Builders find lures for buyers: Incentives for property purchasers abound. Mary Wilson checks them out

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The Independent Online
THE COSTS involved in buying a house can reach several thousand pounds now that stamp duty is back. Solicitors must be paid, and valuers and estate agents too. A way around these costs is to buy a new property. Some developers are so keen to make sales that they are offering to pay many of these costs.

The prospect of saving a few hundred, if not a thousand, pounds could change the minds of die- hard purchasers of second-hand property.

Many of these offers apply only to first-time buyers, but that does not mean the properties are all cheap. And some of the incentives are beginning to filter through to second- and third-time buyers.

The only way purchasers of second-hand properties can take advantage of similar deals is by choosing a lender who is offering financial incentives, which are also often limited to first-time buyers.

The Mortgage Corporation has just launched a deal for new customers that cuts about pounds 500 from new buyers' costs and up to pounds 300 from the costs for customers who are remortgaging.

Abbey National is offering to pay first-timers' premiums on a mortgage protection scheme for a year should they be made redundant. The average premium is pounds 3- pounds 3.50 per pounds 100 paid back monthly. There is no limit to the size of the mortgage.

Other lenders offering free mortgage payment protection are Tipton & Coseley, West Bromwich (which is also offering pounds 200 towards legal and valuation fees), Citibank and Nationwide. Darlington and Loughborough are providing free property valuation.

Among builders, Bovis is leading the field with a package, launched this month, that could save any buyer, first-time or otherwise, up to pounds 2,000. Bovis is offering to refund the valuation fee required by the building society or bank, contribute up to pounds 500 towards estate agency fees for selling the old home, pay up to pounds 1,000 towards stamp duty and pay a year's worth of mortgage protection premiums on mortgages up to pounds 120,000.

For first-timers, Bovis will pay stamp duty, mortgage protection premiums for a year, valuation fees and the first three months' mortgage payments - a total of between pounds 1,000 and pounds 1,500.

St George, which builds good quality housing around south-west London, has a package for first- time buyers that helps with legal and valuation fees, mortgage protection, stamp duty and service charges, totalling pounds 2,000.

Anglia Secure Homes, which builds retirement homes, is paying the 1 per cent stamp duty on sales that go through before 21 September. Laing Homes is offering to provide around pounds 1,000 worth of goodies to buyers as well as offering to pay the 5 per cent deposit to all types of buyers on selected developments. The purchaser puts down pounds 250 deposit and Laing pays valuation fees, legal fees up to pounds 350, mortgage indemnity premiums and mortgage redundancy protection scheme payments for three years.

Many companies offer redundancy protection, usually for one year.

The best scheme available at the moment is from Barratt Homes, which is offering a three- year scheme for mortgages up to pounds 100,000, paying a maximum of 34 months' repayments, which is open to the self-employed too.

The more enterprising companies are offering other little deals too. St George will do a lease-back deal with anyone who wants to buy one of its show houses. This guarantees the purchaser income of 10 per cent for nine to 12 months. The company knows that it has one sale in the bag, but it can continue to use the property as a show house. The purchasers know they are getting a good return on their money and that, if prices should do the unthinkable and rise, they have got a good deal.

Part-exchange is another big incentive to buy new, avoiding the hassle of having to sell your own property. Shared equity is another ruse that pulls people in. The purchaser does not have to immediately shell out the full price and the builder gets a sale, although not all the money. Shared equity of 80 per cent or more to the purchaser is the best to go for. The usual time for final payment is within five years.

Even Berkeley Homes, which sells properties from pounds 150,000 to pounds 375,000 and prides itself on its individuality and flexibility, is now extending that goodwill to financial considerations.

David Wilson of Berkeley Midlands said: 'We are here to offer a service and we will tailor a house to suit a purchaser's taste.

'If we can do anything to help we will, from providing a special hob, for example, to paying something towards survey costs to achieve a satisfactory sale,' he added.

Blays Guides Financial Information Providers (0753-880482) gives up-to-date information about deals being offered.

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