When choosing a property lawyer to take care of the purchase of your new property, it is highly recommended that you play an active role in the process. This is ultimately your purchase and there are certain tasks that you will remain responsible for.
To ensure these tasks are not overlooked take a moment to read through our buying a house checklist to avoid encountering any problems along the moving home process, be it obtaining initial conveyancing quotes or guarding against property gazumping.
- Search conveyancers with reviews you can trust – choosing a property lawyer is particularly important for first time buyers who have little or no experience with solicitors, for homeowners who have moved away a considerable distance from their previous solicitor and people simply looking to save money. At reallymoving.com our conveyancing solicitors directory includes real-time user generated reviews from people who have used their services, so when you receive your quote you can choose a property lawyer with confidence – not just on competitive pricing, but their services as well.
- Check, check and check again – before entering into a contractual agreement with a property lawyer you must read through the document before signing and always ask the conveyancer to clarify any terms you don’t understand. Remember, they are working on your behalf and should be happy to help and explain any complex terminology.
- Discuss preferred moving deadlines – before your property lawyer begins the transaction process we recommend that you inform them of your desired timeline for completion. This avoids confusion and misunderstanding throughout the procedure.
- Ask for an outline of the conveyancing process – Before your property lawyer starts work ask them to provide you with an outline of the process. This will include the areas you will be required to be responsible for at various stages of the purchase in order to help expedite the process.
- Notify your property lawyer of any pre-existing agreements with seller – if you have already discussed and secured any agreements with the seller – with regards to fittings and fixtures or changes to the asking price – it is important to keep your conveyancer fully informed so they can check the legal implications of these are in your interests.
- Land Registry checks for a full background on the property – it is important that your property lawyer is notified of the history of the property including any alterations or extensions that will require further investigation. This is achieved by conducting searches with the Land Registry and local authorities but beware these organisations charge fees for providing such information so expect to find these itemised in your solicitor’s bill. Whilst not all changes have to be noted with the Land Registry, if the property differs in any way from the Land Registry plan – perhaps the building now includes a conservatory – you should make your solicitor fully aware.
- Restrictions and contracts that may affect the property – insist that your property lawyer provides you with copies of any restrictions or existing contracts that may affect any future plans you had for the property, such as further development which may limit the value of the building and its land.
- Be mindful of areas for shared upkeep – there may also be covenants in place between neighbours regarding the upkeep of shared driveways and communal greens. It is important you are fully informed of your responsibilities to avoid any issues down the line.
- Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone – Your property lawyer is working for you and time is precious, particularly if you are involved in a chain. By reading reallymoving.com’s reviews, you can choose a conveyancing lawyer that has been recommended for their level of service and availability.
- Avoid the prospect of being gazumped – the best way to secure your new property is to require the seller to take their property off the market as part of your conditional offer. This reduces the possibility of the seller receiving a higher offer for their property. Gazumping is always a concern as either party can pull out before contracts are exchanged.
- Ensure you have a signed mortgage deed – prior to exchanging contracts you must have completed a mortgage deed which gives the mortgage lender the legal right and interest in a property. As the borrower you will pledge your new property as security against the mortgage. Your property lawyer should take care of this but it is worth double checking.
Exchanging contracts and completion
Once you have secured a valid mortgage offer and are happy with the home surveys conducted on your behalf, your property lawyer will present you with the contract. At the point of exchanging contracts with the seller you will also agree the completion date – the date and time when the property legally becomes your own. It is important to note that should you decide to pull out of the move after exchanging contracts you will be liable to lose your deposit on the house.
- Buildings insurance – liaise with your conveyancer to secure buildings insurance and any other insurance that’s required for exchange date – NOT the completion date. It is a fundamental point of English Law that you require an “insurable interest” in a building or item before you can take out insurance. By signing and exchanging contracts you have therefore committed to the purchase of the building and its land irrespective of what happens to it after exchange. This gives you such an interest to acquire buildings insurance.
- Life assurance and will – it is highly recommended that you take out life assurance to protect your dependants from your mortgage in the event of your death. Although it is not a legal requirement to make a will when moving house, it is worth considering at such a life-changing occasion. Similarly if you already have an existing will it may be worth revising the wording of the will in relation to your new property.
- Payment protection plans – despite the negative press surrounding payment protection insurance (PPI) you might consider protection products to guard against the threat of being unable to meet your mortgage repayments due to unemployment, injury or illness. Please see a qualified independent financial advisor (IFA) for further advice.
Moving house timetable
Below are the official figures outlining a typical moving house timetable across England and Wales:
- From thinking about moving home to having an offer accepted – 3 months
- From offer acceptance to securing a mortgage offer – 1 month
- From receiving your mortgage offer to exchanging contracts – 1 month
- From exchanging contracts to moving in – 2 weeks
Although these are national averages your own moving house process could be longer or shorter depending on the size of your chain.
In summary, it is important to have an understanding of the various aspects of the conveyancing process to avoid encountering any problems during the purchase. Pulling together a buying a house checklist, is a sensible idea and make sure you choose a property lawyer that suits your requirements whilst offering a high level of service. You can download our complete guide to conveyancing and find out everything you need to know about the conveyancing process.
Last reviewed August 2016.