to 2015/2016, the mean age of first time buyers rose from 31 to 32.

Looking even further back, in 1991, 67% of 25 to 34 year olds owned their own home, compared to just 36% in 2014. During the same period, the number of homeowners aged 16 to 24 dropped from 36% to 9%, and aged 35 to 44 fell from 78% to 59%.

Commenting on the results of this study and the effects it has had on the conveyancing industry, Tristan Lewis, Business Development Manager of Howells Solicitors said:

“With property prices considerably higher than twenty years ago, we have become familiar with the requirements of first time buyers for an affordable conveyancing service during these demanding times. However, the comparison of these values against income data has reiterated this further.

To combat these issues, Howells offers a fixed fee conveyancing service with no hidden extras and a no sale, no fee policy. We pride ourselves on making moving home as straight-forward as possible and look forward to helping even more people purchase their first home.”

Matt Stevens, Director of Mortgage Genie, shared his thoughts on Howells’ report. He advocates recent changes in the property finance industry and has added:

“Looking back to mortgages 20 years ago, it’s important to remember that August 1997 saw a Bank of England base rate of 7%. This saw an increase of 0.25% by November that year — an increase alone that is the equivalent of today’s base rate.

Since then, we’ve seen a continual expansion of the mortgage market, with more options and products for clients.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve also seen an increase in regulation, ensuring mortgages are much more carefully agreed. Plus, these days, clients have the opportunity to work with fully-qualified and regulated professionals, who are easily accessible and will always be willing to help. This is in stark contrast to the very limited options available to clients 20 years ago.”

Howells Solicitors offers expert legal advice in South Wales and beyond. With six offices across Wales, including its headquarters in Cardiff, Howells has the size, experience and knowledge of a large legal firm, with the personal service of a small organisation.

Find out more about Howells’ conveyancing services and get advice today by calling 0808 178 2773, or for further details on this press release view the full report here.

For more information on Howells Solicitors, or for further quotes, please contact Stephanie Lamerton at Steph@Libertymarketing.co.uk