While there are a large number of differences between the approach to buying a home in the US and the UK, there are also a few similarities that may make the process feel a little more familiar.
Here, the team at UK-based sell house fast experts Property Solvers will explain a few of the elements that the US and UK real estate systems have in common. This may just help you get to grips with the procedures involved, whichever country you’re purchasing in!
While house hunting in both countries can be as quick as a few days or as lengthy as a number of years – depending on how soon you come across your ideal property – the process that takes place between putting in an initial offer to completing a sale is fairly similar in length in both the US and the UK.
Specialists advise that it takes 50 days on average for the keys to be handed over in the states, while most homebuyers in the UK experience a process of around 2-3 months. Overall, the American system seems to be slightly quicker, but the timings in general are relatively similar.
“Pre-qualification” or Agreement in Principle
In most cases, both the UK and US real estate systems require that buyers achieve some form of basic approval for a mortgage before they are able to make an offer on a property.
In the US, this is referred to as being “pre-qualified”, while the UK calls it an “agreement in principle”. For both, the buyers need to undergo a credit check and confirm that their income will allow them to successfully keep up with mortgage payments throughout their time in the property.
Deposits or Down Payments
Unless you are lucky enough to be able to purchase a home outright, it is likely that you will rely on a mortgage to help you afford the greater part of your home’s asking price. In order to get a mortgage, you’ll first need a deposit.
The amount you will need to pay up front is similar in both the US and the UK. On average, UK homebuyers put in around 17% of the property’s value, while US residents are recommended to pay about 20%. However, both countries allow deposits of 10% or even 5% – with the lowest possible amount permitted in the US coming in at around 3%.
There is a greater difference between the size of deposit required to achieve the best possible deal on repayments; in the US it’s 20%, while in the UK it’s 30%.
Assistance from Agents and Solicitors
Although agents in America are hired on an individual basis instead of working on your behalf as part of an estate agency, they do a very similar job to all intents and purposes.
In both the UK and the US an estate agent, real estate agent or realtor will work on your behalf to create a bridge of communication between the prospective buyer and seller of a property. You will not be required to do this on your own!
They will accompany you on viewings and give you access to the properties you are looking at. They’ll also discuss your options with you, help you to make an offer and let you know what changes need to be made in order for the amount to be accepted by the buyer.
Furthermore, your estate agent, real estate agent or realtor will be the ones to hand over the keys and deeds once a sale has been completed.
You’ll also need representation from a lawyer or solicitor in both countries to ensure that the sale goes through smoothly and that both parties hold up their end of the bargain.
When it comes to making an offer, it’s possible to change the amount you suggest in both the UK and the US. In fact, it’s fairly common that multiple different amounts are discussed before settling on an agreed price.
The approach in both countries is usually to make an initial offer – commonly slightly below the asking price to see whether the seller is willing to drop the amount at all. The seller may turn this offer down, but it’s possible to suggest other amounts until you reach an agreement.
In the US, an offer that is not accepted is countered by a counteroffer from the seller which then nullifies the original amount. It is often a little more open ended in the UK; if the seller refuses to accept one amount, the buyer must come back with an alternative offer. This can continue until both parties are satisfied.
In both the US and the UK, if a number of prospective buyers are making offers at the same time, the sale may go to “best and final” – meaning all buyers who are interested must put forward an unchangeable amount which is the highest they are willing to offer for the property. The largest amount is usually accepted.
To reiterate, some of the top similarities between the US and UK real estate systems are:
- The average time it takes to complete the sale of a house
- The concept of “pre-approval” for a mortgage
- The average sizes of deposits or down payments
- The necessity to be represented by both an estate agent or realtor and a solicitor
- The process of “haggling” until an ideal price is reached
If you’re planning on purchasing property overseas, it’s important to research the process extensively and find out what you’ll need to do in order to be successful. You’ll find that there are many differences between the UK and US real estate systems.
Developing a level of confidence and understanding of the steps required to purchase property abroad will mean that each part of the process will feel more straightforward and less stressful.
To that end, we hope that the above piece has helped to reveal some of the more noticeable similarities to get you started on your journey towards understanding the homebuying process in both countries.