In the first of a series of articles, we focus on the conveyancing process and how it can help highlight future problems before they appear. The first step you can take in avoiding potential arguments with your neighbours takes place before you even buy the house.
The conveyancing process should highlight if there is a history of boundary disputes for the property and detail that within the ‘sale pack’. If you want to carry out works to the house after you have bought it then always make your conveyancer aware of this so that they can check that there is nothing in the deeds of the property, or in relation to planning, that would hamper your plans or that could lead to potential arguments with your neighbours before you complete your purchase.
It is important to be aware of on-going disputes because they could be a source of potential conflict with new neighbours.
Property searches can also reveal issues that could conceivably turn into arguments with your neighbours. For example, local authority searches show if neighbours have applied for planning permission in the area – if you have an issue with the building works which they are planning then you might wish to reconsider buying the property as once planning permission has been granted you can no longer really object to it.
Local authority searches also show what past owners have done with the property and this can highlight whether any actions have been taken in the past due to noise or nuisance or leaving the property in a bad condition.
Water searches can reveal any pipes crossing neighbours garden and if you have shared drainage, or a shared septic tank all of which have the potential to cause quarrels.
What is Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property from one person to another. In other words, conveyancing is how you buy a house.
How Does Conveyancing Work? A Step by Step Guide to Buying a House
1. Find a Lawyer - Your first task is to choose or ‘instruct’ a residential property lawyer or ‘conveyancer’ to do the conveyancing for you.
As residential property lawyers, we act as legal go-betweens. After we have drafted a contract for our dealings with you - known as the ‘terms of engagement’ - we will then contact your seller’s lawyer in order to confirm they have also been instructed and then information collection can begin.
2. Information Collection – There is a client identification procedure which you will have to go through with your solicitors.
Conveyancers need information from you for identification and to gather details on your circumstances such as how you will be buying the property and how you want to ‘hold’ or own the property and how you are paying for the property.
This stage will involve receiving forms and filling out a lot of details about yourself.
3. Sale Pack - The residential property lawyer then has the task of collecting all the legal documents required for purchasing a house from the seller’s lawyer.
These include the property title and a draft contract, details of utility supply, history of boundary disputes and whether any tenants are living there, what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale of the house. Together these can be referred to as a ‘sale pack’.
4. Searches – Your lawyer will submit a range of standard property searches. These will include:
- Local authority searches
- Water authority searches
- Chancel repair search
- Environmental search
Then, based on the ‘sale pack’ you received your lawyer might recommend some extra searches such as:
- Tin mining searches
- Flood search
- Mining searches
- Extra questions for the local authority
The aim of these is to bring to light any other factors you or your mortgage lenders should be aware of - for example if the property has a public footpath through it, if there are any pipelines running underneath it that you need to be aware of or if the house falls within a noise abatement zone.
It will also flag up if planning permission and building regulations were obtained for works carried out to the house and will let you know if there are planning restrictions which may prevent you carrying out works you want to do.
The results from the searches will then be reviewed so that we can further advise you about the purchase of the property.
5. Queries - We will check over the legal documents and forms in the ‘sale pack’ and raise any enquiries we have with the seller’s lawyer.
We can spot anything that needs to be questioned about the draft contract and supporting documents contained within the ‘sale pack’ and will contact you if issues need to be raised. Plus, if you have any additional concerns or queries we would help to resolve them for you.
We will send you copies of the replies to enquiries provided by the seller, and the fixtures and fittings forms, so you can ensure they reflect what you know about the property and we will send you the plan so you can confirm the boundaries are as you expected.
6. Mortgage Offer Review – Whilst any queries are being resolved and extra information from the searches are being waited on, the mortgage offer documents should be sent to your conveyancer from your mortgage lender.
We will then review your mortgage offer and send a report detailing what the offer entails to your seller.
7. Exchange Contracts – Both the buyer and the seller sign a contract detailing the price of the property and the agreed ‘completion date’.
Once the contracts are exchanged the completion date and price is fixed meaning you are legally bound to buying the property. So if you do not complete the purchase then you will lose the deposit, the seller cannot accept any other offers and if they do not follow through with the sale of the property you can sue them.
At the point when you exchange contracts, we will send you a detailed report on the documents and searches and then, if you are okay with everything, you will need to pay the deposit to your lawyers.
8. Completion Date – Once you have your completion date you should start to arrange how you are going to move.
Before completion we will require from you the money for the balance of the purchase price along with money for Stamp Duty Land Tax and any other fees.
On the day of your completion date, the seller’s lawyers need to confirm they have received all the due money (from you and the lender and any purchaser from you) and then the seller should drop off the keys for collection at an estate agent.
If you require any of conveyancing services call the Slater and Gordon residential property lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9083 or contact us online.
Linda Kirk is a residential property lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers real estate team in Manchester.