Purchasing a Residential Property

The most Important thing to bear in mind when you are buying a property is to make as many enquiries and investigations as you feel are necessary before you commit yourself to an exchange of contracts. This is probably the biggest investment you will ever make in your life, so make sure you take the time to consider all of the paperwork carefully, ask questions wherever you are unsure, and look into all aspects of the property. Always remember the saying “let the buyer beware”, which means that the onus is on you to make thorough investigations and ask the relevant questions.

Provide your solicitor with as much information about your circumstances from the outset, i.e. how you are funding the purchase, who will be the legal owners of the property, whether anyone else will be living at the property with you, or whether it is a buy to let. This will enable your solicitor to let you know what information and documents you will need to provide early on, so that any issues can be resolved quickly and won’t hold the process up further down the line. If you’re getting a gift or loan from a family member or friend to help you fund your purchase, make sure you disclose full details of this both to your solicitor and to your mortgage lender.

Please bear in mind that your solicitor does not have the opportunity to see the property so you need to let them know about any changes or alterations that have been made to the property so that they can check that all the necessary certificates and approvals are in place. If you have any future plans for the property it’s also really useful to let your solicitor know about these, then your solicitor can check that there are no restrictions on the legal title which could prevent you from carrying out your plans. Examples are if you know you’re going to build an extension or demolish a garage.

You’ll need to pay some money on account so that your solicitor can apply for your searches. We would always recommend that you have a survey carried out too, and your surveyor will be able to advise you on what type of survey best suits the property you are buying.

If you are getting a mortgage, you will need to make a mortgage application and your lender will carry out a valuation. Once your mortgage offer has been issued, a copy will be sent to you and to your solicitors.

You can let your solicitor know if there is anything specific you would like them to look into or find out about the property. It’s important to keep communicating with your solicitor so that they know about any concerns you have or if there’s anything you’re unsure about. They will help to guide you through the process.

Once your solicitor has received all of the contract documentation and replies to enquiries from your seller’s solicitors, your search results, and your mortgage offer, they will send you a written report to summarise all of the information and make you aware of any potential issues. Make sure you read your report carefully and flag up anything that you think might cause you a problem in the future. There are often solutions that can be found and the majority of issues can be resolved.

If you’re buying a leasehold property then there will be a lot more paperwork involved and you will need to take into consideration any ground rent and service charge payable in relation to the property before deciding whether the purchase is financially right for you. Your solicitor will also let you know if there are any anticipated major works which are planned to be carried out to the building, as the owners of the flats in the building will be required to contribute towards the cost of any such works and these can sometimes be significant.

Once you’re happy with everything, sign and return your documents. Your solicitor will hold these on file until a completion date has been agreed and they know that all of your funds are in place. You can then give your authority to exchange contracts, from which point you will be liable for the buildings insurance for the property (unless it’s a flat, in which case the insurance is likely to be put in place by the freeholder or landlord) and you will be legally bound to complete on the agreed date.

If you’re selling and buying at the same time, you will need to make sure you have removals in place for the date of completion before you exchange contracts. If you’re involved in a chain it can sometimes be difficult to get a date agreed by all of the parties in the chain, and you should be prepared to be flexible wherever possible.

On the day of completion you won’t be able to get the keys for your new property until your seller’s solicitors have received all of the purchase monies from your solicitor. You may also need to wait until your seller has moved out, especially if your seller has an onward purchase themselves. The seller should vacate the property by 2pm at the latest. Once completion has taken place and you’ve got your keys, the property is yours and you can start to move in!

Your solicitor will deal with registering your ownership at the Land Registry, and will send you a copy of the updated Register showing you are the registered proprietor and that any mortgage you have is also registered against the title. The registration process can sometimes take quite a while, so don’t worry if you don’t hear anything from your solicitor about this straight away.

Suzanne Dixon is a Senior Associate in the residential conveyancing department at Sintons. To speak to Suzanne, please contact her at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7805.

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