By Lesley Stuart, Legal Director and Solicitor, Residential Conveyancing
Buying a home is stressful, especially for first-time buyers, so it’s wise to do some research to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Conveyancing is the term that refers to the legal process of transferring one person’s property (the seller), to another (the buyer).
What does the process involve?
Put simply; this is what conveyancing looks like from start to finish:
Get your mortgage sorted out before you start looking, so you know what your budget is. We have an in-house Independent Mortgage Advise who can help to source and arrange your mortgage for you.
Go house hunting and find the property you want.
Put in an offer, i.e. tell the seller what you’re willing to pay for the property. This is also the time to raise any conditions you have.
Instruct your solicitor – our Conveyancing team has over 70 years’ experience in helping clients buy and sell property.
The offer’s accepted. At this point, you’ll need a survey to check the property’s condition, and your solicitor will review any legal issues.
The checks to be carried out by the Surveyor will include a wide range of examinations, including the structural integrity of the property, whether there’s any signs of subsidence, damp or damage, and whether there are any existing plans for the immediate area that may impact the property. Your solicitor will carry out searches with the local authority, Drainage and Water utilities and environmental bodies to find out the planning history of the property, if there are common drains that serve multiple properties, if there is any history of land contamination, or if you are responsible for any shared public access points. They’ll also look at the deeds and boundaries to check on rights and restrictions affecting the property and will raise a number of enquiries with your Seller’s solicitors – some standard e.g. to see if there are any disputes with neighbouring properties and others that are particular to the property you have chosen. If everything comes back okay, you can move onto the next level – buying your home.
Exchange: This is when you pay your deposit and fix a completion date, which means you can’t back out of the deal without losing a lot of money. To be in a position to exchange you must have a detailed mortgage offer in place, your Solicitor will check that all Lender conditions relating to the property can be satisfied. Some issues e.g. gifted deposits, plan or title discrepancies, lease terms etc may need to be reported to your lenders for them to approve before you can exchange.
You should note that nobody is legally bound to complete the transaction until contracts are exchanged.
Completion: At this stage your solicitor will transfer the rest of the money from your lender in exchange for both the keys and the deeds. At this point, the property is legally yours.
As part of the process, you will receive a list of fixtures and fittings the seller is willing to include within the cost of the property. If you are buying anything extra – tell your solicitor who will get this in writing. That way you’ll manage your expectations and won’t get a nasty surprise upon arrival.
Don’t book the removal van until the completion date has been fixed by way of exchange of Contracts. If you are doing a simultaneous exchange, and completion then be aware that there is risk in booking removals if the plans have to be changed or do not go ahead.
If anything changes in your circumstances after your mortgage offer has been issued eg you are furloughed or have reason to expect this is likely – you must tell you lender and your solicitors.
What is Gazumping?
This term refers to another buyer offering more money to the seller than you have, and the seller goes back on the deal you made. Sadly, you can’t legally protect yourself from this happening if this occurs prior to exchange. However, it’s always worth asking the seller to take the property off the market as part of your original offer. This rapidly reduces the likelihood of another buyer submitting a higher price.
What is Gazanging?
Gazanging is when the seller cancels the sale to stay in their property. This could occur when the market price shoots up as there’s a good chance the seller will make more money if they wait to sell in a few months’ time.
Finding a mortgage and doing all the checks
If you are buying a property, then make sure you’ve got your finances in place first. If you go house hunting before you’ve gone mortgage hunting, you’ll complicate the process, especially if you don’t get the full amount you need and have to scrabble around to make up the shortfall. Don’t automatically go with the first lender you find; mortgage products change almost daily. There are so many mortgage lenders out there, all hustling for your business, especially if you’ve got an excellent credit score. It’s almost inevitable that another lender will match your bank’s offer, or even try to tempt you with a better deal.
Always get a personalised mortgage illustration: this should highlight the important features of your mortgage. Taking out this kind of loan is a massive commitment, so do your due diligence and don’t sign up for anything you’ll regret later on. Remember, a mortgage typically lasts for 25 years, so this is a long-term commitment and not something to be rushed into without a lot of careful thought.
As I mentioned earlier; we have an in-house Independent Mortgage Advise who can help to source and arrange your mortgage for you.
Once you’ve got your finances straight, it’s time to…
Choose Your Conveyancing Specialist
You need a Solicitor, Legal executive or a Licensed conveyancer who is qualified in property law. They’ll handle all the paperwork and conduct the necessary searches to satisfy both the Land Registry and local council. They’ll also:
• Draft the contract
• Manage the exchange of money between the buyer and the seller
Top Tip: A cheap conveyancing fee will probably mean that the majority of your work is being carried out by someone who is not qualified. Money is nearly always tight for first time buyers but don’t choose a firm on price alone. Reputation is key as is personal recommendation.
Ask who is going to be carrying out the work for you and what their experience and qualifications are.
It’s recommended that you find a legal expert who is familiar with conveyancing early on. Ideally find someone who is local (either to you or the property or is known to family and friends) and willing to communicate with you in a way that works for you. This makes the process a whole lot smoother and helps to ensure everything goes through as quickly as possible.
For more information about our Residential Conveyancing services, please contact a member of the Residential Conveyancing team on: 01244 356 789 or email email@example.com
Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.