Do I need to visit your Office?
In most cases it is not necessary for your conveyancer to see you in person. All issues can usually be dealt with by telephone or correspondence. We have acted for clients in all parts of the country and the world. We are happy to see you if you prefer to come in.
Will I be able to speak to my conveyancer whenever I need to?
Your conveyancer or his or her secretary should be available to speak to you during their normal working hours. If for any reason they are unavailable a member of the team will take your call. If they cannot immediately answer your query they will arrange for your conveyancer to call you back. We also have voicemail facilities so you will always have the option of leaving a message.
What do estate agents do, and how much will they charge?
They should advise you about the price and best method of selling your property. They will then try to sell your home at the amount you agree, and will advertise it in the local papers and their websites. There are no nationally fixed fees, so ask the agent about these. Agents do not normally receive a fee unless they succeed in selling the house for you, but there are exceptions to this rule. They will however, often charge for advertising and expenses. They are now obliged to enter into a written contract with you setting out the precise terms of their engagement. You should read this carefully; if you are uncertain about any terms, then ask our advice before signing anything.
What about a survey of the house I wish to buy?
If the house is new and covered by a National House Builders Council Certificate you may not need a survey. However, bear in mind the NHBC Certificate only covers ‘major structural defects’. The older the house the more essential it is to have it surveyed – by someone properly qualified and independent. If you wish, we will help you with this by a recommending a reputable surveyor.
Many people think that a “survey” by the Building Society, in fact a valuation, is all that is necessary, but this is wrong. The Building Society surveyor is working for the Society and will check the value of the house for them, and look for any obvious defects. He is not working for you but looking to see if the property is good security for the amount you wish to borrow. There are other types of survey such as a Home Buyers report or full structural survey which are much more thorough and can be vital for older properties. We can advise you on the type of survey you will need. A detailed survey can be expensive and you should obtain an estimate of the cost before commissioning one.
How can I best finance my purchase?
Most people have to borrow money to buy their new home. A mortgage can be obtained from a bank, Building Society or some other source. There are many different mortgages available and the most appropriate type varies from person to person.
What is a deposit and why do I pay it?
The seller of the property wants to be certain that the buyer will honour his obligation to complete the purchase and therefore he asks for a deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price, when contracts are exchanged. There is no point in paying the deposit until then. Invariably it is paid via us to the seller’s solicitor. We strongly advise you against paying it to anyone else without first seeking our advice.
How long is it going to take?
No two matters are the same, but most sales and purchases are completed within six weeks to eight weeks. We have in the past completed matters within 48 hours but this is not the norm. We will wherever possible work to your preferred timescale. However, delays can be caused by numerous factors outside of our control.
Can you tell me about Searches?
As you would expect, there are numerous enquiries to be made of other people. This is the buyer’s solicitor’s job. He/she will carry out searches on the property which include a local search with the Local Authority, a water and drainage search, an environmental search and a Chancel Repair Liability search. In appropriate cases other searches may be required such as a Coal Mining Search, Commons Registration Search which relates to Common Land, a Flood Search or a Planning Search.
These enquiries may seem pointless in many cases, but they are not. If we don’t ask questions, there is a risk that an important snag may never be noticed or disclosed. The seller doesn’t have to tell you everything about the property, so he must be asked specific questions to reveal problems. You may have heard the phrase ‘Caveat Emptor’ (let the buyer beware); we will advise whether we are satisfied with the answers we receive, and whether we consider further enquiries are necessary for your protection.
You mentioned planning permission. What is this?
Most new buildings, and additions to buildings require planning permission from the Local Authority before they are erected. If the home you are buying has a garage which was put up without planning permission, then the Council could order you to take it down. It is our job to look for this type of risk. If you are buying on the basis that you are going to alter an existing house, please tell us. We will find out whether you need planning permission. It may be necessary to make the contract conditional on planning permission being granted or to delay exchange of contracts until you are sure about this. The searches should also reveal if the property is within a conservation area or is a listed building etc. If this is so, the Local Authority and others have stricter control over what you can do to the house.
What about rights of way, and neighbours’ rights?
If you are selling, you will probably know about any affecting the property. If so please tell us about them, For example, it may be that you and your neighbour have a right to use a common driveway. Similarly, he may have rights of drainage over your land. It may be necessary to specifically mention these rights in the contract.
If you are buying and there are ‘restrictions’ or ‘easements’ mentioned in the contract, we will explain how they will affect you. You do not want to buy a home which has restrictions preventing you from using it the way you wish. We will also explain about the ownership of boundaries and, so far as we can, who has to maintain them.
What about tenancies?
It is absolutely vital to buyers that they know of any tenancy affecting the house or land they are buying. The old lady you met when looking round the house could turn out to be a ‘tenant’ – with a right to live in the property – and not be the seller’s mother as you thought. We will, of course, demand vacant possession of the house on completion, but do ask us about anything that worries you.
What about fixtures and fittings?
This is very important. The normal rule is that anything permanently fixed to the property (“fixtures”) such as a bath, built in cupboard and plants and shrubs, will be acquired by the buyer. To avoid any misunderstanding over what is and is not included in the sale price of the property the seller will complete a schedule of fixtures, fittings and contents which will be attached to and form part of the contract. It may be appropriate for both the buyer and the seller to agree a price for fittings and add this to the contract. Discuss this with us, it may also have a bearing on Stamp Duty.
I’m buying a lease. Does this make any difference?
Yes, it does. You will be paying a rent – large or small – and very likely a ‘maintenance charge’ to cover the cost of cleaning the building and keeping it in repair. Also the Lease will have many clauses which will affect you. Can you keep pets? Can you use one room as an office? Can you leave your car in the driveway? How often must you decorate? Who decides how the maintenance charge is calculated and what do you get for it? All these are set out in the Lease. As the Landlord will be able to enforce these terms, you must go through it carefully with us and discuss it.
Should I be thinking about insurance?
Yes you should be arranging both buildings and content insurance. You would expect these to go on risk from the completion date. However, often the contract will make you liable to insure the building from exchange. If this is the case we will inform you of this.
In the case of leasehold property you will normally only need contents insurance as the landlord will usually insure the building. Again we will give advice on this.
You may need Life Insurance or want to take out Mortgage Protection Insurance.
What is it going to cost?
The cost will be in two parts: firstly the payments we make for you to the Government and others, these include Stamp Duty Land Tax, fees payable to the local Council and the Land Registry etc. Secondly there is our charge for work done by us and our staff.
Our charges are based on several factors including the time we spend, the value of the property, the complexity of the transaction, whether the Title is ‘registered’ etc. Please ask us for an estimate by phoning us. We will always provide you with a written estimate of our charges.
As a buyer, is there anything else I should consider, apart from the house?
Yes, there is. You are probably about to become the owner of the largest asset you have ever had, so what about your Will? Have you made one to provide for the family if you should die? If this is not the only house you own, have you thought about Capital Gains Tax? Have you thought about Inheritance Tax? We are not only conveyancers, but we can also can advise about Wills, taxation and family matters.
Do you give an after-sales service?
We do. Our charges will include the ordinary tidying-up after the sale or purchase has been completed. For example, ensuring the seller’s mortgage is discharged, completing the registration of your purchase and sending any necessary copy documents to you and your lender.