Ask the Experts

What can you expect on the date of completion?

On the completion date, the following will occur:

  • The purchase price is completely paid off to the seller’s conveyancer;
  • If there is a mortgage, the mortgage lender sends the mortgage money;
  • If you are the seller, your mortgage is paid off from the money received from the buyer’s solicitor;
  • When the monetary transaction is complete, the buyer collects the keys to the property from the estate agent (or seller directly, if no estate agent is used).

What are Title Deeds?

This is the name given to the set of documents that prove the ownership of a property. Nowadays an Office Copy Entry (OCE) is the only document that is considered a Title Deed and it is conclusive on ownership of properties. It is only if a property is unregistered that we require the original Deeds.

What is a freehold property?

A freehold property is one which is owned permanently by a person. There are very seldom any lengthy restrictions and usually an owner can do what they like with freehold properties, subject to planning permission and other legal requirement.

What is a leasehold property?

A leasehold property is one where there is limited ownership for example a person can have a property for 99 years only or 125 years and some leases are as long as 999 years. These are generally flats and maisonettes. They have a lengthy document called a ‘lease’ which states in detail what a person can do with a property and what he cannot. For example it may state whether pets can be kept in the flat, whether the floor must have carpet, how often the flat must be painted. Leases can also limit the period for which a flat can be rented.

What is a Transfer Deed (TR1)?

The Transfer Deed (TR1) is the legal document which transfers the ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer.

The Transfer Deed must be signed in the presence of independent witness, such as a neighbour or friend, who must state their full name and address next to the client’s signature. If you would prefer to, you can attend your conveyancing firm’s office to have this witnessed by one of the solicitors at the firm.

What is a redemption statement?

The redemption statement shows how much is still owed on the client’s existing mortgage, and any other loans the client is paying off. If the client has taken any other loans which are not included in the redemption figure, the client must inform his conveyancer immediately. Failure to do so could result in the conveyancing transaction being delayed.

What is the Office Copy Entry (OCE)?

The Office Copy Entry (OCE) is the title document issued by the Her Majesty’s Land Registry which reveals details of the current proprietor together with information as to description of the land/property and details of any rights over the land and/or for the benefit of the land (as well as any financial charges). This is one of the first documents that a conveyancer would want to see.

What can I do if the seller has left rubbish in the property?

If you take legal action against the seller, it is likely to be a long, drawn out and expensive process. The better option would be to direct your conveyancer to write to the seller’s conveyancer and inform them that they should arrange to have the unwanted items removed or that you will arrange it but they must foot the bill. Ideally, before the completion date, you could visit the property and ensure that all rubbish and unwanted items have been removed.

Should we purchase as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

Couples who are married or live together may purchase property as Joint Tenants. This means that in the event of the death of one person, his or her share of the property automatically passes on to the other.

If you purchase the property as Tenants in Common, in the event of the death of one owner, the share of the property will not automatically go to the other person, but will pass on to the next of kin or be distributed as per the Will of the deceased.

When should I book my removal company?

Book your removals company only after you finalize the moving date when exchanging contracts. Until contracts are exchanged the moving date is not set in concrete and if for some reason it changes after you have made the booking you will lose your money.

What conveyancing searches do I need?

In every property purchase transaction in which a mortgage lender is involved the solicitor is required to carry out, as a minimum, a local authority search, environmental search, and a drainage search. Depending on the locality there may be further searches (e.g. flooding or mining) required. The type of searches carried out also depends on the Home Information Pack that is available.

A Local Authority Search is a set of standard enquiries that your solicitor raises with the local council. It will tell you about the planning history, building regulation approval history and future planning proposals that are likely to affect the property. It involves just the property you plan to purchase and would not, for example, reveal proposals to develop or extend neighbouring land or property. The local council charge a fee “the local search fee” which your solicitor collects from you and pays to them when the search is done.

Drainage Search will reveal whether the drains run into a public or private sewer line.

An Environmental Search reveals whether they are any waste disposal sites or landfills in the area, and if there is any risk of flooding, subsidence etc.

The Land Registry Search will tell you whether there are any new or previously undisclosed mortgages on the property.

Prior to completion we will also order the following Land Registry Searches:

Bankruptcy Search is usually ordered by us for the benefit of the mortgage lender to make sure that you are not bankrupt.

A Land Registry Priority Search is carried out by a solicitor with the Land Registry against the title number revealed in the OCE. This gives a 30 day priority to register client’s interest before any other third party can. This is crucial because between completion of a house purchase and registration of the house purchase there is always a delay and there is a chance that if a priority search is not carried out before completion a third party may register an adverse entry (such as a charge) before the property is registered by the solicitor. A priority search will also reveal if anyone has already registered any adverse entries before the day of completion.

Do I have to have a survey and mortgage valuation?

These are important steps and you are strongly advised to have a survey (as the valuation is only for your lenders purposes). The survey report lets you know everything you can about the property and can give you an idea as whether it requires any immediate works or improvements. Moreover, it gives you an idea as to whether the property is worth the money you will be paying for it.

What's the difference between exchange and completion?

Contracts are exchanged once there is an agreement between the seller and buyer to sell/buy the property, all aspects of the transaction have been dealt with and a date for completion has been agreed. Once contracts have been exchanged the transaction is legally binding, meaning both parties must complete on the date agreed; however, there still remain some final formalities to be taken care of on the completion date. Once the formalities are complete, the buyer can move into their new home.

When should I instruct a conveyancer?

If you are selling property, you should instruct a conveyancer before you put your home on the market.

On the other hand if you are planning on buying a house you should instruct a conveyancer as soon as possible after your offer has been accepted. However, it's advisable to start making your selection and getting quotes before making an offer, this way the conveyancer can start the process much earlier.

 

What is the average cost of conveyancing?

The total cost depends on the type and price of property you are selling or buying, as well as the kind of conveyancing service used for the transaction. Fees include the conveyancer’s basic legal fees and third party costs (also known as disbursements). Disbursements include payments such as Stamp Duty, Land Registry Fees and Search Fees. You also need to budget for lender’s valuation fees and your own survey fee (when purchasing a property).

For more information and examples on the cost of our conveyancing service, please visit our Conveyancing Costs page.

What does "conveyancing chain" mean?

In order to avoid the risks and expenses of owning two houses people usually choose to buy and sell their homes at the same time. As a result, a number of linked transactions arise, each dependent and connected to the other, therefore creating a "chain" of transactions. Exchange of contracts must take place simultaneously in all the transactions meaning that the speed of progress is dictated by the slowest link in the chain.

When do I get 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), the seller will hand them directly to the buyer. Either way, it is important that arrangements are made in advance to prevent the possibility of you having to wait outside with the removal van! Although we will always try to ensure that everything is finalised as early as possible on the day of completion there can sometimes be a delay if, for example, we or another party in the chain are still waiting for the mortgage monies to arrive or there is a particularly long chain. If this happens, please don't panic because we will invariably resolve the problem by early afternoon - if not sooner!

When do I get the keys and whom do I pick them up from?

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), the seller will hand them directly to the buyer. Either way, it is important that arrangements are made in advance to prevent the possibility of you having to wait outside with the removal van! Although we will always try to ensure that everything is finalised as early as possible on the day of completion there can sometimes be a delay if, for example, we or another party in the chain are still waiting for the mortgage monies to arrive or there is a particularly long chain. If this happens, please don't panic because we will invariably resolve the problem by early afternoon - if not sooner!

Leasehold flats/houses with management company involvement

If you are buying a leasehold property, it is vital that a solicitor looks at the lease as this forms the contract between the occupier (leaseholder/tenant) and the freehold owner (Landlord) as to the duties and responsibilities for both parties. You should also be supplied with accounts so you can assess expenditure to date, as well as taking into account management fees and what this money is used for.

Can I exchange contracts without a mortgage offer/searches?

We would advise that no binding agreement to purchase a property is entered into without the relevant searches being undertaken and results reviewed. If you require a mortgage to fund your purchase then searches must be carried out to satisfy your lenders.

If you require a mortgage to fund your purchase then we cannot advise you to exchange contracts as there is no guarantee that the mortgage offer will be issued, or issued in time for the agreed completion date.

What happens if I change my mind?

We acknowledge that sometimes you may change your mind following on from an adverse survey or from information provided to you about the title deeds. Please contact us as soon as you are considering withdrawing from a sale and purchase and we can talk through any areas for concern with you. If you still do not wish to proceed then we can contact the relevant parties for you.

You will be liable to pay any disbursements incurred on your sale/purchase along with a proportion of our agreed costs depending on the fee arrangement agreed with you at the outset. You may be liable for selling agents fees dependant on your agreement with them.

If you withdraw from a sale/purchase after an exchange of contracts then there will be payments to be made as compensation to the other party in accordance with the contract terms.

If I have a question should I ask you or the agents?

If you have any specific questions during the sale or purchase of your home, please contact your dedicated lawyer who will be able to deal with these for you. The selling agents often have information about how the chain is progressing if there is one and will be able to answer your general questions.

How soon do I need to pay some money to you?

We will ask for money on account of the disbursements on your sale/purchase at the very beginning of the transaction.

The deposit, usually 10% of the agreed price of the property will need to be paid immediately before exchange of contracts. If you are buying and selling, the deposit available from your sale is in most cases acceptable to be passed on to your purchase.

Do I need a survey?

If you are obtaining a mortgage, a valuer will inspect the property on behalf of the lender. Although this report should give you an indication as to whether they think the property is worth the amount that you have asked to borrow, it is prepared for the mortgage lender not you. For an additional fee, you will usually be offered the option to arrange for the same valuer to carry out a more detailed report. This can be relied on if, at some later date, you discover a problem not mentioned in the report that you wish to take up with the valuer.

There is a golden rule when it comes to buying a property: ‘Caveat Emptor’ - “let the buyer beware” so, provided you have not been misled, you will be the one liable for any problems you discover after the exchange of contracts and on moving in to the property.

Can I speak to someone over the phone?

All our solicitors have direct dial telephone numbers for ease of contact for our clients. The direct dial number for your solicitor will be provided to you at the beginning of your sale/purchase. You will also be provided with an alternative contact and direct dial number within the Property team should your allocated solicitor not be available.

How long will the process take?

One of the first questions we are often asked is how long will it all take and when can I move? Conveyancing is one of the most time consuming aspects of any home move. If the property is empty and the buyer does not require a mortgage, a sale or purchase can be completed within a few days. However, this is very unusual and it is more likely a mortgage will need to be approved and there will be a chain of transactions to contend with. If this is the case, then it usually takes between 4-6 weeks to exchange contracts and then another 2-4 weeks between exchange of contracts and completion. This makes the process a total of 6-10 weeks from start to finish. We understand the pressured timescales involved in property transactions and we do all we can to progress the transaction as quickly as possible.

How long will conveyancing take on average?

Each conveyancing case is different, therefore it is almost impossible to say how long it will take. However, if there are no complications in the sale then it should take between 8 and 12 weeks. Some cases can be completed faster, while others will take longer. For example, if you are purchasing a flat there is far more work to do and this process can take considerably longer as we are reliant on management companies or freeholders providing alot of the information required.

Do I need to come into your office?

Not necessarily. We will need to see original forms of identification to satisfy both lender requirements and money laundering regulations. All other communication with you can be by phone, email or text – whatever suits you best.