Conveyancing – Frequently Asked Questions

Conveyancing – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Conveyancing?

It is the term used to describe legal work involving the buying and selling of properties. 


How long will the whole process take?

The amount of time a sale or purchase may take can vary significantly.  The factors to consider are whether you are in a chain of transactions, if a mortgage is required and how quickly the local authority return searches. It also depends on whether the property is freehold or leasehold. Transactions of leasehold properties tend to take longer to complete than freehold transactions.

It is likely that a mortgage will be required and there will be a chain of transactions and if that is the case it will usually take 8 to 10 weeks to exchange contracts and then another 2 weeks between exchange of contracts and completion making a total of 10 to 12 weeks from start to finish.


What is a Chain?

Reference to a chain is where there is more than one buyer and seller involved, e.g. you are selling to someone who in turn is selling to someone else. Unfortunately, a chain of conveyancing transactions can only proceed at the pace of the slowest link. Purchasers waiting for search results or mortgage offers can cause delays to the chain.  Even when everyone is ready the longer the chain the more difficult it can be to agree a completion date as the various people up and down the chain all have their own preferences for moving dates.


How soon do I need to pay any money?

If you are purchasing a property we will ask you for approximately £300.00 at the beginning to cover the search fees that will be paid out on your behalf. When contracts are exchanged, we will require the deposit to be paid to us in cleared funds.
If you are just selling, we usually ask you to pay us £100.00 in advance.  The remainder of our costs, disbursements and agents fees will be paid out of the sale proceeds on completion, before the balance is sent to you. We will deduct any sums to your lender before we pay you the balance.


Why do I have to provide my solicitor with various items of ID before I can proceed with selling or buying a property?

We are required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Land Registry and current Money Laundering Regulations to certify that we have checked the identity of our clients.  It is also often a condition of your mortgage offer.  In addition, we have to complete various forms, particularly those relating to stamp duty land tax and we need to have information such as your full names, national insurance number and date of birth.


Do I need a survey?

If you are taking out a mortgage to assist with your purchase, a surveyor/valuer will inspect the property on behalf of the lender. The surveyor’s report will give an indication as to the property’s value and may highlight any areas of concern.  Whilst there have been cases where borrowers have been able to rely to some extent on a lender’s valuation report, the prudent way to proceed is on the basis that if the lender’s valuer has made a mistake or misses something, you will not have recourse against them.
For an extra fee you will usually be offered the option to arrange for the same valuer to carry out a more detailed “Home Buyers Report”. You can rely upon this, so if at a later date you find a problem that is not mentioned in the report you may have some redress against the valuer.
If the property is quite old or you are concerned about its condition you can obtain a full structural survey report which will provide further detail.
Broadly speaking there is no duty on the part of a seller to disclose defects in the physical condition of a property.  For all practical purposes you should therefore rely on your own surveyor or valuer.


What searches are carried out and why?

There are four main types of search that will be carried out by the buyer’s solicitor .

Local Authority Search

A local authority search reveals information about a property, such as planning permissions and building regulation consents, proposals for roads or traffic schemes and environmental and pollution notices, tree preservation orders, conservation areas and any other matters within the Council’s control that may affect the property.  A local authority search only reveals matters that affect the property being searched against. It will not disclose matters that relate to neighbouring properties.  If you have any concerns about neighbouring properties, please tell us.

Drainage & Water Search

This will show whether or not the surface and foul water drains run into a public or private sewer.  It will also show whether the property is connected to mains water.  The replies may also show the location of public sewers within the boundary of a property and other such matters that may restrict development.

Chancel Search

A chancel repair search shows whether the owner of a property may be liable to contribute towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of a parish church. We would advise you not to contact any parish churches directly in relation to chancel repair liability, as this may limit the availability of indemnity insurance

Environmental Search

An environmental search will provide a report about the likelihood of contamination at a property based on past land uses.  If a local authority determines that land is contaminated, and the party who caused the contamination cannot be found, the current owner or occupier of the land may be required to remedy the contamination. This can be an expensive process, so it is important to check the position before committing to buy a property.  An environmental search will also provide details about flood risk, which can be followed up with an full flood search if appropriate.

What is a deposit?

A deposit is the amount of money paid across at exchange of contracts.  It acts as security in the event that you do not complete the purchase.  It is usual for the deposit to be 10% of the purchase price, but the actual amount depends on what you have available and what the seller is willing to accept.

How much do I need for a deposit?

Traditionally, the deposit has been 10% of the purchase price, but provided that the seller is willing to accept less, a lower amount can be used. If you are buying and selling within a chain, it is quite common to use the deposit received in connection with your sale for your purchase so you do not always have to find extra at exchange of contracts.

Can either party withdraw without a penalty being incurred?

The short answer is yes.  Until contracts exchange, there is no binding commitment to proceed.  Therefore, either party can pull out of the transaction (and potentially the chain), whether it is as a result of replies to enquiries, issues with the title, a negative survey or simply a change of mind without any obligation to pay compensation to the other parties in the chain.

If you exchange and then withdraw from the transaction , for whatever reason, you will lose your deposit  and could be liable to pay compensation to the seller.

Should you decide to withdraw you would still be liable to pay your legal fees and any disbursements incurred.  However, if the other party to the transaction withdraws for any reason before contracts are exchanged and you have taken out our TurnKey Cover your legal fees to the appropriate limit will be covered.

Restrictive Covenants – What are they and do they affect me?

These are obligations which are imposed when a land owner sells off some land and wishes to retain some control over the land that has been sold. For example:

  • A brewery sells a property and imposes a covenant prohibiting the sale of alcohol from the property;
  • A developer builds an estate and imposes a covenant against each of the plots prohibiting any alterations or extensions to the property;
  • A restriction which prohibits the parking of boats or caravans on a driveway

If you subsequently breach any of the restrictive covenants imposed against your property, the person with the benefit of the covenant could take legal action against you to enforce the covenant and/or claim damages.

What are Indemnity Insurance Policies?

Indemnity polices are insurance policies taken out to protect you against a defect in the title of the property.  Title defects range from a property having building works carried out without the required building regulation consent to a breach of covenant.  The policy is designed to cover you against losses incurred should a third party take action as a result of the defect.

What happens with the keys?

The keys are usually left with the estate agents (if any) and the buyer collects them once the money has been paid over on the day of completion. If there are no estate agents (or this is not convenient) then the seller can hand them direct to the buyer.

What should I do once I get my keys on completion and begin to move in?

Have a good look around the property, check the loft, garden and any outbuildings (i.e. the garden shed and garage).  Take a copy of the Fittings and Contents list with you and check that all items, which are due to be left, have been. Check that there are no items left which should have been removed, including any rubbish. You must report any discrepancies to us immediately so that we can take the appropriate action. You will also need to check the meters and make contact with the utilities providers including the local council office.

When will I get my title deeds to the property?

All ‘deeds’ for registered properties are held online in an electronic format at H M Land Registry. You will no longer receive a big bundle of old documents, but simply a copy of the electronic register once registration of the property in your name has taken place.   Registration is dealt with after completion of your purchase so you will most likely receive a copy of the updated register entries within a month of completion.

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