How to be in a new home by the new year

There’s nothing like starting a new year in a new home, but is it possible to buy a house and move in by January 2019? explains that there is still time

There’s the small matter of Christmas, which doesn’t just mean stuffed turkeys, frazzled children and stressful in-laws, but an extended holiday period for estate agents, solicitors and mortgage lenders.

Worry not, however. If you have set your heart on singing Auld Lang Syne under a new roof, there’s still time – provided you get your skates on and plan ahead. You could also save yourself money. Here are seven top tips to make it happen.

Research the market

The tight timetable you have set yourself is not a licence to take short-cuts. Research the market thoroughly online, establish local house prices for different streets and districts in your chosen area and choose an estate agent who is fast, efficient and reliable. Houses that are for sale at this time of year might have failed to sell in the summer and the vendor could be keen to tie things up now.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Many solicitors, surveyors and estate agents will take their annual leave over Christmas and the new year, so it’s essential to put everything in place well in advance, particularly if you are in a chain. Get a mortgage offer in writing from a lender, tee-up a surveyor and make sure that the seller is equally prepped and ready to go.

“The most critical thing you can do to ensure a move by the new year is prepare,” according to Andrew Rome, a partner in Knight Frank’s Winchester office. “The vendor must have all of their papers in place and ready for a buyer, while the buyer must have their financing as advanced as possible. The completion date must also be agreed as soon as possible!”

Daniel Killick, Associate Director, Sales and Lettings at Chestertons Kew, agrees: “Solicitors, agents, mortgage companies usually shut down over Christmas, so that means they usually tend to be quite focused on clearing the decks and helping you to exchange or complete as rapidly as possible.”

Get to know the seller

Once you’ve found a property, try to understand the vendor before making an offer. We’re not talking CIA psychological profiling here, just a few questions over an eggnog latte. Are they a discretionary seller? Happy to wait for a good offer? Or is it a compulsory sale – a product of the dreaded Ds: death, debt or divorce? If it’s one of the latter, there may be room for more negotiation on the price.

Don’t be afraid to make a cheeky offer

Christmas is expensive so why not chance your arm and put in a cheeky offer? Chances are the property has been sitting around all summer and the vendor has probably set his or her sights on selling up by January.

Buyers are at an advantage,” says Will Peppitt, from Savills’ Country House Department. “With winter ahead of us, many sellers are expecting little to happen until next spring and so now is a great time to make an offer. After all, the worst a seller can do is say no.”

Richard Addington, Head of Savills’ Exeter office, agrees: “Any seller who has been on the market for most of this year may well see winter approaching and be prepared to accept an offer considerably below their spring and summer expectations. There is still a good selection of property publicly for sale but some buyers may be tempted to withdraw details soon. Buyers should act quickly before it’s too late.”

Hassle everyone – politely, of course

Your tight timetable requires you to be on everyone’s case, all the time. Crucially, keep up the pressure when you’ve found a nice house and agreed a price. “Don’t assume that things will happen on their own,” says Mr Addington. “Every other day or even daily, make a call and ask for a progress report from all involved. This will include your estate agent, your solicitor, your financial adviser/mortgage broker, removals firm and the rest of your family. In my experience, the slowest wagon in the train is getting the finance sorted. Persistence on the phone can reduce delays in this area.”

Avoid Laurel and Hardy removal men

Book a removal firm early. Good ones tend to be signed up well in advance and you don’t want to end up with a pair of jokers dropping your piano down the stairs. The two weeks before Christmas tend to be particularly busy.

Spread a bit of festive cheer

Christmas is stressful enough without the hassle of buying or selling a house. A bit of flexibility, decency and festive goodwill goes a long way at this time of year.

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