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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions we are asked and our responses, to ensure your conveyancing transaction with us is as smooth as possible.

The Estate Agent should be able to arrange this for you. It is part of their job to facilitate viewings and answer any general questions you might have about the property.

You should negotiate with the seller/Estate Agent in the first instance. However, we do need to know when an agreement is reached.

We expect to receive a “Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form” from your seller, which we forward to you, and this should tell you what the seller is leaving and/or removing. If this does not match with your agreement with the seller, then you need to let us know. We shall also need to make sure that the cost of any items you agree to buy are reflected in the contract.

Your offer may still be with the Underwriters. You shall need to liaise directly with your Financial Adviser/Broker or Lender directly as we are unable to do this for you.

Please make sure you have told us about it in the Client Information Questionnaire we sent with the Welcome Pack.

The Government Bonus is paid after exchange of contracts (see below) and is a fixed amount based on the balance of your savings in the ISA. The bonus is paid directly into our client account. In order for the bonus to be paid we shall need 2 documents from you:

1. A closing statement – We need this at least 1 week before the set completion date. Therefore, it would be wise to request this from your bank early, should you have stopped saving money in the account

2. A Help to Buy Declaration - We shall provide you with this at the appropriate time in the transaction.

Once the bonus has been paid and the savings in your ISA paid to us as part of your purchase then the ISA account shall be closed.

Please visit https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk/help-to-buy-isa/how-does-it-work/ which provides clear guidance on the process.

These documents will need to be signed (and depending on the type of document, witnessed). We shall provide instructions on how to complete the relevant document, at the appropriate time.

The original (with wet signatures) shall need to be returned to our office. We are unable to accept scanned copies of legal documents. If a document may be returned electronically, we shall let you know.

These are usually sent to you with a Report on Title (which is a detailed explanation of the property) when the Lawyer has most of the information from your seller to advise you about the property.

However, if any search results are a major cause for concern, your Lawyer shall notify you sooner and provide advice on what to do next.

If the title documents or contract papers that we send to you do not give a clear indication of who maintains boundaries, the default position is the left and rear boundaries if looking directly at the front of the property from the road.

Because ground rent and service charges are usually paid in advance, often the seller has paid for a period after the property has been sold. The seller is entitled to be reimbursed this amount and therefore any ground rent and/or service charges are apportioned before completion and added to the sale price.

For example:

If service charges are paid from 1st April –31st March each year and you complete on the 31st October, the buyer would have to pay the seller from the 31st October to the 31st March the following year, provided the seller’s lawyers have shown adequate proof that the service charges have been paid to that date. It is the seller’s solicitor’s responsibility to make sure that any arrears are cleared on completion.

This applies to Leasehold properties. This is the charge a landlord will ask the incoming buyer to pay in order to change their records of who currently owns the flat. This also applies to notice of any mortgages over the property as well. This is usually a non-negotiable term in the lease.

Often an indemnity policy is offered or requested in the absence of original agreements, giving the buyer financial protection should a missing document result in a financial loss. Common examples of this are:

(a) Lack of building regulations or planning permissions

(b) Chancel Indemnity to cover the buyer should a Parish Church request a contribution from a resident for chancel repairs*

(c) Where a seller of a leasehold property has not obtained the landlord’s permission to make an alteration

The Lawyer in these cases will guide you through what indemnities you may need as a buyer or, need to give as a seller should the situation arise. Often these policies can be passed on to a new buyer in the future.

The deposit is 10% of the purchase price unless a lower amount has been agreed. This needs to be paid into our client account before exchange of contracts. We shall tell you when to transfer the money and confirm our bank details (these are also contained in our Client Care Letter sent to as part of the Welcome Pack).

If you are selling a property, often the deposit taken from that sale is used as the deposit for your purchase. If you do not have a 10% deposit, please let us know as soon as possible.

“Exchange” or “Exchange of Contracts” is when the contract to sell and/or purchase becomes legally binding on you.

You are not present at the time of exchange; it is something we do over the telephone with the Lawyer for your seller/buyer.

Once we have received the signed Contract, deposit and any other documents we may have sent to you (e.g. transfer deed or mortgage deed), we shall agree the preferred completion date with you and the other parties in the chain. We shall then telephone the other party to confirm we hold a signed contract and we shall insert the exchange date and completion date onto the contract.

The completion date and sale/purchase price are now fixed and cannot be re-negotiated.

We must then send your signed contract to your seller/buyer’s Lawyer through the post and we receive their signed contract.

Often, a week is required between exchange and completion if the buyer is funding the purchase with a mortgage. This is because the lender will often require a minimum 5 working days’ notice to release the mortgage money. All solicitors must have the mortgage money in their client account on or before the day of completion.

After exchange of contracts, your lawyer will send you a Completion Statement advising you of the balance required to complete. This is usually the purchase price, plus any legal fees and disbursements, less any money on account such as a deposit that has already been paid by you and mortgage monies. We will require the whole amount, including any stamp duty at least 1 day before completion.

Sometimes we may be waiting for an Estate Agent to send us their Commission Account or a seller’s lawyer to give us the service charge apportionments, if it is a leasehold property, before we can send a final Statement. But we try to send this to you as soon after exchange as possible.

The relevant forms (Stamp Duty Land Tax Return) are completed and the funds sent electronically to HM Revenue & Customs.

The amount of stamp duty payable will be included in your Completion Statement and form part of the final funds required for completion. We are unable to complete your purchase transaction without receipt of funds for stamp duty.

Even if your transaction is exempt from stamp duty, we will still need to submit an electronic statement to this effect to HM Revenue & Customs.

Please also refer to the Stamp Duty guidance sent to you as part of the Welcome Pack.

On the day of Completion, the buyer’s lawyers will send the balance required to complete to the seller’s lawyers. Upon receipt of the money, the seller’s lawyers will instruct the agent, seller, or estate manager to make the keys available to the buyer and notify the buyer’s lawyer of this.

The buyer’s lawyer shall then notify the buyer that the keys “have been released” and the buyer can then pick up the keys and access the property.

The seller’s solicitors shall then attend to post-completion matters which usually involves sending the Transfer Deed and any other deeds and documents to the buyer’s solicitors, paying off any mortgages, settling any estate agent’s fees and sending any surplus sale proceeds to the seller.

The buyer’s lawyer shall attend to post-completion matters which usually involves submitting the Stamp Duty forms/payment as above and registering the buyer’s ownership of the property (and any new mortgage) at HM Land Registry.

If the property is leasehold, the buyer’s lawyer shall send appropriate Notices to the Landlord as required by the lease.

Basic registrations can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 2 months to finalise. This depends on the capacity of the Land Registry dealing with the application (this is determined by the location of the property). New build, Lease extensions and more complicated registrations may take a little longer.

We shall forward any original documents relating to the property when we have received Confirmation of Registration from HM Land Registry.

Please note that the Land Registry stores evidence of your ownership, electronically and therefore, the plain paper-copy that we send to you is simply a copy of the electronic register. You are no longer required to retain the original Land or Charge Certificate but if this is sent to us by the seller’s solicitors then we may send this to you as a matter of interest.

When you buy a share in a property through an approved shared ownership scheme, you may have to pay SDLT. There are 2 ways to pay:

1. make a one-off payment based on the total market value of the property

2. pay any SDLT due in stages

3. If you decide to make a one-off payment up front, this is making a ‘market value election’ for SDLT. If you choose to pay SDLT in stages, you pay anything that’s due on the first sale amount. But then you don’t make any further payments until you own more than an 80% share of the property.

As you are buying a brand new property, there will not be a registered title / property that is already occupied that is being transferred to you. Therefore the following may be different from a conventional purchase:

1. You may have to pay a reservation fee to secure the property. This is generally taken off the deposit you would need to pay on exchange of contracts.

2. If the property is not yet built or ready to be occupied / structurally ready at the point of exchange of contracts, completion will be on ‘notice’. This generally means that when the property has been signed off on, the developer’s conveyancer will inform us of this and we will have to complete thereafter within generally speaking, 1 to 2 weeks. By complete, this means the day you move in.

3. There may be additional fees to pay the developers on completion, such as service charges / ground rent in advance and fees for providing certain documents. Your conveyancer will advise you on what these are.

4. You will be granted a brand new lease, or Transfer of part in your name because you will be the first legal owner of the property.

5. Registration can take a lot longer because the Land Registry takes additional time to register when a transfer of part or new lease is being registered, as it is more complex.

From a conveyancing process point of view, there is no real difference other than making sure that the necessary power of attorney / grant of probate has been issued by the court prior to exchange.