HOME TRUTHS: Your questions answered by experts

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sole to sell

I would like to put my house on the market but don't know whether to use a sole or multi-agency. Which is the most effective?

Mr M Hall


If you place your property with a multi-agency, you ensure that your property details appear with more than one estate agent. This means that more people will have the opportunity to see your property and you may get coverage over a larger geographical area.

However, multi-agencies tend to be more expensive and because each agent is in competition with the next one to sell your house, they may not necessarily achieve the best possible price. Their priority is to sell your property more quickly than someone else. You may also find that your property will suffer from over exposure to the market you are trying to attract. If your home is advertised heavily in one particular area, it may suggest to some people that you are having difficulty in selling.

A sole agency may be more customer focused as they are not in direct competition with others to sell your home. Their aim is to act in your best interests and ultimately make a sale. All prospective vendors will come from one branch and therefore it will be easier to assess how successful the agent is being in selling the property. Using a sole agent will also be considerably cheaper and, if part of a larger organisation, they may be able to market your home at other locations for the same price you would pay for exposure in just one branch. In the current climate, properties are not staying on the market for very long as demand for them outweighs the number of houses available.

home from home

I retired a couple of years ago and am thinking about buying a second property as a `holiday home'. My intention will be to move to the new house at some time in the future but in the meantime I will stay in my existing property. Will I be able to take out a second mortgage at my age?

Mr S Jones


As long as you can prove an ability to repay the loan, most lenders will be happy to provide funding for a second property.

The criteria required by the lender will be very similar to that required when lending to someone who is, for example, fully employed, but some lenders may be more cautious lending to an older person as they may not want you to over commit your retirement income.

You should be able to prove that your pension or income is guaranteed and that you will not be financially stretched by buying this second home. The lender may also require an assurance that the holiday home is for your use alone and will not be rented out to supplement your income. In most cases you will be required to provide a deposit of at least 25 per cent.

Your lender will also take the remaining term and outstanding value of your existing mortgage into account when calculating the amount you can borrow. If your mortgage is likely to be repaid in the near future your lender is likely to lend you a greater amount.

Before you embark on the purchase however, it would be wise to seek legal and financial advice. Some lenders may insist that your family are responsible for the repayment of the outstanding debt in the event of your death.

vive le mortgage

I have seen a house I would like to buy in Normandy. Will a UK lender be able to help me, and what is involved in the process?

Mr M Malcolm


Yes, There are a number of UK lenders who are able to offer mortgages on properties abroad. Applying for the loan itself is very similar to the procedures used for lending in the UK. Once you have found the property you wish to buy and agreed upon the purchase price, you will be required to enter into a written agreement to buy. A deposit of between 5 and I0 per cent of the purchase price will be required, which in most cases is forfeited if you decide not to proceed.

It is also useful to note that French Law limits the amount you can pay out in mortgage-related payments to 33 per cent of your pre-tax monthly salary. This includes all UK or other worldwide mortgage or rent-related payments.

The loan application will be very similar to one you would be required to complete in the UK, and the normal references would be applied for by your lender.

Completion usually takes two to three months and it is a legal requirement in France that the property is insured upon completion although, as with properties in the UK, you would be advised to insure the property from the date of exchange of contracts.

You should note that French inheritance law is very different from UK law. Under French law, children have greater rights of inheritance than do surviving partners. You would be advised to seek independent advice from a suitably qualified solicitor before purchase.

Answers were supplied by a panel of experts at Woolwich Property Services, and Ekins, the group's surveying services subsidiary. The panel is headed by Alan Oliver, the managing director of Woolwich Property Services, and will answer published queries on buying and selling, valuations, surveys and market factors such as price trends.