What are Enquiries?

Pre Contract Enquiries (sometimes known as property enquiries or conveyancing enquiries) are generally the last piece of the jigsaw as you ready yourself for exchange of contracts.  It is the formal process whereby the buyers solicitors will raise written questions/queries/enquiries of the seller.  The seller (via their solicitor) must answer those question honestly and to the best of their knowledge.  If they don’t, and a problem arises later, they (the seller) can technically be held responsible if they misled the buyer in relation to a problem they knew about.

Enquiries can relate to any number of things ranging from issues in the survey, to what items are staying and going (fixtures and fittings forms), to the contract pack, to complex historical legal issues in the property’s ‘title’. When (and only when) your conveyancer is happy with all ‘replies to enquiries’ will you be able to proceed to exchange of contracts.  Unfortunately, because of the way property chains work, even if your own pre contract enquiries are completed, you will only be able to actually move to exchange and completion once everyone else in your ‘chain’ have completed their own enquiries too.

Enquiries FAQs

Conveyancing enquiries (sometimes called pre-contract enquiries) are the point during your conveyance when the buyer’s solicitor will raise various formal questions with the seller’s solicitor.

Pre contract enquiries is another name for conveyancing enquiries.  They are the formal questions that the conveyancing solicitor for the buyer raises with the solicitor for the seller during a conveyancing transaction. 

The legal principle of ‘buyer beware’ applies very much to conveyancing!  As a result of that, it is the responsibility of the solicitor for the buyer to be sure what it is the buyer is purchasing.  So, there is a process before exchange of contracts (the point at which all parties are bound to ‘complete’) where formal questions are raised by the purchaser’s solicitor.  Until the seller (via their solicitor) gives acceptable answers to those questions, exchange of contracts will not happen. 

The buyer’s solicitor ‘raises enquiries’.  This is because the legal principle of ‘buyer beware’ applies and it is the responsibility of the buyer’s solicitor to be sure exactly what it is that is being bought. 

This really is a ‘how long is a piece of string question!  Usually only weeks.  But, it can take longer if there are complex issues that needs to be resolved eg planning issues, odd legal problems, and so on.  It really is down to the particular house in question. 

Pre-contract enquiries are usually raised after the buyer’s solicitor has received the contract pack from the seller’s solicitor, and after they have done their ‘searches’.  The enquiries will usually need to be completed before the conveyance can move to ‘exchange of contracts’. 

Exchange of contracts means that the buyer is then legally bound to ‘complete’ the purchase come what may.  It is essential therefore that all pre-contract enquiries are complete before exchange of contracts otherwise they might become bound to buy a house with (for example) a ‘defective title’. 

There is almost always the need for some sort of pre-contract enquiries to be raised.  This might be anything from simple things like ‘is the cooker staying’, through to complex legal queries arising out of the title deeds to the property. 

Completing pre-contract enquiries is usually the ‘trigger’ for exchange of contracts. All other aspects to your conveyance must of course be sorted too (eg your mortgage in place and your survey done).   

Conveyancing enquiries are undertaken by the buyer’s solicitor and usually form part of the professional fees agreed between the buyer and their appointed solicitor.  Your ‘terms of business’ (as the buyer) with your solicitor should always confirm what is and what is not included in your agreed fees. 

The sorts of pre-contract enquiries that the buyer’s solicitor will commonly raise might include:- 

  • planning queries 
  • building regulation queries 
  • boiler, window, and or electrical certificates 
  • shared rights of way issues 
  • queries relating to communal areas (eg flats) 
  • resident association questions 
  • queries relating to the enforcement of covenants and easements 

Yes!  Pre-contract enquiries are raised by the buyer (via their solicitor). 

No!  Conveyancing enquiries (also know as pre-contract enquiries) are raised by the buyer’s solicitor. 

There is no time restriction on when exchange of contracts happens after the completion of the enquiries stage.  But, all other aspects of your purchase must of course also be ready – eg mortgage in place and survey done.  Also, if you are in a ‘chain’, exchange of contracts will normally only take place when everyone else’s ‘enquiries’ are done in the rest of the chain.  This is where lots of frustrations can crop up. 

Technically yes, pre-contract enquiries can be raised before the searches are done.  However, this is likely to result in a piecemeal enquiries stage (searches will often give rise to enquiries).  Because of this, a good conveyancing solicitor will try to raise one lot of enquiries in one ‘hit’, and this will usually be after the searches have been done. 

Pre-contract, or conveyancing enquiries take so long for a couple of reasons.  Firstly it involves the  buyers and sellers solicitors exchanging emails, and ultimately many of the enquiries will need to be given to the seller to answer before their solicitor can then respond.  So, this just creates something of an administrative burden.  Also, even if as buyer your own enquiries are completed, exchange of contracts will usually only happen when everyone else’s enquiries in your ‘chain’ are also complete.

If you are the buyer in a conveyance, your solicitor has no power too force the seller (or their solicitor) to answer your enquiries any quicker than they choose.  This can be very frustrating for buyers, and it is important to remember that your solicitor can only deal with things in their control – and forcing ‘the other side’ to speed up is not one of them! 

Buyer beware means it is the responsibility of the buyer in a transaction (in this case property) to satisfy themselves what it is they are buying.  Other than misleading the buyer, there is no responsibility on the seller or their solicitor to ‘guarantee’ anything.  For this reason it is important that you take a full survey (to check the ‘bricks and mortar’), and you allow your solicitor the time to undertake full enquiries on your behalf when buying a house. 

If you are taking a mortgage then your solicitor is bound by special rules relating to mortgages that mean they/you MUST undertake full enquiries.  This is because your solicitor will be certifying to your lender that the property is ‘sound’, and as part of that process the rules around mortgages leave your solicitor with no choice but to undertake and complete those pre-contract enquiries.  Technically, if you are buying with cash your solicitor could complete the purchase without pre-contract enquiries.  That is however buying totally ‘blind and you are unlikely to find a solicitor prepared to do that for you because if the property turns out to be ‘duff’ – you are likely to sue the solicitor! 

If you have any questions about conveyancing enquiries (pre-contract enquiries) that are not covered in this section – do please reach out to our expert conveyancing solicitors.  You can email us at or call us on 03300 020 365.

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