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General housing advice: buying a house

Around 72% of people in South Ayrshire live in privately owned property. The private housing market is based on people buying existing houses that come up for sale, buying a newly built property from a developer and people building their own homes.

House prices in South Ayrshire can be quite varied, depending on the area, size, quality, type of property etc.

As might be expected, house prices in pressured housing areas such as Ayr, Prestwick and Troon tend to be slightly higher than other areas in South Ayrshire.

House hunting

Lists and details of properties for sale can be obtained by contacting the numerous estate agents and property solicitors operating throughout South Ayrshire. You should ask to be put on their mailing list and you will be sent a regular list of properties that may suit your requirements.

Additionally, local weekly newspapers (The Ayrshire Post, Kilmarnock Standard, Ayr Advertiser, Prestwick & Troon Advertiser, and The Carrick Gazette) also have property sections including estate agents advertisements and private property sales.

If you live locally, you can also find property by simply keeping your eyes peeled for for sale signs in areas where you would like to live.

Getting a mortgage

What is a mortgage ?
Very few people can afford to pay cash for their home, most people need to take out a loan to purchase a property. This loan is known as a mortgage. A mortgage is different form a bank overdraft, credit cards debt or other types of debt for two reasons:

  • It is much larger.
  • It is secured on your property.

When a loan is secured, your home acts as security for the loan. Therefore if you do not keep up with your loan payments, the mortgage lender could repossess your home and sell it to try and recover the money you owe.

Although this step is only a last resort, it is important that you choose carefully and think about how you can protect yourself from falling behind with payments.

Where do I get a mortgage?
It is important to shop around when deciding where to get your mortgage. To do this, it is necessary to consult with different lenders (e.g banks, building societies and mortgage brokers), to find out how much they will lend and what offers they have available.

There are many different types of mortgage available, so don't be tempted into taking the first mortgage that is offered to you. You should make yourself aware of all the offers available before you decide on which mortgage to go for.

You may even wish to consult an independent financial advisor, to help you decide who to borrow from and what type of mortgage suits you best.

Independent Financial Advisors
Independent financial advisors do not charge a fee and are not tied to any one lender.

Therefore they will advise you as to the best deals around and what mortgage suits your circumstances best.

Details of local independent financial advisors can be found in the yellow pages.

How much can I borrow?
Although lenders differ in the amount they will lend, they will generally offer up to 3 times your salary or 2.5 times you and your partner's joint income. It is important to remember that on top of your mortgage you will also have to a number of other payments to budget for once you have become a home owner, including :

  • Council Tax
  • Buildings Insurance
  • Contents Insurance
  • Gas, Electricity & Telephone Bills
  • Television Licence
  • Repairs & Maintenance on your property Food & other groceries

You should take these additional costs into consideration before deciding how much you wish to borrow, you don't have to borrow the maximum amount offered.

You are advised to get your mortgage agreed in principle before you start house hunting, to avoid losing out on a property.

Most lenders will not lend you more than 95% of the amount you need, including survey and legal fees (which usually amount to a few hundred pounds – further details given below).

However if you are a first time buyer, buying a Council house or you are already a customer of the bank / building society you are borrowing from with a good track record, you may be offered a 100% mortgage.

If you can use savings so that you are borrowing less than about 75-80% of the cost of the property, you should get a better rate on your mortgage. Others factors help too, e.g if you have had a mortgage before and kept up to date with payments.

Survey / Valuation
The lender will arrange for a qualified valuer to inspect the property you wish to buy, to check it's value. You will usually have to pay for the valuation, even if you decide not to purchase the property. However, some lenders do not charge for valuations. A basic valuation usually costs around £100 (plus VAT).

The valuation is carried out to help the lender decide whether to lend to the potential buyer a mortgage and how much they should lend them, based on the property they want to buy.

The valuation is not a full survey and will not go into as much detail about repairs and maintenance that the property may need as a full survey would.

You can ask for a full survey to be carried out if you want to thoroughly check the condition of the property, however you will have to pay for this yourself.

A full survey costs considerably more than a basic valuation, as a rough guide you might be expected to pay around £200 - £300.

Solicitors/legal fees

Why do I need a solicitor ?
Buying a house is a legal transaction, you cannot buy a property without the help of a solicitor.

The solicitor is your legal advisor and acts on your behalf. The legal processes in buying a home start at a very early stage, and you need them help of a solicitor to avoid problems later on.

Where do I find a solicitor ?
You can find a solicitor form any of the following sources:

  • Your lender may be able to give you a list of solicitors to choose from
  • You can also get details of local solicitors from the yellow pages.
  • The Law Society Scotland have details of their members on their website.
    You can find a local solicitor clicking on solicitors and entering Ayr in the town field. You can email The Law Society Scotland at
  • If you have consulted an independent financial advisor regarding your mortgage your advisor may be able to recommend a local solicitor.

Once you have found a property you like, your solicitor will begin the legal work that is needed before you can make a formal offer.

How much do solicitors charge?
The legal fees charged by solicitors vary depending on the individual solicitor and on the cost of the property you are buying.

Making an offer
Sellers can either ask for offers over a certain amount or offer the property for sale at a fixed price.

Where offers over are asked, your solicitor will usually advise you what price you should offer. Whether an offer is accepted or not, depends on the number of offers the seller receives.

Usually, the highest offer is accepted by the seller, however this is not always the case. If an offer is accepted, the buyer and seller should go ahead with the deal.

If a property is advertised as fixed price, your offer to buy the property at this price should usually be accepted automatically by the seller, provided you get your offer in before any other potential buyers. Where a seller receives more than one offer at a fixed price, the seller should usually accept the first offer, however this is not always the case.

Further information
Further information on all the stages involved in buying a property can be found in How to buy a home in Scotland which is available from:

Scottish Homes
Thistle House
91 Haymarket Terrace
EH12 5HE
Tel: 0131 313 0044
Fax: 0131 337 0578

A new booklet titled Thinking about buying is also available free from the Scottish Government. Telephone 0131 244 2105.

The booklet lists all the questions the buyer needs to ask at each stage in the purchase process, with helpful advice.

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Last updated: 15 September 2015

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