The observation that psychologists have demonstrated that moving house is as stressful a life event as bereavement and divorce isn't original: those working in the residential property sector probably encounter it on a virtually daily basis. The fact that the point gets belaboured doesn't, however, make it any less important. In this Nethouseprices piece, we ask why buying and selling houses can be so traumatic and ask what realistically can be done to ease the process.
The key stressors
Although sold property prices have stabilised somewhat in the past year or so, housing in the UK remains expensive by international standards. Apart from boosting the supply of homes and adjusting property tax, there is relatively little that policymakers can do about this. Remember, though, that:
- Prices have fallen in some geographies - notably London - so you might be able to negotiate a cheaper deal with sellers, especially if they are anxious for a quick sale.
- The chances are excellent that your current property has appreciated significantly in value, too. Check out the Nethouseprices free instant house valuation service here: https://nethouseprices.com/information/instant-house-valuation.
- Research can help you identify up and coming areas where sold property prices are still affordable.
- If you are a first time buyer, you are probably exempt from paying Stamp Duty, and might be eligible for government help. See: https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk and https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk.
The decision to embark on a new chapter in life like moving house requires a great deal of mental and emotional effort. As well as such practical considerations as property prices and the location of your new home, you will no doubt experience some ambivalence about leaving your current abode, especially if you started a great career or your family while living there. Worrying about whether you are making the right decision to relocate and feeling the whole gamut of emotions is entirely normal and will almost always be a feature of selling up. These concerns are amplified if family members - often the kids - are resisting the move. In truth, there's no magic wand to erase these concerns, but experts recommend that you:
- Share your thoughts with a friend or colleague who will listen to you and offer impartial advice.
- Give yourself time to process your worries, deal with your emotions and come to a decision.
- Try to get everyone in your household pulling in the same direction. The reality as a homeowner, of course, is that you might have to make unpopular choices. In this situation, do keep the channels of communication open and, where possible, allow the opponents of the move to be involved in some of the decisions about your new home. Parents might, for instance, promise that teenagers can decorate their bedrooms as they wish.
- Remember that everyone worries about the financial implications of a major transaction, even when we know intellectually that we can meet our commitments. By law, your mortgage lender needs to make sure that you can afford payments now and in the event that interest rates increase. Accordingly, if you have been approved for a mortgage, you can take reassurance from the fact that your bank or building society has every confidence in your financial circumstances.
While we know that the actual process of buying and selling houses is complex in every jurisdiction, it does seem to be peculiarly eccentric and frustrating in England and Wales, where we endure a conveyancing framework that is cobbled together by elderly and outdated legislation and inefficient protocols. The government recognises the frustrations of the current system and, as part of its ongoing effort to fix the broken housing market, has announced measures to professionalise estate agency and expedite the conveyancing process. See: https://nethouseprices.com/news/show/2651/housing-policy-big-changes-on-the-way-for-estate-agents-and-conveyancy. There is, of course, a debate about whether these changes are the right ones and whether they go far enough. But the need for urgent reform was recently underlined by a piece of research from the HomeOwners Alliance relating to problems encountered by sellers. The study found that:
- 300,000 house sales fall through every year.
- 20 per cent of sellers have experienced the collapse of a sale.
- 51 per cent of those affected had incurred expenses averaging £2727.
- 12 per cent had incurred costs of more than £5000.
- 69 per cent of the transaction failures were occasioned by such factors as the buyer changing his or her mind, finding another house or having financial difficulties.
- 20 per cent of sales collapses were caused by problems further up the so-called chain.
- 8 per cent of failures were the result of "gazundering" where the buyer lowers the offer immediately before the exchange of contracts.
Small wonder then, that the HomeOwners Alliance found that 34 per cent of homeowners said that concerns about the chain breaking down might prevent them from putting their house on the market and a further 19 per cent said that they might be deterred by uncertainty around the selling price.
Is there a solution? Well, the HomeOwners Alliance is in favour of voluntary reservation agreements. These are best summarised as legally binding contracts where the buyer and seller pay non-refundable deposits, essentially committing both parties to the transaction early in the conveyancing process. The organisation's Chief Executive, Paula Higgins, said that these agreements would "give buyers more skin in the game." In other words, the balance of power between buyer and seller would be reset. And, while this is by no means the only area where reform is necessary, a major source of householder stress would be eradicated.
Reform is a work in progress and current homeowners might not benefit from it in the short term, but, for those hoping to move soon, choosing the right estate agents, surveyors and conveyancers will help you to avoid most pitfalls. We will publish a companion piece to this article which will outline some tips for finding the best professional services providers.
The move itself
Most of us dread the day of the physical move and the truth is that, whatever you do to ease the process, it will be exhausting and stressful. You can, however, minimise the upheaval by following the tips contained in this Nethouseprices guide: https://nethouseprices.com/news/show/2118/avoiding-moving-day-nightmares. And finally, we understand the temptation to save money by moving your belongings yourself but, if you can possibly afford it, we would highly recommend that you engage a reputable professional removals service to carry out the bulk of the work on your behalf.
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