Frequently Asked Questions about buying and selling a house

 

What is the conveyancing process? 

Have you finally found the right house to buy or want to sell a house?

Not sure what to do next?

"Conveyancing" refers to the legal process needed for buying or selling a house. Read our Guide-Buying or Selling a Home.pdf and our FAQS below. They will guide you step by step through the purchase and sale process to help you make a smooth move.  

If you don’t find the information you’re looking for, give us a call on 0161 785 3500 or make an enquiry. We will talk you through the process and let you know how much it will cost.

What's involved in buying a property and instructing a solicitor? 

You will need a solicitor or a professional conveyancer to handle the legal side of the conveyancing process.

You might like to read our FAQs on our conveyancing services and  the costs and also Making sure everything’s “quite right” on a property transaction.

What are the conveyancing services and charges? 

How do I get a quote? 

Getting a quote for our services is as easy as pressing a button.  With our new online service you can find out how much it would cost to sell your property, or buy your next home.  With no hidden costs you can start budgeting now for a smooth move.

 

What are your tips for first-time buyers? 

Research the available mortgage options. What's on offer? What level of mortgage is the lending institution likely to offer you? Do you want the interest to be set at a fixed rate or a variable rate – what is best for you? Will the monthly payments be affordable? Is there a little wriggle room in your financial ability to make those monthly payments?

Obtain a mortgage offer before starting your house hunt. Do you need to get a guarantee for the mortgage?

Once you have your mortgage offer, set yourself a realistic budget – and stick to it. How much can you afford to spend on a home?

Have you saved for the other costs of buying a home including stamp duty, the removal costs, buildings insurance and legal fees?

Think carefully about the location - where do you want to live? Is it accessible to your workplace? What services are available nearby? Think about specifics too: for example, is there a supermarket nearby?

Read our step-by-step guide to conveyancing to find out more about the process of buying a house.

What does the word “conveyancing” mean? 

If you’re wondering where the word “conveyancing” comes from… it dates back to the days when solicitors would convey the legal title in a property from the seller to the buyer. Thankfully, we now use plain English to describe this conveyance of a property as a property transfer. However, “conveyancing” seems to be here to stay as a name for the whole process of buying and selling properties.

Please note that we use the words “conveyancer” and “solicitor” interchangeably in these FAQs. A conveyancer might not be a qualified solicitor, but both a conveyancer and a solicitor are qualified to do your carry out the conveyancing process.

What are conveyancing panels? 

Mortgage lenders maintain a panel of trusted solicitors’ firms who they will allow to act on their mortgage lending contracts. House buyers should check that their chosen conveyancing solicitor is on their mortgage lenders' panel. If they are not, different solicitors acting for the buyer and the mortgage lender could lead to delays in the conveyancing process.

What other costs (known as “disbursements”) can I expect to pay for? 

A solicitor or conveyancing professional will charge you a fee for the time spent in conducting the conveyancing process on your behalf. Normally, you will be given a fixed quotation for this fee before you instruct the solicitor to proceed. These are fees for professional services – they are not disbursements.

However, there will always be additional costs to bear on top of your solicitor’s fees. These are often referred to as “disbursements” and will include, for example, search fees and Land Registry fees. Your solicitor/conveyancer will explain what costs you can expect to pay.

We are always “upfront” with our clients about the costs involved. We will set out what disbursements are likely to be incurred throughout the transaction so that there are no hidden surprises on completion.  Read more about our service and the costs.

What is a contract agreement? 

The contract is a legal agreement to sell the title in a property from the seller to the buyer.

The seller's conveyancer will draw up the contract and it will contain the details about the parties, the sale price and what fixtures and fittings are included and other legal restrictions or rights.

The contract is not made binding until the parties exchange the documents and a deposit is (normally) paid. After exchange of contracts, the parties cannot withdraw from the sale without paying compensation – normally in the form of the purchaser giving up the deposit paid on the property.

What’s in a contract package? 

A contract package is put together by the seller’s solicitor/conveyancer.  It includes the contract itself and the Fittings and Contents Form which sets out what is included and excluded from the sale.

As a buyer, what do I need to do when I receive the contract package?

Read the contract carefully. Are all the details correct?  If not, point out the errors to your solicitor.

Read and check the Fittings and Contents Form carefully.  Make sure you understand which items will be left in the house as part of the sale. More to the point, the form will tell you which items the seller intends to take with them.  If there is an item you would really like to have included in the sale, raise it now: it might be possible to negotiate its inclusion.

Raise any queries with your solicitor now.  Don’t delay or you might hold up the completion date.

What is the Fittings and Contents Form? 

The Fittings and Contents Form is part of the contract package and sets out what items will be left in the house. Read the FAQ above and raise any queries you have about this form with your solicitor immediately.

What is a covenant? 

A covenant is a legally binding promise.

Property contracts can sometimes include restrictive covenants that comprise a private agreement between landowners in which one promises to restrict the use of their land for the benefit of the other landowner. For example, a pub in a residential area, might not be able to play loud music after 11pm.  Common restrictions on a housing estate might provide that hedges or fences do not exceed a certain height.

A breach of a covenant can be enforced in court.

What is the Transfer contract/document? 

The Transfer is a legal contract to transfer the title in a property from the seller to the buyer.

The seller’s conveyancer will draw up the Transfer and it will contain the details about the parties, the sale price, the boundaries of the property, what fixtures and fittings are included, whether there are any planning restrictions or other legal restrictions or rights, what the services to the property are and the date for completion of the sale.

The Transfer is normally agreed between the parties but the agreement to sell and buy is not made binding until the parties officially exchange the Transfer. After this exchange of contracts, the parties cannot withdraw from the sale without paying compensation – normally in the form of the purchaser giving up the deposit paid on the property.

What are the “searches” 

You’ll often hear a conveyancer say that they need to carry out the “usual searches”. But what are those searches? The answer depends on the type of property you are buying and its location.

What happens when a search reveals a problem? The conveyancer will raise the issue with the seller’s conveyancer and ask them to resolve it.

What happens if the roads haven’t been adopted 

When a new development is built, such as a housing estate, new roads will necessarily be created.  A developer can make an agreement with the Highway authority for the adoption of those roads by the Highways Authority under section 38 of the Highways Act 1980. Following such adoption, the authority will take over responsibility to maintain the roads and bear the costs of such maintenance from the public purse.

The Highway Authority will either be the local authority or the Secretary of State.

If the developer has not made this agreement with the Highway Authority, then the residents of the road are responsible for maintaining it and the costs of its maintenance. This presents a problem for house buyers as they know they will, at some point in the future have to pay for road repairs or even resurfacing.

What is a section 38 Agreement? 

Section 38 of the Highways Act 1980 makes provision for developers to ask the highways authority to adopt new roads that are built as part of their development. As stated in the above FAQ, adoption by the highways authority means that the Highways Authority will maintain the roads.

However, such agreements can take a while to negotiate and the developer must show that the roads have been constructed to a standard and design agreed with the Highways Authority.

Section 37 of the Highways Act 1980 allows developers to offer up roads for adoption to the Highways Authority after they have been built.

What is an indemnity policy? 

An indemnity policy provides financial protection to the policyholder in the event of losses arising out of issues unknown at the time of the sale/purchase.

A variety of issues can be covered but a common one is for the policyholder to be paid back (or ‘indemnified’) by the insurer for losses if issues arise in the future that they didn’t know about at the sale. This kind of indemnity policy is supplied for “unknown rights reserved”.

This kind of policy does not correct the problem but provides financial protection if the house were to lose value and the buyer later has to take legal action to protect their rights. So for example, if someone claimed there was a right of way under the new house or over the land allowing the public to walk through their garden, it might not be so easy to sell the house in the future and the price might have to be dropped.

PLEASE NOTE: you should always discuss any issues that have been covered by an insurance policy with us before taking any action to resolve the issue or contacting any relevant third parties such as the local authority. Failure to speak to us first, so we can notify the insurer, could invalidate your insurance policy.

What is a property chain? 

A property chain is a series of connected property purchases in which each transaction depends on another being completed.

A property chain is easily broken. It only takes one purchaser to back out for the links in the chain to collapse. For example, one party might find itself in financial difficulties following an unexpected redundancy. Or a selling party might decide to "gazump" its buyer by accepting a higher offer from a third party.

However it happens, a break in the chain means that another buyer/seller has to be found. This causes a delay along the whole property chain.

What is gazumping? 

Being “gazumped” can be an unpleasant experience for a buyer. Just when they think the seller has accepted their offer and they believe they have secured the house of their dreams, the seller goes and accepts a higher offer from a third party. The seller might offer the buyer the chance to increase their offer to match the third party offer and secure the house. However, if the buyer refuses, they lose the property.

Unfortunately, there’s little that buyers can do. Gazumping usually happens before the contracts have been exchanged and a deposit paid. The buyer simply doesn’t have any protection.

What is exchanging contracts? 

The Contract is a legal agreement to sell the title in a property from the seller to the buyer.

The seller's conveyancer will draw up the Contract and it will contain the details about the parties, the sale price and what fixtures and fittings are included and other legal restrictions or rights.

The Contract does not become binding until it is “exchanged” by the parties (usually by their solicitors/conveyancers). A non-refundable deposit is normally paid at this stage. After exchange of contracts, the parties cannot withdraw from the sale without paying compensation. Compensation normally takes the form of the seller keeping the purchaser’s deposit on the property.

What happens before exchange of contracts? 

On exchange of contracts, the buyer pays a deposit and the parties become legally bound to complete on the completion date agreed and stated in the contract. If the buyer backs out from the purchase, the seller is entitled to keep the full deposit. It is quite rare for parties not to complete after exchange.

Because exchange commits the parties to the purchase/sale, the conveyancer will do a number of checks to ensure everything is in place beforehand. This may include pre-completion final searches against the title of the property to ensure nothing has changed. The conveyancer might also suggest that the purchaser:

  • calls their bank to ensure the mortgage / purchase monies are ready to be transferred; and
  • visits the property to ensure it remains as they remember. (We often recommend this step because once exchange has taken place, there is little that can be done to rectify any discrepancies.)

What happens in the few days before completion? 

Your conveyancer will be doing their best to exchange contracts and to set a date for your property transaction to complete (known as the “completion date”).  Completion will not be agreed until the searches are back without any issues being uncovered.

It is now quite common for exchange and completion to take place on the same day. The good old days of two weeks between exchange and completion are long gone: no body is willing to wait around anymore!

If the contracts have not been exchanged, the last few days can be a little nerve-wracking for buyers as there is no guarantee that the purchase will actually take place. Also, if you are involved in a property chain, there is still scope for various things to go wrong. Unfortunately, if something does go wrong, you will have no rights to take any action to recover the costs and time you have spent on the conveyancing process. You will simply have lost the chance to buy the house and will have to bear the wasted costs.

What happens on completion of a property purchase? 

After contracts are exchanged, there may be a number of checks to carry out before the process is completed.

Completion involves:

  • the transfer of the purchase monies to the seller
  • the seller handing over the legal documents required to transfer ownership to the buyer
  • the seller moving out so that the buyer can move in and
  • the property agent (quite often) giving the keys to the buyer.

After these actions have been carried out, the buyer owns the property.

What happens after completion? 

The seller's conveyancer will send the Transfer deed and supporting documents to the buyer's conveyancer.

The Transfer deed is the important document which tells the Land Registry the house should be put into the buyer's name.

The Transfer Deed is submitted to the Land Registry once the conveyancer receives it together with the signed mortgage date to enable the Land Registry to update the Land Register. Once it is updated, the Land Registry sends official copy entries of the Land Register to the conveyancer. These entries show the title to the property in the new owner's name.

Whether acting for a buyer or seller, the conveyancer will normally have prepared and sent their bill for conveyancing fees and disbursements to the client before completion.

At Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers, we offer our conveyancing service for a competitive fixed fee plus disbursements. There should therefore be no surprises when our bill is received!

The conveyancer calculates what funds the client needs to arrange to send (including stamp duty tax) so that the conveyancer can pay for the purchase on completion. If the client is the seller, it enables a calculation of the exact balance of monies to be sent to the client after completion.

The buyer's conveyancer will arrange to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax. This is a "must do"!

If we are acting as the buyer's conveyancer, we normally check with the client whether they want Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers to store the title documents to their new property for safekeeping. If they do, we package up the documents and store them in our secure facility where they can be made available on request.

How do I deal with delays in the process? 

Some delays are inevitable in the conveyancing process. Problems can arise if unexpected issues are revealed through the search process or if a defect in title needs to be remedied. These problems must be resolved before contracts are exchanged. Unfortunately, such problems can sometimes lead to the sale falling through: but better that than finding out after you move in that there’s an issue with the property.

Sometimes, however, the delays are due to the solicitor’s sheer pressure of work. One way to avoid this kind of delay is to take care when you instruct a solicitor or conveyancing professional. For example, do they respond quickly and fully to your first your enquiries?

After buying a house – review your financial position and inheritance plans 

In certain circumstances, we will advise clients to review their inheritance plans and take some financial planning advice – if they didn't do so before the purchase.

Buying a house is one of life's big events and can change the buyer's financial situation. Even those who have already got a will, should review it after buying (or selling) a house.