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3. A guide for moving up the property ladder

People move for all kinds of reasons – their family grows, their job requires them to relocate or they’re looking for a different pace of life. On average, research shows people typically move three times between the ages of 25 and 45. Once people are older, and have found somewhere they like, they tend to stay put, with around 60% of adults having lived in the same house for more than 15 years.

Should the time come when you need to move up the property ladder, there are questions to ask yourself to help assess whether you’re moving for the right reasons.

  • When do you next envision your needs changing dramatically? Think about your priorities. Are you planning a family? Will you need to look after an elderly relative? If so, plan ahead somewhat and anticipate the needs of your growing family.
  • How long do you see yourself in your current job? Career moves often encourage people to relocate. Long commutes can take their toll. Always think about whether you can see yourself in a role in five years’ time. If not, you could find yourself needing to move again.
  • What kind of lifestyle are you looking for? Developments can spring up in under a year and over the space of a couple of years, an area can dramatically change with heavy investment. If you’re looking for a quieter life, such changes may put you off a location you once loved. Make sure you check out the government's Planning Portal to find out about any planning applications made in the area.

A. Deciding what’s right for you when your needs change

As you grow up, your priorities change. You might have started a family since you bought your first house. Or your children may have grown up themselves and moved out. The amount of space you need, location you enjoy and key rooms you regularly use changes over the years. As such, you might find yourself needing to move. It’s not something you’ll want to do every year though, as it can be expensive and time-consuming, so be sure to follow these steps to decide what’s right for you.

Talk to those you live with. The choices you make must consider all those you live with, so talk to your family and ask about their preferences. For instance, older children might be looking to move out soon.

Think about the rooms you use the most. Is your house fit for purpose? Have you outgrown it? Needs change over time. You might have originally thought you’d love a separate dining room, but now spend more time crammed around the smaller table in your kitchen. When the way you use your house changes, it might be time to find something that better suits your needs.

Assess whether you could afford more, or whether you’d like to spend less. It’s likely mortgage repayments will be your largest monthly outgoing. If your career has progressed since you purchased your home, you might be able to secure extra finance to buy a bigger property, or move to a more sought after region. Alternatively, you could cut back on your payments or pay off your mortgage quicker by downsizing.

Investigate the property market. What are similar houses selling for in your area? If there’s a dip in the market, you might be better off staying put until prices rise again. That said, you’re more likely to get a bargain when there’s a slowdown.

B. Top tips for property maintenance

When you move, your structural survey will highlight any problems that need fixing. Make sure you read the document thoroughly, and seek advice if there’s anything you’re unsure of to avoid facing surprise costs. On average, new homeowners face a repair bill of £5,750, according to Money Advice Service. If the survey highlights anything major, you can use this to negotiate the sale price, accounting for what you’ll have to pay for – or it may help you decide to pull out of the purchase.

Once you’ve found the right property, to keep it in great condition, you should be proactive when it comes to property maintenance. After all, the earlier you fix an issue, the more likely you are to prevent further damage and save yourself money in the long term. For instance, ignoring a cracked window seal might be okay in the summer, but when the cold winter months come you’ll be kicking yourself for not sorting it earlier. Whether you’re experienced with DIY or a complete novice, here are considerations for anyone who owns a property:

  • Keep your boiler serviced. Boilers should be replaced every 10 years or so, and serviced regularly in between to prevent problems. This is something a Corgi or Gas Safe registered plumber must do, rather than attempting it yourself.
  • Check your gutters and downpipes. Water should be able to flow freely through your gutters and downpipes. Check for any debris that could cause a block, as poorly maintained drains can cause rot and result in penetrating damp.
  • Make sure your property is well ventilated. When moisture can’t leave a property, condensation and mould can develop.
  • Keep an eye on grouting in the bathroom. Grout between tiles can crack over time. When this happens, the waterproof seal is broken and water can leak through and potentially cause damage. Replace the grout when you notice any loose or missing sections.
  • Be vigilant when it comes to leaks. Ideally, you should check for leaks after it’s rained heavily. Look for soft spots on the ceiling or walls, as well as abnormal signs of water around windows.

C. Key costs associated with buying a house

It’s not just the sale price you’ve got to consider. There are additional costs which, if unaccounted for, could slow the process of buying a house. According to Money Advice Service, upfront costs to think about include:

Mortgage fees. There are hundreds of mortgage products, so charges and fees vary, but tend to include:

  • A booking fee (around £99-£250)
  • An arrangement fee of up to £2,000
  • A mortgage valuation fee (typically £150 or more)

Stamp duty. A government tax you must pay on homes costing £125,001 or more.

  • As of April 2016, there’s a 3% increase if you’re buying an additional residential property above £40,000 as a second home or buy-to-let property.

DEPOSIT. Between 5% and 20% of the purchase price needs to be used as a deposit.

Valuation fee. Mortgage lenders don’t just accept the sale price. They need to independently assess the value of the property you’re buying to establish how much they’re prepared to lend you.

  • The cost of the valuation survey can be between £150-£1,500, although some lenders won’t charge you

Surveyor’s fee. The lender’s valuation isn’t a structural survey. Don’t rely on it to identify the repairs or maintenance that a property might need. Instead, pay for a survey from an expert – ranging in price from £250 to £600 or more.

Legal fees. You’ll need a solicitor or conveyancer to carry out the legal work when you’re buying and selling your home. It’ll generally cost you £850-£1,500 (including VAT at 20%).

  • If they carry out a local search to check for any future plans or potential problems, it’ll cost you another £250-£350.

Electronic transfer fee. To cover the lender’s cost of transferring mortgage money to the solicitor, you normally have to pay between £40 and £50.

Estate agent’s fee. Fees are only paid by the seller and should be negotiated before they put the property on the market. Usually you’ll pay 1-3% of the sale price for the estate agent’s services, plus 20% VAT.

Removal costs. If you’re not renting a van and doing it yourself, you’ll have to hire removal experts. This could cost you anywhere between £300 and £600.