House Professionals


-- Channels --
Buying a home
Buying process
Choosing a property
Exchanging contracts
First time buyers
Making an offer
Estate agents
House prices
Moving house
Property news


Buying property tips: Appointining a solicitor

The hard work starts as soon as you have made an offer and it has been accepted. The most important person in your life for the next crucial weeks will be your solicitor.

Your lender may insist on repairs being carried out before they will release the money, you may need to find out if rumours about nearby road development are true, perhaps your own survey highlights a structural flaw which requires the offer price to be renegotiated. It is your solicitor who will deal with this for you.

The legal process and what to expect
Once you've found the home you want you will need to appoint a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to handle the purchase for you.

Once you have appoint a solictor for a sale:

You must provide the original deeds, the Land Registry Certificate, of your property and any other relevant info such as service charges.
If you have a mortgage on the property you are selling these deeds will have been held as security by the lender.
The solicitor will ask the mortgage lender on your behalf how much is needed to settle your mortgage.
You will be sent a list of official questions to answer about your property which you must answer truthfully, as these form the basis of the draft contract. These tell your purchases about the boundaries, any changes made to the property, rights of way, special covenants and so forth which might affect it.
Your solicitor will then draw up the contracts for everything included in the sale including fixtures or fittings.
This will then be sent to the buyer's solicitor who carries further investigations.

Once you've appointed a solicitor for a purchase:

The legal documents, the 'title deeds', of your new home will be checked.
An official search is carried out with the local authority to see if they have plans which affect your home's value.
The solicitor makes sure any items included in the purchase price are correctly itemised in the contract.

The solicitor will also:

Make sure buildings insurance is in place at the time of Exchange of Contracts.
Draw up contracts and liaise with the vendor's solicitor.
Liaise with the lender (usually a bank or building society) who is required to register their interest in the property during the life of the mortgage. It is usual for the buyer's solicitor to deal with any related legal work.

What is an official search?

This is designed to find out anything which could affect the value of the property.
It could include plans for new roads.
The search also checks planning consents and which mains services are connected to the property.
The local authority charges for this.

Land Registry

Detailed plans of the exact location of a property and a record of ownership is filed with the Land Registry and each owner has a certified copy.
If there is a property, it also registers a lender's interest as mortgagee.
To ensure that the seller has made no changes to the rights affecting the property a final check will be made when you have exchange contracts.

Exchanging contracts

You are contractually obliged to buy the property once contracts are exchanged.
Your solicitor holds your deposit which you pay at the time of exchange.
You will agree when the sale is to be completed and if this is not honoured then penalties can be imposed.
The contracts are only exchanged when your solicitor has received satisfactory replies to their questions.
Often your sale or purchase will be dependent on others buying and selling properties - and that is called a chain.
If this is the case the solicitors must coordinate transactions so that completion of your sale and purchase take place on the same day.

Insurance protection and why

Buildings insurance:

Buildings insurance must be effective from the day of exchange of contracts.
Otherwise you could be jointly liable with the previous owners for any damage caused to the property after that date.
Once contracts are exchanged, you are expected to complete the purchase even if the property is damaged.

Life and mortgage payment protection cover:

If the purchaser dies, life cover will pay for the sale, safeguarding dependents.
Make sure you also have protection for accident, sickness and unemployment from the point of exchange of contracts.
Enhanced cover - at a price - comes from income protection or critical illness insurance.

The transfer deed

This is the official record at the Land Registry that you are the new owner.
Your solicitor prepares the document before completion.


When the Transfer Deed is completed it is sent to the seller's solicitor.
The process of completion involves handing over: keys, Land Registry certificate, and Transfer Deed.
Your lender holds the documents, as security against the loan.
In return your solicitor is sent the 'mortgage' funds by the lender to pay for the sale.

Stamp duty

The law requires that the Transfer Deed is officially stamped.
The Government imposes a tax - stamp duty - on all properties over £60,000.
This tax is paid by your solicitor and added to your bill.
The stamped deed is then sent to the Land Registry to confirm the new owner.
It also registers the lender's interest as the mortgagee.

Your rights when things go wrong
Moving house is always a stressful time, even when things go smoothly. Here are a few tips for what to do if a problem does arise.

The survey

If you find a serious fault which was not known at the time of purchase, you first need to check the scope of the survey you commissioned.
A lender's survey simply verifies the loan for the lender- you cannot rely on it to find serious structural problems. This is why many purchasers, particularly of older properties, prefer to pay for a more expensive independent survey.
If you fee your surveyor should have found the fault, then raise the matter with the surveyor's firm concerned. They will have an internal complaints procedure.
Your surveyor will be a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, so you can also involve their arbitration scheme.
If the worse happens and structural faults arise after you have bought your home - consult the Citizens Advice Bureau or a lawyer and sue.

The solicitor or conveyancer

You may have a complaint over service, charges or financial loss.
Consult the complaints procedure provided by the Supervision of Solicitors, the Law Society itself or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

The removal firm

Make sure you use one registered with the British Association of Removers.
Ensure you are fully insured - either through their insurance or your own.

The estate agent

Before commissioning one, check they are in the voluntary Ombudsmen of Estate Agents scheme. Not everyone is but it helps.
As a seller, remember to ask family and friends about their experience of local agents - do this before you sign any contract.
Read any contract thoroughly before signing.
The 1991 Property Misdescriptions Act is designed to stop incorrect or misleading descriptions.

New build

New homes are guaranteed for 10 years under schemes run by the National Building Council or Zurich assurance (01252 522000).
They also offer an arbitration service to stop disputes escalating.

What to expect from your estate agent

You don't have to use an agent but you'll probably find selling your home easier if you do.
Just remember that the agent is working for the seller and is paid a fee based on the price you pay.
They are legally obliged to give an accurate description of the property.
False or misleading information is a criminal offence and you can report them to your local trading standards office.
If you are selling, check your contract carefully - particularly any liabilities if you introduce a buyer direct.

Useful links
Selling your home
First time buyers
In-depth mortgage guide
Property news



Site map | Privacy policy | Terms of Use

© 2002-2016