Property Buyers’ most common FAQs

If you’re thinking of buying a house—for yourself or your tenants—you’re bound to have plenty of questions.

That’s why we’ve decided to draw on our experience as an estate agent in the York area for this new list of FAQs for property buyers.

We’ve divided it into two sections for your convenience; the first is a list of general questions for the majority of property buyers.

The second is targeted just at landlords, and focusses on your unique concerns like buy-to-let mortgages, HMOs and what you need to provide for happy tenants.

General Questions

almshouses with church in background

•  What are my first steps in buying a property?

Before you buy a property, you need to determine your price range; how much can you afford to spend on a property going forward? Remember that in the short term you’ll have to put together a deposit, which is typically 10% of a property’s price. If you aren’t sure what you can afford, don’t worry. Tools like this Mortgage Affordability Calculator help you work out what’s in your price range. 

Once you know what’s in your price range, you can start thinking about what you want from your property (e.g. the number of bedrooms, how big the kitchen is and so on). Most people who buy a property need a mortgage; we recommend looking for a repayment mortgage, where you pay off a chunk of your mortgage (plus interest) each month.

For more information, take a look at our guide for first-time buyers.

•   When should I start looking for a mortgage?

We suggest you start looking as soon as possible. Try and get a ‘decision in principle’ from your mortgage lender; this is a certificate that says they would lend money to you in principle. It doesn’t guarantee the funds, but it may make you more attractive as a potential buyer.

•   What do I need when applying for a mortgage?

Mortgage applicants need several different documents, which we suggest you get ready well in advance of any application. You should have proof of identity (which is usually a passport or driving licence), a credit report and payslips from the last three months. You’ll also need a P.60 form (which comes from your employer after each tax year), bank statements from the last three months and two different proofs of your current address. Typically bills (like a council tax bill and utility bill) can prove this.

•  How much should I offer? 

Property prices vary wildly from region to region, so you should look at similar properties in the area you want to buy. This will give you the best idea of what you should offer. If you are thinking about making an offer and you’re unsure about the amount, don’t forget to talk to your local estate agent in the York area.

•  Are there any other costs I need to know about?

During the buying process, you’ll need to hire a solicitor to handle most of the paperwork. This costs anything from £850 to £1,500 and includes VAT.

You’ll also need to have the property surveyed before you buy. This lets you identify any problems with the property before you buy it. If you discover any serious problems, you may be able to get some money off the house price to pay for repairs.

There are several different kinds of survey. Condition reports will give you a basic overview of a property, while homebuyer reports will highlight any structural problems. Home condition surveys (or building surveys) are much more in-depth, and suitable for older properties. Expect to pay extra for more detailed surveys.

Once you buy your property, you may need to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on top of your other bills. The exact amount is shaped by a few different factors. You pay it if your property costs at least £125,000, but you pay less if it costs under £500,000 or you’re a first-time buyer. Use this tool to help calculate your Stamp Duty more accurately.

•  Do I need the title deeds of a property I buy?

Yes, if you want to sell the property in the future. Title deeds are held by your mortgage company until you’ve paid off your mortgage in full.

•  How long does it take to buy a house?

This varies from person to person. One of the biggest variables is finding a house you want to buy; there’s no way to predict how long a house search will take, especially if you’re looking in a popular area. You may also need to consider the ‘property chain’; this is when you have several people buying and selling property from one another. First-time buyers shouldn’t have this problem as they’re at the end of the chain.

•  When do I actually own a house?

After the exchange of contracts. This is when you and the seller sign your (identical) contracts and have your solicitors swap them. Once this has happened it’s very difficult to change your mind, but until you do there’s no obligation to buy.

Exchange of contracts takes place between a week and month before you pick up the keys and move in. Sometimes you can move in on the same day you exchange the contract, but sometimes you have to wait a few days. Make sure that you’re happy with the property’s condition (and its contents), that you have a formal mortgage offer, and that you’re ready to pay the deposit.

After you move in, make sure you send your title deeds to your mortgage lender. You’ll also need to change the address on your driver’s licence, tell your bank and utility companies you’ve moved house, and make sure your post gets forwarded.

•  What are the best areas in York?

York has plenty of beautiful areas to live. The city centre offers an especially vibrant living environment, with an abundance of bars, museums, green spaces and shopping opportunities. If you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter, the village of Bishopthorpe offers idyllic living with excellent transport links.

Other great areas to search for houses include the nearby villages of Fulford, Copmanthorpe and the area of Heworth. Check out our latest property listings to see what we have available.

•  Do I qualify for Help to Buy?

If you’re a first time buyer, a UK resident and have a valid National Insurance number, you can get a Help to Buy ISA. These ISAs help people buy homes by boosting their savings; you can receive up to £3,000 from the government towards the cost of a property. Learn more about Help to Buy here.

•   Do I need insurance?

Most mortgage lenders will request you get building insurance before you exchange contracts. It’s up to you if you insure the contents of the house, though.

Landlord Questions

key in lock on wooden gate

•  What kind of mortgage do I need?

If you’re buying a property so you can let it to tenants, you should get a ‘buy to let’ mortgage. A buy to let mortgage is paid off using the rent you get from your tenants; read more about them in one of our previous articles.

•  Other than buying a property, what costs do I need to consider?

Once you buy a house, you may need to refurbish it before tenants can live in it. Make sure all the utilities are working, the outside of the house (including the roof and guttering) are in good condition, and all electrical appliances are working properly. You’ll also need to perform regular maintenance on the property, or replace furniture when it wears out.

•  What responsibilities do I have to my tenants?

Besides ensuring the property is in good condition, you need to make sure the property’s gas and electrical systems are working properly. You must hire qualified engineers to maintain these systems. Look for a gas engineer on the Gas Safe Register and a registered electrician on the Electrical Safety First website.

In the event of a fire, your tenants must be able to escape the property. Make sure you’ve installed fire alarms throughout the house and that there are clear avenues for escape.

You must also provide your tenants with certain documents. These include your name and address, the government’s How to rent checklist, the property’s Energy Performance Certificate and Gas Safety Certificates, as well as a record of the most recent gas safety check. You can read more about your responsibilities in our Landlord Responsibilities article.

•  What do I do with tenant deposits?

You are legally required to keep this deposit in a government-approved scheme. You can choose from three in England and Wales, though Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own schemes. Your tenants are entitled to their deposit when they leave, as long as they paid their bills and didn’t damage the property. Learn more about them on this page.

•  Who pays for bills and taxes? 

The tenant pays for all the costs they incur (like gas and electricity) when living in your property. However, you will need to pay tax on your rental income.

• Should I include furniture when letting a property?

This depends on who you want to live in it. Students and young professionals will want properties with lots of furniture, while families will probably want to bring their own instead.

There are also other pros and cons to consider. While you can charge more rent for furnished properties, you have to repair or replace it when it gets damaged. Unfurnished properties are likely to attract long-term tenants, but may be unpopular if you’re letting near furnished properties. You can read more about the topic in our furnished vs unfurnished article.

• Can I let to more than one family or group at once?

Yes; if you have five or more people in two or more households, your property is known as an HMO (or House in Multiple Occupation). People living in HMOs will have their own bedrooms but share communal areas like kitchens and bathrooms. You will need a licence to operate an HMO, which is defined as a property with 5 or more people forming two or more separate households across three or more storeys. A HMO must include a maximum number of persons who can occupy a room as a bedroom in the property.

Tenants in an HMO can have a joint tenancy or individual tenancies. Landlords and tenants also have additional responsibilities. Landlords must supply furniture and waste disposal (like bins) while tenants must perform minor maintenance and agree on a fire drill. You can read more about HMOs in our article on the topic.

• Can you tell me more about York as an area?

York has plenty to offer its residents, which makes it an excellent place for landlords to invest.We’ve put together two guides to York and its surrounding area; expect more guides to follow very soon. Whether you’re looking for the right place to buy property, or a reason to highlight your own, these guides are an invaluable resource. 

These guides are designed to help landlords choose which areas of York to buy properties in. The guides also help landlords who already own properties to highlight why their property and areas is a good choice for potential tenants.

•  Are there any recent developments I need to be aware of?

According to Which?, landlords will be able to claim less mortgage tax relief going forward. Many councils are introducing licensing schemes for landlords, regardless of your property type. Letting fees may also be in the firing line; a piece of legislation called the Tenant Fees Bill is going through parliament, and could become law as soon as this year. This means tenants can’t be charged for reference checks or application processing.

Finally, landlords may be forced to offer three-year contracts to tenants. At the moment, landlords typically offer their tenants a tenancy of 12 months; however, a break clause would still be available in the three-year option. This idea is still in its early stages, though, so there’s no guarantee it will happen any time soon.

•  What does a managed letting service offer?

A managed letting service takes much of the stress out of letting a property. Quantum offers a managed letting service; we can collect rent, inspect the property and keep you up to date on any maintenance issues. If your tenants haven’t left the property in good condition after they leave, we can resolve any issues in a professional, diplomatic manner. Learn more about what we do here.

We hope you’ve gotten answers to some of your questions.

If there’s anything we haven’t covered, feel free to get in touch with us either by calling 01904 631 631or by leaving a message within our contact us form.

We’re an estate agent in the York area with years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the York.

Whether you’re buying as a homeowner or a landlord, our team will support you every step of the way, and make the experience as stress-free as possible.

To get the ball rolling on your property search, look at the properties we have for sale or call us on 01904 631631 to discuss your property wishes today.

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