This information is not provided as a substitute for professional legal advice; its purpose is to guide you through the process of buying a home. Please contact us if you would like to receive advice from an experienced Conveyancing Solicitor.
When do I appoint a Solicitor?
As soon as you have made the decision to buy a home you should choose a Solicitor to act on your behalf. A Solicitor is there to help you avoid potential problems and to protect your interests at every step.
How much will it cost?
At Fairbairn Smith & Co. we offer competitive rates and our staff are highly qualified and experienced. The Law Society advise home buyers to “bear in mind that you may have to pay more for a more experienced Solicitor, so the cheapest quote is not always the best option”.
There are various additional expenses involved including Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), VAT, Land Registry fees and other search fees. (When we provide a quote we include a complete breakdown of these.)
What information will my Solicitor need?
There are a variety of details and documents which will be needed in order to commence matters. These will include:-
Whether you are purchasing the property alone, or with somebody else
Whether you have a property to sell
Whether the person you are purchasing from is buying another property
What happens next?
Once you have provided these details your Solicitor will contact the Seller’s Solicitor. The Seller’s Solicitor will send your Solicitor a draft Contract and proof of Title (ownership) of the property. Accompanying these will be a list of the fixtures, fittings and contents that are included in the sale, which you will need to check carefully.
What are 'Searches'?
“Searches” are enquiries made with the Land Registry and Local Authority about issues which may affect the property. For example, they can reveal planning permission granted on the property, or on neighbouring property / land. In certain cases your Solicitor may carry out flooding, mining and contaminated-land searches. Your Solicitor will let you know if the Searches reveal anything which gives cause for concern.
What's the difference between 'freehold' and 'leasehold' properties?
When you purchase a freehold property you are purchasing the land beneath the property as well as the building on top of it. With a leasehold property someone else owns the land beneath the property and it is leased to the owner(s) of the building on top of it. Most flats for example are leasehold properties.
If the property is leasehold your Solicitor will need to check the terms and conditions of the lease and find out what service charges and management costs you will have to pay.
Should I appoint a Surveyor?
If you are applying for a mortgage, the mortgage lender will appoint a Surveyor to give an independent valuation of the property, not a survey. This merely tells the mortgage lender whether the asking price for the property is reasonable before they decide whether or not to offer a mortgage.
You will need to decide whether you wish to have a survey carried out on the property. There are two types of survey: a “Home Buyers Survey” and a “Full Building Survey”. The first is designed to advise on the general condition of the property, any urgent repairs required and the value of the property (particularly in view of any defects that have been detected).
A Full Building Survey gives an assessment of the structural condition of the property and more detailed information regarding the general condition of the property. You can either appoint your own Surveyor or ask the Surveyor who carries out the valuation to act on your behalf.
I've applied for a mortgage - what do I do when I receive a mortgage offer?
You should read the mortgage offer letter, Mortgage Deed and mortgage terms and conditions very carefully. If there is anything at all which you do not understand then ask your Solicitor to explain it to you.
Signing the Contract
If you still wish to proceed with the purchase after your Solicitor and Surveyor have provided the results of their investigations then your Solicitor will finalise and explain to you the terms of the Contract. You will then be asked to sign the Contract and provide the agreed deposit money (usually 5% - 10% of the purchase price).
This is the point at which your Solicitor and the Seller’s Solicitor exchange Contracts so that each of you has the Contract that the other has signed.
If you change your mind about buying the property after Contracts have been exchanged you may have to pay a financial penalty. At this stage the Solicitors will also set the date for “completion” (the day you will take possession of the property).
After Contracts have been exchanged, and before completion, your Solicitor will receive the funds from your mortgage lender and will request any outstanding money from you. Final searches will be carried out and arrangements made with the Seller’s Solicitor for paying off any existing mortgages on the property. A Transfer Deed will be prepared by your Solicitor and sent to the Seller’s Solicitor to be signed.
The normal period between exchange and completion used to be four weeks, but by agreement is often less, typically two weeks.
The day of Completion is the day on which you become the legal owner of the property and can move in. Your Solicitor will transfer the funds to the Seller’s Solicitor and the keys will be released to you (often by the Estate Agent who arranged the sale). Your Solicitor will pay the SDLT and Land Registry fees and register your ownership of the property (along with the mortgage lender’s interest in the property).
What happens if I'm selling a property too?
If you have a property to sell then we can co-ordinate the sale of your current home with the purchase of your new home.
Once a buyer has been found, we will send you a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents form to complete, along with a Leasehold Questionnaire if applicable. We will provide the Buyer’s Solicitor with a draft Contract for agreement along with proof of Title.
If you are relying on the money from your sale to fund your purchase then Contracts will be exchanged on both properties on the same day. Completion will then be arranged so that you leave your current home on the same day as you take possession of your new home.
Related Legal Matters
When buying a home other legal matters may arise about which you should receive advice. If you are buying the property with another person who you are not married to then it is recommended that you enter into a “Deed of Trust”. This document will set out exactly what share of the property belongs to each of you and will safeguard your interests.
If you do not already have a Will, it is strongly recommended that you make one at this point. If you do have a Will, it should be reviewed as it may need updating to take account of the change in your circumstances. See Making a Will
Speak to your Solicitor if you require advice about these, or any other legal matters.