House Doctor: 'We've exchanged but are having second thoughts. Can we pull out?'

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The Independent Online

Question: As first-time buyers, we've just exchanged on a £185,000 two-bedroom home but are having horrible second thoughts about the whole thing.

We were worried about buying in the current housing climate but recently made matters worse by (stupidly) going to look at a different property to the one we are buying, and realising we hugely preferred it.

Is there anything we can do to pull out or are we committed now? We are not due to complete until January.

David Tulley, Norfolk

Answer: Most buyers emit a sigh of relief when they finally exchange on a property – not one of despair.

You might be struggling with a sentiment more common in the retail industry known as "buyers' remorse" – a worry that a purchase was made at the wrong time and that, by waiting, a better deal could be had.

However, this tends to apply when buying a new car or gadget rather than a property. "Getting to the finish line usually brings a sense of elation, not deflation, but a first property can be overwhelming – especially for your finances – if you've saved and waited for years," says David Hollingworth of London & Country.

You're legally bound to buy the property when, as you have, you agree to an exchange of contracts; a point at which your solicitor will ask you to sign and pay the deposit before completing.

"The deposit required is usually 10 per cent of the purchase price – if you pull out at this stage you would lose your deposit," says a spokesman for online estate agent www.clicksandmortaruk.com.

You need to ask yourself if losing the best part of £20,000 is a price worth paying for a change of heart.

If you're deeply unhappy – and you're not just struck with first-time nerves – then it might be a bargain compared to the comparative misery of paying a mortgage on a home that you really don't appreciate. Of course, you could try and sell it immediately and – with canny marketing and a lot of luck – even make a tiny profit, but it's highly unlikely as buyers keen to know the reasons for sale could take advantage.

Question: My new landlord seems very lax about looking after my £1,500 deposit. I asked him about the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme and he admitted he was "a bit behind" but says he's on top of it. It's the first time he's rented out a property; should I push him on it?

Kay Simmons, Croydon

Answer: Yes, and don't waste a minute. Since April 2007, landlords must protect their tenants' deposits using a TDP scheme if they have let the property on what's called an assured short-hold tenancy.

The law makes clear that within 14 days of you handing over your deposit, he must give you details of the type of deposit protection scheme he's using.

His tardiness is unacceptable and leaves you exposed in the event of any early dispute, so politely explain your concerns and stress the legal implications.

If it were to turn into an an extreme case, you could apply to the county court for an order that he should pay the deposit back to you – and be ordered to pay you compensation equivalent to three times the value of the deposit you paid. It hopefully won't come to this but press him hastily – you've every right to do so.

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