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Paid PostSep 18, 2018

12 Tips About The House-Buying Process That We'll Give You For Free

"What do you mean my house needs a SINKING FUND?!"

1. Getting an Agreement in Principle (AIP) for a mortgage won't affect your credit score.

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Getting an Agreement in Principle should only involve a bank doing a soft credit check, so your score won't be affected. An AIP will help you to know how much money a bank might be willing to lend you so you can work out whether you can actually afford that two-bed flat with French windows you've seen advertised.

2. Registering with an estate agent means you might get into view a property before its profile goes up online.

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Yes, you might end up with a fair few voicemails within your first week of even considering looking, but the more agents you register with, the more houses you'll be privy to seeing as soon as they hit the market.

3. If your estate agent mentions that the property has a "sinking fund," that doesn't mean it is actually sinking.

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Panic over. Generally, flat owners who live in the same building will contribute monthly to a long-term savings account called a sinking fund, which is set up to cover the cost of any major works that the building may need. For example, re-carpeting the communal areas...or if your property does begin to sink.

4. If a property comes with other service charges, ask the estate agent to check how they've increased over time.

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Most leasehold flats will come with service charges which will include things like ground rent and building insurance.

This fee can increase every year, so it's a good idea to ask whether your estate agent can find out how they've gone up over time so you can factor this yearly charge into your decision-making.

5. Being chain-free is an attractive prospect for sellers.

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When you buy a house, there is nothing worse than waiting around to actually get in the house. Chain-free buyers don't have to wait on the sale of their current property in order to move forward with the purchase of another, meaning you can transfer money a bit faster and really get the ball rolling, which will be music to the ears of any sellers looking to move on quickly.

6. You can either make an offer on a property on the phone, in-person at the estate agent's office, or via email.

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Shouting your intention to make an offer into the ether won't work, but a simple email or phone call will.

If you know that there are other buyers vying for the same property as you, you can ask that the property is taken off the market in order to prevent yourself becoming a victim of a good old-fashioned gazumping. You can also use your written offer to state that your offer is subject to a survey and your mortgage and to draft up a preferred timeline for completion.

7. If you like the seller's fancy fridge, you can negotiate to buy it.

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Typically you can negotiate to buy some of the seller's white goods (large electrical goods such as a fridge or washing machine) during the sale. You should negotiate this before you put in an offer on the property so that you can take this into account while you work out how much money you want to put on the table.

Equally, if you don't want any of their appliances, you can request that the seller remove them when they move out so you don't have to work out what to do with an unwanted washing machine.

8. You can also ask the current seller to make repairs to the house as part of your offer.

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Leaky tap? Broken lock? If you're not a keen DIY-er, you can ask that the repairs be a contingency of the sale. But if the seller has stated that the home will be sold "as-is", that means that they aren't toolbox-ready and won't be prepared to do any necessary repairs that may be needed.

9. A leasehold means you own the property but...not the land it sits on.

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If you're purchasing a property that is leasehold, it means you own the property, but a freeholder owns the land it sits on. By owning the leasehold, you have the right to live in the property while the lease is still valid. Leases are generally long-term, but if yours dips towards 80 years, you may want to think about extending it.

10. The average mortgage length in the UK is 25 years.

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The length of your mortgage will be determined by how much the bank perceives you can afford to pay off each month. Longer mortgage terms mean you may pay less per month, but you'll pay more interest overall.

11. Stamp duty has actually got a link to stamps – but not the postal kind.

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The name stamp duty refers to a physical stamp which was used as a marker to indicate that a tax levy had been paid. Mystery solved!

How much stamp duty you'll pay will depend on how much the property costs and whether you're classed as a first-time buyer.

12. If you're having second thoughts, you'll need to pull out of your offer before you exchange.

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Hey, sometimes life gets in the way and you may need to pull out of a house purchase due to unforeseen circumstances. You can do this without facing any financial costs at any time before the contracts are exchanged.

This goes for the seller too – so if they pull out before exchange, you won't be able to recover any costs from them.

Buying a home can be a stressful process. Thankfully, NatWest has the first ever paperless mortgage application and a team of fully qualified advisers over the phone or in branch ready to help you through every step of the mortgage process – so you can spend less time on the paperwork and more time feeling smug.

Additional imagery from Getty / iStock