Since there aren’t any laws prohibiting foreigners from owning properties in the UK, you can buy a house anywhere in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island, despite not being a resident of those countries. However, since you’re a foreigner who might be unfamiliar with the UK’s laws on home-buying, you can be targeted by scammers if you’re not being careful.
Hence, we’ve prepared this simple guide to help you spot a scamming agent, and to fill you in with everything you should expect from a legitimate seller.
The Home-buying Process
If you’ve already bought a house in your home country, you’ll undergo pretty much the same process when you buy a house in the UK. You may also hire an agent, or do everything yourself if it won’t be a hassle for you.
You can finance your house through a mortgage, which may require you to make a 5 to 40% deposit. (The rate is usually higher for non-residents.) But if you’re already living in the UK as part of their Social Housing tenants for over three years now, you’ll have the right to buy that home. You may also refer to the UK government’s assistance schemes if you need to find more financing sources for a new property.
But if you’re still unfamiliar with the UK’s real estate market, you’ll likely hire an agent to help you obtain any form of financing. This is where you have to start being extra careful. Scammers may hack an agent’s email, and communicate with you upon discovering that you’re a foreigner trying to buy a property. They can be pretty convincing because they’ve memorized all of the real agent’s previous correspondences. In turn, you may be persuaded to transfer money to them, and only realize your mistake when the 30-day allowance of banks for identifying fraudulent transfers have already expired.
How to Recognize a Scammer
Once the so-called agent starts urgently requesting money from you without providing an explanation, you’re most likely being scammed. Double-check their email address to see if something has changed. If you spot inconsistencies in their email address as your conversations progress, call them immediately to verify if you’re still communicating with the same person.
Be extra careful when sending documents, too. Even though legitimate agents usually send out PDF documents freely, it can still be unsafe, so use a transaction management system to ensure your documents’ safety.
Most importantly, never transfer money without verifying the account information given to you. If you’re being asked to send sensitive information along with the money, back out of that deal, because no real agent would demand such from their clients.
What to Expect in a Legitimate Deal
The costs of buying a house in the UK should only be the following:
- Stamp duty, which is typically 2 to 12% of a property purchase over £125,000.
- Deposit, which would be your down payment to your mortgage lender.
- Mortgage costs, which include an arrangement fee, a booking fee, and valuation fee.
- Legal fees from hiring a solicitor or conveyancer.
- Land registry fees, which you pay to the UK government to have the property’s deeds transferred to you, and;
- Removal costs, or the costs of transferring your belongings from your old place to your new home.
Your seller should also present you an Energy Performance Certificate from an accredited provider, unless you bought a unit from a residential building that isn’t intended to be used for more than four months in a year.
By knowing all this crucial information about scammers and legitimate sellers, your safety from being a victim of fraud can be guaranteed. It might also help to be assisted by a friend in the UK, just to be totally sure that your home-buying journey will be met by good fate.