Buying a house is a joyous occasion – albeit one filled with anxiety, stress and sleepless nights. Our emergence from the the yoke of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a resurgence in property sales, as first-time buyers and new families return to the market in droves, rushing to make the most of a moratorium on one of property sale’s many hidden fees: stamp duty.
But stamp duty is just one of the many costs that buying a house can incur; costs which can easily add up to 10% of the house’s market value again, and costs which, if unanticipated, can add to the stress already wrapped up in moving your life from one place to another. So what is stamp duty, and what are the other unexpected costs of buying a house?
Stamp duty is essentially a government land tax, levied on the purchase of a home. It operates on a sliding scale with regard to the market value of the house: homes under £125,000 are below the threshold for stamp duty, with the next £125,000 in house value taxed at 2%, and the next £675,000 taxed at 5%. The scale continues up to a 12% tax rate on values over £1.5 million. There also are discounts for first-time buyers, and additional rates for owning more than one property, which can drastically affect how much you owe – but the average buyer can expect an additional £4,750 in stamp duty, on top of the house’s market value.
Surveys are a crucially important part of the house-buying process. Specialists survey the house and outline any issues or potential problems which could surface down the line, including issues with damp coursing, electrics, roof tiles, or even subsidence. These can cost up to £1000 depending on the property and the kind of survey commissioned, but can also give you leverage in re-negotiating the price.
Conveyancing fees may be an unexpected cost, but they are an extremely useful service which take a deal deal of stress off the buyer during the process of purchasing a home. Conveyancing is essentially the legal aspect of the house sale, completed by a qualified solicitor – anything to do with contracts, deeds, transferral of equity, and VAT. In some cases, conveyancing can even cover survey fees. For the 2020 average house price of around £235,000, conveyancing fees would be around £1220, including VAT; a drop in the ocean for peace of mind and the avoidance of complicated legal processes.
Lastly, you might think that your mortgage agreement is simply the price you pay back monthly on receipt of your house. But, deposit aside, there are additional fees which may seem a surprise. Lenders often want their own property valuation, to ensure the house’s value is as agreed in the mortgage, and in some cases this can be passed on to you, as well as a mortgage arrangement fee which could equal 1% of the total mortgage amount. If you used a broker to find your mortgage lender, that could be yet another 1% of your mortgage value – all of which adds up to thousands in fees before you’ve started paying your mortgage back.
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