FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long will it take?
This is always the burning question. If a property is
empty and a Buyer does not require a mortgage, a sale or
purchase can be completed in a few days, but this is not
very common. It will be more likely that a mortgage will
be required and a chain of properties will be involved.
In this case it will usually take between 4-8 weeks to
exchange contracts and then 2-4 weeks between exchange
of contracts and completion, making a total of 6-12 weeks
from start to finish, as an average.
We do our best to progress your transaction as quickly
as possible, but time scales cannot be guaranteed by
When will I need to pay any money?
We will ask you for some funds on account at the start
of the matter to cover the cost of Land Registry
documents (on a sale) and searches (on a purchase). The balance of the
purchase price including your legal fees etc. will be
payable shortly before completion. Sometimes this will
need to be paid before exchange of contracts where you
are borrowing over 90% of the price by way of mortgage
(see also 'How much deposit will I have to pay?')
How much deposit will I have to pay?
It is normal for a deposit to be paid to the Seller’s
conveyancers on exchange of contracts. Many people think
that 10% is required but this is not always the case.
If you are both selling and buying we can usually use
your Buyer’s deposit in connection with your own
purchase so you will not have to find anything at all
at the point of exchanging contracts.
If you are buying only, the amount of the deposit will
usually depend on how much you are borrowing from your
lender (if any). If you are borrowing less than 90% of
the purchase price, then the maximum amount you will
need to pay on exchange of contracts will be 10% of the
purchase price. If you are borrowing more than this we
can often negotiate with the Seller to accept
a reduced amount.
Will I need a Survey?
If you are obtaining a mortgage, the lender will require
a valuation for its own purposes. Although this may give
you an indication of whether they think the property is
worth the amount you have asked to borrow, you cannot
rely on it if things go wrong
and it is not designed to point out defects.
For an extra fee, you can usually
your Lender for
a HomeBuyers Report and this will give you
additional information about the property that you will
be entitled to rely on.
If the property is quite old and you have a particular
concern about its condition, you can obtain a full
structural report which is much more detailed. Most
surveyors will be prepared to quote you for this type of
It is important to remember the old saying "BUYER
BEWARE", because after you have exchanged contracts you
will be liable for any problems discovered with the
property, unless you have been misled.
If you are not having a mortgage we would advise you to
make your own arrangements to have a survey carried out.
What Searches do you carry out and why?
Local authority search - This search reveals details of
matters such as the planning history, proposals for new
road schemes, planning breaches, tree preservation
orders, conservation areas and other matters over which
the local authority has control and which may affect the
value of the property or your enjoyment of it. Your
mortgage lender (if any) will require you to have one of
Drainage search - This search will show
whether or not
property is connected to mains for water supply and
drainage arrangements, whether the supply is metered,
whether water quality tests have been passed and
other valuable information about your potential
liability for drains and water pipes.
Environmental search - It is recommended that Buyers
also carry out an environmental search. This will check
for example whether 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.
Chancel Repair Liability Search - This search is
designed to check those records that are reasonably
accessible, to see whether the property is likely to be
at risk of liability for contributions towards the
repair costs of the church chancel. This is an ancient
liability that can affect land in almost any
geographical situation in England and Wales, often
without the owners knowing about it.
Why do I have to supply personal identification
documents and undergo “Anti-Money Laundering" checks?
As lawyers we have a statutory duty to ensure that we
have checked your identity and are satisfied that we
will not be handling money that represents the proceeds
of crime or that furthers the aims of crime or
terrorism. We are required by law to carry out certain
checks and to report any suspicions to the Serious
Organised Crime Agency. We hope that you will understand
the reason why you are asked for identification
documents, bank statements and other aids to
establishing your “bona fides”. We are prohibited by law
from proceeding with any transaction where this
information is not forthcoming from anyone for whom we
When do I need to arrange Buildings Insurance?
Unless your mortgage lender (if any) is arranging the
building insurance, or the property is leasehold and the
insurance is dealt with by the freeholder, you must
arrange buildings insurance from the day you exchange
The amount of cover should be the estimated cost of
re-building the property if it is destroyed, which is
not always the same as the current market value. If you
had a survey or you are obtaining a mortgage, your
surveyor or lender’s valuer will usually have suggested
a minimum recommended amount of cover in his report.
What happens with the keys?
These are usually left with the estate agents, and the
Buyer collects them once the estate agents have been
advised by the Seller’s conveyancer that the money has
been paid over on completion day. If there is no agent,
then the Seller will hand them direct to the Buyer on
the advice of his conveyancer.
Either way, it is important to make the arrangements in
advance to prevent the Buyer turning up and waiting
outside with his removal van.
Although we always try to ensure that everything is
finalised as early as possible on the day of completion
and usually it is dealt with by around mid-day, there
can sometimes be a delay - if for example your
conveyancer is still waiting for mortgage monies to
arrive or there is a long chain. If this happens please
don't panic or get upset, because your conveyancer will
almost always resolve the problem by early afternoon if
When will I get my money?
If you are just selling, or there is a surplus due back
to you after completion of your sale and purchase, we
will send this on to you the next working day.
Payment is usually made by cheque, but for larger sums
we can arrange to transfer the money direct to your bank
if you request this in advance and provide us with your
account details. There will be a bank transfer fee for
What should I do about Life cover?
We recommend that you arrange sufficient life cover for
your mortgage liability and this must be arranged before
exchange of contracts. You should consult your financial
adviser or lender.
Why does completion have to take place on a working day?
When the purchase monies are paid over for the property
to the Seller’s Conveyancer, the Buyer and his Lender
expect to get “vacant possession” of the property in
return, on the same day. The banks only
transfer money electronically on a working day, and
therefore completion cannot take place at a weekend.
Please note, however, completion does not always have to
take place on a Friday - it can take place any working
Can a person be added to the Deeds and the mortgage at a
Yes, but you will have to receive confirmation from your
Lender that they are happy for that person to be placed
on the mortgage and then a transfer of the legal title
will need to take place. This is a legal document
transferring the property from the sole name into joint
names subject to the mortgage.
At what point is the sale or purchase of a house legally
binding, i.e. when will I be safe from 'gazumpers'?
A sale or purchase is only binding once written
contracts have been exchanged between Seller and Buyer.
In most cases, a deposit of up to 10% of the purchase
price will be paid by the Buyer to the Seller at that