In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, the government has put a brake on the housing market, encouraging people to delay their home moves and not allow further viewings. The new guidance also urges both buyers and sellers to be flexible in agreeing new moving dates.
Now, more than ever, you will need to lean on your legal advisor, who you should ensure is a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), which provides a recognised standard of quality for residential conveyancing practices.
If you are at the start of the hunt for your new home, you may have already identified a property and now need to look for a conveyancing solicitor to act on your behalf.
Many firms are still keeping their offices open to the public, but cheap conveyancing quotes can be found online at sites offering cheap conveyancing quotes.
Once you have chosen your professional, it is important to understand the tasks they will be undertaking on your behalf. Here is a look at five key issues.
1. Understanding the conveyancing process
When a property is sold, there is a series of legal and administrative work required to ensure that the purchaser becomes the legal owner. This is known as conveyancing and is carried out by a solicitor or conveyancer. An experienced professional will make sure that you understand the reasons behind each step of the process and explain how long each stage will take. At the outset, your solicitor will receive a contract of sale and a copy of the title deeds from the vendor’s solicitor. There will also be leasehold details where appropriate, fittings and contents details listing what is included or excluded from the sale price, copies of planning consents and energy certificates. Your solicitor will go through these with you and answer any questions you have.
2. Conducting searches
Prior to exchanging contracts, your solicitor will arrange a number of searches to find out as much information as possible about the property you wish to purchase. This will include any disputes attached to the property, planning issues, and information about the surrounding land. Enquiries of the local authority will involve building regulations and planning, any road development that might impinge on the property, and ensuring that any structural changes to the property have not breached planning law. Other searches will look at drainage and water supplies, flooding risks and whether the land has been contaminated in the past.
3. Report on title
Once the searches have been completed, your solicitor will show you a report on title, which will highlight any restrictive covenants, rights and obligations and any rights of way that affect the property. In effect, it pulls together all the information contained in the answers to the queries raised in the searches and other information provided by the vendor’s representative.
4. Exchange of contracts
Once your funding is in place, your solicitor will receive mortgage instructions from your lender. If you and your advisor are happy with the results of the searches and your mortgage is approved, you can prepare for exchange of contracts. Prior to exchange, neither party is committed to the sale, but provided your solicitor is happy that everything is satisfactory, they will ask you to sign the contract with the vendor. Once the identical contracts are exchanged between the solicitors for both parties, the agreement becomes binding. At this point, you will have agreed a date for completion and moving home. There will be penalties on either side if the date is not adhered to.
On the completion day, your solicitor will arrange money transfers, deal with any tax issues including Stamp Duty payments to HMRC, arrange for the collection of the keys, and ensure the title to the property is newly registered with the Land Registry.
As the above list suggests, the act of conveyancing is complex, and since this is probably the largest purchase you are ever going to make, it is vital that the full legal process is adhered to and no mistakes are made. Employing an experienced conveyancing professional is essential if your new purchase is going to be stress-free and successful.
Once the property is yours, there are still a few tasks for you to undertake. Check that the fixtures and fittings are as agreed, inform the utility companies that you are now in situ, let your bank know, and change your address on important documents such as your driving license.