Your Money: A very moving experience

Buying and selling your home can be a tricky business to synchronise. Clifford German offers tips on how to make it go smoothly
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The Independent Online
By Easter in years gone by the season for moving home was usually well under way. In spite of the cold winter and late spring there are signs that 1996 will be the best year for activity in the housing market since 1991. There is a ready-made sequence of events for planning a move, which is relatively simple if you do not simultaneously have somewhere to sell.

If you do, however, the trick is in synchronising the sale and the purchase so that you do not end up on the one hand having to move into rented accommodation or on the other with two properties to finance. Things may be different in Scotland but in England and Wales this is an art, not a science, and there is no universal right way to do it.

In a rapidly rising market having two properties for six months was not the end of the world but in a static or falling market it is a worrying and expensive business and could easily involve you in a costly bridging loan, or dropping out and losing the property you wanted to buy.

But if you clinch your sale too soon you could face a choice of sitting tight while you complete a purchase or having to move out to provide your buyer with vacant possession, thus having to move into rented accommodation and storing your furniture for as long as it take to get access to your purchase.

Once you have your sights firmly on a purchase it is time to start worrying about finance. Lenders and mortgage brokers used to recommend getting the finance organised first. But competition to lend is now so keen and the processing of mortgage applications is now quick enough to ensure it will take longer to complete the purchase than find the finance.

There are exceptions of course. If you are self-employed with a short and erratic record of earnings, or borrowing to the very margin of your creditworthiness, ie beyond three times your provable income plus any regular overtime or partner's income, or asking for all or almost all the purchase price, you would still be well advised to explore sources of finance before making the offer.

Once you have made an offer that the seller will consider you will come under pressure to put down a deposit and complete the purchase. But your lender will require you to arrange and pay for a survey to satisfy the lender that the loan is a commercial proposition. This does not mean it is a good bargain and you might well want a full survey of your own to assure you that there is no lurking problem with subsidence, dry rot or sagging roof timbers.

You will also need a solicitor (or a conveyancing specialist) to do the paperwork and to check the seller has proper title to the property, and that the local authority is not planning a major road-widening scheme. A solicitor will also advise you not to rush ahead with spending money on surveys until you are reasonably sure the seller is acting in good faith and not preparing to gazump you. Whether or not the property is still being advertised is one clue but not a conclusive one.

If you have successfully steered this lively troika of competing claims and concluded your sale and purchase it only remains to handle the move. You could do it yourself or hire a local firm, or you could get one of the national names to do it for you. Pickfords, perhaps the best-known national name, has just drawn up a House-Mover's Checklist to smoothe this final stage of the process.

If you are renting property don't forget to give the landlord the necessary notice you have agreed. The Post Office will redirect mail for a modest fee but they need seven days' notice. BT needs two weeks' notice to put the phone line in your name (Call 150 free for details). It is wise to fill in a change of address form to move your TV licence. You should also tell DVLC at Swansea to change your address on your vehicle registration document and driving licence, and notify your motor insurance and house and contents insurance companies, unless you have negotiated new cover as part of the mortgage.

Draw up a list of friends and relations as well as all the business and professional services who need to know you are going. You may well need a new bank, doctor, dentist, and you will of course have found new schools for the kids.

Your employer, your tax office, your bank, building society and national insurance office and National Savings Bank should also be informed. Many people lose touch with their Premium Bonds and contribute to that ever- growing pool of unclaimed prizes because they fail to tell Ernie they have moved. If you have share dividends sent to your home, notify the registrars in good time.

As D-day nears you need to give a minimum two days' notice and have your gas and electricity meters read. Stop the papers and the milk, pay the bills and if you are doing the move yourself, arrange for plenty of suitable packing materials for the wardrobes, the piano, the china and glass. Consider when and how to move the pets. Dogs may travel well but cats don't.

Arrange a skip for rubbish, take unwanted junk to a tip, or give it to a local charity. Collect the laundry and return the library books. Start packing. Arrange for gas and electricity to be connected at the other end.

The day before you move, make sure you have the keys you need, empty the fridge, make sure there are enough packing cases and everything is marked so that it ends up in the right place. On moving day take down the curtains, strip the beds, and pack separately food, clothing, tools and utensils for immediate use at the other end.

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