Buying and Selling Your Home


How long will it take to buy my house?

On average, it takes six to eight weeks (slightly longer if purchasing a flat) for contracts to be in place ready to exchange, with completion sometimes up to two weeks after this. However, it can take longer than this if for example there is a long property chain.

When do I need to get my mortgage in place?

It is wise to get a mortgage agreed in principle before finding the house/flat you want to buy. Once your conveyancer receives mortgage instructions from the lender, they will check them carefully to ensure any special conditions imposed by the lender have or will be complied with by completion.

How easy is it to get a mortgage?

There are now much tougher rules on borrowing and lenders are being very rigorous with their checks before approving a mortgage. Borrowers may have to take an affordability test to ensure they can pay back their loan. It is a good idea to apply for a mortgage as soon as possible as the process can take some time.

What are property searches?

Before purchasing a house or flat, your lawyer/conveyancer will need to carry out various searches against the property you are buying. Information is requested from the local authority to check if anything might affect the property, such as planned developments, property disputes, or flood risks.

How long do property searches take?

Locally in St Albans the council has a short turnaround time, usually taking between one to five days to complete searches. However this can vary between local authorities up and down the country so it is worth checking with your conveyancer how long it is likely to take.

Do I need to have a survey carried out on the house I’m buying?

Yes, it is recommended to have at least a Homebuyers Survey carried out. This will help identify any structural problems, such as damp or subsidence, before you agree to buy the property.

What is a property chain?

Unless you’re lucky to be chain free, you’ll be relying on the seller to buy another home and likewise the seller of that home, and similarly you may have your own home to sell. Known as a ‘chain transaction’, where each move is dependent upon another, this will progress more slowly than a chain free transaction because it moves at the speed of the slowest link.

Can I avoid being stuck in a chain?

Chain free properties are often hard to come by. One option, if you are selling, is to sell your property and move into rented accommodation while you search for a new home. This way you won’t be relying on the buyers of your home as well as those further up the chain.

When should I instruct my lawyer/conveyancer?

The sooner the better. Instructing a lawyer/conveyancer early on will help speed up the process and should be done before agreeing to purchase the property.

What will my lawyer/conveyancer do?

The smooth running of the house or flat buying process depends upon finding a lawyer/conveyancer who understands the local market, can quickly identify any potential issues and work quickly to overcome any barriers.

When do I have to pay the deposit for my house/flat?

The deposit will need to be paid when the contracts are exchanged, a few weeks before the purchase is completed and the money is received from the mortgage lender.

Can the seller pull out if they get a better offer?

Yes, both the seller and the buyer can change their minds up to the point that contracts are exchanged. Following this, both parties are legally bound and cannot withdraw without incurring penalties.

How is the completion date decided?

The completion date has to be agreed between all the parties in the chain and it must take place on a working day.

How long will it take for my lender to release funds?

Most lenders require a minimum of five working days notice, but some may require longer.

What happens to my title deeds on completion?

All title records are now stored electronically by the Land Registry and a copy of the registered title will be given to the buyer following completion.

What is the difference between exchange and completion?

On exchange of contracts the buyer is legally committed to purchase the property. The completion date is when the title to the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer and the buyer takes possession of the property.

Can I exchange and complete on the same day?

Yes, exchange and completion can take place on the same day but the buyer won’t know they’re moving until the day they move which can make the process even more complicated and stressful. If anything does go wrong, there isn’t any time to put things right, so it is advisable to avoid exchange and completion on the same day.

I’m selling my home. When do I need to instruct a lawyer/conveyancer?

You should instruct a lawyer/conveyancer when you are about to market your property for sale so that you are in a position to progress promptly with the conveyancing work once a buyer has been found and a sale agreed.

How long does it take to sell my property?

This will often depend on whether there is a chain and if so how many people are in the chain and their funding arrangements. For instance, a sale to a cash buyer will normally be far quicker than a sale to a buyer requiring a mortgage, particularly if they are in a long chain with others also requiring mortgage finance. Three months is the average timescale but it regularly takes longer and occasionally is shorter.

What’s the difference between exchange and completion?

An exchange of contracts is when both buyer an seller become legally bound to sell and purchase. Completion is the date when the transaction is to complete and where the seller will need to vacate the property. Exchange of contracts takes place first and there is normally a gap of two or three weeks before completion. During this time the seller still owns the property and may stay living in it.

Where do I find my title deeds?

Most residential property is registered land and consequently the title will be held digitally at the Land Registry, we can download your title. If the property is unregistered the deeds will be held by the lender but if unmortgaged the deeds will normally be held by you or a previous lawyer who may be holding them in safe custody.

I’m selling my home. Do I have to pay stamp duty and if so how much?

No. The stamp duty will be paid by the buyer.

Do I have to pay capital gains tax on the property?

If the property is your principle private residence, you do not have to pay capital gains tax on any gain. If not, you may have to pay it on any gain unless you can apply any other exemptions.

What forms do I need to sign to complete a house sale?

Normally you will be required to sign the sale contract and the transfer property.

The surveyor has found a problem with my property. What are my options?

If a buyer’s surveyor finds a defect with the property they may ask to have the defect remedied at the sellers expense. Alternatively, the buyer may attempt to negotiate a lower sale price to reflect the work they will be required to carry out following the completion of their purchase. The seller will need to consider and negotiate this with their agent if the request is considered reasonable.

If the buyer pulls out can I make a claim to recover my costs?

If a buyer or seller withdraw from a sale or purchase transaction before an exchange of contracts is achieved neither party can claim their wasted costs from the other party.

What will happen if I pull out of the sale?

If the seller decides to withdraw from a sale transaction before an exchange of contracts they will only be responsible for their own selling costs.

When do we agree a date to move out?

The completion and moving date will normally be agreed when contracts are exchanged.

When do I have to move out?

Normally vacant possession will be required on the completion of your sale. Completion on the day of completion normally will occur between 9am and 2pm.

Can exchange and completion happen on the same day?

Both an exchange of contracts and completion can occur on the same day, this is referred to as a simultaneous exchange and completion. However, this does not normally work well for people in a chain or their lenders as until the actual day no one is bound to one another. Making so many arrangements on this tenuous basis is very problematic and stressful for everyone involved.

When will I receive the money from my sale?

Following the completion of the sale the lawyer/conveyancer will transfer the net proceeds of sale to the seller.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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