Click below on any of the questions we are most commonly asked by our clients for further information:

How long will it all take?

If the property is empty and the buyer does not require a mortgage, a sale or purchase can all be completed in a few days but this is very unusual. However it is more 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 4-6 weeks to exchange contracts and then another 2-4 weeks between exchange of contracts and completion making a total of 6-10 weeks from start to finish. We always do all that we can to progress your transaction as quickly as possible but as many things are out of our control we cannot give any guarantee about this and you should not believe anyone else who does!

How soon do I need to pay over money?

Usually if you are purchasing a property we will ask you for approximately £250 at the beginning to cover the search fees that we will have to pay out on your behalf. Sometimes a deposit has to be paid when contracts are exchanged (see “How much deposit must I pay”), and the balance of the price and the legal costs and expenses will be payable shortly before completion. If you are just selling, we ask you for £150 at the outset to cover initial expenses. The legal costs and estate agents fees will be paid out from the sale proceeds on completion before any balance is sent to you.

Do I need a survey of the property I am buying?

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 of 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 if things go wrong. 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”. This can certainly be relied upon by you, so if at a later date you find a problem that is not mentioned in the report you will have some legal redress against the valuer. If the property is quite old and you are particularly concerned about its condition you can obtain a full structural survey report which is even more detailed, but more expensive. Always remember the golden rule is “let the buyer beware” so (provided you have not been misled) you have no comeback against the seller for any problems that you discover after exchange of contracts.

How much deposit must I pay?

It is normal for a deposit to be paid on exchange of contracts. Although many people think that 10 per cent is required, that is often untrue. If you are buying and selling we can usually use your buyer’s deposit in connection with your own purchase, so you may not have to find anything. If you are just buying the amount of the deposit will usually depend upon the size of your mortgage (if any). If your mortgage is less than 90 per cent of the purchase price then you will usually need to find 10 per cent, but if you are borrowing more than this we can often persuade the seller to accept whatever amount you are putting in or even just the amount of our costs and disbursements only if you are borrowing 100%.

What searches do you need to carry out and why?

There are six main types of search that can be carried out and when acting for you as the buyer’s solicitor we will advise you which of these are necessary in any particular case:- Local Authority Search This reveals details of the planning history for the property and whether the Council are aware of any breaches of planning, also any proposals for such matters as new roads or traffic schemes, tree preservation orders, conservation areas and any other matters within the Council’s control that may affect the property. Drainage Search This will show whether or not the surface and/or foul water drains run into a public or private sewer. Land Registry Search This is carried out just before completion in order to find out if there are new mortgages registered against the property that have not previously been disclosed. If there are then the as the buyer’s solicitor we will obviously require confirmation that these will be repaid before your purchase is completed. Land Charges Search If you are obtaining a mortgage the lender will require us to carry out a search to make sure that you are not bankrupt, and that there are no bankruptcy proceedings pending against you! 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 to confirm that it does not relate to you. Environmental Search It has more recently been recommended that the buyer’s solicitor should also carry out an environmental search to see if there are any landfill or waste disposal sites in the area, 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 Repair Liability Search: This is to check for any potential liability of contribution towards the upkeep of church property.

Can I exchange contracts before I receive my mortgage offer?

If for any reason the mortgage offer is declined or delayed or it contains conditions that you cannot comply with the mortgage money may not be available when required. This is likely to mean that you will be unable to complete the contract, resulting in the loss of your deposit and a claim against you by the sellers for compensation. Therefore it is extremely dangerous to exchange contracts before the mortgage offer is received and any competent solicitor would strongly advise you against this.

Is there anything I can do to save paying stamp duty?

Yes possibly. If the purchase price is just above the stamp duty band limits (£120,000, £250,000 and £500,000) and the sale includes some fixtures and fittings eg. carpets, curtains, cooker, fridge, freezer etc, you may be able to amend the contract to legitimately apportion part of the total price towards the fixtures, reducing the amount being paid for the property itself. The stamp duty is payable only on the part of the price agreed for the property. For example – If the agreed sale price is £258,000.00 and there are no fixtures the stamp duty payable will be £7,740, but if there are fixtures worth £9,000.00 the duty is only £2,490 because up to £250,000.00 the level of stamp duty is only 1% but above £250,000.00 it is 3%. If you want to “split” the price in this way you must remember to tell your solicitor before exchange of contracts. The portion of the overall price allocated to fixtures must of course fairly reflect their true value.

When do I need to arrange buildings insurance?

Unless the building insurance is being arranged by your lender, or it is a leasehold property and the insurance is dealt with by the freeholder, you should 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, which is not necessarily the same as the current market value. If you 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 do we need to know if we are buying in joint names?

Most couples who are married or in a stable relationship purchase as “joint tenants” which means that upon the death of one or other the deceased’s half share will automatically pass to the other. The alternative is to hold the property as “tenants in common” which means that each person’s half share is treated as being separate so that upon the death of one or other the deceased’s share will not automatically go to the surviving partner but to whoever it has been left to in the deceased’s will or, if there is no will, to his or her next of kin. If you are putting unequal amounts into the property the person who is paying the larger amount can and often should be protected by a “trust deed” which sets out your respective shares so that in the event of any dispute or upon the death of one or other of you in the future your original intentions will be clearly recorded. Once you have considered the above options and/or if you require further advice you should tell us so that we can make sure that your wishes are carried out.

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 paid over on the day of completion. If there are no estate agents (or this is not convenient) then the seller will hand them direct to the buyer. Either way it is important that arrangements are made in advance to prevent the possibility of the buyer having to wait outside with the removal van! Although as your solicitors we 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 mid-day – there can sometimes be a delay if, for example, we are still waiting for the mortgage monies to arrive or there is a particularly long chain. If this happens please don’t panic or become upset because we will invariably resolve the problem by early afternoon – if not sooner !

When do I get my money?

If you are just selling or there is a surplus due back to you after the completion of your sale and purchase we will always try to send this to you on the day of completion or, at the very latest on the next working day. Payment is usually made by cheque but for larger amounts we can transfer the money direct to your bank if you request this in advance, provide us with your account details, and agree to pay the extra bank charges involved.

Contact Us →