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Here are some frequently asked questions which buyers raise with our Property Lawyers when using Countrywide Home Conveyancing.
What will be disclosed about the property?
With regard to the condition of the property, you are buying the property as seen, together with any faults or defects, whether hidden or not. The seller is not obliged to give you any information about the structural condition of the property, or whether services at the property (such as heating and drainage) are working or not.
Do not rely on any verbal comments or promises given by the seller, but instead, consider getting a survey done. Countrywide Surveying Services can help you find out more about surveys and the options available to you.
With regard to more practical information, the seller will be asked to fill in a Property Information Form. This covers a whole range of topics, including ownership of boundary fences; whether there have been neighbourly disputes; what major alterations have been made to the property; what guarantees are available; the Council Tax band; and current providers on utilities. Countrywide Home Conveyancing will obtain and then provide you with a copy of this, as part of their service.
The seller will also be asked to fill in a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form, to clearly identify what is included, what is excluded, or for sale separately. Countrywide Home Conveyancing will obtain and then provide you with a copy of this, as part of their service.
This search is made at the local authority, and it asks a range of questions covering topics such as planning and building regulations; who is responsible to maintain roads or access ways; and whether orders or notices have been made.
It is important to note that the search result only relates to the property itself, and matters affecting neighbouring properties or land will not be disclosed. For instance, a planning application to build an extension on a neighbouring property, or a plan to develop an open space nearby will not be revealed. Please see the next section below to find out how you can look into this.
The local authority search will not provide any information on these matters. Your lawyer should be instructed to carry out environmental, flood and planning searches on your behalf. Countrywide Home Conveyancing will carry this out for you as part of their service, and for your peace of mind, will also offer you a Purchase Search Pledge. If your purchase falls through, and you then proceed to purchase another property, the cost of the second set of searches will be refunded to you.*
*Only available in England and Wales. Terms and conditions apply.
One of the most important tasks that your lawyer will undertake is to ensure that all mortgages, debts, or other financial charges secured against the property will be removed on the completion date, so you can buy the property free of this debt. If any unsecured loans or unpaid bills exist, these will not pass to you if they are not secured on the property, and the seller will remain liable for these.
Once contracts have been exchanged on your property, it is important to arrange utilities and inform organisations such as the local authority, so that they know that you are the new owners.
You are buying the property as seen, together with any faults or defects, whether hidden or not. It’s therefore recommended that you get a survey carried out, so there are no unexpected surprises for you after moving in. It is important to remember that a valuation report, carried out in support of a mortgage application, is not a survey and will not advise you about the condition of the property. Contact Countrywide Surveying Services to find out more about surveys and the options available to you.
Unfortunately, no one can give a cast-iron guarantee, until the exchange of contracts has taken place. Please see the next question below, to find out more about the exchange of contracts.
If you are just buying and not selling another property; there is no chain of properties involved and you don’t need a mortgage, then it is possible for the purchase to be completed quickly once the legal paperwork has been signed. However, delays can happen for a variety of reasons, many of which are outside of your control. There may be a chain of properties involved, another party involved may be slow in engaging a lawyer or responding to important questions, or parties may not be able to agree on a completion date. Unfortunately, people can say one thing and then do something else, or just change their mind.
Countrywide Home Conveyancing will work with you, your estate agent and the other lawyers involved to try and achieve an early exchange as possible, to give you peace of mind.
The seller and the buyer will each sign an identical contract for the sale of the property. When the buyer and the seller are ready to proceed with a date for moving agreed in principle, and their lawyers have completed all the tasks required for them, then the lawyers will speak to each other on the phone, and agree to “exchange the contracts”. The contracts will then be dated and swapped over, in the post.
From the moment that the exchange of contracts has been agreed on the telephone, between the lawyers, the agreement to purchase the property becomes legally enforceable. Neither you nor the seller can then change your mind about buying or selling the property, or change the date for completion of the sale, as recorded in the contract, without having to pay compensation.
It is not recommended to take any major steps, such as giving notice on your current rented accommodation or booking removals, until the exchange of contracts has taken place.
Countrywide Home Conveyancing will contact its customers once contracts have been exchanged. It is then safe to confirm the completion date with your removal company; and arrange utilities, internet, telephone, digital television and other services for the property you are moving to.
Yes – most mortgage lenders require buildings insurance cover to commence at this point. Your lawyer will advise you on what to do, depending upon your circumstances.
How is the financial aspect dealt with?
The seller will usually require a deposit to be paid on the property, as a part payment, and this is paid over upon exchange of contracts. If you did not complete the purchase of the property on the agreed completion date, the seller will be able to keep this deposit as compensation.
The deposit should never be paid directly to the seller, but only through your lawyer. This is to ensure that it is safely held and can be recovered, in the unlikely event that the seller defaults on the sale agreement.
Your lawyer will tell you when this deposit needs to be paid over. The deposit amount will be agreed upon between the seller’s and the buyer’s lawyer, and usually, 10% of the price is requested. If you are selling as well as buying, then the deposit received on your sale can usually be used on your purchase.
The deposit is often a significant sum of money and under recent Anti Money Laundering requirements imposed upon lawyers, they are obliged to investigate where the deposit is coming from. In addition, many lenders require the buyer’s lawyer to ensure that the deposit is coming from the source, as declared in the mortgage application, and is not being funded in a way that they would not approve of, such as through an unsecured loan.
If you are buying a property with the help of a mortgage, your lawyer will need to receive a written mortgage offer from your lender before contracts are exchanged. This mortgage offer will confirm the terms upon which the mortgage loan will be made, and will contain detailed instructions to your lawyer on what needs to be done, on their behalf, to enable the loan to be released.
It is important that you understand the terms of your mortgage and the exact amount of money that will be released by the lender, after any deductions. Countrywide Home Conveyancing will provide you with detailed advice on this and will clarify the deductions or other costs involved, such as the legal fees for the work that has to be carried out for the lender, that you will be required to pay for.
Your existing mortgage will need to be removed from your property on the completion day so that your buyer can take on your property free of debt. Even if you are planning to stay with the same lender, you will normally need to make a new mortgage application to create the mortgage on the property that you intend to buy. Your Mortgage Consultant can explain this further for you.
All debts secured on a property (such as a business overdraft facility, personal loan, Legal Aid charge, or other types of financial charge) will need to be removed from your property on the completion day so that your buyer can take on your property free of debt.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to transfer this secured debt to your new property. But this often takes a lot of time to organise, so if you want to do this, you should discuss this with your Mortgage Consultant as quickly as possible. If the holder of the debt gives their approval to transfer the debt, they will need to send written instructions to your lawyer. This additional legal work will normally incur additional legal fees.
Your lawyer will prepare a “completion statement” for you that will summarise all the costs involved in the purchase including the purchase price; legal fees and other payments to third parties, such as stamp duty. It will also record any payments received already, such as a payment on account and the deposit; and will confirm the amount expected to be received from your mortgage lender, after any deductions.
After all of these figures are taken into account, the statement will then confirm what balance (if any) needs to be paid over and by when.
What documents do I need to sign?
The contract describes what is being sold, by whom, at what price, and on what date. It also contains terms and conditions that will govern what will happen if the sale is not completed on the agreed date, or if there is a dispute between the buyer and the seller after contracts have been exchanged.
You will be asked to sign the contract, in readiness for the exchange of contracts. Once you have signed it, this does not mean that you have secured the property until the exchange of contracts has taken place. For your peace of mind, Countrywide Home Conveyancing will contact you as soon as the exchange of contracts has been achieved.
The transfer is used to record the change of ownership at HM Land Registry. It contains all the details that were agreed in the contract, including the price. If you are purchasing in joint names, it will also confirm how the property is to be owned between you, and in what share.
You will be asked to sign the transfer, in readiness for completion, in the presence of a witness. Once you have signed it, this does not mean that the property has been legally transferred to you. This document only becomes effective once your lawyer has dated it, on the completion day. It is very important that this document is returned to your lawyer as quickly as possible, as your lawyer may be unable to complete the purchase of your property unless it is in his or her possession.
When a property is sold, a tax return has to be submitted by your lawyer to confirm whether Stamp Duty is payable on the property transaction, and if so, the amount. This tax return is called the Inland Revenue Land Transaction Return.
The change of ownership to your name cannot be recorded at HM Land Registry until the Land Transaction Return has been completed, processed, and any Stamp Duty payable collected.
Your lawyer will prepare the Land Transaction Return in the draft and ask you to sign and return this, in preparation for completion of your purchase.
This is your written agreement with the lender, to observe the terms and conditions relating to your mortgage loan. Following completion, your lawyer will use this mortgage deed to register the existence of the mortgage at HM Land Registry, in accordance with the instructions given to them by your mortgage lender.
You will be asked to sign the mortgage deed, in readiness for completion, in the presence of a witness. Once you have signed it, this does not mean that the mortgage loan has started. This document only becomes effective once your lawyer has dated it, on the completion day.
It is very important that this document is returned to your lawyer as quickly as possible, before the completion date, as your lawyer will otherwise be unable to use the mortgage monies to finance your purchase.
What happens on completion?
On the completion date, your lawyer will pay over the money to the seller’s lawyer, and the Deed of Transfer will be dated to formally transfer the ownership of the property to you. The Seller must move out of the property on that day so that you can move in.
If you fail to complete the purchase on the completion date, you could end up losing your deposit and will be liable to pay substantial compensation to the seller. You must bear this in mind when the completion date is being negotiated, so that you can be certain that all the monies required for your purchase will be able to be paid to your lawyer, in good time.
Completion must take place on a normal working day, between Monday and Friday. Although Countrywide Home Conveyancing is open seven days a week, most lenders and banks will not transfer money at the weekends, at the moment.
This is possible but is not recommended, as it gives no certainty to the buyer or seller that it will all take place on the date intended. And if there is an unexpected delay, you will not be entitled to any compensation.
You are recommended to pick a completion day that gives at least one week between the exchange of contracts and completion, so you can book your removals, and arrange utilities, internet, telephone, digital television and other services for the property you are moving to.
The seller should have moved out of the property by midday on the completion date, and the property left clean and tidy, ready for you to move in. All rubbish, including items in the attic, should have been removed, and those items (as recorded on the Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form) left in the property, as agreed.
It is not recommended to agree on alternative arrangements as to when the seller will move out of the property and you will move in, which differ from those recorded in the contract. Any private arrangement reached could subsequently get ignored by the seller, and you will be immediately in breach of your mortgage terms and conditions if a vacant property has not been obtained on the completion date.
It is sensible to contact the sellers directly, to agree on how the keys will be dealt with on the completion date. They might be left with the estate agent, or handed over directly. Keys will normally only be released once the seller’s lawyer has received all the purchase money from your lawyer. Countrywide Home Conveyancing will notify you as soon as they receive confirmation that the purchase money has been received, so this can take place.
Sometimes, if there is a chain of properties, it can take quite a long time for the money to reach the seller’s lawyer on the completion date. There is often nothing that can be done, and the buyer and seller have to wait for the money to work its way through the system.
If completion is delayed or does not happen at all, and this is the seller’s fault, then you will be entitled to claim compensation from the seller and, ultimately, to have your deposit returned. However, if you fail to pay for the property in full, or if it is your fault that completion is being delayed, then the seller will be entitled to claim compensation from you.
If contracts have not been exchanged, then neither buyer or seller are entitled to compensation if a simultaneous exchange and completion fail to take place as planned.