We regularly act for clients who live abroad and are looking to buy properties in the UK. We are contactable by email between 6am and 11pm UK time, so can cover most times zones.
There are no restrictions on non UK citizens buying property in the UK and it can prove to be an attractive option for many overseas investors or people looking for a second home in the UK.
Where do I start?
Most property in the UK is bought through either an agent or at auction and the approach to buying property through an agent or at auction can be quite different. An offer made through an agent and accepted by the seller of the property is termed ‘subject to contract’. This means that at the point the offer has been accepted there is no legal commitment to sell and no commitment to buy and either party can still walk away from the transaction at any time.
Following a sale agreed through an agent subject to contract the buyer will instruct a solicitor to act on their behalf to check that there is good title to the property. The buyer will also have an opportunity to carry out any physical surveys of the property. Once the buyer is satisfied on all aspects of the property, only then will they proceed to an exchange of contracts. It is at the point of exchange of contracts that the parties become legally committed to complete the sale and purchase on an agreed date.
A sale at auction is different to a sale through an agent, as the highest bidder becomes legally committed to purchase the property at the auction. There are always going to be good opportunities at auction but anyone considering buying property at auction should research it properly first. There will usually be an auction pack available for viewing which includes all of the title documents to the property and it is advisable to get your solicitors to check this thoroughly for any problems. It is also recommended that any surveys are undertaken before the auction and that you have your finance in place.
What does the solicitor do and do I need one?
Your solicitor is there to check title to the property and ensure that the property benefits from any rights necessary to properly use and enjoy the property and that there are no restrictions which might impact on the property. In addition the solicitor will usually carry out a set of searches against the property which will include a search of the local authority, a water and drainage search and an environmental search.
The solicitor will also raise enquiries of the sellers to check amongst other things that any work to the property has been carried out with all necessary local authority consents and that there are no disputes which might affect the property.
The solicitors will prepare the contract and transfer documentation.
Whilst it is possible to deal with the purchase without involvement of a solicitor this is not to be recommended as UK property law can be complicated.
Property as an investment
Any investor is interested in the yield or return that they can get from their investment. In the case of property this generally takes the form of rent from an occupier. The system of leasing in the UK is quite different depending on whether you are dealing with residential or commercial properties.
Residential tenancies tend to be shorter term (often initially only 6 to 12 months) with the occupier having a minimum in the way of security to remain in the property beyond an initial term. The Landlord tends to pick up more costs for maintenance of the property with a higher turnover of tenants. The rental returns can often reflect this and a well-managed residential portfolio can generate a good return.