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Relocating from abroad is stressful enough without having to navigate your way through the Uk’s property waters. On the whole, if you haven’t previously lived in the UK, I’d recommend renting first . Too often buyers base a search on a friends recommendation or a 10 day vacation to find the day to day reality is less than rosey. If however you know where you are bound, below are some useful tips on how to navigate any UK property purchase and avoid some costly mistakes.

Financing your move overseas

Before you do anything, lock in your exchange rate. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the rate has changed, along with your budget. If you require a mortgage, before you set foot in a property, secure a mortgage in principle through a broker or lender. No one will take any offer you put forward without it. I’d also recommend getting a UK bank account, this will make any rental, utility or management payments easier to manage. 

Buying a leasehold apartment

Check service charges over the last few years to see how they have increased year on year. Talk to concierges and residents to find out about the facilities. Many blocks have gyms, cinemas and pools now, knowing how often they are out of action is key to understanding how well a block is managed.

For high end, centrally located apartment blocks, find out the percentage of people actually living there. Apartments bought by overseas investors can remain uninhabited. This is fine, till you wish to query a service charge bill but can’t get your neighbours on side.  It can also give the management company carte blanche to charge what they like, leaving you helpless. Seek out residents where you can or talk to neighbouring businesses such as coffee shops. These are great, for information on resident comings and going or lack of  

Check when the ground rent increases and by how much. Typically, a ground rent increases every 25 years but for some leases it can be every 5 years. A good solicitor will guide you swiftly away from this or renegotiate it. This will however soon not matter as new legislation is coming in for leasehold properties. 

UK property payable taxes

Unlike in the US where tax is computed by the determined market value x an assessment ratio x the tax rate. Here you will pay Stamp Duty on the property you buy. For the current rates, click here, they are however due to taper back to post covid levels in July, when the stamp duty holiday ends. You will also have to pay council tax which is calculated on the size and location of your property. An average UK Council tax is  £1,800 but it can easily exceed this.

When to renegotiate on property issues

In the US you get a 14 day Buyer’s Inspection Period after the contract is officially agreed. In the UK for New Builds – you get to ‘snag’ a property for any faults before completion. Giving the developer time to rectify. Post it they may not be as quick to act. 

For a Freehold property – If you haven’t negotiated on any issues before an offer is accepted, the only other potential time is before exchange, if a structural survey unearths significant issues such as subsidence, roof issues or damp.

The seller is not obliged to do anything though but it’s worth trying to renegotiate if there is a serious issue. If they don’t, you can then decide if you wish to continue with the purchase or not. 

In the UK if a property is a resale home it’s always ‘sold as seen.’

Finding a UK property

Realtors search for buyers in the states, in the UK you have Buying agents but you can search directly via property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket who will then connect you with the listing Estate Agent. The finite difference between a Buying Agent and an Estate Agent is the latter acts on behalf of the seller, to get them the most money, whereas a Buying Agent acts on behalf of the buyer, saving them time, money and stress.

If you need any help relocating in the UK or in need of some advice, do get in touch. I’ll ensure your voyage over isn’t a rocky one.