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Q. Can I buy or rent an empty home?

Buying or renting an empty home seems an ideal solution both to your housing problems and the waste of a home standing empty. In reality it can be a lengthy and difficult process, with no guarantee of you getting the empty property you want. There are many reasons why a home is empty and there is no simple ‘formula’ for bringing empty properties back into use.

  • I want to buy an empty home
  • Find out who owns the property and where you can contact them. The owner could be a:
  • local authority
  • housing association
  • government department
  • private company or
  • private individual.

For details on how to trace owners

  • You will then need to contact the owner and ask whether they are interested in selling the property to you. Remember that owners may be reluctant to sell their empty homes for a whole variety of reasons.
  • If the owner is interested in selling the property, you will need to agree a purchase price. You should remember that just because a property is empty and needs renovating, it won’t necessarily be cheap to buy. Owners will usually ask the market price, less the cost of any renovation. If homes in your area normally sell for £100,000 and the renovation work costs £20,000, the purchase price will probably be about £80,000. You will need to negotiate to get the best deal possible.
  • Once you have agreed the price, you will need to follow all the usual steps for buying a home. You will need to:
  • put down a deposit
  • arrange a mortgage and loan to cover renovation costs
  • have the building surveyed by a surveyor
  • get local authority and Land Registry searches and
  • get all the other legal processes carried out by a solicitor or conveyancer.
  • Getting the finance to buy a derelict home can be difficult as lenders often view these properties as a risky investment. Some building societies now offer ‘brown’ or ‘eco’ mortgages which cater specifically for people wanting to renovate empty and derelict homes, for example:
  • the Ecology Building Society (www.ecology.co.uk) and
  • the Norwich&Peterborough Building Society (www.npbs.co.uk) .

For advice on finding a lender, contact the:
Council of Mortgage Lenders
3 Saville Row
London
W1X 4AF
Phone: 020 7437 0075
Fax: 020 7440 2262.

  • You could look into buying a property at an auction. Empty properties are sometimes on offer and local councils generally sell their unwanted properties in this way. If you want to buy a property at an auction, you should be aware of the following.
  • It is up to you to find out details of the property before the auction day.
  • You need to have all financial arrangements, such as a mortgage, in place before the auction.
  • If your bid is successful, you must go through with the purchase within a specified number of days.

For details of auctions in your area, contact the:
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
Customer Services Department
12 Great George Street
Parliament Square
London
SW1P 3AD
Phone: 020 7222 7000.

For a free guide to buying property at auctions, contact:
Strettons
Central House
189–203 Hoe Street
London
E17 3SZ
Phone: 020 8520 8383
Website: www.strettons.co.uk