conveyancing and property services
(a) buying a house - the process
INSTRUCTING YOUR CONVEYANCER: once you have had your offer accepted by your seller, which is 'subject to contract' (meaning that you are not yet legally bound to proceed with the purchase), you need to instruct me officially to act on your behalf in the transaction if you have not already done so.
I will send you my official terms and conditions for the conveyancing work, which I will need you to sign and return to me. This will tell you what I will be doing on your behalf during the conveyancing and gives me the necessary authorisation to act on your behalf.
I will need to get the basic details from you about yourself, your seller and the property. I also have to check your identity officially, unless I have done legal work for you in the past five years and checked identity at that time.
FINANCE: you should apply for your mortgage (if required) at the earliest stage, as this is usually the slowest part of the buying process. Your mortgage offer is needed in writing before contracts can be exchanged, and even when the offer is received it may well contain stipulations which have to be met before the loan will be advanced.
INVESTIGATIONS: the seller's conveyancer will send me a draft contract and some accompanying documents. If there is a Home Information Pack (HIP) (some are still available for properties that have been on the market for a while) I will obtain this from the seller's agent or conveyancer. I will raise any queries on the documents received with the seller's conveyancer and report back to you. We will agree a list of the fixtures and fittings that are to be left by the seller in the property, and this becomes part of the contract.
You are advised to have a survey done in all cases except new builds - which may be a basic home buyer's survey, or a full professional survey. You should not rely on the survey done for your mortgage lender as this is solely for the lender's purposes.
I will meet with you for you to sign the contract, once I have checked it for you and made sure you understand what is being offered to you.
SEARCHES: these are compulsory with a mortgage and strongly advised in the case of cash purchases. I will undertake necessary searches and check the deeds and I am likely to need a payment on account from you at this stage to cover the search fees that have to be paid out (typically around £200-£300).
There are both basic searches (local authority, water/drainage and environmental/planning) that apply in all cases and additional searches (such as the Coal Authority) which are not always needed. I will advise you on the need for the various searches.
EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS: the contract becomes binding at this point, so I will only exchange when I have your agreement to do so. The deposit (usually 10%) is paid by you and a completion date agreed. I need your deposit cleared in my client bank account before exchange can take place. This is usually done at the time that you sign the contract, or shortly afterwards.
COMPLETION OF THE PURCHASE: the balance of money is paid by you, you receive the keys (usually from the Estate Agent) and become the owner of the property. I need the money to be cleared in my client bank account before completion can take place, although mortgage monies - which are sent electronically - will be available on the same day as they are received.
You should have insurance for the property ready from the day when exchange takes place, as there are insurable risks that you take on at that point. The time of day at which legal completion takes place can vary, and it frequently depends on when the mortgage money is received. It is worth noting that completion very often occurs in the afternoon of the completion day, especially if it is a Friday - the day when the majority of residential sales and purchases get completed.
Please remember that your moving day is not definitely fixed until contracts have actually been exchanged. Unfortunately there are all too often unexpected last-minute delays, so you should not book removals or make other arrangements for moving ahead of exchange without being aware of the risk of the completion date being put back.
STAMP DUTY: I will pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax to HM Revenue and Customs within 30 days of the sale. This is a percentage of the sale price of the property, currently only payable on properties bought for over £125,000. The formula for calculating the amount of tax due is more complicated since the Government changed the scheme in December 2014 - but the good news is that most properties now pay less. You should note that you still have to submit the relevant form to HM Revenue and Customs if you are purchasing a property for £40,000 or more, even if there is nothing to pay, and I will take care of this for you.
LAND REGISTRATIONS: the seller's conveyancer will send me the title documents and I will apply to the Land Registry to show that the property is now in your ownership. I will arrange for payment of any Stamp Duty Land Tax due and also the fee that is payable for the registration. I will send you a copy of the register when registration is complete - which can take several weeks.
If you are also selling a property, the selling process will take place alongside the buying process, unless you have made arrangements to keep the two transactions separate from each other (e.g. by using bridging finance).
As a Notary, I am committed to helping you achieve a successful outcome to your transaction, and to making the process as smooth and trouble-free for you as possible.