Frequently Asked Questions
This answers some of the commonly asked questions that clients have. If you have a question that is not covered in the list below, then please let us know.
As a buyer or seller it’s important to have a solicitor lined up before you start the process of buying or selling a property. If you haven’t done so, don’t worry – you can get in touch with us and we will put it in place. A good solicitor is a wise investment to ensure the move goes smoothly and efficiently.
Once an offer has been accepted, the solicitor draws up a contract that will eventually be signed by both parties; however, before the contract can be signed, the buyer’s solicitor must make sure that there are no problems with the property. This is called ‘making enquiries and searches’, which includes local searches, enquiries made to the seller and from the Land Registry. The solicitors will also manage the transfer of deposits and the final sum of money.
Local searches are looking for any matters that affect the property which concern the local authority. This could include whether it’s in a conservation area, whether there are any planned changes to infrastructure around the house or whether there is a compulsory purchase order on the property.
There is a standard set of questions about the property, boundaries, neighbour disputes and fixtures and fittings that will remain in the property. Depending on the property, there may be additional questions that the solicitor wishes to ask.
This ensures that the sale isn’t fraudulent and both parties provide identity and register the purchase with the Land Registry. It will also confirm if the property is leasehold, freehold or common hold.
The buyer may get a survey carried out by a chartered surveyor, their mortgage providers may arrange a valuer or they may get both. This should point out any problems with the building that will need work on. As a general rule, the valuer can be liable if faults occur after you buy the property. This is because the valuer owes a duty of care to the person applying for the mortgage. If the surveyor did not see existing problems with your property when they did their survey, you may be able to claim that they didn’t carry out their work with reasonable care and skill. This would mean you might be owed compensation. We would recommend getting legal advice for anyone who has had problems with their surveyor or valuer.
The responsibility of insuring the building lies with the legal owner. You must ensure you have insurance in place before contracts are exchanged.
Before the contract is exchanged no agreements are legally binding, which means less money can be offered from the buyer, the seller can remove the house from the market and the price can be renegotiated. If either party pulls out they do not have to pay for any of the costs that you as the other party may have incurred.
The final contract between both parties is prepared when the solicitor and buyer are satisfied with the final outcome of all the enquiries, any surveyor’s report has been received with any necessary action taken, the formal mortgage offer has been received, arrangements about the payment of the 10% deposit have been made and the date of completion has been agreed. You and the seller each have a copy of the final contract, which you must sign. These signed contracts are then exchanged. At exchange of contracts both you and the seller are legally bound by the contract and the sale of the house has to go ahead. If either drops out, they are likely to be liable for costs.
There are two ways to buy a property with someone else. The first is as a tenant in common, which means that you each own a specific share of the property’s value and you can give away, sell or mortgage your share separately. The second is as a beneficial joint tenant, this means that it belongs to you and the other owners jointly and you can’t re-mortgage or sell the property without the agreement of all the other owners. If you die, your interest in the property passes automatically to the other owners.
Auctions can be an exciting and speedy way to buy or sell a property. In legal terms it is the same as buying through private treaty (the conventional method); however, the process is very different. There will be a typical two-week block during which the buyer can visit. At this point they should also view the property’s legal (or ‘auction’ pack), which carries all the information they’ll need about the property upfront, apart from a valuation or survey. It’s always recommended that the buyer researches the property before the auction in the same way as they would when buying the ordinary way. Once the auction has been won, the buyer has 28 days (or 20 working days) to complete the purchase, so it’s vital for them to have the finance arranged first. If the sale does not complete they could be liable for substantial fees.
The seller of a repossessed property is obliged to get the best price possible for the house, which means following a strict protocol. Firstly, the buyer must have the finances available, either from a mortgage offer or cash, before an offer will be considered. Once an offer has been accepted, the seller will put out a Public Notice, stating how much your offer is for the house. At this point, if they receive a higher offer from anyone they are obliged to accept it, so buyers are often gazumped or a bidding war is entered. Sales of repossessed property must be completed within 28 day of an offer being accepted.
There are special considerations when buying or selling agricultural property, depending on what type of agricultural property it is, for example whether it’s bare or used for farming. These include agricultural tax reliefs, subsidy, sporting rights, environmental matters and grazing agreements. We have solicitors who specialise in this area, so please give us a call if you have any questions.
Remortgaging is the process of changing lenders to get a better deal on your mortgage. The process is very similar to taking out the first mortgage and the new provider will either need a copy of the original searches and house valuation or will need these completed again. Although there are some initial outlays when remortgaging, you can save lots of money in the long run and we are happy to help guide you through the process.
Transfer of equity is where legal ownership of property changes hands but at least one of the original owners remains on the title. Depending on the situation of the mortgage, whether you are adding or removing people and the value of the property, there are different forms and processes that need to be followed. It is also worth considering a declaration of trust so that each party knows exactly what their interest in the property is.