Finding a quality investment can be tricky, particularly for an expat looking to gather local knowledge. Demand for property in the UK remains high, especially in London. Key individuals can make the process simpler; some to include are:
An Estate Agent
Trying to find properties to consider for your investment is time consuming. Having an agency or agent on the case can mean ensuring you receive many more potential hits, once you ensure they understand your requirements. Start with word of mouth from family and friends, then do a little research.
The key advice on facilitating this is to find an agency you like the look of and physically visit their offices. This appears more committed than simply ringing up (meaning they will take your search more seriously), though of course if you are buying in a distant location this may not be possible. Either way, be prepared with a list of items on which you are flexible about, and inflexible about. Then, ask yourself: do they seem professional? Are they listening to your requirements? What are their fees? Do they have local knowledge? Don’t let a flashy office distract you: check on other satisfied clients, and make sure you feel a rapport with the agent themselves – after all, they have to find something right for you!
If you have a mortgage or funding already settled, ask if the agent has a premium buyer service. This can ensure you are the first to know about promising properties. Don’t let any agent panic you: it’s important to think logically. Never let your agent know your maximum price as a buyer – protect your interests against their agenda, which is to push prices up. Don’t be pushed into using their mortgage brokers either – if the agency in question has a habit of upselling you such services, you may wish to avoid the hassle altogether and choose another.
A Mortgage Broker
Comparing mortgages can now easily be done online, but you may want to consider going to a broker for help should you want additional assistance finding mortgages with the best rates and someone to take you through the paperwork. They can assist in finding mortgages that you cannot apply for directly.
Choose a broker who is independent and has access to the widest possible range of deals. Check how they charge: is it upfront, or by commission from the lender? Ensure they are properly qualified (check the Financial Services Register online), and don’t just pick the first adviser you find. Resist estate agents who bully you into using in-house brokers by threatening a price hike (this is against the law anyway!), and resist other sales being tacked on (such as additional insurance, etc).
A Solicitor / Conveyancer
Having a solicitor is compulsory for any estate transaction you make in the UK, and therefore you have to do your best to find one that is suitable. Finding a good solicitor can be tricky: start with recommendations from family or friends. Ask your mortgage broker or even your estate agent for a recommendation (though note that this can be expensive).
Be aware that solicitors will charge in different ways (either fixed prices, hourly or a percentage of the property price) so ensure you compare apples with apples as you obtain quotes. Make sure they have a good system for tracking purchase progression and won’t be dashing off on holidays during your exchange – if they are, someone must be assigned to fill in.
You can save money using an online conveyance, but this can make it tricky to determine the quality of the service. Above all, ensure that the person is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales of the Law Society of Scotland, and a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
An accountant can help with the all important tax-related work that comes with buying to let. They have the know-how to ensure you pay the least possible tax on investment properties, and can help order your finances to get the best mortgage. Once again, your estate agent may be able to assist with a recommendation.
The ACA chartered qualification is the most widely regarded for your accountancy professional to possess, though there is also the ACCA and CIMA (both of which are sufficient to assist with property-related information). Make sure you know what you’re being charged for as you enter into an agreement with an accountant – they should have an hourly rate inclusive of everything, or have a reasonable fixed price for the entire job. Check on their experience above all – they should have good knowledge of property tax issues, with at least a few years under their belt. Once you form a good relationship with an accountant, they can assist long after the deal is done. For instance, with preparing self-assessment tax returns or planning on Capital Gains Tax should you ever wish to sell the property in future.
A Virtual Assistant
This is definitely an extra, but if you’re super pressed for time consider a virtual assistant. They can make appointments on your behalf and draft your questions for once you do investigate a potential property. They can research the deed type of a property you are interested in, and check the nature of comparable properties in the area (to ensure you are bidding an accurate price). They can assist in recruiting the other members of your property buying team, and generally ensure that all is up to date in the process of buying your investment property. Most importantly they can go on viewing for you, check out this blog.