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Commonly asked questions
Q: What is conveyancing?
When a property is bought or sold, the legal ownership, known as title, must pass from the seller to the buyer. The process is called conveyancing. A buyer must ensure that the seller is the genuine owner who has the right to sell the property, and that no one else has legal rights over the home. They will also check that any loans secured on the property will be paid off, and the property is acceptable for mortgage lending.
Q: What is a conveyancer?
A conveyancer is a specialist lawyer who deals with the legal side of buying or selling property (transfer of ownership). Traditionally solicitors carried out this work, but today it is often done by licensed conveyancers or fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives (regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers).
Q: How much does it cost?
Costs vary as some transactions are more complex than others. Conveyancing costs for a typical property can range from £500 for a simple sale to £1500 for a combined purchase and sale. Buying costs more than selling because of the various search fees and charges. Flats normally require more work, being Leasehold, hence charges tend to be higher than Freehold properties (most houses).
Charges broadly break down into 2 parts: the fee paid to the solicitor or conveyancer, and (for buyers) payments to third parties for checks and searches, known as disbursements. You should be given a breakdown of charges including local authority searches, Land Registry fees, drainage searches etc.
In addition, buyers normally also have to pay ‘stamp duty land tax’ (SDLT) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (currently charged on all properties above £125,000). In Scotland you pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax when you buy a property. For current rates see www.hmrc.gov.uk
Q: Why is it important to use a conveyancer?
It’s essential for a legal expert to check the contract carefully to ensure the buyer (and their mortgage lender) secure good title to the property (known as ‘the land’). They should check that all necessary rights exist (e.g. a legal right of access) and notify the buyer of any restrictions. Your conveyancer will carry out a number of searches and checks on the property (e.g. that there are no rights of way across the land, and that planning and Building Regs consent was obtained for any alterations and extensions etc).
Q: What are the key stages?
The conveyancing process begins when an offer has been agreed on a property. The seller’s legal expert must then draw up a draft contract with details such as prices, boundaries and fixtures and fittings. An Energy Performance Certificate should also be included. There are two major landmarks: Exchange of Contracts and Completion (the day you normally move in). Until Exchange of Contracts, either side can pull out for any reason (even if someone else in the ‘chain’ suffers a problem) as agreements are not legally binding until contracts are exchanged. It typically takes about 3 months from agreeing an offer to Exchange. Then you typically have 2 weeks between Exchange and Completion but you are free to agree any timescale.
Q: What do solicitor or conveyancers do?
They carry out the searches and pre-contract enquiries. The seller’s solicitor or conveyancer will prepare the draft contract to be approved by the buyer’s solicitor as well as collect and prepare property information to give to the seller’s solicitor, in line with the Law Society’s protocol.
Q: What searches are done?
A standard search could include requesting information from the local authority, for example, of any planned developments, disputes, new roads or rights of way, that may affect the property. The local water company may also be contacted to confirm sewers, mains and pipes are maintained by them. Less common searches include: environmental checks such as history of flooding.
Q How long does it take?
It takes on average about 3 months, but while some transactions are quick others may take longer.
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