Buying A House
What are the legal aspects of buying a house ?
The first thing that you will need to do is to obtain a quote by telephoning / faxing or emailing our offices for a request for a quote.
Unless you are a cash buyer you will need to arrange a mortgage. There are many independent advisers who are qualified to help you with this. The more cautious buyer likes to be certain of his/her finances before embarking on the legal process.
In most cases the mortgage application runs in tandem with the legal process. As part of the mortgage process you will be required to obtain a survey, and your lender will normally arrange this for you. Even if you are a cash buyer we advise you to have a survey.
Once you are entirely happy that you have found the right property and the survey has shown that nothing is untoward with the fabric of the building, we will obtain a 'Local Authority Search'. This will indicate to us a variety of things including whether or not the property is a 'Listed Building', within a conservation area, whether there are any tree preservation orders or whether any civil or criminal action has been taken against the previous owners in contravention of planning laws or, for instance, noise nuisance. In addition, it gives us information about the roads, the local planning policy and in some cases sewers and drains.
The Seller's Information Pack
The Sellers will be required to complete a seller information form which sets out questions such as whether the sellers have been in dispute with their neighbours, the ownership of fences, maintenance of services such as gas and electricity, and whether or not there are any guarantees/warranties benefiting the property e.g. double glazing guarantees.
The sellers will also be required to complete an inventory confirming which items are to be included in the sale price and what is excluded.
Investigation of Title and the Contract
Upon confirmation that you intend to proceed with the purchase of the property the sellers' solicitors will send to us copies of the title deeds and a draft contract and the sellers' pack.
Our most important role will be to study the title deeds of the sellers' property to ensure that what you are buying has 'good title', namely that the property is not subject to onerous burdens or obligations and that the sellers are the true owners and entitled to dispose of the property. We will report to you any matters which we believe you will need to know prior to your purchase, e.g. restrictive covenants such as 'you may not operate a business from the property', in order that you can decide whether or not such conditions will unduly interfere with your enjoyment of the property.
Upon exchange of contract (see later) you will have to pay a deposit. The deposit is usually anything between 5 and 10 per cent of the asking price. Please let us know at an early stage If you are unable to pay at least a 5 per cent deposit as we will need to make the sellers aware of this.
Exchange of Contracts and the Deposit
Once the title deeds have been checked and the contract finally approved, we will ask you to attend our office to sign the contract and so that we may report to you on the documentation. We will also ask you for the deposit. You should allow at least four working days for the cheque to clear before we can agree to an 'exchange date'. At this stage completion dates will be discussed, and if there are several parties involved in a chain of transactions all parties must agree the same date to exchange contracts and complete.
The 'exchange of contracts' is a formal acknowledgement that you are 'ready, willing and able to buy the property'. Once contracts are exchanged you are legally bound to proceed with the purchase. Once this stage is reached you cannot change your mind without suffering financial loss. You therefore need to be 100 per cent certain that this is the property for you and you have the finances available to complete the transaction. If you are in any doubt whatsoever please contact us immediately in order that we can discuss matters. Upon exchange of contracts the deposit must be handed over and a date to complete the transaction agreed upon. When everyone is ready to proceed contracts will be exchanged simultaneously. As a guide, completion of your purchase will normally take place within 7 to 14 days of exchange of contracts.
Between Exchange and Completion
If the remaining amount of the purchase price is being funded partly by a mortgage and partly from your own funds or you are a cash purchaser, we will need to have cleared funds at least 3 working days prior to the completion date.
At least 5 working days prior to completion, your lender will normally require notification that all is well, plus details of the completion date and where the mortgage monies should be sent.
We will need to complete our final searches at the Land Registry to ensure that no adverse conditions have arisen since exchange of contracts. The Transfer deed will be prepared, and you will need to visit our office to sign this prior to completion. This document will, upon completion, pass the title of the property to you. Additionally you will need to sign the mortgage deed. It is generally a condition of your mortgage that we explain the mortgage and your legal liabilities to you in a face to face interview. You will normally need to provide proof of identity such as a passport or driver's licence.
If you are buying with the aid of a mortgage we will arrange to receive the mortgage monies from your lender in good time for completion. On the day of completion the balance of the purchase price will be transferred to the sellers' solicitor and upon receipt the keys to the property will be released by the Estate Agent. After completion we will receive the deeds from the sellers' solicitor and proceed to register the change of ownership at the Land Registry. Once this has been
concluded we will forward your title deeds to your lender for safe keeping, or if you are a cash buyer we will seek your instructions regarding the long-term storage of your deeds. In either case we will send a photocopy of your title deeds to you.
How long does this process take ?
It is often very difficult to estimate this - the speed will largely depend on whether the person from whom you are buying already has in mind a property and whether an offer has been accepted. If you are one of a number of buyers and sellers in a 'chain' the speed will be determined by the weakest or most inefficient link. If a mortgage is being obtained by anyone in the 'chain' this will slow the process down further, as the borrower's financial circumstances will need to be investigated prior to a formal mortgage offer being made. The employment of a surveyor is usually a necessity these days and this may further add to delays. Commissioning the survey and acting upon any recommendations (such as obtaining electrical reports) can add to the delay.