How to cut the cost of moving house

The housing market may be rocky, with predictions that we're heading for a double dip, yet the cost of moving remains high adding further pressure to house movers and first-time buyers alike.

The true cost of moving can add a huge chunk to an already expensive purchase, so here's our guide to cutting the cost if you're planning a move this year.

Estate agents versus selling online
The key to keeping costs down when you're selling property is to remember that agency fees are negotiable, so never accept the first price offered. Shop around local agents, ask for quotes and use the best ones to bargain with. Remember that while price is important, in the current market more than ever, it is vital to employ an agent that is going to work hard to shift your property for the best price. Pay attention to turnover levels and get recommendations if you can. Watch out for contracts that lock you in and prevent you from using more than agent if you choose to later.

If you want to avoid the cost of estate agents altogether, consider going it alone to market your property online. Private property sales websites, such as House Web and Property Broker allow you to advertise your property to a wide audience. Such sites offer a range of services, from a basic advert with a photo and description for as little as £47, through to packages with more exposure and a 'for sale' board from £129 to £199.

Industry regulations mean these sites can only advertise your property, so you will need to do everything else from writing the description, taking photos, dealing with enquiries and viewings, and negotiating with potential buyers. If you've got the time and energy for this, it's a great way to cut the costs of selling.

Solicitors fees
Solicitors' fees vary enormously, but you'll generally pay more when buying a house compared with selling one due to extra legal steps involved in the purchase process. Solicitors tend to use one of two charging structures – either a fixed fee or a percentage of your homes value. When buying expect to pay anywhere from £400 to £1,000, plus around £200 in search fees and a land registration fee which can cost up to a further £400. If you are selling a property as well, add on another £300 to £700.

Legal issues aren't a place to cut corners and going for solicitor purely based on cost could end up costing more stress, time and money in the long run, so shop around as much as you can. Be very wary of the super cheap firms that may be promoted on internet search engines – try to get personal recommendations and visit the Law Society website to find reputable firms.

Mortgage Costs
Repaying your home loan with interest for 25 five years isn't the only financial hit, you have to pay your lender for the privilege too. When shopping around, either alone or through a mortgage broker, look out for the mortgage arrangement fee, valuation fee and exit or 'early repayment charge' that will be applied if you choose to switch or sell before the end of a deal.

These charges vary widely between lenders and deals, but it's the arrangement fee that will affect the initial cost of your mortgage. You'll notice that fee-free deals tend to have higher interest rates, whereas the higher the fee, the lower the interest rate. Weigh up the costs and check there's no higher lending charge (HLC) if you are borrowing a high percentage of the property value.

Valuation fees are unavoidable and expect to pay from around £175. This is purely to ensure the property is correctly valued, so you'll need to factor in full survey costs on top.

Surveyor's costs
A homebuyer's report carried out by a surveyor will highlight any serious defects; and a full structural survey provides a detailed report on the property's construction - both will provide recommendations and costs to put right any problems.

Either level of survey could save you a huge sum in the long run, particularly in older properties. The results could also may provide a negotiating tool to haggle on price. Surveyors' fees vary but as a guide a homebuyer's report starts at around £300 and full structural surveys at £500. Search for reputable surveyors from the Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors.

Removal costs
Several factors will determine the cost of removal, including area, distance, day of the week and how much stuff you have. Avoid moving on Fridays, especially around Bank Holidays and the end of the month as removal firms often charge a premium on these days.

Have a thorough sort out and de-clutter before you move home to avoid paying for delivery of stuff you don't actually need or want, and make some extra cash by selling unwanted furniture, homewares and kitchen equipment on eBay. Be upfront about how much needs moving, as firms may charge more if they need to bring in another van on the day of the move.

Shop around for removal quotes and choose a firm that is a member of the British Association of Removers (www.bar.co.uk). If you decide to go for DIY removal, consider that while it could be cheaper you still need to factor in your time, van hire, petrol, stress, and unforeseen hassles such as injury and damages.

Many removal firms will offer extra insurance cover, but check your home contents policy before accepting as you may be covered for any damage sustained during the move.
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