Ask the Expert

Ask the Expert

From time to time, we send you specially-written Q&A articles on a wide range of property-related topics, which you can download from the Marketing Resource in Word format and use in a wide variety of applications.

The first article is…

Q. Is it true that as a prospective buyer, I can take out insurance to cover me against being gazumped?

A. Yes, you can indeed buy something called homebuyer’s protection cover, which enables you to claim back some of your conveyancing fees, mortgage arrangement/lender fees, and survey or valuation fees, up to certain limits, in the event that your purchase falls through for reasons beyond your control.

And not just because you have been gazumped, either! It could be because the buyer simply changes his or her mind and takes the property off the market. Or the lender’s valuation might be so much lower that the transaction is no longer viable. Or the survey might throw up major issues. You will even be covered if you yourself are forced to pull out of the purchase – for example, because of unexpected redundancy or job relocation, or if because it emerges that the property is subject to a compulsory purchase order.

However, like every other type of insurance, buyers protection cover also has restrictions. So, for example, you won’t be able to claim if:

- You are gazumped by less than a minimum amount (typically £1,000)
- Costs were incurred before the policy start date.
- You already knew about problems with the property.
- The purchase is subject to a contract race or sealed bids.
- You don’t use a solicitor or licensed conveyancer.
- You deliberately cause a delay which leads to the transaction falling through.
- You choose to take voluntary redundancy.
- You obtain a refund on some of your costs by other means, or…
- Because you just change your mind!

Several insurers offer buyer’s protection cover. However, the details of individual policies will inevitably vary, so you should certainly shop around to find the policy that best suits your needs. Prices vary too, of course, but you can cover yourself for a single payment of as little as £60. Which, when you think about it, is quite a bargain in return for the added peace of mind it provides when undertaking what is probably the biggest purchase of your life!

The second article is…

Q. I’ve got a limited amount of money to spend on my house before putting it up for sale. What should I do?

A. Not an easy question for any estate agent to answer, without actually seeing your house – or knowing what your budget is - so I hope some general tips will suffice.

Basically, we’re about presenting your home to prospective buyers in the best possible light – so, the first thing you need to do is to stand back and look at it as objectively as possible, from a prospective buyer’s point of view. Remember, first impressions count, so it’s particularly important to ensure that the front of your property is looking its best. A fresh coat of paint may be all that’s needed to maximise its “kerb appeal” – while conversely, if the paint is faded or peeling, it will suggest that the whole property is in a similar state, which may deter viewings.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that the whole house should be of a consistent standard. So, for example, if it’s being let down by the décor and fittings in one particular room, then it’s probably worth doing that room up – as long as it doesn’t then make the rest of the property look dowdy, of course! Similarly with the garden. Is it letting the rest of the property down? If so, then it might be worth thinking about a makeover.

Overall, however, it’s important to retain a sense of proportion. Generally speaking, it’s not worth spending a great deal of money, since you’re unlikely to recoup your outlay. Presentation tends to become more important in a raging buyers’ market, when there’s lots of property on the market and you need to make yours stand out from the crowd. In the current market, on the other hand, it shouldn’t be too difficult to sell your house – as long as it is well priced.

All in all then, my advice is this: by all means do anything necessary to bring your whole property up to the same standard – always remembering that it’s the little things, like fresh paintwork and overall cleanliness, that create the best impression. However, if nothing is crying out to be done, I’d advise you to save your money and leave things as they are.

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