Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions concerning conveyancing.
- What is Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is usually defined as the transfer of the legal ownership of a property from one person to another; however the conveyancing process can be a lot more complex than this makes it sound. In reality it will include the drafting and checking of contracts, a detailed inspection of the legal title and investigatory searches. Once everything is in order and all parties are satisfied, the conveyancers will exchange contracts and complete.
- What is Help to Buy?
Help to Buy is a scheme offered by the Government, in two parts, to help those with only a 5% deposit to enter or move up the property ladder. To find out more, click here.
- What is a starter pack?
This is a simple questionnaire that you complete to provide us with all the basic information we require to start doing the legal transaction: details about, for example, your existing mortgage, your bank account details and your personal information. If you are selling a property, it will also include the property information form which asks you some basic questions about your home. Finally there is a home contents form: this lets us know which fixtures and fittings you are leaving with the property and which you intend to take with you.
- What does leasehold mean?
With leasehold property, the Tenant has the right to own, occupy and use that property for a set period of time (the Lease Term) on payment of an annual Ground Rent. It differs from freehold property in that the title to the property reverts to the freeholder on expiry of the lease.
- What does freehold mean?
With freehold property, the owner has complete and absolute ownership of the land and all buildings built on it. The freehold owner has the right to do as they like with their home and land, subject to legal and planning constraints.
- What searches are involved in buying a property?
The most common searches obtained on a purchase are a local authority search (which details planning applications, listed building applications etc) and a water and drainage search (to confirm that you are connected to the water mains and sewerage system). Contrary to popular belief, the Local Search only covers the immediate vicinity of the property. It will not warn you of any potential large-scale developments in the area. It’s worthwhile asking the local authority about any approvals for development of nearby land. We will also need to obtain an environmental report. This will detail the likelihood of the property lying on contaminated land and any flooding or subsidence risks. If your property is an area once used for coal mining, tin mining or brine extraction we may need to carry out additional searches.
- How long does the conveyancing process take?
By embracing new technologies and placing the customer at the heart of our business, we are able to provide a conveyancing service that is generally quicker than our High Street counterparts.
- What is the Exchange of Contracts?
This is the point of no return. Once contracts have been exchanged the move is set in stone, legally speaking.
It may sound like a formal process where bundles of papers are handed over a table, but in reality it is likely to be a telephone conversation between the buyer’s conveyancer and the seller’s conveyancer. They will agree the terms of the contract, including the final purchase price, the amount of deposit paid and confirm the completion date.
Once this conversation is over they will send their signed contracts to each other and the transaction becomes legally binding.
Because there is no going back, exchange of contracts cannot take place until every single issue in the transaction is resolved.
- What is meant by a 'Completion Date’?
The big day! Completion is the point when money changes hands and you have to move out of your property or into your new home. The time it takes to complete depends on how quickly the money transfers between bank accounts, but we would usually expect everything to be over by lunchtime.
Your case handler will call you as soon as they receive confirmation that money has reached the conveyancer’s account. You must then drop off the keys with the estate agent.
It is a standard condition of the contract that you will give vacant possession on completion.
Do bear in mind that completion could take place very early – possibly as early as 9am. So you’ll need to be organised. If you are not out of the property – at the very latest – by about 1pm or 2pm you will run the risk of breaching the terms of the contract. This could mean you incur additional fees and charges from your buyer.
- What is Stamp Duty?
This is a tax levied on any property sale above £125,000. If the property is valued between £125,001 and £250,000 the rate stands at 2% of the purchase price. So, for instance, if you are buying a property costing £200,000 you will have to pay an additional £4,000 to HM Revenue and Customs. Stamp Duty rises to 5% for properties between £250,001 and £925,000 and 10% for properties over £925,001. If the property costs more than £1.5million, the Stamp Duty rate goes up to 12%. For more information, click here.
- What is a survey?
Your mortgage lender will carry out a basic valuation of the property. But don’t rely on this report: it is simply to verify potential resale value. The valuation could be the result of a drive-by inspection, or even an estimate based on the value of similar properties in the immediate vicinity. We strongly recommend that you invest in your own survey.
The least expensive form of survey is known as a Homebuyer’s Report. This provides a good overall picture of the state of the property based on an extensive visual inspection. The surveyor will look at the basic structure and the roof, highlighting any significant or urgent defects. If any obvious problems are detected you might want to reconsider your offer, or consider negotiating a reduction in the price.
At the top end of the scale is a building or structural survey. These are highly recommended if the property you are buying is listed, old, in a conservation area, of unusual construction or if there have been extensive alterations or renovations. The building survey can be tailored to meet your needs and might include electrical inspections, damp monitoring or structural testing. You must read any survey carefully and reach your own conclusions. Neither a surveyor nor a conveyancer can tell you whether or not to buy a property.