Buyers’ Guide

1. Set your budget

You’ve probably been looking at properties that offer you the size and facilities you require — so the next stage is to figure out what you can afford to buy!

If you already own a property, arrange for us to give you a free verbal valuation. To speed up the buying process, some owners ask us to take sales particulars of their property in readiness to put on the market as soon as they find a home to buy. As a property owner, you may choose to sell before you buy and rent while you house hunt, puting you in a strong position as a “cash buyer”. You won’t have to wait until your house is under offer in order to make an offer.

2. Speak to a bank/financial advisor

You’ll be asked for bank statements and utility bills to assess the level of lending available to you. Don’t be afraid to shop around for comparison and to get the best offer possible.

3. Continue house hunting

Guernsey has a relatively small supply of properties on the market at any one time so don’t be too rigid in your requirements or you will have very little to view. The more properties you view, the easier it is recognise value for money and how realistic your expectations are; plus you may be pleasantly surprised by a property you did not like the look of on the particulars.

4. You've found your dream home

If you are a first time or cash buyer then it’s time to make an offer. On the other hand, if you have a property to sell before you can buy contact us to get your property on the market as quickly as possible (see our guide Preparing Your Home for Market below). Then when you have an offer on your own property you can make an offer on the property you wish to buy.

5. UK sellers

If you are selling in the UK, it is worth noting that the sale process in Guernsey moves more swiftly, typically 30 working days, than on the mainland. You will need to have at least exchanged contracts in the UK before committing to conditions of sale in Guernsey, the sales contract which are binding on signature and payment of a deposit, typically 10%.

6. Property matters

Your offer may need to be subject to a satisfactory survey of the property, finance approval from your lender, a permit to occupy the property, but definitely must be subject to property matters, which include your advocate’s searches of the title and boundaries of the property. You will also need to agree a completion date. This is the day on which the property will be conveyed to you in the court and on which you will take possession.

7. Conditions of sale

After an offer has been accepted, we will prepare a standard contract and an inventory of personalty being left in the property, known as conditions of sale.

This sets out the terms of the sale, the completion date (typically 8 to 10 weeks after agreeing a sale) and an operative date (normally around 30 working days after an offer is accepted) by which you must have had your survey, finance and any other conditions agreed. At this point you should contact your lender with details of the house and ask them to arrange a survey of the property promptly.

Note: there is no binding legal contract between you and the seller until both parties have signed conditions of sale and you have paid your deposit.

8. Legal formalities

As a buyer you must instruct an advocate to act on your behalf. You will be allocated a conveyancing clerk, who will ensure that the conditions of sale have been prepared correctly, the ownership of the property is clear, and that boundaries are as described on the title deeds.

The clerk will also advise on when you can sign conditions of sale and pay a deposit. This is normally 10% of the purchase price, but with the seller’s approval this can be reduced to 5%.

Both Cooper Brouard and your advocates are required under Anti Money Laundering and counter the Financing of Terrorism laws to collect due diligence on you, including authorisation of your identity, residency and source of funds.

9. Buying costs

Be aware of all these extra buying costs! You will have to pay:

  • Document duty and advocates fees on the realty price (purchase price minus the value of the items on the inventory – generally no greater than 2.5% of the purchase value) of the property you are purchasing.
  • Document Duty: payable via your advocates to The States of Guernsey. The rates are:
    • 2.25% of the consideration or market value up to £250,000
    • 3.5% between £250,000 and £400,000
    • 4% – between £400,000 and £750,000
    • 4.25% between £750,000 and £1,000,000
    • 4.5% between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000
    • 5.5% of the consideration or market value above £2,000,000
  • Advocate Fees: since the introduction of the monopoly law in 2012 there is no fixed advocate’s fee on property sales. We recommend you get quotes from at least two firms but bear in mind the quality of advice is just as important as the size of the bill.

Call us for advice if you are unsure who to ask.

10. Tying up loose ends

Once conditions of sale are signed and binding, there are a few things to put in place before going to court. These small but important steps can be easy to forget, so it’s good to follow a checklist!

  • Arrange house/contents insurance.
  • Arrange Life insurance for the mortgage (this and the house insurance may be required by your lender before they issue their mortgage facility letter).
  • Obtain estimates from removal companies.
  • Advise water, telephone, gas, oil, and electricity suppliers to arrange final readings at your current home and arrange supply and billing in your new home.
  • Empty cesspool at existing home if not on main drain.
  • Re-direct post to new address.
  • Leave contact numbers for tradesman who have worked in your existing home.
  • Leave instructions and guarantees for appliances being left in your existing house.
  • Advise change of address to, for example:
    • States of Guernsey Driving Licence and Vehicle registration, a legal requirement.
    • Bank, building society, credit card company
    • Tax and social security offices
    • Doctor, dentist, vets etc
    • Medical and other insurances
    • Friends, relations and neighbours
    • Employers
    • Schools
    • Clubs and associations
    • Premium Bonds, National Savings, stocks and shares registrars
    • Pension companies
    • Your purchaser
    • Standing orders i.e. Sky TV, HP providers etc

With all these in place, it only remains for you to arrive at your advocates offices or meet them in the Royal Court building just after 9.00 am on the completion date. (Alternatively you can arrange for a third party to appear for you as a power of attorney (POA), typically your advocate).You will have received a statement from them detailing the balance of the purchase price that you are required to pay. You or your POA will be taken to the Royal Court and in front of a Jurat give your consent to the conveyance of the property. If you are borrowing money the same process is repeated for the bond.

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