You have decided to buy a home - but what next? The maze of legal work, negotiations, dealing with surveyors and solicitors, finding a good mortgage deal and worrying about your deal falling through, on top of actually hunting down the home of your dreams, is enough to make anyone's hair stand on end.
Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions that you will make in your life. It is a lengthy and complicated business, which while exciting is often fraught with stress and worry. But luckily there is a lot of good advice around helping you to make your home-buying experience as easy and problem-free as possible.
After finding a home you like, which can take anything from a few days to many months, the process from having your offer accepted to completion of the sale takes about 12 weeks. This is about twice as long as in many other countries - home-buying in Britain is a notoriously drawn-out business.
It is important to have a good understanding of the process as it will help you to avoid some of the most common hazards of home-buying. The first thing you need to do is decide how much you can afford. You will need to look at how much money you have available yourself and how much you can borrow;
Before finally deciding how much to spend on a property, you need to be sure you will have enough money to pay for all the additional costs. These include:
- Survey fees
- Valuation fees
- Stamp Duty Land Tax
- SDLT calculator
- Land registry fee
- Local authority searches
- Fees, if any, charged by the mortgage lender or someone who arranges the mortgage, for example, a mortgage broker
- The buyer's solicitor's costs
- Removal expenses
- Any final bills i.e. gas and electricity, from your present home which will have to be paid when you move.
Unexplained Wealth Order, March 2018
From 31 January 2018, UK authorities can apply to the Courts for an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) to require a person to explain and account for the origins of their income assets. Unexplained Wealth Orders are requested where there is a substantive concern that assets have been acquired from the proceeds of serious crime and where assets owned by a person are inconsistent with their income. It is highly unlikely that the average wealthy person will ever receive an Unexplained Wealth Order.
On the 25th of June 2015 the European Union updated the European Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures with the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. All EU member states had to comply with this new directive by 26 June 2017. The UWO should be seen as an extension of the Directive specifically formulated to combat serious crime. It applies to all nationalities, including those who are British by birth. It is expected that all EU member states and other regions will adopt similar provisions in the near term. These enhanced AML procedures are primarily to focus on ultimate beneficial ownership and enhanced customer due diligence (CDD). The procedure, also expand the definition of a politically exposed person (PEP).
An Unexplained Wealth Order SOLE aims to only confiscate the proceeds of crime. The UWO uses civil powers instead of criminal powers. The power is part of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and was introduced to seize Proceeds of Crime. It does NOT target individuals from any one country or region.
PROCEDURES & APPLICATION
To apply for a UWO a government agency has to fully comply with both, the due process of law, and with the Human Rights Act with particular reference to Article 6, which protects a person's right to a fair trial and Article 8 which protects the right to privacy.
In applying for a UWO the concern is wholly and solely with the proceeds of crime. In this it is understood that for some wealth was made in times of significant geopolitical disruption. Additionally, in other countries and regions cash is still the defacto means of exchange even for very high value items. As long as this wealth, and the income arising from it, has been created through genuine business opportunities or legitimate gifts the UWO will have no bearing on the individual.
PREPARATION / PROTECTION
To address any concerns that non-domiciled individuals and families have the following steps should be followed:
- A precise summary should be prepared of the background and as to how wealth has been acquired.
- Where ever possible and where records exist the significant events that helped to establish the wealth or secure the income should be evidenced with copies of key documents.
- Where possible have third party support for these events from accountants, lawyers, other independent professional parties or professional colleagues.
It is important that this summary is professionally prepared in a format that complies with the English legal system, with supporting documentation correctly annotated. Once prepared several copies of the whole should be sworn and notarised.
With the introduction of the UWO it is to be expected that businesses selling high value items will start to want to have some form of verification as to the source of funds.
Accordingly those that own, or are about to sell or acquire significant assets should anticipate an enquiry as to the source of wealth.
The UWO is an administrative exercise where there is a real suspicion of crime. By properly assisting an enquiry the person validates their innocence.
If a UWO is received a statement explaining the background to the wealth or asset must be provided within a time specified by the court. If the respondent fails to reply or comply with the UWO they can presume then guilt can be assumed. It is important that origins of wealth are well prepared and replies are made and/or challenges made.
There are a number of ways in which you could find a property to buy:
- Using estate agents
- Looking at the property pages in local newspapers
- Contacting house building companies for details of new properties being built in the area
- Looking on the internet.
Estate agents must comply with laws that protect consumers from unfair sales and marketing practices. More information on these laws and what you can do to make buying a home run more smoothly is available from:
- www.oft.gov.uk — Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
- www.conveyancer.org.uk — The Council for Licensed Conveyancers
- www.lease-advice.org.uk — The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE)
BSE Mayfair is a member of The Property Ombudsman Scheme for Residential Sales Agents and will comply with the Scheme's Code of Conduct (full details can be found at www.tpos.co.uk).