17 June 2019

Buying your first home can be a very daunting experience and first time buyers are not alone in this. We have encountered many clients over the years whom have not purchased a house sometimes for decades. Since we have moved further into the digital age with most documents and correspondence now being sent via e-mail, what would previously take days sending documents through the postal system can now be scanned and uploaded within a matter of seconds. We understand this at Battens Solicitors however and are keen to make the process run as quickly and efficiently as possible for our clients, which is why we are on hand to explain and advise upon each step of the conveyancing process as we move through. This is of particular importance to those who have never experienced the conveyancing procedure before and therefore this article is aimed primarily at first time buyers, but is also useful to those who have not purchased in several years.

Firstly then, you’ve found a lovely property you wish to buy. What needs to happen first?

  • Purchasers will hopefully have all of their finances in place by the time they come to instruct a solicitor, be it they are using cash savings, a gift from family members or mortgage finance to fund their purchase. Most first time buyers will of course require mortgage finance and so in many cases a mortgage in principle will already have been obtained. If not, this should be done at the earliest opportunity.

Once an offer is made and accepted on a property, now is the time to instruct a solicitor! At Battens Solicitors we have a whole range of solicitors, legal executives and paralegals who can assist purchasers through the conveyancing process.

Once we receive the initial forms together with identification and fees from purchasers, we can then start to look through the legal title and contract documents which are sent to us from the seller’s solicitor.

  • We will then raise questions or enquiries upon the legal documentation received, which, can include forms completed by the seller concerning the property, warranties and guarantees for works carried out to the property, as well as planning permissions and building regulation approvals. We would also at this stage purchase searches over the property which are required by mortgage companies and these compulsory searches include an environmental search, a water and drainage search and a search through the local authority records. Our literature sent to purchasers at the outset of a transaction discusses these searches in greater detail.

This is also the time to look to arrange a private survey since as solicitors we are not qualified to comment upon the state and condition of the property.

  • A survey is always highly recommended by a qualified surveyor in case this reveals defects with the property or repair works which purchasers need to be made aware of at an early stage so they can budget accordingly. The mortgage company will also instruct a valuer to carry out a valuation of the property for lending purposes.

The next stage in the process is to review the search results as they are returned to us from our search provider, as well as check the replies received from the seller’s solicitor as to the enquiries raised.

  • Once this takes place, a detailed property report is sent to clients which encloses the documents received from the sellers together with the enquiries raised and replies received. This is usually sent out together with the legal documents for signature but not always.
  • Alongside this, the mortgage offer is received from the mortgage company and we send out a report on the mortgage to the purchaser which includes important information such as the mortgage term, interest rate and any penalties to be charged so purchasers are aware of this.

Now we come to the stage of finally exchanging contracts!

  • When the purchaser has returned the signed legal documentation to us, we hold deposit funds from the purchaser and they have reviewed everything and are happy to proceed, this is the time to set a completion date and proceed to exchange contracts. Exchange of contracts is when the purchaser is legally committed to the purchase by contract and cannot then withdraw without losing their deposit funds and incurring a financial penalty potentially. The completion date is then fixed in the contract by the solicitors and that is the date when the monies are sent across to the seller’s solicitor and the keys are then released to the purchaser usually via the estate agent.

After completion takes place, our job is not quite over yet!

  • We then must send an application to the Land Registry to register the purchase and transfer the names on the legal title into the name of the new purchaser. The amended title is then sent to us from the Land Registry and a copy is sent on to the purchaser for safe keeping.

The question we are asked most frequently is when can we collect the keys?!

  • The whole process on average takes between 8-12 weeks but this is dependent upon a number of factors including whether you are purchasing a freehold or a leasehold property, whether a Management Company or Landlord is involved and whether you are in a chain of other property transactions. Whilst we can try and estimate the timescale therefore, there is no clear cut rule, but you can rest assured we shall endeavour to meet our client’s timescales wherever possible.

Should you or a friend or colleague be looking to purchase a first home, or sell or purchase any property then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us for a quote which we should be happy to provide. For further information please contact Ross Siviter on 01935 846092 or a member of the residential property team who can advise you further.