Buying a Property

Buying a house or buying a flat is likely to be one of the most significant financial investments any of us takes.  As conveyancing solicitors, QLAW has dealt with thousands of house sales and purchases.  But, the legal process is just one part of it.  Here, we take an overview look at the process of buying a house, and as part of that we summarise:-

  • Who can help me?
  • How much can I afford?
  • How to choose a home
  • How to choose the best conveyancing solicitor
  • The Conveyancing Process
  • What is the difference between leasehold and freehold?
  • Joint ownership – joint tenants or tenants in common?
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How to choose a home?

There will be many things you’ll have in mind when choosing your new home.  And, the factors/priorities we have to be mindful of as we go through life’s journey perhaps shift?  So what sorts of things might you be thinking about when deciding where to buy your house?  It might include:-

  • Affordability – how much can you spend?
  • Transport links – do you need access to road, rail or airport services?
  • Geography – do you need to be close to work, friends, family?
  • Setting – do you want to be in the hub of the city, or in the quiet of the countryside?
  • Flat or house – flats will generally remove any need to external maintenance but equally not provide directly accessed outside space
  • Gardens/land – do you want or need lots or little of outside space?
  • Do-err-upper – do you want a project, or a house that needs nothing doing to it?
  • Bedrooms – does family dictate a minimum number of bedrooms needed?
  • Schools – this is a huge consideration for many young families
  • Energy – are you looking for a home with a small ‘footprint’?
  • Parking – with so many households now having multiple vehicles this can be a big consideration

Whatever factors sway you, perhaps the key is to do your homework.  Buy once and buy well…!

The best Conveyancing Solicitors

Once you have found your dream home, it’s time to choose the conveyancer that’s right for you.  Conveyancing Solicitor near me?  Online conveyancing solicitor?  Cheap conveyancing fees?  What will you be looking for?  We would say it, but choose your conveyancing solicitor carefully.  Yes, any conveyancer should be able to do the work for you.  BUT, the conveyancing process can be terribly stressful, and having the conveyancing solicitors on your side makes the whole journey so much easier.

Check out our guide to choosing the best conveyancing solicitor > 

What is the difference between Leasehold & Freehold?

In short, leasehold properties tend to be where there are ‘common areas’ for example shared gardens, shared access, and the cost of maintaining those will usually be shared.

It follows that the obvious property type to be leasehold are flats.  There will invariably be some sort of ‘management company’ that will maintain the communal areas.  As part of the conveyancing process, the buyer’s solicitor will look to establish what typical historical charges have been, and equally to see if there are any expected costs of note on the horizon.

Traditional houses (without communal areas) will typically (but not always) be freehold.

Joint Ownership – Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

If you are buying jointly with others, it is important that you carefully chose the right type of ownership for you.  There are two types of joint ownership:-

  1. Tenancy in Common
  2. Joint Tenancy

Under a tenancy in common, the joint owners have distinct and separate shares that can be in any percentage amount, and will require a will to pass on death.

Under a joint tenancy, the joint owners will own equal amounts of the whole, and on death of any of the owners, their share passes automatically to the surviving owner(s) and can NOT pass any other way (eg by will).  This legal principle is called the ‘right of survivorship’.

Your conveyancing solicitor can help you with that, or you might want to read more about joint ownership now >

The Conveyancing Process

Actually, frustrating as the period can be, the conveyancing process is in itself quite simple.  As the buyer, your aim is to get the magic ‘EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS’.  This is the point at which you are finally contractually bound with the seller, and when ‘COMPLETION’ date is set (the day of the big move).  Before exchange of contracts, either party can walk away.  So, here’s what your conveyancing solicitor will be dealing with ahead of exchange of contracts:-

  1. ONBOARDING – ID, agree terms of business, etc
  2. CONTRACT PACK – issued by the seller’s solicitor
  3. SEARCHES – local, environmental, and water & drainage searches (maybe others too)
  4. PRE CONTRACT ENQUIRIES – the final stage of the pre exchange investigations

As well as what your solicitor will be doing, you will also (yourself as the buyer):-

  1. MORTGAGE – have arranged your mortgage
  2. SURVEY – had a satisfactory survey done

When does Exchange of Contracts happen?

So, exchange of contracts can only happen when everything above in the process is done.  BUT, if you are in a ‘property chain’, then EVERYONE in that chain must also be ready as exchange of contracts (and completion) each happen on the same days.  Actually, this is perhaps THE most frustrating for buyers, as it is difficult for information to pass up and down the chain.  Equally, if one part in the chain decides they need to delay things, then it will bring the whole chain to a grinding halt.  And, at that point there is rarely anything that your conveyancing solicitor, or the estate agents can do to speed things up.

Check our guide to what needs to happen before exchange of contracts >

Who can help me with buying a property?

You are likely to call on the services of a number of professionals when buying a house.  Here’s is a summary of who you might need help from:-

  • Estate agent – albeit the seller will have ‘employed’ their services and will be paying their bill
  • Conveyancing Solicitor – who will take care of the legal process for you
  • Lender – most of us will buy our home with a mortgage. You may apply for your mortgage through a mortgage broker
  • Surveyor – to provide an expert view on the condition of the property you are buying
  • Removals company – to help the physical move

How much can I afford?

There are perhaps two questions here: how much can I afford, as opposed to how much can I spend.

In the olden days (!) how much can I spend was a relatively easy calculation around how much mortgage you might expect to be able to borrow.  It was generally something like 3 times your salary, or 2 times joint salary if you buying your house with someone else.  In addition, you would have to (as you still do) pay a deposit (ie on top of any money you might be able to get on a mortgage.

Although criteria are often more complicated when applying for a mortgage, that math still provides a very broad brush rule of thumb.  Critically, both buyer and lender will (or should!) want to satisfy themselves that any money borrowed can be comfortably repaid.  And remember, depending on what type of mortgage you take, the amount you have to repay each month may change (eg in line with interest rates if you take out a mortgage that is linked to interest rates.

Read more about mortgages >

You can normally expect to pay a 10% deposit on exchange of contracts.  Your mortgage amount will then be ‘drawn down’ by your conveyancing solicitor on completion.  So, the total amount you can spend will be the mortgage amount plus your deposit.  REMEMBER, you will have other expenses on top of the house purchase itself, so factor those things in!  They might include: removals costs; Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT); initial building or renovation works.

There may be other routes for you to find help in buying a home for example shared ownership, and help to buy schemes.

Contact our Conveyancing Solicitors

Our 5 star rated conveyancers can help you with all of your house buying and selling needs!