Buying real estate in England and Wales is a difficult process. The laws are seemingly outdated, inefficient and complicated, and allow many opportunities for both the buyer and seller to pull out. Real estate in these countries is very expensive, because there is a high immigration rate and high divorce rate. Nevertheless, it is still possible to overcome.
Attorneys and Real Estate Agents
You will probably end up working with real estate agents, as that is the traditional method. When you are approaching agents, you should tell a few different ones your requirements so that they can conduct research. The seller is the one who ends up paying the agents, so you can work with as many as you please.
Though real estate agents are common, more and more English property owners are starting to sell property themselves through websites to avoid paying for agents.
You will also have to work with a lawyer in the process of transferring the property into your name. You should research several different lawyers to shop around for the best prices. You should ask for details as to what their fees entail. Lawyers also take care with some of the legal research in the real estate process.
Many lawyers work on a fixed fee and then charge for additional services, such as necessary research. This means that some of them may do the bare minimum, and you will have to keep calling them to do additional work past the fixed rate.
Rules, Regulations and Restrictions
There are no restrictions on the foreign ownership of property in England or Wales. Non-residents are subject to the same rules as residents.
First, you should settle on a property, and make an offer to the seller. Offers are usually made through the real estate agent, who then report it to the seller. This is not a definite offer, and can change through negotiation and then later on in the process. All offers should be made under the premises of being “subject to survey and contract.”
Once the offer clears, the next step is to survey the property. If you are buying the property through a mortgage, usually the bank will have this process arranged. They may also choose to do further, more detailed inspections at your cost, so you should research potential surveyors if this is the case. The inspector will also state a valuation, which is simply their opinion on how much the property is worth. Banks want to make sure that the potential property is legitimate to lend money to buyers. If the inspections are not satisfactory, you are allowed to withdraw or re-negotiate your initial offer. Be aware that renovating a house in England is not cheap.
The next step is performing the legal research. Your lawyer will conduct some searches, such as a local authority search, to make sure no local planning will affect your potential property. Your lawyer will send you a document, from the seller, which includes all the fixtures and fittings included in the final price. Make sure you review this thoroughly, as it will be part of the final contract.
When all of the searches clear, it is then time to draft a contract of sale to you and the seller, which you will both sign. You and the seller must return the contracts to your respective lawyer, and then the lawyers exchange contracts. A completion day will then be set, and you must put down a 10% deposit of the final cost.
Your lawyer will then send all of the appropriate documents to the English Land Registry (LR). Your name will be registered by the LR as the new owner of the property. The LR will issue you a certificate called a Title Information Document, which proves you own the property. You must pay a Stamp Duty and Land Registry fees, which vary depending on the cost of your property.