Buying FAQs

Q. What are the usual main steps in a sale and purchase?
  • Seller puts the house on the market
  • Seller accepts Buyers offer
  • Sellers conveyancer sends draft contract to Buyers conveyancer
  • Buyer arranges mortgage and survey
  • Buyers conveyancer makes searches and enquiries
  • Sellers conveyancer replies to enquiries and sends contract to Seller to sign
  • Mortgage offer made by Buyers lender
  • Buyers conveyancer reports to client with contract
  • Completion date is agreed
  • Buyer gives his conveyancer the deposit, unless the Buyer is also selling and uses the deposit from his sale.
  • Conveyancers exchange contracts and confirm the completion date, the transaction is now legally binding.
  • Buyers conveyancer notifies lender of completion date.
  • Seller arranges to move out.
  • Buyer pays any further sum needed to his conveyancer, and the lender sends the mortgage advance.
  • Completion takes place on the agreed date, the Buyers money is sent to the Sellers conveyancer, on receipt the Seller or his agents release the keys to the Buyer.

We will guide you all the way through the transaction. We will keep in contact with you to make sure you are up to date with progress. We like to be the leaders in the ‘contract race’, but without pushing you into buying a property without a full consideration of any relevant legal issues.

Q. What are the main costs in buying or selling a property?
  • Selling
    • You have to repay your mortgage! Watch out for any Early Repayment Charge. There may also be an administration fee.
    • Estate agent’s commission. Be careful you do not incur liability to two or more agents!
    • Conveyancer’s fee. Usually the only ‘disbursement’ is likely to be a small charge for a copy of the title documents from the land registry.
    • VAT on estate agents commission and conveyancers fee.
    • You usually do not have to pay capital gains tax, unless you are not selling your home.
    • If you are selling a flat, there will be a charge for a sale pack from the landlord or managing agent
  • Buying
    • Mortgage arrangement fees – sometimes added to the mortgage loan.
    • Valuation fee for the mortgage.
    • Surveyor’s fee.
    • Search fees paid to the conveyancer – usually @£350.
    • Conveyancers fee.
    • VAT on surveyor’s and conveyancer’s fees.
    • Land registry registration fee, paid to the conveyancer, typically @ £135.
    • Stamp Duty Land Tax, paid to the conveyancer, by far the biggest expense. It depends on the purchase price, for example :
      • price £400,000, SDLT £10,000
      • price £600,000, SDLT £20,000
      • price £950,000, SDLT £38,750
      • there is a higher rate unless this is your only property.
    • There may be other expenses, especially if this is a purchase of a flat.

We will prepare a budget at the outset, to give you clear guidance on the costs you can expect.

Q. What is the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer?

A solicitor is a trained lawyer who is a member of the Law Society and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Some solicitors specialise in property work and are also referred to as conveyancers. A conveyancer who is regulated by the Council of Licenced Conveyancers specialises in conveyancing, and does not deal with other legal matters. There are unqualified employees in firms of solicitors and conveyancers who undertake conveyancing work who call themselves conveyancers, but they cannot call themselves solicitors.

Our conveyancing solicitors specialise in property and we are accredited by the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

Q.How long does a sale or purchase take?

Usually the target is to exchange contracts in four weeks and complete in eight weeks from the date the draft contract is received by the buyer’s conveyancer. This often takes longer because an unexpected problem arises, or someone does not make every effort to make progress quickly. The usual problem is that there is a chain of people who all need to exchange and complete on the same day. If there is a chain things will not happen at the same time for everyone, and the transactions will have to wait for the slowest part of the chain to be ready.

We try to get all the information we need at the start of the transaction, so that we can exchange and complete as soon as possible. We prefer to meet our clients in person at the outset to make sure we fully understand their needs and expectations, so that we can deliver on them. We do not push you into buying a property as quickly as possible simply because that will look as though we are the fastest conveyancers in the country.

Q. What is meant by freehold and leasehold?

A house or land should be sold freehold. This means you own the land and the house without ever having to pay rent. There might be a service charge to cover the costs of shared expenses, such as roads or landscaping, and that service charge might be made enforceable by a ‘rentcharge’ or covenant, sometimes even by a long lease arrangement of 999 years.

A flat is usually sold leasehold. This means the flat owner does not own any part of the building, and has to pay a ground rent to the owner, typically £250 per year, sometimes more, sometimes a ‘peppercorn’ that is, nothing. The lease is typically for a term of 99 to 999 years. Usually, the term is extended, and not allowed to come to an end, but there is a cost for this. There will be a service charge for shared expenses, such as maintenance of the building. The law on leaseholds is very, very, complicated. There can be expensive service changes which can include high administration costs by landlords and managing agents.

As specialist property solicitors, we have the training and knowledge to guide you on property law matters.

Q. Why do I need a survey?

We will deal with legal issues, but we cannot give you advice about the condition of the property. You need a surveyor to do this. The type of survey depends on the age and condition of the property, the surveyor should advise what is needed. He might help us by identifying problems with boundaries or access, which might not be apparent from the documents we see. Even with a new build property, we will recommend a survey, to make sure it is built to the standard promised.

The contract you will sign to buy the property confirms that you buy it on the basis of your survey, you cannot complain if there is a problem with the condition of the property which you discover after you have bought it. The exception to this is a new build home, which should have NHBC or similar warranty insurance for 10 years.

Even if the seller assures you about the condition of the property, and might have made a misrepresentation, you would not wish to end up in court over the matter, with all the time and cost that would take, as well as an uncertain outcome.

Q. How can I buy a property at an auction?

You need to prepare for this. The auctioneer will release a legal pack, usually at least 14 days before the auction, which we need to see as soon as possible, in case there are matters to be checked or investigated. You need to have all the money arranged before the auction. It might not be practicable to obtain a mortgage for an auction purchase. On the day of the auction, if your bid is accepted, you need to pay a 10% deposit. Completion will be fixed for, usually, 28 days after the auction. If you cannot find the money, or change your mind, you lose your 10% deposit.

Be cautious, some properties are sold at auction because there is a problem and they cannot be sold in the usual way.

Q. Should I instruct the conveyancer recommended by the estate agent?

Many local agents recommend our firm, because we are efficient and reliable for sellers and buyers, which avoids the sale being lost because of delays or mistakes. But some estate agents recommend a conveyancer because they receive a referral fee, or they can pressure that conveyancer to get the buyer to move quickly, or because there is a corporate connection between the estate agent and the conveyancer which increases the income of the companies. In those cases, the recommendation is to benefit the agent, not you, and so should be avoided.

Q. What deposit do I need to buy a property?

First, the deposit means something different to conveyancers and lenders. A conveyancer refers to the 10% which needs to be paid to the seller’s conveyancer when contracts are exchanged. If the buyer then does not complete the purchase, that deposit is paid to the seller, who can sell the property to someone else. Sometimes a seller will accept less than 10% if this is a problem for the buyer, 5% for example. It is up to the seller. Or if you are selling at the same time, the deposit from your sale will be used towards your purchase, but you might need to ‘top-up’ the 10%.

A mortgage lender refers to the deposit as being the difference between the mortgage loan and the price of the property. This might be more or less than 10%. If the mortgage loan is 5%, you will need to have the sellers agreement to accept that rather than 10% on exchange. If the seller will not agree, you may need a short term loan of 5% between exchange and completion, or to exchange and complete on the same day.

It is now often the case that parents provide a deposit to a child to ‘get on the housing ladder’. This is called a gifted deposit, and it should be disclosed during the mortgage application.

Q. Can I exchange and complete on the same day?

This is unusual, because if you are selling a house, you will only book removals when you know the buyer has committed to the purchase, that is, when exchange takes place. If the property is empty, and the buyer has organised all the finance needed, a simultaneous exchange and completion is possible, but this needs to be organised well in advance as the legal work has to be done and all the documents have to be signed.

Q. Can you act for both seller and buyer?

Different solicitors in our firm can separately represent the seller and the buyer, as long as there is no conflict of interest. We have to be careful here, because if a conflict of interest arises in a transaction, we would normally have to stop acting for both parties, which can mean wasted costs and delays.

A conflict of interest in this context is where the requirements of the two parties are different. For example, if the seller wants the sale to complete as soon as possible, but the buyer needs time to organise finance, without telling the seller. In that case we cannot act for the buyer as well as the seller, because we might have to withhold the buyers circumstances from the seller, who is also our client.

There are benefits, as we will deal with the matter efficiently for both parties, with full confidence in the other solicitor, there will be good communications and very simple and safe arrangements for the transfer of money.

Q. What is an exchange of contracts?

It is the telephone conversation between the parties conveyancers when they each commit their clients to the transaction. At this point the completion date is confirmed. Up to exchange, nothing is binding except the expenses each party incurs. After exchange, most transactions proceed to completion. If either party cannot or will not proceed, he will have to compensate the other party for the breach of contract.

Q. Will you use email?

Yes, most of the time we will contact you by email to save time. Some documents will have to be posted to you for signature. We prefer to meet you in person at some stage so that we fully understand your needs and expectations, and so that you are confident about the service we provide.

Q. Do you give free advice?

We are quite happy to have an initial discussion, by email, telephone, or in person at one of our offices, if you are deciding whether to engage our services. We do not give legal advice until you have signed a letter of engagement confirming our terms and conditions. At that stage we would normally expect to be paid an agreed fee.

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