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Conveyancing top 5 frequently asked questions

This article appeared in the October 2009 edition of Chic Lifestyle magazine.

conveyancing FAQIt is an often quoted statistic that moving house is considered one of the most stressful things you can do. But it doesnít need to be that way. The key to removing some of the potential stress is to have a clear understanding of the process involved and to take expert advice from professionals who can help your move go smoothly.

One area where people often feel that they donít have a clear understanding is the legal process, known as conveyancing. Conveyancing is the term for transferring ownership of property from one person to another. It involves a solicitor, acting on your behalf, carrying out a number of checks on the property and the land it is on, to ensure that you are fully aware of all the legal implications of buying the property.

Here, Jane Meldrum of Sheffield law firm Norrie Waite & Slater answers the top 5 frequently asked questions about conveyancing.

How long will my transaction take?

This is probably the most commonly asked question of a conveyancer. The time taken to complete a property transaction depends on a number of factors. A straight forward sale or purchase, where no major problems occur, can be achieved in around 4 to 6 weeks.† However, some transactions can take longer than this.

The length of the chain is one important factor; the more people that are linked up and reliant on one another, the greater the potential for problems to occur which can delay the move. Enquiries will be made by your conveyancer, such as legal searches on the property you are buying and investigations into the legal title of the property. These enquiries can sometimes uncover issues which require further action before your solicitor advises you to commit to the purchase.

Clients often ask if there is anything they can do to speed things up. If you need a mortgage, it is a good idea to talk to your lender before making an offer on a property. A lender will confirm your income and credit history and give you a decision, in principle, for a set loan amount. By doing this you can be clear how much you are able to borrow, and therefore spend.

What is a Home Information Pack (HIP), and do I need one?

A HIP is a collection of documents which give potential buyers information on the property being sold in an attempt to avoid any surprises during the conveyancing process which could jeopardise the transaction.

A HIP contains an Energy Performance Certificate, which shows how energy efficient the property is, and what actions could be taken to improve this efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. Legal documents and the results of the local authority and water & drainage searches are also included in the HIP.

If you are marketing a property in England it is compulsory for you to provide a HIP. It must be made available to prospective buyers from the first day that a property is marketed, so your estate agent will not let you put your property on sale until you have one.

The local authority search confirms the status of the property and checks issues which might affect it, such as whether roads are maintained by the local authority, future development and planning applications on the property. The water & drainage search checks whether the property has a mains drainage connection and mains water supply.

Most properties require a HIP before being marketed.

What sort of survey do I need?

When you apply for a mortgage on a property, the lender will usually carry out a basic valuation on the property. This valuation will confirm to the lender that the property is of sufficient value for them to secure their loan against it. Basically it is done to ensure that their investment is safe.

As a buyer you have the option of upgrading to a more detailed survey with your lender, or instructing your own surveyor.

Different types of surveys are available, including homebuyers and full structural surveys. These will undertake more detailed investigations into the structure of the property and should uncover any problems which you need to be aware of, such as damp, subsidence, roof problems, etc.

The choice of what type of survey to have will depend on a number of factors including: cost, the age and condition of the property and your attitude to risk.

What is the difference between exchange of contracts and completion?

Exchange of contracts is the point at which a contract for the sale or purchase of a property becomes legally binding, committing the parties to the contract to the sale or purchase of the property, at an agreed price. On exchange of contracts the buyer pays a deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price and the completion date is agreed.

Completion is the date you are entitled to take possession of your new property and ownership passes from the seller to the buyer. Your solicitor will arrange the transfer of the remaining balance, after deduction of the deposit, to the sellerís solicitor.

How much will the legal work cost?

A quote for conveyancing is made up of three parts, a solicitors professional charges, VAT and disbursements (expenses incurred on your behalf, such as search and land registry fees.)

The fees are usually charged on a sliding scale based on the value of the property.† A solicitor will be able to provide you with a quotation at the outset of the transaction.

Beware of very cheap prices being advertised for conveyancing, particularly on the internet, as these often do not include many extras which will be added to your bill at a later stage, once you have committed to using the firm.

Follow these links for more information on Conveyancing, Conveyancing disbursements or for more Conveyancing FAQs.

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