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Property prices vary tremendously in different areas of the UK. House prices tend to be higher in rural areas than urban ones, as is shown in more detail on this page. Prices range from very high to exorbitant in London andhigh to very high in South-West and South-East England; they are considerably lower in the north of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
There are two options with renting: through a private landlord or a letting agency. Neither of these is very promising. Most private landlords are decent, though some are less than scrupulous and cut corners when they can. For example, in England and Wales, any deposit that a landlord asks of you should not go to him or her; it should be placed under a deposit protection scheme. (Scotland and Northern Ireland have slightly different systems.) This scheme protects tenants from landlords who have a habit of deducting money off deposits for dubious, trifling reasons.
Also, you are entitled to the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your property. This means that the landlord cannot just walk into the property whenever he likes. He must contact you beforehand, generally give 24 hours’ notice and explain his reasons before entering the property. It may be a good idea to quiz a landlord about these matters before signing anything. If he appears ignorant of such laws, it’s probably better to keep looking.
Renting property in the UK is generally expensive. In England and Wales, letting agencies can further increase the expense by charging you hefty fees. Given names like ‘administration’ or ‘introduction’ fees, these are little more than a licence to print money. It is probably best to ask upfront what agency fees you are likely to incur. If they try to change the subject or aren’t honest with you, keep looking. By contrast, all letting agency fees are illegal in Scotland.
Buying a house in Britain should be somewhat easier at present, as, due to the worldwide recession, the housing market is currently rather slack. For an in-depth analysis of property in the UK, see our UK Property article. Additionally, for tips on how to benefit from the current UK housing boom, see Getting in on the UK Housing Boom.
Once you have decided which type of property you want, worked out a budget for what kind of house you can afford and found a suitable house, you may have a choice to hire your own conveyancing solicitor, or your prospective mortgage lender may insist on your using theirs. In Britain, the next stage, making an offer, has been plagued by gazumping, that is, another party making a higher offer than yours and the house seller accepting that one. This may be something you just have to accept if it should happen.
The costs associated with buying a house in Britain have risen sharply in the last decade or so.. One such cost is Stamp Duty, which is a lump-sum tax on house purchases. For house prices from £125,000 to £250,000, Stamp Duty is at 1%, and between £250,000 and £500,000, it rises to 3%, and subsequently 4%. Other costs are surveyor’s fees, Land Registry fees and mortgage arrangement fees. For more details on the latter and UK mortgages in general, see Mortgages.
Other sections in ACCOMMODATION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM:
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