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Step by step guide when buying a home

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Step by step guide when selling a home

Step by step guide when selling a home

Step by step guide when buying a new build home

Step by step guide when buying a home

Conveyancing involves legally transferring home ownership from the seller to the buyer. It starts when your offer on a house is accepted and finishes when you receive the keys. Understanding the steps involved will help avoid surprises.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing involves legally transferring home ownership from the seller to the buyer. It starts when your offer on a house is accepted and finishes when you receive the keys.

Who does the conveyancing?

A solicitor or conveyancer usually conducts the conveyancing process. You can get instant conveyancing quote from our panel of solicitors.

First stages

The first stage is to find a solicitor or conveyancer, Avoid using the estate agent’s recommended conveyancer as it will likely be a commission based recommendation and cost you more.

You can get a quote from our panel of experienced solicitors who will provide a competitive quote than the high street solicitors.

Once you find the right solicitor / conveyancer you will instruct them to act on your behalf. Your appointed conveyancer / solicitor will then draw up a draft contract explaining the costs involved.

Your solicitor will write to your seller’s solicitor to confirm they are instructed and request a copy of the draft contract and any other details, such as the property’s title and the standard forms.

Legal Work

Your solicitor will examine the draft contract and supporting documents and raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. You will be expected to go through the forms the seller has completed and let the solicitor know if you have any queries or concerns. In particular you will want to double check the tenure of your new home: is it leasehold or freehold? If it’s leasehold, don’t rely on your solicitor to check for the length of the lease. Leases below 80 years are a problem, can be costly to extend and you need to have owned the property for 2 years before you are eligible to do so. Leases under 60 years are best avoided.

Property searches

 

There are things you may not know about the property just from viewing it with estate agents or even getting a survey. The conveyancer will do a set of legal searches to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of. Some searches will be recommended by the solicitor for all purchases and others will be required by the mortgage lender to protect them from any liabilities that the property may have:

  • Local authority searches: are there plans for a motorway in your new garden? How about radioactive gas? This costs between £70 and £400 depending on the Local Authority and usually takes 1-2 weeks, but can take up to 6 weeks

 

  • Checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry– these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership. The title register check costs £3 and the title plan check costs £3. Both checks are legally required in order to sell

 

  • Checking flood risk – this can also done at the Land Registry. If you are already getting an environmental search (see below), you might not buy this one separately as the search will contain much more thorough flood information and maps

  • Water authority searches – find out how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works. The water authority search will cost between £50 and £75

  • Chancel repair search – to ensure there are no potential leftover medieval liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs. This is a necessity and costs £18. However, you may decide to take out Chancel repair insurance instead for £20 or so. The laws around Chancel repair changed in October 2013 so now the onus is on the Church to establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry

  • Environmental Search – this report is used on the vast majority of transactions and is provided by either Landmark or Groundsure.  Depending which product your solicitor usually uses, the report will give information about contaminated land at or around the property, landfill sites, former and current industry, detailed flooding predictions, radon gas hazard, ground stability issues, and some other related information.  The cost should be around £50 to £60 including VAT

  • Optional and location specific searches – sometimes extra searches are required or recommended depending on the location or type of property or due to particular concerns raised by the buyer.  These could include:

    • Tin Mining searches in Cornwall

    • Mining searches in various parts of the UK and Cheshire Brine searches

    • Additional Local Authority Questions such as Public Paths, Pipelines, Noise Abatement Zones, Common Land, etc

Your mortgage

You will need to get your mortgage in place. This will include ensuring you have the financing available for a mortgage deposit. Your solicitor will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions.

You will need to get a mortgage valuation. This is carried out on behalf of the mortgage company so they know that the property provides sufficient security for the loan.

You will want to have any other necessary surveys done. Whether you have a survey done and what sort of survey you choose will depend on your specific circumstances.

Before exchange of contracts can take place your lender will require you to get Buildings Insurance for your new home. You are responsible for the property as soon as contracts have been exchanged so it is in your interests to do so.

Signing Contracts

Signing the contract. Since receiving the draft contract from the sellers solicitor, your solicitor will have been in correspondence  with you about what is covered. Before signing the contract your solicitor will need to ensure:

  • That all enquiries have been returned and are satisfactory

  • That fixtures and fittings included in the purchase are what you expected

  • A completion date has been agreed between the two parties, which is usually 1-4 weeks after exchange of contracts, though this can vary widely

  • That you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit into your solicitors account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange. You may want to negotiate on the size of the deposit, which is normally 10% of the value of the property. However even if you agree to pay less than 10% you are still liable for 10% of the value of the property if you later pull out of the agreement. Therefore if you pay a 5% deposit and pull out of buying the property you will not only lose your deposit but also legally owe an additional 5% of the value of the property

Go to the property with the estate agent and the fixtures and fittings inventory list to ensure that everything you paid for is still there and the house has not been damaged in any way

Exchanging contracts

You and the seller will agree on a date and time to exchange contracts at any time on any given day

Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you. This is usually done by both solicitors / conveyancers reading out the contracts over the phone (which is recorded) to make sure the contracts are identical, and then immediately sending them to one another in the post.  

 If you are in a chain your solicitor/conveyancer will do the same thing, but will only release it if the other people in the chain are all happy to go ahead. This means if one person pulls out or delays, then everyone in the chain gets held up.

Once you have exchanged contracts you will be in a legally binding contract to buy the property with a fixed date for moving. This means that:

  • If you do not complete the purchase, you will lose your deposit and owe the seller more if the deposit was less than 10%

  • the seller has to sell or you can sue them

  • the seller can no longer accept another offer

 

Between exchange and completion

Your solicitor will lodge an interest in the property which will mean that the deeds to the property are frozen for 30 working days to allow you to pay the seller and lodge your application to the Land Registry to transfer the deeds into your name.

The seller will move out (although they may leave this to the day of completion)

You should get organised for your moving day

The solicitor will send you a statement showing the final figure to pay, which will need to be cleared into your solicitors bank account at least one day before completion.

On completion day

Completion is normally set around midday on the specified date although in practice takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms that they have received all the money that is due. Once this happens the seller should drop the keys at the estate agents for your collection. You can then move in.

After completion

Your solicitor will tie up some loose ends:

  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf.

  • You will receive your legal documents about 20 days after completion after your solicitor has sent them to the Land Registry

  • Send a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender, who will hold them until you pay your loan off

  • Notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold

  • Give you a bill for their payment

You will want to collect together all your paperwork from the purchase of your new home, including the estate agent’s brochure, to file away and keep safe for when you move again. 

Step by step guide when selling a home

Decided about selling ?

  • If you are considering selling because you need more space, have you instead considered building an extension, converting the attic, or digging out the basement? The costs of moving are so great that it might even save money to expand your existing home

  • Have you thought about how changing house prices might affect the decision to sell? If prices are rising rapidly, you may not be able to afford a place much bigger than the one you are already in

  • Are you in negative equity? If so, can you afford to sell?

  • You may be considering selling as a result of a separation or divorce

Calculate your finances

  • You should notify your mortgage lender that you are planning to sell your home

  • You need to find out how big your outstanding mortgage is and if there are any early redemption penalties

  • You need to get a rough idea of how much your house is worth, then you can calculate how much money you will be left with after you have paid off the mortgage. 

  •  If you are also buying a new home, you should obviously consider what size mortgage you will need for that. You should get an idea from mortgage lenders how much they would be willing to offer you

  • At the early stages, the figures will be approximate only – you don’t know how much you will sell your house for and you will only get a precise redemption (amount outstanding) figure for your mortgage once you have an agreed completion date when you have exchange contracts

Decide if you should also look for somewhere to buy or rent

  • Renting for a while can add to the overall expense, but reduces the critical time pressures of buying a new home

  • You won’t have to sell at a low price because you have found the home of your dreams

  • You will not be rushed into buying a less-than-perfect new home because you have found a buyer for your current home

  • You will break out of the housing chain which means you will be a more attractive buyer.

 

 Decide who will sell the property

  • You can sell your home yourself, use a traditional estate agent or an online estate agent

  • If you use a local estate agent, you will need to do some research into which one to choose.

  • Compare local estate agents based on how quickly they sell, how close they come to achieving asking price and how successful they are

  • You will also need to decide whether to use a sole agent or multiple agents.

  • You will need to agree a fee with the estate agent: aim for 1% plus VAT for sole agent.

  • Online estate agents are becoming more popular. It’s worth reviewing what they can offer and for how much. 

  •  If you have time and are organised, patient and willing to work hard, then axing the estate agent and selling your home yourself can save you money.

  •  Decide what price to sell it for

  • One of the most agonising decisions when selling your home is what price to put it on for

  • Do your research and get to know the local market inside out

  • Get a number of estate agents to do valuations, but don’t necessarily go for the highest

  • Remember that buyers will probably try to negotiate a discount, so add 5% to 10% to what you are prepared to accept

Prepare your home

  • If you “stage” your home well, you are not only more likely to sell your home faster, but you might make it more valuable too

  • Tidy up, and get rid of excess clutter; give it a fresh lick of light coloured paint; fix those little snagging things; keep it clean

  • Light a fire; bake bread; put up a mirror; get rid of bad odours

 Hire a solicitor or conveyancer

  • You need to choose a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal work to transfer ownership of the property to you. Get instant quote from our panel of solicitors.

  • You should decide which firm you want to use before you agree the sale of your house – but you can obviously only instruct them after you have agreed an offer

  • By all means get a quote from the conveyancing firm recommended by your estate agent, but compare it with other quotes because there is often a hefty referral fee which will be added to your bill. 

Fill out the relevant questionnaires

  • You will have a variety of forms and questionnaires to fill out, to give the buyer all the information about the property, and about the sale.

Accept an offer

  • You’ve received an offer The estate agent is legally required to pass all offers on to you, however ridiculous

  • If you are not happy with it, you can either reject it outright, wait to see if a better offer comes along or tell the estate agent to try to negotiate it upwards

  • Once you are happy with an offer, you need to formally accept it. You should then instruct the estate agent to take the property off the market

  • Remember that accepting an offer is not legally binding, and you can legally change your mind or accept a higher offer later

Negotiate the draft contract

You and the buyer will have to decide:

  • The length of time between exchange and completion (usually 1-4 weeks after the exchange of contracts)

  • What fixtures and fittings will be included – and how much will they pay for them

  • Any discounts due to problems flagged up by the survey

Exchange contracts

  • When you exchange contracts with the buyer you become legally committed to selling the property – and they are legally committed to buying it from you

  • If you pull out after this without due reason, the buyer’s deposit will be returned to them and you may be sued

Moving out

  • You can move out whenever you like, even up until the day of completion

  • It is less stressful to move out beforehand, if that is possible

  • At the time of completion, the property has to be in the condition agreed in the contract – including all the fixtures and fittings

  • The buyer and estate agent may come round between your moving out and completion to ensure that everything is in place

Complete the sale

  • Completion is when the property changes ownership, you accept payment, and hand over the keys

  • A little like a duel, it takes place on a previously agreed date and usually at midday

  • On the day of completion, the money is transferred and any deeds for the property are transferred between each side’s solicitor or conveyancer

  • Your solicitor/conveyancer will register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry

Pay off the mortgage

  • The mortgage company will have given you and your conveyancer/solicitor a precise redemption figure (outstanding amount) for your mortgage for the day of completion

  • Now the buyer has transferred the money to your solicitor or conveyancer, they will pay off the mortgage for you

Settle up with the solicitor/conveyancer and estate agent

  • After completion, your solicitor/conveyancer will send you an account, covering all their costs and disbursements, as well as the sale price of the house and redemption of the mortgage

  • If you are buying and selling at the same time, the solicitor/conveyancer can settle up for both transactions at the same time, including paying stamp duty for the house you are buying

  • Your solicitor/conveyancer will ensure that the change of ownership is registered with the Land Registry

  • There is sometimes a small discrepancy and you might even get a small refund

Step by step guide when buying a new build home 

Buying a new build home is a little different to buying an existing property – and comes with its own set of challenges. Here, we break down the process step by step so you know what to expect.

Get your finances in order

Because of the time issues associated with property construction, off plan purchasing can often throw up delays. Most developers will insist that mortgage finance is secured before contracts are exchanged, however the majority of standard mortgage offers are only valid for six months. If the property you intend to buy is not completed within that period you may have to apply for an extension from your lender (subject to a reassessment of circumstances) or face having to reapply for the mortgage at a later date.

 

Alternatively, you could try to find a lender which offers a specific new build mortgage deal with a longer (nine month) deadline.

Find out what’s included

Before making a reservation buyers should ask to see all specification details relating to the build as well as full landscape drawings and electrical plans. You should also visit other sites built by the developer (preferably of a similar design) to ascertain whether these properties meet your standards and requirements.

Many developers will offer various incentives such as the opportunity to choose fittings and appliances or free parking where a charge would normally be applied. In some cases, Stamp Duty costs may be included within the costs as well. These are important details so always make sure you are aware of what is included in the price.

Don’t use the developer’s solicitor or conveyancer

The legal side of buying a new build home is more complex than any other type of conveyancing because of the number of potential problems e.g. non compliance with planning regulations, failure to arrange NHBC inspections, incomplete agreements for roads and sewers, failure to plan for the future maintenance of common parts of a development and so on.

A good conveyancing solicitor will also ensure that the contract is in your favour, that your deposit is fully protected and that there is a ‘long-stop’ completion date for the property to be finished by. The developers solicitor and sales team will exert huge pressure on you to complete, particularly coming up to their year end to exchange on purchases, even where there are clear conveyancing problems.

A conveyancing solicitor chosen independently is less likely to bend under pressure from the developer and act in your interests. Get an instant quote from our panel of solicitors.

Making a reservation

Reservation fees are often paid by buyers when an offer is made, or a sale is agreed upon, to ‘reserve’ a property for a set period (usually 28 days) and facilitate the legal process leading to an exchange of contracts. This fee (which can be anything from £500 to £2,000 or even more on a ‘high end’ property) will be deducted from the final purchase price upon completion but is non-refundable if the buyer fails to exchange contracts within the stipulated period or pulls out of the sale completely. Therefore, always ensure that your mortgage is agreed in principle before making a reservation.

The Consumer Code for Home Builders specifies that a reservation agreement is issued which details the purchase price, exactly what is included within that figure as well as the nature and estimated cost of service charges or management fees. You’ll want to ask for this if it isn’t given to you proactively.

Paying the deposit

Buyers are usually asked to pay a deposit of between 10-30% of the total price of a new build upon exchange. This is paid to the developer’s solicitor. You will also be asked to sign a contract (usually prepared by the house builder) agreeing to buy the property at the current advertised price and to pay off the balance at completion.

The major issue here for buyers is that mortgage lender property valuations are usually undertaken at the beginning of a new build and after construction is completed. If property prices fall within that period therefore, and the purchaser is unable to secure a mortgage for the remaining balance (due to a perceived reduction in security for example), then the deposit will be lost due to breach of contract.

In addition, the house builder can also sue the buyer for the difference between the agreed price and the lower price it subsequently achieves at re-sale, as well as any legal fees incurred. Many experts urge prospective buyers to establish if the contract price is ‘locked’ at exchange therefore and, if so, what happens if prices rise or fall before completion.

New build warranties such as NHBC or Premier Guarantee will normally protect a full deposit against builder insolvency although in some cases it will only cover the first 10%. Furthermore, if the completion date on the build is ‘unreasonably’ delayed, so by more than six months, then you have the right (under the Consumer Code for Home Builders) to withdraw from purchase and claim a full refund.

What should the conveyancing solicitor be looking out for?

There are a number of searches relating to new build properties which must be undertaken before purchase, for example:

  • check that appropriate planning permission has been obtained and that the property has been constructed in full accordance with it, and that roads are properly adopted, and that drains and utilities are properly established, as well as obtain results of other relevant local searches

  • highlight any restrictive covenants that have been written into the lease or registered against the freehold. These could prohibit any alterations  to the property (such as building an extension or attaching a satellite dish to an exterior wall) without prior (invariably fee based) permission, for example.

Snagging and warranties

Many builders will not allow a purchaser to view their property until construction has been completed. In some cases, it is possible that the buyer will feel that the quality of work falls short of expectations and, as a result, it is important to have a snagging provision written into your contract. This is the process whereby any errors or defects (ranging from cosmetic to more serious structural problems) are itemized and passed to the builder for repair.

The best time to carry out a snagging survey is before the final payment is made on the property as any issues that arise after you have moved in could be disregarded by a builder as post habitation wear and tear. However, it is worth remembering that your developer is responsible for all remedial work on defects which occur within the first two years of purchase.

After that point, your NHBC warranty will cover specified structural problems. Most new builds come with a ten-year NHBC warranty which provides a form of insurance against structural defects. Be aware, as the NHBC can take a very long time to resolve outstanding issues and the warranty is more likely to protect builders’ interests than yours. This makes the need for an independent snagging survey either before completion or as soon as you move in all the more important.

The final step

Once your new home is complete, an official handover of the site to you, the purchasing client, is arranged. Keys, building log books and owner’s manuals are issued at this point and a defect reporting procedure agreed upon. Make sure that you are given copies of all the guarantees relating to the property, including all white goods (such as cookers, fridges and boilers), windows and flat roofs (if they have installers guarantees) and damp proofing and timber.

Conveyancing Jargons

 

Completion Date

This is the agreed date on which you are able to take possession of your property, and the date when the balance of the purchase monies is paid to the Sellers Solicitors.

Contract

This is the agreement in duplicate one signed by the Seller and the other by the buyers to buy and sell property which when exchanged is legally binding for the sale and purchase of the property at an agreed price with a fixed completion date.

A deposit is paid on exchange of contracts by the buyer to the seller via the solicitors which is usually 10% of the purchase price.

Disbursements

Monies paid to your Solicitor to be paid over to a third party.

Exchange of Contracts

This is when the agreement to buy and sell property becomes legally binding with a completion date fixed.

Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form

A list of contents etc to be included in the sale price and it will also list items which will be removed.

Freehold

This means the property is in complete ownership of the land.

Land Registry

Is the department which registers title to land in England and Wales and provides guarantee title to registered Estates and interests in land.

Leasehold

A leasehold estate is an ownership of a temporary right to land or property.

Legal Fees

The monies paid to the Solicitors as their fees.

Local Authority Search

Local authority search is a report about the property and its surrounding area.

Mortgage

The Bank, Building Society or any other establishment or person who lends money to be used towards the purchase price of a property.

Mortgage Deed

The legal document which acknowledges the debt signed by the borrower and registered as a charge against the property on the legal title at the Land Registry.

Mortgage Fees

Any monies charged by the mortgagor to arrange the mortgage.

Property Information Form

A form to be completed by the Seller providing details about the property which are personally known to the Seller as an occupier of the property. Misinformation given on this document could be sued on.

Redemption

The monies due to the mortgagor to pay off a mortgage on a property and the document acknowledging payment is produced to the Land Registry for removal of the charge on a legal title.

Redemption Fee

A fee which may be charged by the lender for their administration costs in dealing with redemption of the mortgage.

SMS Updates

This is when you receive updates by text message directly to your mobile phone. This is usually done on the key stage of a conveyancing case.

Stamp Duty

Stamp Duty is a Government tax paid to the Inland Revenue which applies to the purchase of the property over the value set. All transfers of property have to be declared to the Inland Revenue and there are time limits for doing this after completion of the purchase.

Survey

Before you buy or sell a house it is important to get a report about the property’s overall condition. This report is known as a survey and there are different types. The mortgage lender will always insist on a survey or valuation of the property.

Title Deeds

Old documentation relating to the legal title of the property prior to the registration of title at the land registry.

Transfer Deed

The document on the sale of property transferring the property from the Seller to the Buyer.

Water Drainage Search

A search on how the property is connected to the main water supply, how the property is charged for water usage, if connected to the sewer, if the property close to any affected water, location of the nearest wastewater works and water quality information.

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