15 Common Conveyancing Questions

Moving house is one of the most stressful things any of us do. Just thinking about it raises the blood pressure. Rachel Inwood, Conveyancing Solicitor at Harold Stock & Co Solicitors, takes us through some of the common questions our clients ask about moving home and the Conveyancing process.

1. How Long will Conveyancing Take?

How long depends on several factors, such as how many buyers and sellers are involved in the chain. Although the process of conveyancing is the same in every case, the details vary greatly.

If the property has a straightforward title and searches are returned quickly and are clear, the transaction could go through in less than a month. However, a complex transaction with a long chain may take several months to complete.

The national average is 8-12 weeks, we are normally quicker than that, but we can go as fast or slow as the client requires. My quickest transaction was 2 weeks, my longest is 2 years and counting!

2. I’m Currently Renting, When Should I Hand My Notice In?

Hand in your notice too early, and you are left with nowhere to live. Hand it in too late, and you will end up paying a mortgage and rent at the same time.

The usual recommendation is to hand in notice on exchange of contracts. Although the parties can agree to work toward a particular completion date, it is only on exchange that the date becomes binding and cannot change, without penalties for the defaulting party.

At the very least, notice should not be handed in until your conveyancer has checked the title and a mortgage offer is received.

3. Can You Act For Both the Seller and the Buyer?

No.  Sometimes buyers and sellers hope it will be cheaper and quicker for a conveyancer to act for both parties, but the Solicitors Code of Conduct rules on conflicts of interest don’t allow it, except in a small number of exceptional cases.

The reason is that there is the possibility that a conflict of interests will arise. A good example would be if there is an issue with the title which might cause the buyer to withdraw from the purchase. The solicitor has a duty to tell the buyer and the lender, which can lead to an possible conflict of interests.

4. When should I instruct a solicitor?

If you are selling, you should speak to your solicitor before you put your house on the market. If you are buying, you should make contact with them before making an offer.

5. How much will it cost?

If you are selling a house, you need to budget for estate agent’s fees and legal fees.

If you’re buying, you need to budget for legal fees and disbursements – these are payments made by your solicitor to others, such as stamp duty, land registry fees and search fees. You  will also need to consider lender’s valuation fees and your own survey fee.

6. At what point should I apply for a mortgage?

You need to do some initial research before you view properties, then you will know how much you can afford. There are thousands of different mortgages on the market and you need time to find out which one is best for you. Working with a mortgage broker can help. You can obtain a mortgage in principle from most lenders before finding a particular property.

7. What is a chain?

People usually elect to buy and sell simultaneously, to avoid the risk and cost of owning two houses at once. A number of linked transactions can build up, each dependent on the other and exchange of contracts must take place simultaneously in all transactions. The chain is the number of houses and people buying and selling at once.

This means that the speed of progress is usually dictated by the slowest link in the chain.

8. When do I know the property is mine?

Once contracts are exchanged, a legally binding agreement is in place which means that neither party can back out. Until that point, either party may withdraw. The property is only yours on the day of completion when all money has changed hands.

This means that even if you’ve had an offer accepted, the property isn’t securely yours and you might be subject to “gazumping!”

8. What is gazumping?

Gazumping occurs when a seller accepts a higher offer before contracts are exchanged with the buyer.

There is very little that can be done to prevent  someone else gazumping you, through a lock out agreement can sometimes prevent it from happening.

9. What is the difference between exchange and completion?

The exchange of contracts is the point at which the seller and buyer agree to commit themselves unconditionally to the transaction. This is when the deposit is handed over to your solicitor.

The completion date is the date you hand over the rest of the money and move into your new property and vacate the old one. The agreed completion date is written into the contract on exchange.

10. What is a “local search”

This is a set of standard enquiries that your conveyancing solicitor raises with the local authority.

It relates solely to the property itself, which means that it does not reveal everything. For example, any proposals to develop or extend neighbouring land or property would not show on a local search.

The local council charge a “local search fee” which your conveyancing solicitor collects from you and pays to them when the search is done.

11. How do I find out if there are building or development plans nearby?

Enquiries can be made with the local planning office to check whether any planning permission has been granted.

Your conveyancing solicitor can point you in the right direction to help you undertake this if this is something you wish to investigate.

12. Do I need to have a survey?

If you are taking out a mortgage your lender will require a valuation but this is not a survey and is for the lender’s benefit, not yours.

It is always sensible to have your own independent survey. Your solicitor can recommend a good local surveyor.

14. Why have I been asked to provide proof of identification?

Solicitors, like most organisations which regularly handle large amounts of client money, are regulated by the Money Laundering Regulations. That means that all solicitors are required by law to check the identity of their clients to protect themselves against mortgage fraud or money laundering.

Because house purchases involve hundreds of thousands of pounds, conveyancers are particularly at risk. Part of the obligation, and the reason why requests for ID are standard conveyancing questions, is to verify that a client is who they say they are. This will mean examining photographic ID and evidence of your residence at the correspondence address provided. A conveyancer will also ask for proof as to how you have acquired the money being used to purchase the property.

15. When do I get the deeds to my property?

There are no “Deeds” as such any more, as the legal documents of title are held electronically at the Land Registry.

However, there are a number of useful supporting documents which you should keep safe as they are required when the property is sold again.

If you have any more questions or queries about conveyancing or moving home, contact us at Harold Stock & Co Solicitors.

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