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The Conveyancing Process

It is a good time to buy residential property in London and the Southeast.  According to a recent report in the Financial Times, house prices are buoyant across the UK, but continue to fall in the capital and surrounding south-eastern counties[1].

 

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/b31608bc-9890-11e7-b83c-9588e51488a0

However, despite comparatively slow price growth, London first-time buyers paid an average of £429,000 for a home this year, a 2.9% increase on 2016, with the average price of a flat or maisonette up £16,240 on a year ago.  In Surrey, the average house price remains well above the national level, up from £426,187 in April 2016 to £439,430 12 months later.

With the financial risk involved to gain a foothold on the property ladder in London and the Southeast, it is imperative that you understand the conveyancing process and what an experienced conveyancing solicitor does to ensure your property transaction completes smoothly.

22 September 2017
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What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is transferring ownership of property from one person to another. To ensure you, as a purchaser, receive no nasty surprises after you move in, your solicitor will make several important checks on the home and the land it is on.  This is known as the due diligence process.

For most people, purchasing a home is the biggest financial transaction they will ever undertake.  Your property lawyer will make sure that you are fully aware of the legal implications of your purchase by conducting the right searches and asking the necessary questions.

For example, does anyone have a right of access or rights of way over the land? Does the owner of the property have existing obligations to adhere to, such as a lease or chancel repair liabilities? Is the property in a conservation area or have tree preservation orders which would restrict what you can do with the land? Are there plans for the local authority to build new infrastructure near or on your property which would affect your enjoyment of the land?

If there are any doubts in relation to these queries, your conveyancing solicitor will alert you to them and advise on any future implications.

 

Getting your finances in place

Before you start searching for your new home, you should know what you can afford. By obtaining a ‘mortgage in principle’ you will be in a stronger position when you make an offer, as the seller has assurance that you can finance your purchase.

 

Top tip: Use a mortgage broker

You may have been with the same bank for years and know the manager well, but they may not offer the best mortgage or the most competitive rates.  A mortgage broker can quickly scan through all the various lending institutions on the market and find one that best suits you and your circumstances.

 

Finding your perfect home

Finding your dream home these days is more likely to involve an internet search than a trip to an estate agent’s office. However, property agents are usually aware when a home is going on the market before it is listed online.  Therefore, chat to local agents in your area of interest about the type of home you are looking for. They can then call you when a property that meets most of your specifications is added to their books.

When you do find a home that fits your requirements, remember the golden rule:

Location, Location, Location!

The worst property on the best street can always be renovated and you are more likely to get a return on your investment than if you choose a great house in a not-so-nice neighbourhood.

 

Top tip: Check your flood risk

Flood risk has a significant impact on insurance premiums, a property's value, and your quality of life if you're unlucky enough to be hit by water damage.

The Environment Agency’s flood information service provides detailed reports on whether and why a particular area is at risk.  Don’t leave it to chance, check the areas risk of flooding before you make an offer.

 

Making an offer

Once you have found your dream home, the next step is to make an offer on the property.  This is usually done through an estate agent.  Making an offer involves a certain degree of strategy; offer too little and you risk entering into a lengthy negotiation or lose the home to a buyer who trumps you. Offer too much and you could end up paying more than you should.

 

Top tip: Know your market

If there have been other offers made on the property, an estate agent cannot legally tell you how much they were for.  Therefore, it is essential that before you make an offer, you research the market, the seller (they may be after a quick sale) and the house itself.  If you are a cash buyer then make this clear to the seller, often they will accept a lower price to gain the advantage of not having to deal with a chain.

 

What your solicitor does

A conveyancing solicitor will run the necessary searches on the property, such as checking the title, any plans the local authority may have for your land or the surrounding area, along with making environmental and flood risk enquiries.

They will also examine the contract drafted by the seller’s solicitor and ask any questions on your behalf.

 

 Top tip: Choose an experienced conveyancing solicitor

There are several cheap conveyancing firms on the market.  Although most do an adequate job, if something is missed or a mistake is made, the financial consequences can be disastrous.  At Guillaumes LLP Solicitors, you can have confidence that your property transaction is being managed by a fully-qualified, experienced conveyancing solicitor, from beginning to end.

 

Exchanging contracts and completion

Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you and take your deposit. The seller and buyer’s solicitors will normally read out the contracts over the phone (the conversation will be recorded) to make sure they are identical.  Once contracts are exchanged, a moving in date is set (known as completion) and on that day, your solicitor will pay over all the remaining monies to the seller and HMRC (in the form of Stamp Duty) and hand you the keys to your new home.

 

Top tip: Make sure you can go through with the sale

Once contracts have been exchanged you are legally bound to purchase the property.  Pulling out of the transaction after the contracts have been exchanged could result in the seller suing you for damages.

 

In Summary

Most residential conveyancing transactions are straightforward and complete without any great drama.  However, if issues do present themselves during the due diligence process, it is comforting to know you have an experienced solicitor on your side, ensuring your best interests are protected.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey.  We have a highly experienced conveyancing team who can assist you with buying and selling residential property.  To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.