Our answers to frequently asked questions by our conveyancing clients.

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the word used for managing the legal formalities of buying and selling a house.

How long will it take?

If there is no chain, the property is empty, the buyer does not require a mortgage and if:

  1. Draft documentation is received promptly by the buyer’s solicitor.
  2. Monies are readily available.
  3. There are no enquiries to raise.

A sale and purchase can be completed very swiftly.

It is however more likely that a mortgage will be required and there will be a chain of transactions. If this is the case, it will usually take six to eight weeks to exchange of contracts, and another two to four weeks between exchange of contracts and completion, making a total of ten to twelve weeks from start to finish. However, this is only a general guide as each transaction will be different.

We always, try to progress your transaction as quickly as possible but we cannot offer any guarantee about the time it will take and you should not believe anyone else that says they can! In a chain transaction we can only deal with things as quickly as the slowest person in the chain.

What things can slow everything down?

The conveyancing process often runs quite smoothly but occasionally there can be a problem and the most common things to arise are:

  1. Incomplete documentation received from the seller’s solicitor.
  2. Queries arising relating to the lack of planning permission/building regulations approval.
  3. Additional matters to be dealt with as a consequence of conditions in the mortgage offer.
  4. Incomplete chain.
  5. Other parties in the chain aiming for different completion dates.
  6. Issues arising out of the use of rights of way.
  7. The need to enquire as to breach or possible breach of restrictive covenants (legally enforceable promises imposed on the property).

How soon do I need to pay any money?

If you are purchasing a property your solicitor will ask you for approximately £300.00 at the commencement of the transaction to cover the search fees and a 10% deposit will be payable one week prior to exchange of contracts. If you are obtaining a mortgage for more than 90% of the purchase price it may be possible to negotiate a reduced deposit. The balance of the purchase price and solicitors costs including stamp duty and Land Registry fees will be payable one week before completion.

If you are just selling you will need to pay either your solicitor or the estate agent for the preparation of the EPC. The legal costs and estate agents’ fees will be paid out of the proceeds of sale on completion before any balance is sent to you.

Do I need a survey?

If you are obtaining a mortgage a valuer will inspect the property on behalf of the lender. Although his report will give you an indication as to whether he thinks the property is worth the amount that you have asked to borrow, you will probably not be able to rely on it.

For an extra fee you can usually arrange for the same valuer to carry out a more detailed “Home Buyer’s Report”. This can be relied upon by you 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. This is not however a detailed survey report. If the property is quite old and/or you are particularly concerned about its condition, you can obtain a full structural survey report which is even more detailed.

Always remember the golden rule is “Let the Buyer Beware” so (provided you have not been misled) you will be liable for any problems that you discover after exchange of contracts.

What searches do you carry out and why?

The buyer’s solicitor will decide which searches are necessary in any particular case but the main ones in any transaction are as follows:

Local Authority search
This reveals details of the planning history of the property and whether the Council is aware of any breaches of planning, any proposals for new roads or traffic schemes, Tree Preservation Orders, conservation areas or any other matters within the Council’s control that may affect the property. The search does not however reveal any planning permissions or applications for adjoining properties.

Drainage search
This will show whether or not the surface and/or foul water drains run into a public or private sewer and the route that they take.

Environmental search
This is carried out to see if there are any landfill or waste disposal sites in the area, or if the property has been built on an old industrial site and whether there are any risks from contaminated
land, toxic emissions, flooding, subsidence etc.

Chancel check
This search is carried out to see whether or not there is any potential liability to contribute towards the upkeep of the chancel of any medieval church in the vicinity.

Land Registry search
This is carried out just before completion in order to find out if there are any new mortgages registered against the property that have not previously been disclosed. If there are, then the buyer’s solicitor will obviously require confirmation that these will be repaid.

Land Charges search
If you are obtaining a mortgage the lender will ask your solicitor to carry out a search to make sure that you are not bankrupt! Quite often this search will show an entry against someone else with a similar name. If so, you will be asked to sign a copy of the result of the search to confirm that it does not relate to you.

Can I exchange Contracts before I receive my mortgage offer?

If for any reason the mortgage offer is declined or delayed or it contains any conditions that you cannot comply with the money will not be available for completion when required. It would therefore be extremely dangerous to exchange Contracts without receiving a mortgage offer and any competent solicitor would strongly advise you not to do so.

When do I need to arrange buildings insurance?

Unless the building insurance is being arranged by the lender or it is a leasehold property and the insurance is dealt with by the landlord, you must arrange buildings insurance from exchange of contracts as the property will be at your risk from that time.

The amount of cover should be the estimated cost of re-building the property if it burns to the ground and this is not necessarily the same as the current market value. If you have had a survey or you are obtaining a mortgage, your surveyor or the lenders valuer will usually have suggested a minimum amount of cover in their report.

What happens with the keys?

These are usually left with the estate agents (if any) and the buyer collects them once the money has been received by the seller’s solicitor on the day of completion. If there are no estate agents you will need to make arrangements directly with the seller with regard to the handing over of the keys.

Although your solicitor will always try to ensure that everything is finalised as early as possible on the day of completion – and usually this is dealt with by lunch time – there can sometimes be a delay if, for example, your solicitor is still waiting for the mortgage monies to arrive or there is a particularly long chain. Your solicitor however will be working for you to try to resolve matters as early as possible.

When will I get my money?

If you are just selling, or there is a surplus due back to you after completion of your sale and purchase, your solicitor will always try to send this to you on the day of completion or on the next working day. Payment is usually made by cheque but for larger amounts your solicitor can transfer money direct to your bank for which there will be an additional fee payable. You should request this in advance and provide your solicitor with your account details.


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