How long will it take?

If the property is empty and the buyer does not require a mortgage, a sale or purchase can all be completed in a few days but this is very unusual.

However it is more likely that somewhere within the chain a mortgage will be required and there will be a chain of transactions and if that is the case it will usually take 4-6 weeks to exchange contracts and then another 2-4 weeks between exchange of contracts and completion making a total of 6-10 weeks from start to finish.

All of the solicitors on the Home Legal Services panel will do everything that they can to progress your transaction as quickly as possible but we cannot offer any guarantee about how long it will take and you should not believe anyone else that does!

How soon do I need to pay any money?

Usually if you are purchasing a property your solicitor will ask you for approximately £250.00 at the beginning to cover the search fees that will be paid out on your behalf. The balance of the price and the solicitors costs etc will be payable shortly before completion unless you are borrowing more than 90% of the purchase price in which case it may be required prior to exchange of contracts (see also "How much deposit must I pay").

If you are just selling you will not need to pay any money in advance. The costs and agents fees will be paid out from the sale proceeds on completion before any balance is sent to you.

Do I need a survey?

If you are obtaining a mortgage a valuer will inspect the property on behalf of the lender. Although his report will give you an indication as to whether he thinks the property is worth the amount that you have asked to borrow you will probably not be able to rely on it if things go wrong.

For an extra fee you will usually be offered the option to arrange for the same valuer to carry out a more detailed "Home Buyers Report". This can be relied upon by you so if at a later date you find a problem that is not mentioned in the report you will have some redress against the valuer.

If the property is quite old and you are particularly concerned about its condition you can obtain a full structural survey report which is even more detailed.

Always remember the golden rule is "let the buyer beware" so (provided you have not been misled) you will be liable for any problems that you discover after exchange of contracts.

How much deposit will I need?

It is normal for a deposit to be paid on exchange of contracts. Although many people think 10% is required that is often untrue. If you are buying and selling your solicitor can usually use your buyers deposit in connection with your purchase so you will not have to find anything.

If you are just buying the amount of the deposit will usually depend upon the size of your mortgage (if any). If it is less than 90% then you will usually need to find 10% but if you are borrowing more than this your solicitor can often persuade the seller to accept whatever amount you are putting in or even just the amount of the costs and disbursements only if you are borrowing 100%.

What searches are carried out and why?

There are five main types of search that can be carried out and the buyers solicitor will decide which of these are necessary in any particular case.

Local Authority Search
This reveals details of the planning history for the property and whether the Council are aware of any breaches of planning, also any proposals for new roads or traffic schemes, tree preservation orders, conservation areas and any other matters within the Council's control that may affect the property.

Drainage Search
This will show whether or not the surface and/or foul water drains run into a public or private sewer.

Land Registry Search
This is carried out just before completion in order to find out if there are new mortgages registered against the property that have not previously been disclosed. If there are, then the buyers solicitor will obviously require confirmation that these will be repaid.

Land Charges Search
If you are obtaining a mortgage the lender will ask your solicitor to carry out a search to make sure that you are not bankrupt ! Quite often this search will show an entry against someone else with a similar name. If so you will be asked to sign a copy of the result to confirm that it does not relate to you.

It has more recently been recommended that the buyers solicitor should also carry out an environmental search to see if there are any landfill or waste disposal sites in the area, if the property has been built on an old industrial site and whether there are any risks from contaminated land,toxic emissions, flooding, subsidence etc.

Can I exchange contracts before I receive my mortgage offer?

If for any reason the mortgage offer is declined or delayed or it contains any conditions that you cannot comply with, the money may not be available when required so it would be extremely dangerous to exchange contracts without it and any competent solicitor would strongly advise you not to do so.

When can I book my removals?
It is best to avoid booking your removals until after contracts have been exchanged, because, before that time the moving date is not definite, you may end up losing money if the date changes after you have made the booking.

Can I move on a Saturday?

Unfortunately the banking system that is used for the electronic transfer of the funds cannot be used on a Saturday and therefore your move has to take place between Monday and Friday.

Is there anything I can do to save paying stamp duty?

Yes possibly. If the purchase price is just above the stamp duty limits (£125,000.00, £250,000.00 and £500,000.00) and the sale includes some fixtures and fittings eg. carpets, curtains, cooker, fridge, freezer you may be able to legitimately apportion part of the price towards the fixtures, and the stamp duty will then be payable on the amount of the price agreed for the property only.

For example - If the agreed sale price is £258,000 and there are no fixtures the stamp duty payable will be £7740 but if there are fixtures worth £9,000 the duty is only £2490 because up to £250,000 the level of stamp duty is only 1% but above £250,000 it is 3%.

If you want to "split" the price in this way you must remember to tell your solicitor before exchange of contracts.

When do I need to arrange buildings insurance?

Unless the building insurance is being arranged by your lender or it is a leasehold property and the insurance is dealt with by the freeholder you must arrange buildings insurance from exchange of contracts as the property will be at your risk from that time.

The amount of cover should be the estimated cost of re-building the property if it burns to the ground which is not necessarily the same as the current market value. If you had a survey or you are obtaining a mortgage your surveyor or the lenders valuer will usually have suggested a minimum amount of cover in their report.

What do we need to know if we are buying in joint names?

Most couples who are married or in a stable relationship purchase as "joint tenants" which means that upon the death of one or other of them that persons half share will automatically pass to the other.

The alternative is to hold the property as "tenants in common" which means that each persons half share is treated as being separate so that upon the death of one or other of them his or her share will not automatically go to the other but to whoever it has been left to in the deceased persons will or, if there is no will, to his or her next of kin.

When paying different amounts into the property the person who is paying the most can and often should be protected by a "trust deed" which sets out your respective shares . This means that in the event of any dispute or upon the death of one or other of you in the future your original intentions will be clearly recorded. If you require further advice you should tell your solicitor so that he or she can make sure that your wishes are carried out.

Should I cancel my Mortgage and Insurance payments before completion?

Upon exchange of contracts most solicitors advise their clients to cancel any existing direct debit payments. Your solicitors will obtain a redemption figure from your current lender which is calculated up to the completion date. If any direct debit payment is sent to the lender in the meantime it will result in an overpayment and you will need to wait for a refund.

When do I make the first payment under my new mortgage?

The lender will usually contact you shortly after completion to confirm the first payment amount and day on which it will be collected, which is usually as per your application form. If you complete mid month your first payment may be slightly larger then normal.

What happens with the keys?

In most cases the estate agents will contact you to arrange collection once the money has been paid over on the day of completion.

Your solicitor will try to ensure that everything is finalised as early as possible on the day of completion - usually by mid-day - there can sometimes be a delay if, for example, your solicitor is still waiting for the mortgage monies to arrive or there is a particularly long chain. If this happens please don't panic or become upset because your solicitor will invariably resolve the problem by early afternoon !

What can I do if there are any unwanted items left at the property?

When some buyers go to their new property for the first time they find that the seller has left rubbish or unwanted items. You can take legal action against the seller which will almost certainly take too long and be too expensive the only other option is for your solicitor to write to the sellers solicitor and say that if the rubbish is not removed you will arrange this yourself and then send them a bill .

When will I get my money?

If you are just selling or there is a surplus due back to you after the completion of your sale and purchase your solicitor should send this to you on the day of completion or, at the very latest on the next working day.

Payment is normally made by cheque however your solicitor can transfer the money direct to your bank if you provide them with your account details. There may be an additional bank transfer fee for this.

Why should I use Home Legal Services?

Our competitive fixed fees and guaranteed no hidden extras and no sale no fee service makes it the perfect way to budget your move.

We keep you regularly updated by email and by text messages to your mobile phone and as everything is dealt with by post there is no need for you to spend hours away from home or your workplace at solicitors offices. You can also access your case progress reports 24/7 365 days per year.