Residential Conveyancing - Frequently Asked Questions

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Our dedicated team of property experts is on hand to do everything possible to support and guide you through your property transaction. We want to provide you with as much information as we can about the conveyancing process right from the outset, which is why we have put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. How long will ​conveyancing take?
  2. Should I have a survey done when buying a property?
  3. Is a deposit really necessary when you buy a property?
  4. Why is a written mortgage offer so important?
  5. What is a local authority search?
  6. What are environmental matters in conveyancing?
  7. How do I check about fixtures and fittings?
  8. What do I do about buildings insurance when buying a property?
  9. When do the estate agents, lenders and solicitors have to be paid?
  10. Why does completion have to take place on a working day?
  11. How do I sort out the keys when I've bought a property?
  12. Conveyancing Useful Links

How long will conveyancing take?

On average, straightforward transactions take approximately 8 weeks to complete. However, property conveyancing is often dependent on a 'chain' and complications can arise which will hold the process up. When contracts are exchanged a fixed moving date will be confirmed for the first time. PLEASE DO NOT make any financial commitments e.g. booking removals until contracts have been safely exchanged and a definite completion date has been agreed.

Should I have a survey done when buying a property?

If anything is found to be structurally wrong with the property after exchange of contracts the seller is not liable and the buyer will have to pay for any necessary repairs. A mortgage valuation report alone does not cover the condition of the property in detail and offers the buyer no legal protection. For these reasons it is advisable to have a structural survey undertaken and it is often possible, for an extra fee, to arrange for the lender's valuer to carry out a survey at the same time.

Is a deposit really necessary when you buy a property?

When contracts are exchanged, a deposit is paid over to the seller's solicitor and if you fail to complete the purchase on time, the seller can keep this deposit. If you are a first time buyer, the seller's solicitor will often ask for at least 5% of the purchase price as a deposit, and if you cannot raise this, you should contact us immediately for advice.

Why is a written mortgage offer so important?

You will be legally committed to buy your new property when contracts are exchanged and we need written confirmation that your lender will provide the funds you require, and upon what terms, to ensure you can complete your purchase on the due date. There are often conditions in the written offer that need to be satisfied before funds are released, such as work to be carried out to the property. In addition, you need to be happy with the product you are being offered, and to be able to take advice on it. It is important that you can meet all of the conditions before exchange of contracts takes place.

What is a local authority search?

This is an investigation to find out any important information affecting the property, which may be on the local authority's records. For example it may reveal an extension is in breach of Building Regulations, or that the nearest road is not maintained by the local authority, or that a road-widening scheme will affect the property. It will not give any information about proposals to develop any neighbouring land or properties, and if you have concerns in this respect please discuss them with us.

What are environmental matters in conveyancing?

Environmental factors are increasingly important as local authorities can now require owners to clean up any contamination on their property even if the current owner has not caused the contamination.  This could prove costly. We will submit an environmental search on your behalf as part of the conveyancing process so that you can be sure your new property is clear of any such problems.

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How do I check about fixtures and fittings?

It is important that everyone is clear about what is included or excluded in the sale price.  If you are selling you will be asked to complete a list, which we will provide, which will be sent to the buyer’s solicitor for consideration.  If you are buying we will send you a copy of the completed list for you to consider as soon as we receive it.  If necessary, the buyer and seller should get together to discuss these matters in detail and before exchange of contracts, to resolve any issues.

What do I do about buildings insurance when buying a property?

The buyer should insure the property being bought from exchange of contracts. This will happen automatically if your lender is arranging the insurance for you. If not, the property should be insured for the estimated cost of rebuilding it, including clearing the site. You will need to make provisional insurance arrangements before contracts are exchanged so that cover can be effected as soon as they are. Your lender's valuation or survey will often give you the figure you need to insure your property for. If not, discuss this with your provisional insurers. Developers will insure their properties until the completion date. So, if you are buying a brand new property you will only need to insure it from the day you buy it from them.

When do the estate agents, lenders and solicitors have to be paid?

On a sale, when contracts have been exchanged, we will prepare a completion statement (financial summary) which will set out all the figures involved, including the estate agent's fee and the amount(s) required to pay off the mortgage(s) on the completion date. On a purchase, we will prepare a completion statement, which will include the net amount of any mortgage advance, and all other out of pocket expenses such as Stamp Duty Land Tax and the Land Registry fee. You will need to provide the balance required (if any) to complete the transaction, including the legal fees and expenses for the work we do for you and the lender. Any payment must be received by us at least 7 working days before the completion date if paid by cheque, or the day before if paid by bank transfer.

Why does completion have to take place on a working day?

Completion is effected when the purchase monies for the property are paid over to the seller's solicitor. At present, the banks only transfer money electronically on a working day so completion cannot take place on a weekend.

How do I sort out the keys when I've bought a property?

On completion the seller should hand the keys over to the estate agents. It frequently happens that this is not convenient and the seller will hand them directly to the buyer. It is important that you find out and agree the arrangements for the keys once contracts have been exchanged.

Is the conveyancing process different for leasehold properties?

Leasehold properties can be any type of home, including flats or houses. Instead of the buyer owning the freehold of their new property (i.e. owning the building and land outright), instead they own the lease to the land and home, which will have a set amount of time to run on it, and can be anything up to 999 years, depending on the terms of the lease.

When buying a leasehold property, the conveyancing process is a little different to the process of purchasing a freehold home, and may take a little longer to carry out. The main differences are related to the lease itself as your conveyancing solicitor will need to check all documentation and ensure that there are no issues with the lease that could potentially cause problems for the buyer or the mortgage lender.

All of the usual local searches and queries have to be carried out or raised, but then some of the additional information required can include:

  • Identifying the freeholder and whether they require/have consent to sell the lease
  • Checking the unexpired years on the lease
  • Assisting in the lease extension process, if required
  • Checking the lease terms and conditions
  • Verifying any service charges or ground rent due
  • Checking freeholder/leaseholder responsibilities e.g. insurance
  • Verifying if a management company is involved and any associated costs

What conveyancing services do I need when self-building my home?

When you are planning to self-build your new home, you will usually need conveyancing assistance when buying the land that you want to build on. There will need to be surveys carried out on the land to find out if there are issues or covenants which would make it impossible to build on. The conveyancing process would also establish whether the seller has the relevant titles, the status of access rights to the plot and any public or private rights of way that have an impact on the plot.

Land registry fees will apply to the purchase, as they would to a standard residential property you could buy, and Stamp Duty Land Tax may be due, depending on the specifics of the land involved.

Is conveyancing for buy-to-let properties any different to a normal residential purchase?

There are a number of factors that can make the conveyancing process for a buy-to-let property a little different from a regular residential purchase. In addition to all of the usual local searches and enquiries made with any property purchase, plus dealing with changes to the land registry, other considerations for the conveyancer may include:

  • The right of the owner to let out the home (some properties have restrictive covenants which prevent letting)
  • Whether the property is currently tenanted and, if so, establish the details and terms of the tenancy
  • Whether any special protections are required due to a limited title guarantee

What is different about conveyancing for a new build home?

Depending on the circumstances, many people purchasing new build properties actually do so before their new home is even built, on the basis of what they see in a show home. There may not even be a firm date that the new home is due to be completed by so it can be impossible to give a moving date until much further down the line. Often, the developers require a quick turnaround, of just a few weeks, before exchange of contracts, and buyers who fail to meet deadlines can find that ‘their’ home is sold to someone else instead and they lose their reservation fee.

There are also a number of different routes to home ownership now, such as shared ownership, using government-backed schemes such as help-to-buy, and many different types of homes available, including flats, houses and retirement homes, both freehold and leasehold.

An experienced new-build conveyancing solicitors can help buyers to navigate the complex process leading up to the exchange of contracts, then ensure that all of the necessary legal assistance is provided so that completion, which can be some time after exchange if the property is not yet built, progresses as smoothly as is possible.

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