Currently the conveyancing process takes between 6 – 12 weeks. This is from the offer being accepted to ‘completion’ – the day everyone moves.
This is just a rough estimate as every ‘chain’ and property is different. If it is a short chain with cash purchasers (ie no mortgages) then it will be quicker process. If there is a long chain, or there are properties with particularly complex legal issues, the process could take a lot longer.
Ultimately the completion day will be agreed by everyone in the chain.
Transparency is at the heart of everything we do – and always has been. Nowhere is that more important than pricing. You don’t want any surprises, and actually, neither do we! You can get an exact bespoke quote by clicking here. This will set out not only our own charges but any and all ‘disbursements’ too. Meantime, here are some guidance on likely fees, supplements, and so on.
Our fee to sell/buy a freehold property for under a £1,000,000 start from £995 + VAT. If you are buying/selling a property over £1,000,000 then our fee is 0.1% of the purchase price + VAT. This is for our fee only (ie disbursements are additional to this).
Some things make your move more difficult and this will be reflected in our pricing as there is more work for us to do for you. So for example, if you are buying a leasehold property, help to buy or a new build there will be a further £150 + VAT for each of these.
We charge £500 + Vat for a transfer of equity; £500 + VAT for a re-mortgage; and £750 + VAT for a transfer of equity with re-mortgage.
What we can’t include in our quote are additional costs we can’t foresee until we review the legal papers. Examples include (but aren’t limited to) the need to purchase an indemnity policy, management packs, further Land Registry documents or further searches etc. If any additional work (and therefore charges) do become necessary you will always be advised about this as soon as is possible. And, any additional charges will be discussed and agreed with you. Rest assured there will be no last-minute surprises!
You may also need specific advice from other companies along with the way, such as a surveyor, damp specialist, drainage expert etc. We don’t include their fees in our quote. For a quote, you should contact them directly.
The Contract Pack is known by a number of names – but amounts to the same thing! It is normally just called a Contract Pack. It is sometimes also known as a conveyancing pack, or solicitors contract pack.
You should include any and all documents you think relevant to those things that the TA6 covers (eg warranties, service records, planning consents, etc). Your solicitor will return to you anything that is not needed. Its better to include too much than too little.
Yes – simply liaise with your estate agent who will in turn liaise with the seller. If they are happy to leave things or sell, the estate agent will deal with this. Anything agreed should be notified to the solicitors who will document this appropriately.
No – within reason! Tax evasion is against the law! However, it is perfectly proper to have fittings paid for outside of the purchase price and this will not attract Stamp Duty. NB – your solicitor will advise you on what is reasonable and permissible on a case by case basis. Common sense must prevail!
This relates only to leasehold properties and so if you are buying/selling a freehold house it will not be relevant. Leasehold properties tend to be where there are shared areas (eg flats). In this case, a form TA7 Leasehold Information Form will be part of the Contract Pack.
If you have any questions about Contract Packs that these FAQ’s or the other content on our website have not covered, do please reach out to our team of expert conveyancing solicitors or our customer support team who will be delighted to help.
A mortgage is a ‘secured loan’ from a bank or other lender that helps the borrower buy a house. Secured means that the house is the ‘guarantee’ to the lender that the borrower will continue to repay the loan. If the borrower does not keep up repayments, their house may be repossessed by the lender as part of the terms of a mortgage.
A mortgage is simply a loan that is ‘secured’ against the property. The bank or lender can repossess the house if the borrower fails to keep up repayments against the mortgage. The solicitor ‘secures’ the loan against the property by a process called a Legal Charge. The Legal Charge is lodged at the Land Registry against the office ‘Title’ of the property.
This is the legal process by which your mortgage is secured against the property at the Land Registry. Charges can be in relation to other things – not just traditional mortgages. So for example, legal charges are often used during divorce proceedings to protect either party.
A mortgage agreed in principle means that the lender has agreed to lend you the mortgage money against the purchase of the property. They will have assessed your eligibility against your income and outgoings.
A mortgage advisor (or broker) is someone who acts as an intermediary between the borrower and the lender. You can consult a mortgage broker to help you find the best mortgage for you. Brokers are sometimes ‘tied’ which means they have a limited access to the mortgage market and will only recommend products for certain or even just one lender. If you want a broker to help you with mortgages available across the whole market, you should speak to an INDEPENDENT mortgage broker.
An independent mortgage advisor (or broker) has access to the whole mortgage market as opposed to a ‘tied advisor’ who will normally just work for one lender and so will only ever recommend to you the products which their employer offers.
A mortgage valuation is a particular type of ‘survey’ which your lender will want to make sure that the property is worth what they think it is – and critically so that if you miss payments on your mortgage they can repossess it and get their money back.
A mortgage valuation is NOT the same as a full survey. It is for the benefit of your lender (not you) and is simply to establish that the property is worth what was submitted as its value in your mortgage application. A survey is for YOUR benefit and will generally report to you on many points beyond just market value.
Although a mortgage valuation is for the benefit of your lender, and will generally tell you nothing about the state of the property in terms of condition or issues, nevertheless it is normal for you to have to pay for this! It is sometimes rolled up into the mortgage loan itself and so you do not have to pay cash for it upfront. Some lenders offer to pay for the valuation as an incentive to use them.
Sometimes lenders will offer a combination of both repayment and interest only. With this, part of your mortgage you repay both capital and interest, and the other part (whatever the percentages might be) you repay on an interest only basis.
A fixed rate mortgage means you will know what your mortgage repayments will be as they will stay the same irrespective of what happens to interest rates generally. Fixed rate mortgages tend to be limited to a particular period with the mortgage then reverting to a variable rate.
A variable rate mortgage will fluctuate with interest rates generally. This means you have no way of being certain what repayments you might have to make – for example if interest rates suddenly go up, so will your mortgage repayments. This was a big issues in the 1980’s when interest rates went as high as 15% above base rate!
Yes and no! Solicitors are NOT permitted to offer any form of financial advice unless they are specifically qualified and regulated to do so. So, they can not offer any view on which mortgage is right for you – that’s the job of a mortgage broker and a decision for you. However, your solicitor will deal with the legal side of your mortgage which means getting the mortgage registered at the Land Registry (in simple terms).
Any conveyancing solicitor should be able to deal with a mortgage for you. If you are buying a property then that will generally all form part of the conveyancing process and conveyancing fees. If you are re-mortgaging, the new mortgage company may recommend one of their ‘panel solicitors’.
Typically, lenders will refer your mortgage application to one of their ‘underwriters’ once the valuation is done and after that it is normal practice for approved mortgages to have a formal mortgage offer issued to you.
The process for getting a mortgage is the same for all of us – whether we are buying for the time or have done it many times before. You need to establish the amount you can borrow, and what house this will allow you to buy. Speaking to an independent mortgage advisor (or broker as they are also known) may help you in this process.
However it is done, and whether through a mortgage broker or direct with a lender, the general principle of a mortgage application is to prove to your proposed lender that you can afford the mortgage. Put another way, you will need to prove your income and outgoings, and this will need to fall inside their lending criteria.
In the ‘good old days’ (OK OK – even solicitors are allowed a sense of humour), mortgages tended to be calculated on simple multiples of earnings – for example 3 times your salary if you were applying on your own or 2 x combined salaries for joint purchasers. Lending criteria is unique to each lender and if in doubt you can consult with an independent mortgage broker who should be able to help you establish how much you can borrow.
No! Solicitors are specifically forbidden by their regulator to give financial advice unless they are qualified and specifically regulated to do so. Very few conveyancing lawyers will have those qualifications. Financial advice is for financial advisors (mortgage brokers)!
Your solicitor will normally be acting for both you and your lender when you purchase a house. They have a duty to your lender to confirm that the title to the property is ‘sound’. This happens by way of a simple certificate that your solicitor sends to your lender before exchange of contracts in readiness for the mortgage money to be released.
Yes! Its an odd set up and one many house buyer’s don’t even realise is happening, but your solicitor has a duty to both you AND your lender. If they get your conveyancing wrong, they are potentially liable to you and your mortgage company.
Your solicitor will certify (literally send them a certificate before exchange of contracts) to confirm that the legal ‘title’ to your house is in good order. They will also secure the legal charge which means the lender has the right to repossess your house if you do not keep up repayments of your mortgage.
The mortgage money is generally sent to the solicitor anything up to 1-2 days before completion. Sometimes it is on the day of completion and this can slow up the whole process and mean you do not get the keys to your new home until late in the day!
Your lender is entitled to repossess your house and sell it to repay all outstanding amounts including capital sums, interest, and any legal and other costs they incurred in having to repossess the property.
In a generic sense, a property survey is an inspection report prepared by a surveyor which looks at the condition and/or value of a property (there are a few types of survey). Property surveys are also called conveyancing surveys building surveys.
This is a report for your lender and is simply intended to satisfy the bank that the property is worth what it is you are paying for it. It does not go into any detail about the condition of the property. It is simply to satisfy the lender that the money they have lent could be recovered if you defaulted on your mortgage.
Quite often the fee for a mortgage valuation is included in the mortgage deal. You should check with your lender whether they meet the cost of the mortgage valuation. Even though the mortgage valuation is for the benefit of the lender (not you) – they do still sometimes require the buyer to pay!
No – a mortgage valuation and a Survey are very different things! A mortgage valuation is actually for the benefit of your lender – not you. It is simply designed to satisfy them that the house is worth what you are paying for it. Then, if you default on your mortgage repayments, they can repossess the property and recover the money they loaned you. A survey is for you, and it is designed to give you a detailed report on the building itself so that you know what you are buying (eg if there are problems with it such as structural issues).
No! It is entirely YOUR responsibility to organise a survey and the report produced by the surveyor is for your benefit, NOT your solicitors benefit. It is for you to decide whether you want to buy the property – your solicitor is only dealing with the legal side of the process.
If your survey reveals problems with the house you can either try to negotiate a reduced price with the seller (to allow for the price of repair works), or simply pull out of the purchase altogether. This is why you MUST have your survey done before exchange of contracts. After exchange of contracts you are legally bound to buy the property come what may.
If your survey raised issues with the property this is something for you to resolve with the seller. You may do so directly with the seller, or via the estate agent. This is generally NOT something that your solicitor deals with as it is not part of the legal process, or part of their ‘job’.
You should have your survey done BEFORE exchange of contracts. That way if the property turns out to have problems you were not aware of you can either pull out of the purchase, or try to negotiate a reduced price with the seller to allow you to get any work done to rectify the problems that the survey reveals.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 03300 020 365.
The Solicitors for buyer and seller exchange contracts by telephone but then send the original documents to each other by post either that evening or the following day. In the (very distant) past, solicitors would invariably get together to physically exchange contracts there and then!
Exchange of contracts will only happen once the following are all in place, and you have given your solicitor clear instructions to go ahead and exchange contracts. Broadly speaking, these matters need to be dealt with:-
Searches – done and ‘reported’ to you without issues
Mortgage – firm offer in place
Mortgage valuation – done
Survey – you should always have a full survey to check what you are buying (this is different to a mortgage valuation)
Contract Pack – your solicitor will have checked the legal title to the property and reported to you
Pre Contract Enquiries – these will all be complete to your satisfaction and that of your solicitor
The time between exchange of contracts and completion day can be anything from same day to around 4 weeks. New build properties (that are not yet completed) may include a long stop completion date months after exchange of contracts.
Once exchange of contracts has happened you are legally bound to complete and significantly, the completion date (the day of your move) will have been set. Your solicitor will send your part of the contract to the other sides solicitor, and the buyer will have paid the 10% deposit.
You can, but our advice is that you do NOT book removals until exchange of contracts has happened. The reason is that your purchase/sale is not confirmed legally until and after exchange of contracts. This is a great frustration for many people when moving.
You should indeed budget to find 10% of the purchase price and expect to pay this on exchange of contracts. HOWEVER, it is common practice for the equity in your sale to be used in lieu of your deposit, and/or for the deposit from the bottom of the chain to ‘go up the chain’ too. So in practice, it is rare to have to find the cash to pay the full 10% deposit. This will depend on your particular circumstances and the chain you are in (if you are in a chain). Your conveyancing solicitor will advise you on this in the run up to exchange of contracts.
No! Once exchange of contracts has happened buyer and seller are legally bound to complete. The buyer pull out (technically) but in doing so they will be in breach of contract and liable to meet the reasonable costs incurred by the seller.
If you do not complete after exchange of contracts you will be in breach of contract. You are liable to lose the deposit and also potentially to reimburse the other party in related costs they suffer too.
Generally speaking, your own exchange of contracts will only happen when everyone in your ‘chain’ is ready to do the same. This can be very frustrating if you are ready, but others in the chain are not! Exchange of contracts will therefore usually happen on the same day up and down the chain, and the completion day is set (usually) to be the same for everyone (in the chain) too.
Completion is the day you move! As a matter of legal process, it involves the solicitors transferring the balance of the sales/purchase money between them, and making a quick telephone call to say ‘completed’ – that is literally it!
Typically there is around 1-4 weeks between exchange of contracts and completion. That gives you plenty of time to book your removals, arrange time off work, and generally ready yourself for the big move!
Technically yes, you can complete on the same day as exchange of contracts. It is unusual. It is called a ‘simultaneous exchange and completion’. The reason it is unusual is in part that it leaves you no period after exchange (the point at which things become certain) to sort out removals, time off work, and so on.
Completion day is the day you actually move from your old home to your new home! Not much happens with the solicitors – in fact it is a rather unspectacular event for them! All that happens with the conveyancing solicitors is that the balancing money is sent through the banking CHAPS system from one solicitor to the next. And, once the full/correct amount is with the sellers solicitor, they speak by telephone and simply confirm that the sale is complete. That’s it! The estate agent is notified and the keys to your new home will be released to you!
There is no hard and fast rule and it can be anything from 9am to 5pm. Your own solicitor can unfortunately not speed things along with anything other that stuff in their own direct control. So, for example, they cannot expedite anything that other solicitors are doing in the chain, or speed up the banking CHAPS system. Completion day will often need a healthy dose of patience!
Your call. It’s a very busy day once things get going, but can also involve some waiting around between leaving your old place, and getting the keys to your new home. So, if you have young kids, it might be well having them with friends or family if possible.
It can be both a busy day, but also be a day waiting around for your conveyancing solicitor to confirm that completion has taken place on your new home (money has to go through the banking CHAPS system up the ‘chain’ from one solicitor to the next). And, when the removals company are emptying your old house, and then unloading at your new home there lots of people around, doors open, and lots of scope for dogs to do a runner! So, perhaps helpful to let your four-legged friend have a break at friends, family, or your local favourite dog sitter?!
Your solicitor will have provided you with a ‘completion statement’ shortly after exchange of contracts. This will have detailed all of the payments (mortgage/searches/ etc) across your purchase, and any related sale. If a balance of funds was needed from you for completion your conveyancer will have told you in good time, and asked for money to be with them and ‘cleared’ for the day of completion. So no, you should have nothing to pay to your solicitor on the day of completion!
Your completion statement is a financial statement prepared by your solicitor shortly after exchange of contracts detailing all money in and out of your sale and purchase, and critically confirming if your solicitor needs cleared money from you ahead of completion. It will detail all ‘disbursements’ (eg search fees), the money in from your sale, and all funds needed to ‘complete’ your purchase.
Although you contract the services of your estate agent long before your solicitor is involved, there is a (perhaps) odd convention that your solicitor pays the estate agent on your behalf on completion of the sale/purchase.
As soon as your removals company have emptied your old place, get locked up and take the keys over to the estate agent. Then it’s a waiting game for the same to have happened at your new home, and for the money to have been received by the seller’s solicitor from your solicitor.
Unfortunately, completion day can be frustrating sometimes. This is particularly so when there is a long chain as completion money needs to be sent from one solicitor to the next, to then next, and so on. And, the banking CHAPS system can sometimes get stuck. It’s a waiting game – be patient!
When you engage the services of a removals company do check their breakages policy. If stuff gets broken and they have packed (and unpacked) they will usually cover the cost of this – but it is of course down to the particular contract that you have with your chosen removals company.
It is worth getting this ‘teed up’ ahead of completion. You will need to tell anyone and everyone that needs to know from friends and family, to banks, to your employer. Check out our completion checklist for some great pointers on this and other completion stuff!
Your first mortgage payment will be down to your particular lender and you should check this with them, and/or your mortgage broker if you use one. There is generally an apportioned amount to be soon after completion, and then your first full payment is made in the first full month there after.
Joint ownership is simply where more than one person has a legal interest in property or land in the UK. Significantly, that joint ownership can take (in its simplest form) one of two types – joint tenants or tenants in common.
A joint tenancy is where the joint owners (known as joint tenants) own the whole piece of land together and jointly and in equal shares (dependant upon however many of them there are). If any one of the owners dies, their share passes automatically by law in equal proportions to the surviving owner(s). This legal process is called ‘the right of survivorship’ and it overrides all other legal entities including a will.
A tenancy in common is where the joint owners (known as tenants in common) of property or land in the UK own distinct separate shares. Those shares can be of any proportion as defined by the owners. If one of the owners dies, their share will pass via their will (unlike with a tenancy in common).
The main difference between tenants in common and joint tenants is that joint tenants will always be equal shares, and those shares pass automatically on the death of any one or more of the owners to the survivors. That happens irrespective of the terms of any will. That principle is called ‘the right of survivorship’.
The right of survivorship is the legal principle whereby property and land under a joint tenancy passes automatically to the surviving joint owners on the death of any one of them. This overrides for example the terms of a will that may even purport to gift the land to someone other than the remaining joint owners. This is unlike a tenancy in common whereby the distinct separate shares pass via a will or intestacy.
Because ‘the right of survivorship’ does not apply to tenants in common, you MUST make a will to ensure your share in the property or land goes to the person intended on your death. If you fail to make a will, the rules of intestacy will apply. These are the legal rules that decide who gets what on our death if we die without a will (intestate). In short, that list is a hierarchy of relatives starting with our spouse, then children, and so on.
Which you choose will probably be decided by who you want to get your share of the property in question when you die. So, for example, if you are married or own jointly with your partner you may well plump for a joint tenancy as this will ensure that your surviving spouse/partner gets the house come what may. NB you should always still make a will to deal with any other assets!
This is the part of the Land Registry records that show you own as tenants in common. It appears as what is known as a ‘restriction’ in the ‘Proprietorship Register’. The law being the law, the restriction does not even mention the words tenants in common! If there is no restriction, it is assumed that the joint ownership is a joint tenancy.
No is the simple answer! All a tenancy in common does is define that the joint owners hold the property or land separately in shares defined by them. The more (brief) complex answer is that holding as tenants in common does allow you to then undertake care home fees planning by potentially gifting (for example) a share of the matrimonial home into a trust on the first death of a married couple. This is a hugely complex area and you should take independent legal advice should you wish to explore this topic.
No is the simple answer. All that a tenancy in common does is define how the joint owners own the house or land – ie in separate shares, the size of which they will have defined. However, the brief further answer is that if you do own as tenants in common then you can, for example, gift a share of land on the first death of a couple to someone other than the survivor. Whilst a grossly oversimplified example of the reality of tax planning, this points to a broad topic under which inheritance tax savings can sometimes be made. Tax planning is an extremely complex area, and the gifting a property is in any event a significant step. You should therefore seek independent legal advice should you be contemplating this course of action.
Yes. If you currently hold as joint tenants but for some reason wish to change that joint ownership to a tenancy in commonthen this is a relatively simple process for your solicitor to deal with for you.
Yes. If you currently jointly own a property as tenants in commonthen you can change this to a tenancy in common by placing a ‘restriction’ at the Land Registry. This is a simple process that your conveyancing solicitor can deal with for you.
First time buyers should apply the same rules when thinking about which type of joint ownership they want to have. If they want their share to pass automatically to their other joint owner(s) then a joint tenancy is likely to be for them. If they want to gift their share to someone other than their joint owner, then a tenancy in common is likely to be the right choice. If in any doubt which type of joint ownership is right for you, discuss your options with your conveyancing solicitor.
Yes, you can leave jointly owned land into a trust in the UK. If you wish to do so on your death, then you must ensure that that property or land is held as tenants in common. If you hold as joint tenants, it will automatically pass to the surviving owners on your death and this will override the terms of any will purporting to place it in trust.
A first time buyer is deemed to be someone that has no dependent sale of their own, AND has NEVER owned residential property previously (UK or abroad). They must also be buying the residential property in question with a view to living in it themselves.
Mortgages are not concessions as of law (eg SDLT), but more financial products aimed by banks and building societies at the first time buyer’s market. These will often include various incentives such as preferential interest rates, free surveys, and even higher loan to value (LTV) percentages.
As with all purchases, a first time buyer will be expected to pay a 10% deposit on exchange of contracts. A first time buyer will, by definition, be the ‘bottom of the chain’. They will have to find the whole 10% in cash to pay on exchange of contracts. Other’s further up the chain can reply on the deposit being paid to them to cover (in part perhaps) their own ongoing deposit. As such, deposits can go up the chain with (in part at least) cash not changing hands.
All solicitors will need to formally engage you as client’s, ID you, and have you agree to their terms and conditions before the legal process starts. At Qlaw, we refer to this initial process as onboarding. It is now done electronically through our amazing client APP!
The contract pack is the first part of the legal process of any conveyance. The contract pack is produced by the seller and their solicitor. It includes the actual (draft) contract for sale, plus various forms that the seller must complete called the ‘sellers property information forms’. As a first time buyer you will generally have to wait 1-3 weeks to receive these from the seller’s solicitor (via your own appointed solicitor). View our ‘Contract Packs’ section for more information.
Once your solicitor has received the contract pack, the next stage is usually to obtain searches. These will be the same whether you are a first time buyer or have bought and sold many properties before. View our ‘Searches’ section for more information.
A survey is a detailed report giving a ‘warts and all’ view on the state of the property you intend to buy. A mortgage valuation is simply a surveyor confirming in writing that the property is worth what you are paying for it. The mortgage valuation is done for the benefit of your lender (not you). The survey is for your benefit.
First time buyer – do I have to have a mortgage valuation?
If you are taking a mortgage, yes you do! The mortgage valuation is a condition of the mortgage and it is to satisfy your lender that the property is worth what you are paying for it. Horrible as it sounds, this is so that they can repossess the property if needs be (if you default on repayments) to recover their losses).
Subject to the terms of your mortgage, if you fail to keep up repayments on it, you will generally thereby allow your lender to repossess the property to sell it and recover the money they lent to you (and any related losses they incur such as legal costs).
Conveyancing enquiries are the formal process whereby the buyers solicitor formally raises questions in writing with the seller’s solicitor (and the seller via their solicitor) about all aspects of the sale. The enquiries might be anything from something simple like is the washing mean staying, through to complex legal queries that the solicitors will iron out on your behalf.
The reason for enquiries is that the legal concept of ‘buyer beware’ applies to house buying. All enquiries must be complete before you exchange contracts. The reason is that once you have exchanged contracts, you are legally bound to complete the purchase whether you want to or not!
A property chain is a series of linked transactions within which each sale and purchase is ‘dependent’ upon the sale below and above them. By definition, if you are a first time buyer you will be at the bottom of any chain (ie there will be no one buying your property as you don’t have one to sell)!
Yes, its OK to borrow money from parents. Your lender may want to know that this is happening as part of the mortgage application process. You should NEVER knowingly give false information in a mortgage application!
If you pull out of the purchase after exchange of contracts then you will be in breach of contract and be liable to be sued! As part of that you will almost certainly lose the deposit you paid to the seller.
If you want to know more about being a first time buyer and you haven’t been able to find the answer in these FAQs or any of our guides and posts, do please reach out – our expert conveyancing solicitors are here to help!
Stamp Duty Land Tax (aka Stamp Duty or SDLT) is a tax paid on the value of land or buildings over set thresholds. Those thresholds change from time to time. It applies to England and Northern Ireland. Although Wales is the same legal jurisdiction, it replaced SDLT in April 2018 with its own Land Transaction Tax.
If there is a period where you have an overlap (without an intention to permanently own more than one home then you can claim concessions. It must apply to your main residence. You must pay the higher rate of SDLT in the first instance, and then make a reclaim when you sell the former main residence. That sale (of your former main residence) must take place within 3 years of buying your new home, AND you submit a claim for repayment of the excess charge within 12 months of having sold that former home.
Divorce or Separation – where there is a Court order
Legacy – property left under the terms of a will
Gift – property gifted so long as it is free of mortgage. If you take over a mortgage as part of the gift you may be liable to SDLT on the amount the mortgage (which by definition is not then a ‘gift’)
Your solicitor will get you to ‘sign off’ the agreed amount of SDLT due, and then submit on your behalf both the SDLT ‘return’ (the form declaring how much is due), and the payment itself electronically.
First time buyer relief gives a reduction against the standard rates as set out above. For those that qualify for this relief (see below), the first £300,000 is free of tax. For properties being bought at a value between £300,001 and £500,000 a rate of 5% applies. Anything above that is at normal rates.
First Timer Buyer relief will only apply where BOTH/ALL joint owners meet the first time buyer criteria. If any one of the joint owners fails to meet the criteria, then the whole transaction fails to gain this relief.
To qualify for First Time Buyer relief you must have NEVER owned a residential property before. Unfortunately, how you came to own a property is irrelevant. So, whilst being given a property under the terms of a will is fully exempt from SDLT at that point, it will nevertheless count as ‘property owned’ when you then come to buy your own place later down the line. Put another way, the SDLT regime would NOT see you as a ‘first time buyer’.
A dwelling is a building that is already used as, or is suitable to be used as or adapted to a single dwelling of its own. This is a matter of fact and the basic principle is that it is a dwelling independent of the ‘main property’ (eg with its own services, and perhaps even its own postal address).
MDR SDLT is calculated by taking the estimated price of each dwelling, applying normal rates to each one, thereby obtain an average liability, which is then multiplied by the total number of dwellings. This is subject to a minimum of 1% duty if greater than the calculated amount using that formula.
If you have bought a property which will not permanently be a second home (ie you intend to sell your previous home in due course), then you will still have to pay higher rate tax for now (and claim it back subject to certain criteria – see below).
You can claim back Higher Rate SDLT paid at a point where you simultaneously owned more than one ‘home’ within 3 years of buying the second home, and within 12 months of selling your former home. Failure to submit a reclaim within these periods is likely to leave unable to claim any refund from HMRC.
Unfortunately not! So, a married couple with, say an investment property, would be deemed to have a property and therefore would attract higher rate thereafter. HMRC do NOT see a married couple as being two tax payers for the purposes of SDLT.
This should be exempt from SDLT (second home) so long as the property is purchased in your child’s name. Any type of joint ownership involving a second home owner attracts the higher rate for the whole value of the property – not just the portion owned by the second home owner.
A property chain is a series of linked sales & purchases where each transaction is dependent upon the other. The key definition of a chain is ‘dependent’. This means that each transaction HAS to coordinate to simultaneously complete things like move dates, new mortgages and so on. In short, apart from the person at the bottom of the chain, each buyer/seller HAS to sell their existing home in order to buy their new home. This dependency is what creates problems with chains (and particularly when they break).
Probably yes – properties in a chain may well have mortgages. Property chains exist because each transaction is dependent on the next (usually because it is everyone’s PPP (principal private residence)). They will also probably each have existing and planned new mortgages, plus deposit money coming up the chain. All of this needs to sync to work.
The person at the bottom of the chain will normally pay a 10% deposit to the seller of the ‘first’ home. That seller (of the first home) can allow their solicitor to utilise the deposit being paid to them on account of actual cash for their own expected 10% on their own purchase. This principal can apply all the way up the chain without 10% cash necessarily being paid on each and every transaction on exchange of contracts in the chain.
There is nothing much you can do to manage the chain you are in except be ready with your own move. The only thing you can do is ‘break the chain’. This is feasible for very few of us normally as we are dependent on selling our current home to finance our new home.
Yes, you can break the chain. It all comes down to money as you will need to purchase your next house without selling your current home. This means raising finance independently of your current home and borrowing.
Property chains fail because one or more party in the chain can not or will not sell/buy. For example their own sale may fall through, they may have a change of circumstances, or they may simply get cold feet and change their minds about moving.
Estate agents tend to describe a chain as complete as when everyone from top to bottom of the chain has sales/purchases agreed. In reality of course, any conveyance can fall through until (and after) exchange of contracts. As such, a chain is only ever really ‘safe’ once everyone has exchanged contracts.
All related/dependent transactions will exchange on the same day, and set a completion date that is usually the same too. The reason for this is that each sale and purchase is financially and logistically dependent upon the other – so they all have to coordinate!
How long is a piece of string. A good estate agent will help you choose a buyer for your property who looks most likely to be able to get through to ultimately buying the home you are selling. This is sometimes called a ‘strong chain’, and agents will be looking for buyers that are ‘ready to proceed’.
When there is a chain, getting to exchange of contracts can be very frustrating. However promptly you and your conveyancing solicitor deal with things, you can only exchange when EVERYONE in the chain is also ready to exchange contracts!
Unfortunately, this is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ moment! There is just no telling what might be going on up or down your chain. People may be deliberately delaying things for their own personal circumstances. It can sometime be simple things like they want to exchange after a holiday, or something simple like that!
Your solicitor is bound by very strict professional conduct rules which means that the only people they can speak to in the chain is the solicitor on the transactions directly to do with you – ie your sale and your purchase. They are strictly forbidden from speaking to any other solicitors or buyers or sellers anywhere else in the chain.
If you want to know what is going on in the chain you MUST speak to your estate agent, NOT your solicitor. Your estate agent has no professional conduct rules and so can talk to every agent up and down the chain to establish where the other transactions are at.
Not really, no. The only thing you can be is ready with your own stuff. And when your solicitor tells you there is nothing they can do either – they’re telling the truth (unless they are using it as an excuse for some work they haven’t yet done)!
Who knows! One reason might be that their own client is keen to slow the chain down for personal reasons. You may never get to know what those reasons are – but it happens all the time, and its hugely frustrating for everyone else in the chain – buyers, sellers, estate agents, and solicitors too!
Invariably yes, chains will slow down the conveyancing process. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and if one party wants a delay until completion then there will be a delay until completion!
Start all over unfortunately. This is why people are reluctant to ditch slow buyers as getting a new buyer (and a whole new chain) in below you can be even less predictable than the buyer you already have!
The conveyancing disbursements should be the same whichever conveyancer you use. The only thing that should differ will be the professional fees charged by the solicitor. Typically, the professional fees charged will be anything between £800-£2,000 (+VAT). Remember, there is more to be mindful of than just cost. Do you want cheap conveyancing, or great value for money?
Best (of anything) is rarely just cheap. Indeed, cheap will typically mean ‘stack em high’, and what often then gives is quality of service. Moving house is stressful enough, and what you don’t want is a conveyancer who is too busy to speak to you! Think about what (if any) independent reviews they have (we use TrustPilot); are they members of CQS (we are!); and what about service delivery (we use an industry leading APP that delivers an unparalleled digital experience from quote to completion)!
The buyer will have to pay for searches relatively early on in the conveyancing process. Your solicitor will probably ask you for ‘money on account’ to cover that. Most of the other conveyancing fees (including the conveyancers professional fee and all other disbursements) will be payable on completion.
Conveyancing disbursements are those payments made to third parties by your conveyancer on your behalf. Disbursements do NOT include the conveyancers own professional fees (ie anything that they retain and do not pay to a third party. Disbursements include: Searches; SDLT; and Land Registry fees; and management pack (if your property is leasehold).
Yes. The disbursements should be pretty much the same whichever conveyancer or property solicitor you use. The only thing that might vary slightly is search fees. There are now independent search providers who will collect together the various searches for the solicitor (rather than the solicitor having to apply for the searches themselves separately. The cost can vary from one provider to the next. This is unlikely to be significant.
Yes, and no! Your conveyancing fee quote will need to include all of the same things, but it is likely that one firm will set things out differently to the next. When you are comparing conveyancing quotes, remember to split it into (a) solicitor fees and (b) disbursements. You may find that some firms will quote a headline figure for their conveyancing fees, but then there will be other add ins that are still part of their fee as they are not payments to third parties (disbursements).
If you are taking a mortgage, then yes, you must use a conveyancing lawyer. And, they must be on the particular lender’s ‘panel’ – ie approved by the mortgage company to act in the transaction. This is because technically, your chosen conveyancer will also act for the lender by ‘approving the title’, and also registering the mortgage at the Land Registry after completion.
The buyer’s solicitor will undertake searches. These will include; local authority search; environmental search; and water and drainage search. They are to help understand what you are buying, before you are committed to doing so (ie after exchange of contracts). They will reveal things like planning for a new motorway at the bottom of the garden!
Search fees will differ largely down to the local authority of the property. As a rough guide, allow something between £250 and £400 for your 3 main searches: local authority; environmental; and water and drainage.
The seller contracts the estate agent, and they will pay their bill on completion. Oddly, despite this not being a legal disbursement, as a matter of historical practice, the seller’s solicitor will tend to settle the estate agent’s bill out of the completion money.
Along with the legal side of things, you’ll have other stuff to pay for when you move! The obvious one is removal costs. And, if you want to get any work done on your new place, you may have builders costs to think about. Lots of people will look to change the locks of their new home for peace of mind. Other than that, and perhaps a Royal Mail post re-direction, there shouldn’t be much else!
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