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A guide to buying and selling a house

It doesn’t matter whether you are a first time buyer, or you have bought before, buying or selling a property can be one of the most exciting but daunting experiences of your life. It is also likely to be one of the most expensive purchases you ever make.

This guide gives you an insight into the steps involved in buying and selling a property.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal and administrative work required to transfer the ownership of land or property from one person to another. This includes checking that the person selling the property is legally entitled to do so, and that the property is good and marketable and will not pose any legal issues for the owner in the future.

The conveyancing process can only start once you have accepted an offer on the property you are selling, or the vendor has accepted your offer on the property you want to buy. Although, we will carry out preliminary work from the point of instruction so that you are ready to go once an offer is accepted.

The conveyancing process concludes on the completion date agreed at exchange of contracts, which will be once all money has been received by the other party’s solicitor. This date is also when you will receive or hand over the keys to the property.

What is involved in conveyancing?

There are many stages involved in conveyancing however the main elements are detailed below:

Searches – these are done on a property you are buying and will include local, drainage, environmental and locality searches i.e. searches specific to the area in which the property is situated (such as a coal search in a coal mining area). In essence they are enquiries to discover all the key information held by third parties about the property you are buying.

These searches help reveal any planning issues such as road improvements, planning permission granted or responsibilities you have for amenities and drainage.

First4Lawyers conveyancers will identify any potential matters of concern and explain what they mean before you are legally bound to buy your property.

Ability to sell – your conveyancer will ensure the person selling the property is legally entitled to do so.

Financial Obligations – these are ongoing financial payments or service/rent charges for the maintenance of shared areas or services used or connected to the property. Examples are shared private drainage systems, access ways or public spaces. Service and rent charges are most commonly associated with flats and apartments, but can also apply to houses on developments with large open spaces or shared facilities such as private roads or lighting.

Restrictive covenants – Covenants are legal obligations affecting how the property can be used or its appearance. You must comply with the covenants (rules) as these are enforceable through the courts. For example in some developments there may be restrictions on what alterations and extensions you can make to the property without consent of the original developer, such as where (or if) you can erect a satellite dish. Alternatively, restrictive covenants could prevent you from running a business, or keeping livestock in or around the property.

Enquiries – these are questions raised by your conveyancer to clarify information about the property you are buying and to ensure that any work done to the property has been carried out to the relevant standards. For example, which part of the boundary you are responsible for, or whether any work was carried out by a qualified professional.

As a seller you will need to answer these questions as accurately as possible and provide any corresponding certificates and paperwork.

First4Lawyers can help you with your conveyancing requirements either use our online conveyancing quote tool or call us on 0800 222 9839 for your no-obligation quote.

How much does conveyancing cost?

The cost of conveyancing can range from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds depending on the value and type of the property and any issues identified on the title. The cost is split between what you need to pay your conveyancer for the legal work that they undertake and disbursements, which are a range of administration fees for searches, payments and other administrative tasks by third parties.

If you are buying a property over £125,000 then you will also have to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax which is a government tax on the transfer of a property. If you are buying a second property then this will be 3% higher than standard Stamp Duty Land Tax.

At First4Lawyers we are very transparent about the fees charged for our conveyancing and our quotes clearly layout everything you will be expected to pay including an explanation about what you are paying for and why. Some firms try to hide their costs in the small print so it is essential that you check quotes include all costs, including disbursements.

All our quotes are offered on a no move no fee basis and are guaranteed for 30 days. We do not ask for any payment in advance of any work being carried out, other than the cost of searches on a purchase and Land Registry copies of the title on a sale.

First4Lawyers can help you with your conveyancing requirements, either use our online conveyancing quote tool or call us on 0800 222 9839 for your no-obligation quote.

How long does conveyancing take?

The length of time it takes to complete your conveyancing depends upon a number of circumstances and is difficult to estimate. The latest national statistics suggest that it can take up to 16 weeks to reach completion, but at First4Lawyers we use a range of online services that aim to reduce this by as much as possible.

Whether your property move is complex or not will have the largest impact on the time it takes to move, but delays in getting a mortgage offer, access to surveys and obtaining survey results are typically the key areas that can slow a move down.

If you are in a long and complicated chain this also adds to the length of time taken because the entire chain moves together.

Whilst other conveyancers can delay the process, here at First4Lawyers we start the moment you instruct us. This means we remain ahead of the rest. Whilst there are sometimes delays nonetheless, there are also a number of ways you can assist us in getting to completion faster.

What can you do to help the process run as smoothly as possible?

Firstly it is important that you communicate with your conveyancer. When you instruct First4Lawyers to manage your conveyancing you will receive a general information sheet outlining what you can expect from us.

You will no doubt have a long list of questions about the process and the property you are buying or selling. It is essential that you ask your conveyancer these questions as early as possible. If you don’t, then at best it may delay how quickly you buy or sell your property, at worst you may have already legally committed yourself to the purchase or sale of the property to find that there are matters that are unsatisfactory to you and you have no recourse without losing your deposit.

The golden rule to a smooth home move is responsiveness. Through First4Lawyers conveyancing you will not only have access to an online home move tracker so you can see where your case is at, but you will also have access to an online secure documents portal. This means you don’t have to waste time waiting for postal items, or come to our offices, as most of the paperwork can be done over the internet. It is essential, however, that you complete and return paperwork and documentation as quickly as possible to keep the process moving.

What should you be looking for from your conveyancer?

Your conveyancer will be reviewing all the legal aspects of your property sale and purchase so it is important that they have a good track record of property law. At First4Lawyers our conveyancers deal only with conveyancing matters to ensure they give you the best possible service.

First4Lawyers can help you with your conveyancing requirements, either use our online conveyancing quote tool or call us on 0800 222 9839 for your no-obligation quote.

What isn’t covered in the conveyancing process?

Our conveyancers will set out exactly what they will and will not be dealing with during your property sale or purchase however it is important to know what ISN’T covered as part of any conveyancing services:

Your own survey – the lender will want to complete a valuation of the property you are buying to ensure it is worth the amount of money that they are lending you. However, this is not a structural or building survey. If you are looking for complete peace of mind then you may want to instruct an independent surveyor for a more thorough survey.

The most basic survey is known as a home condition survey and will cost around £250. These are usually adequate for new build and more modern or conventional homes. A homebuyer’s report offers a more detailed survey at around £400, but if you are buying an old, listed or more unconventional property then it may be worth investing in a full structural survey. These usually cost from £600 upwards.

Quality of plumbing and electrics and working order of appliances such as the boiler – again this would need a specialist survey from an appropriately qualified surveyor to determine that they are in appropriate working order.

Future building and extensions – you may have desires of adding a loft conversion, extension or conservatory to your property. Our conveyancing experts will be able to advise you on the feasibility of building these based on any restrictive covenants or planning permission on the property. However for more practical advice on the physical aspects of building a property or extension you will need to speak to a surveyor or builder. 

What practical checks should you be doing yourself?

Buying a property is a big investment and, whilst First4Lawyers conveyancers are here to help you through the legal stages of the move, it is essential that you are 100% comfortable with everything about the property before you exchange any contracts. Your conveyancer won’t visit the property themselves, so it is important that you view the property as many times as you can to make practical checks which may not be apparent in the paperwork. You can then feed these back to your conveyancer to check out legally. Things to look out for include:

Obvious problems – look at roofs, walls, tress and windows to see if there is any disrepair or issues that may cause problems in the future. Has work been done to these areas or have they been replaced?

Different times of the day – it may have been lovely and quiet when you did your initial viewing but go back at different times of the day and night. Would parking become a problem because the street is used by local workers during the week? Is there a bus stop outside the front door that will lead to excessive noise?

Planning restrictions – if you think that you may want to extend the property at some point then speak to the local planning department, in case they highlight any concerns that may prevent this in the future.

Shared access and right of way – will you be sharing a drive with a neighbour or is there a public thoroughfare that may cause problems later.

Check the boundary – you will receive a title plan showing the boundary of your property. It is very easy to wrongly assume something is included in the purchase that isn’t. Go and physically compare the title plan with the property boundaries. Boundary disputes can cause costly problems for home owners so check that you are really buying what you expect.

Fixtures and fittings – when making a purchase or selling your property you may well have negotiated for a number of items to remain in the house as part of the sale. This could be anything from curtains and furniture through to light fittings and white goods. However it is also important to check that this includes fixtures such as central heating boilers, radiators, kitchen units and bathroom suites. It could prove a costly surprise to turn up to your dream home and find all these have been removed because they were not included in the sale.

What should you be aware of?

Staying Cyber Safe is essential when you are buying or selling a property. It is likely that you will use the internet to transfer money during the buying and selling process so please take a few moments to read our guide on Staying Cyber Safe.

Remember if something looks suspicious then double check with us first.

First4Lawyers can help you with your conveyancing requirements, either use our online conveyancing quote tool or call us on 0800 222 9839 for your no-obligation quote.