Finding a property
Got your mortgage and your solicitor sorted out? Then you're ready to move on to the next step - finding somewhere to buy.
Deciding what you want
Buying a home is probably the biggest financial commitment you'll ever have to make, so you want to be sure you get it right. Take the time to think about what you really want in a home and make a list of the requirements that you're not prepared to negotiate about. These may include:
- the number of bedrooms, for example a room for you and your partner and one for your child
- proximity to your place of work or your children's school
- accessibility issues, for example if you need to live in a ground floor property because you can't climb stairs.
Depending on your budget and the availability of housing in your area, you may need to compromise on some things. Therefore it's important to work out what matters most to you. For example, if you want to live in a popular area where house prices are high, you will probably have to buy a smaller property. If you move to a less popular area, you will probably be able to afford a larger property.
How do I find a property to buy?
There are several ways of finding a property to buy and it's best to explore as many options as possible.
Through a solicitors' property centre
Solicitors' property centres are a popular way to find property in Scotland and offer a good service to homebuyers. Solicitors' property centres usually:
- have a central office where you can browse through details of properties in your area
- produce a free paper listing properties for sale or rent, which you can pick up at the property centre and from local estate agents, banks and mortgage centres
- list details of properties for sale on their website
- offer a free mortgage advice and arrangement service
- can put you in touch with a solicitor.
There are several centres across Scotland - visit the Scottish Solicitors' Property Centre website to find one near you.
Through an estate agent
Estate agents can do several things to help you find a place to buy. They can:
- discuss your requirements with you
- show you details of suitable properties
- keep you informed about new properties coming onto the market by posting you the details
- arrange for you to view properties.
Estate agents' services are free for you as a buyer, but bear in mind that they are acting on the seller's behalf and will be getting a fee or a percentage of the purchase price.
There are now many websites that list details of properties for sale. Useful websites for Scotland include:
Most newspapers have their own property guides, many of which are also available online. The Internet Guide to Scotland lists websites for national and local Scottish papers.
What should I look for when I'm viewing properties?
Once you've found details of properties you like, you'll need to go and see them. Particulars (details of properties supplied by solicitors and estate agents) have to be fairly accurate (this is a legal requirement) but they are designed to make the properties sound attractive to buyers. Therefore they're unlikely to mention faults or problems which could become obvious as soon as you arrive (such as the busy main road two feet from the front door or a complete lack of natural light).
Some properties will be open for viewings at certain times (usually Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons). Or you may need to phone a solicitor or estate agent to make an appointment to look round. Remember, you should never be charged to view a property.
Ask questions about the home and the area. Whilst the seller will try to make their home sound appealing, they can't lie if you ask them a direct question.
You'll need to look at several different properties to get an idea of what you can afford and what will suit you. The Shelter home buyer's checklist suggests things you should look out for when viewing properties, and you can use it to see how well properties measure up to your requirements.
What happens once I've found a place I like?
Once you find somewhere you like,you need to ask the seller or their selling agent for a home report, which has further information about the property, including a survey and an energy report.
If you can, return to the property a couple of times to check it really is suitable. You'll need to work out:
- whether your furniture and belongings will fit in
- how much (if anything) you'll need to spend on decoration and/or repairs. Is there any work that has to be done immediately or could you put it off until later? For example, faulty plumbing will need to be fixed right away, whilst nasty carpets can wait to be replaced.
- whether the area is suitable for you.
If possible, visit the property at different times of day. See it in daylight and at night, during the day and at weekends. Come five o'clock does the street become a rush hour rat run? Are residents fighting for parking spaces? You won't know unless you check.
However, once you're satisfied that the property is right for you, you can ask your solicitor to note your interest. This means that you will be notified if the seller sets a closing date for offers. You can then arrange to have a valuation or a survey carried out, if necessary.