Please find below answers to some of the questions we are frequently asked.
Can you recommend a local estate agent?
Yes. As you might imagine, we work with the majority of local estate agents and so we know the efficient ones in the area. We would be pleased to suggest which you should consider for your property sale - and those to avoid.
What is conveyancing?
It is the legal work necessary to ensure that the transfer of legal ownership between buyer and seller is correctly documented, and achieved. It also includes the carrying out of necessary searches and enquiries that ensure that the seller actually legally owns the property being sold and that the buyer takes the property without any unexpected restrictions. This process takes place over various stages and you can see the necessary steps by clicking on the relevant link for a sale and purchase.
Why do I need to employ a solicitor?
You actually need a "Conveyancer" but the type of person that will be a Conveyancer can range from the following:
- A qualified conveyancing Solicitor
- A qualified conveyancing Legal Executive
- A qualified Licensed Conveyancer
- A Conveyancing Executive with years experience
- A Solicitor or Legal Executive who dabbles in conveyancing
Or you may end up with:
- A Solicitor
- Legal Executive
- An unqualified employee who may or may not have sufficient training in conveyancing.
At Trethowans we only recommend the former categories as you deserve excellence.
Our job is to get you into your new home (and if applicable out of your old home) on the date you want; and to make sure that by the time you have purchased what will be to many people, one of the most expensive investments made during their lives, you really own your own home.
We ensure that when you arrive with your furniture at the front door of your new home, you do not find it firmly barred against you; or once you are nicely settled in, you are not thrown out because the seller had no right to sell the house to you, or find that part of the house has to be pulled down because it was built without the correct Local Authority consents.
These are just a few examples of problems that we are trained to safeguard against and without professional assistance there are many pitfalls that can very easily and very quickly turn what should be an exciting and joyous event into a costly nightmare.
Can I do the conveyancing work myself?
You can, although DIY conveyancing is never recommended. Even many conveyancers in the market place make frequent mistakes. Do not forget that conveyancing is a legal process and if you make a mistake then you are responsible and will not be able to get financial compensation. The process is never easy - however simple you think your own deeds are.
Do I have to use the conveyancing lawyer which the estate agent
That is frequently the best way, as local Estate Agents know the better conveyancers in the area.
Are all conveyancing lawyers the same?
No. In the services industry, as with any profession or trade, each individual will be different. Some conveyancers are single working self-employed individuals, some work in a small firm and some in very large conveyancing factories. Some will offer a wider range of legal services than others. Many will be unqualified legal staff, some Licensed Conveyancers, some Legal Executors, but the most widely trained of course will be actual Solicitors.
However, we only recruit to our Team, Legal Executives and Conveyancing Solicitors, as clients deserve experience, legal qualification but also the widest possible training in the law - which only these two latter sets of lawyers provide.
Will I be able to easily contact the conveyancer dealing with my transaction?
At Trethowans we will positively encourage it. You will receive your conveyancer's personal email address and direct dial phone number. Each conveyancer has moved house themselves and we know how annoying it can be to have your calls unanswered. Instead, we treat your home move as if it was our own and we are completely on your side throughout.
Will you keep me informed?
This is a most enjoyable part for us at Trethowans, as we enjoy working with you throughout the process. We will keep you regularly informed, as we know how stressful conveyancing can get when your own conveyancer does not even keep in touch.
Do you make me look at a website for updates?
We will never fob you off to a website instead of actually keeping you informed by regular telephone calls and emails.
When should I instruct you?
On a Sale, the sooner the better so that we can study your deeds to pre-empt any issues that the Buyers might raise, thus speeding up the eventual sale. The moment you accept an offer, we should ideally be ready to send a full pack of contract papers to the Buyer's lawyers. There are usually two conveyancing forms that you will need to complete, a Property Details Questionnaire and a Fittings and Contents Form and only if you instruct us early enough can these also be ready to send to the Buyer on day one.
On a purchase, you would only instruct us once you know your offer has been accepted.
I cannot get into your office to sign documents - is this a problem?
Not a problem at all. Almost all conveyancing is done via post, email and telephone. Why? Because we find people do not wish to take time out of their busy days to come and see a solicitor. Not that we are not friendly - on the contrary - but rather remote service is incredibly popular nowadays and we make it so easy to do, by keeping each stage in a sale and purchase to a minimum. Click on the following relevant link for details of how easy we make a sale and purchase.
5 tips to avoid conveyancing rip-offs
1. Some conveyancers are barely qualified and so often are not an actual solicitor, legal executive nor an individual with any more than 10 years of experience in the conveyancing area. Many internet companies and large factory outfits are the culprits but so are some run of the mill High Street firms. Demand excellence as moving home is a legal process fraught with legal issues.
2. Avoid hidden charges, such as a charge for the conveyancer acting for a mortgage company, completing a stamp duty form, repaying a mortgage, ordering searches etc.
3. Ensure you receive just one person handling the legal work throughout
4. Make sure they do not close at lunch or dead on 5pm
5. Make sure you receive their personal email and telephone numbers so contact is very easy
How much will the legal work cost?
A quote for conveyancing is made up of three parts, your conveyancers own professional charges, VAT and 'disbursements' (i.e. third party expenses the conveyancer has to pay out on your behalf, such as searches and Land Registry fees.)
The professional charges are always 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 so 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 - and almost invariably the level of service you receive reflects the low fee (and receiving an actual solicitor or even half decently trained conveyancer for your fee is almost non-existent).
You will be pleasantly surprised if you obtain a quote from Trethowans. Despite our size, good reputation and legal clout, we are competitively priced.
What are disbursements?
The payments your conveyancer makes on your behalf to third parties such as Search fees and Land Registry fees. They cannot be avoided, and so are on top of the conveyancers own professional charges.
Do I have to pay Stamp Duty?
Certain properties located in disadvantaged areas can be exempt from Stamp Duty - so please click here to find out if your desired property is exempt.
First Time Buyers can avoid stamp duty on a purchase under £250,000 PROVIDED they meet certain strict criteria. Otherwise, everyone pays stamp duty when buying a property over £125,000, and at different rates as follows:
0-125,000 - NIL
125,001 - 250,000 - 1%
250,001 - 500,000 - 3%
500,001 - 1m - 4%
over 1m from 6 April 2011 5% To be classed as a First Time Buyer you need to: Be using the property as your main residence Never have owned a property or any share in property anywhere in the world, at any point.
I've had a quote from you. Are there any hidden charges?
Never. So many other conveyancing firms do, but our reputation is at stake and so we avoid any of that unprofessional nonsense. When we quote we are very clear what you will pay.
Some other quotes on the internet look cheaper than yours - why is this?
Internet firms have a notorious reputation for offering such low levels of service that for many such outfits they are not fit to even claim they undertake 'conveyancing'. Poorly trained staff, no one individual acting for you throughout, cutting corners to be able to charge a low price, hidden extras, bad communication and so many other factors go into why we alone receive so many complaints about such outfits. Our advice is to think long and hard about how much you respect your own move to want to take 'cheap' risks over the quality of the legal work.
Do you offer 'no completion no fee'?
Such schemes are usually reserved for conveyancing outfits who charge so little and so provide such a low level of service that should your transaction not proceed they are not really out of pocket themselves. The better quality firms do work very hard and do protect your legal position so that offering such a scheme could bankrupt them over time and so you see it very infrequently with the better conveyancers. However, we have a similar scheme which we find is very fair to both parties - so please ask us for details.
Why is conveyancing for a leasehold purchase more expensive?
Leasehold properties involve far more paperwork than a freehold purchase, and therefore they take more of our time to examine and advise upon, not to mention numerous more legal issues that we must guard you against. For example investigating the Lease, serving appropriate notices on the Landlord or managing agent, obtaining up-to-date service charges and management information, obtaining Landlord's consents and reviewing management accounts.
Why is new build conveyancing more expensive?
New Build properties involve far more paperwork to examine and advise upon, and numerous more legal issues that we must guard you over. For instance, the adoption of new roads, drains, the investigation of building regulation approval, planning permissions and new build warranties such as NHBC.
Will I need a survey?
You should always consider the need for a survey as of course your house purchase is a huge financial transaction. Sellers are under no legal duty to disclose any defects in the property's state and condition. 'Buyer beware' is the common phrase that you should be aware of.
Your survey is not to be confused with the basic valuation that your mortgage lender may arrange for its own benefit and upon which you should never rely.
There are two types of survey, a Home Buyers survey and a Full Structural survey. We can often suggest a suitable surveyor for you who would then be happy to discuss with you which survey is suitable for your requirements.
I need to complete quickly - can you guarantee me a timescale?
Timescale depends entirely on how fast the buyer and seller both wish to proceed, any other party in the chain and of course each party's mortgage company. Try and agree a timescale at the very start when you put in your offer or accept an offer (as applicable). Your conveyancer does not decide actual dates of course, as only you know which date you want, but what efficient conveyancers do is keep things moving promptly and they keep you frequently updated.
How long does it take to buy and sell property?
Unless you agree a date with your Buyer or Seller, then it is impossible to say. That said, the average time from acceptance of offer to completion is six to eight weeks. Exchange of contracts is usually one to two weeks before completion. However, if your transaction is part of a chain of transactions there may be delays caused by matters which neither you nor we can control. Trethowans will always try to accommodate quick completions where we can.
What are the various stages of buying and selling a house?
We have prepared two very straight forward guides on the steps involved in a sale and the steps involved in a purchase. Click on these for full information and do not hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions.
What about chains?
Being in a chain means that it is not as straightforward as having a buyer for your house. Why? Because they may have their own buyer of their house that they are selling, and that buyer may be selling too, and so the chain of people linked to buying yours can be lengthy. As a result, it gets very difficult to know how long the sale of yours might take with so many people involved, and there is always a worry that it only takes one of them to decide to withdraw at some later point that then brings the whole sale of your property to a standstill. Indeed, if you are buying to, then your sale chain increases, as the people you are buying from may also need to buy. And so it goes on.
Are conveyancers slow?
The more experienced the Conveyancer that you use, the more able they are to instantly deal with any issues that arise rather than having to refer to their superior or even put the file to one side because they are out of their depth.
Conveyancers can have a reputation for proceeding slowly, but often they only do this because their own clients tell them confidentially to go slow. Unfortunately the Conveyancer cannot then admit this to the rest of the chain or to the agents and so they look like the culprits. Do remember that Conveyancers are only paid at the end of the deal and so they more than anyone are interested in pushing things forward. However, for the reasons above they may be out of their depth of course.
In addition Conveyancers are only able to proceed as quickly as the other parties involved in the chain and that includes those people's Solicitors, mortgage brokers and of course everyone has their own personal situation and own timescales.
At Trethowans, we will keep you informed of developments as they are brought to our attention at all times during the transaction. We are employed by you to look after your interests and so please fell free to enquire at any time about how your transaction is progressing.
How can I speed the process up?
Try and agree a date at the start of the deal but also keep in touch with us and the Estate Agents. There is nothing worse than finding that we cannot reach you nor can the Agents. Apply for your mortgage and survey early enough and react to communications promptly from whoever contacts you.
What can you do to speed up the conveyancing process?
We treat your move as if it is our own, as each team member has gone through the move process ourselves and we are as a result very empathetic to the emotions that arise during that time. Each conveyancer at Trethowans is well trained and experienced so we can find actual solutions to any issues that can crop up.
I am selling my property - do I need a Home Information Pack (HIP)
or Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?
Home Information Packs were suspended in May 2010. Only an EPC is a legal requirement to have in place to sell a residential property. We are happy to speak to you for free as to your legal obligations in this regard as a Seller of Property.
What identification documents do I need to produce?
If we have not acted for you before, or recently, then we simply ask for your original passport or photo driving licence, and a utility bill not older than three months - but we have alternatives to this so just ask us for more details.
What other documents do I need to give to you?
On a sale, you should normally have received your deeds from your last conveyancer, or they may be holding them for you. If not, then they had made an error. We can help you locate them though, so do not panic. On a purchase, you need nothing yourself and we shall guide you through what we need from you.
What items will the seller be including in the sale to me?
As part of the purchase, we shall supply the Seller's completed Fixtures and Fittings Form which will state the items to be included in the sale to you. If it is not stated on the Form, then the Seller is entitled to remove any 'fittings' but must leave any 'fixtures'. A fixture is generally something that is attached to the property which is regarded as part and parcel of the property itself, such as kitchen units, doors and sanitary ware. A fitting on the other hand, is something that is free standing, like a wardrobe. However, to avoid dispute, if there are any specific items you wish to remain at the property please inform us in writing in advance of exchange of contracts.
Where do I get a mortgage from?
If you are buying, then you could approach any bank or building society yourself for a mortgage, but more commonly people use a mortgage broker. Think carefully whether you pay a mortgage broker a fee, or allow them to take any commission offered by your chosen mortgage company. The latter is preferred by many for obvious reasons.
We would be delighted to recommend a mortgage broker to you but certainly you should always consider an independent financial advisor who is able to consider the "whole mortgage market" from every lender including those lenders that will only deal with customers direct. Many mortgage brokers fail to consider every lender, some are tied to particular lenders with biased advice and some exclude looking at lenders who deal directly with customers.
We've split up and are selling the house - is it different?
Provided you both agree to sell and instruct your conveyancer with one voice, matters should proceed smoothly. But if one of you is living in the house and one is not, then realise that the occupant will be more involved in deciding timescales as they need to vacate. Unless you are both agreed on where the proceeds are to go, your conveyancer will hold them until you do, as they are not safe to pay either party. We can advise fully in this area so approach us as early as possible
Someone has died and the house has to be sold - what happens?
We can advise fully in this area, so please contact us as soon as possible following the death. If joint ownership is involved, then one party's death need not present any difficulty to the legal process. When a sole owner dies then a delay can occur pending the obtaining of a Grant of Probate.
What is gazumping?
Gazumping happens when the Seller stops selling to you because someone else has come in with a higher offer. This is not that common these days, but can reflect badly on the Seller and their Estate Agent, as it is very emotional for a Buyer who suddenly loses the property they were buying through no fault of theirs - unless you can match the higher offer.
Legal indemnity insurance - what is it?
If a legal issue crops up that has no apparent solution, then taking out legal indemnity insurance to compensate a buyer for any risk involved can be a quick and affordable solution. E.g if you have built an extension recently, but your deeds say you cannot, then potentially someone could come along and tell you to take it down. This would cost, and your house would lose value. Indemnity insurance can cover the cost. At Trethowans we try and work out the proper solution to avoid you paying for such insurance.
I hear I need to pay a deposit to buy a property?
People often get confused with what a 'deposit' is. Some Mortgage Lenders refer to a deposit being the difference between the purchase price and the amount which they will lend. But solicitors refer to a different deposit being the amount you have to pay on an exchange of contracts as a sign of commitment to the deal.
If you are just buying, then the norm nowadays is to pay 10% of the purchase price from your own funds.
If you are selling and buying the deposit will be provided by your own buyer at the bottom of the chain and usually that deposit will be acceptable to the solicitors acting for your seller. However, you may be asked to make up the difference if you are selling for less than you are buying.
When do I pay the deposit?
We will give you plenty of notice and will ask you to pay the deposit to us before contracts are exchanged - ideally by bank transfer as a cheque will need at least 5 working days to clear before it can be used to exchange contracts.
When do I pay the legal fees?
On a purchase we ask you to let us have £250.00 on account of our quote, as we then have sufficient monies to pay for your conveyancing searches. We do not collect any monies on a sale.
Before exchange of contracts, we shall then prepare a financial statement of the sale price less deductions (legal fees, mortgage repayment and estate agent fees) and/or the purchase price less deductions (legal fees). This helps us both to know that there is no negative equity, overlooked expense, early repayment charge on your mortgage and generally that you can indeed afford to move.
On a purchase (and on a sale if you have a sale with negative equity) we will ask you for the remainder of what is owing between exchange of contracts (when you become legally bound to buy) and completion (when you move).
When do I pay the estate agent?
Unless you tell us otherwise, we will pay your Estate Agent's commission on your behalf out of the net sale proceeds of your property. The Estate Agent automatically sends us their invoice on exchange so we know how much to pay.
Can I or the other party pull out of the sale and purchase at any time?
You or the other party can withdraw from the transaction at any time BEFORE exchange of contracts. If you are buying it means that you could lose money spent on a survey, searches and possibly legal fees incurred to that point - even though it may not be your fault that the purchase has fallen through. After exchange of contracts both parties are legally committed to complete the transaction and pulling out can mean the loss of your 10% deposit, and in the case of the Seller, a law suit for compensation if not an order for sale.
When should I serve notice on my rented accommodation?
Not until exchange of contracts and the same applies for when you should book removals. Until then, there is nothing contractually binding and either party can withdraw from the transaction. Do not make any arrangements that could cost you money if there is a risk that the conveyancing transaction could not go ahead. Until an exchange there is always that risk. We appreciate that this can be difficult, and can add to the stress of the process if you don't, but it is important advice that you should adhere to.
Will the result of the local search give details of any development
in the area?
No. The results of the local search will only reveal matters affecting the specific property searched. You can have us carry out a neighbourhood planning search at an additional cost if you so wish - so feel free to ask us about this if it would be of interest.
I have recently installed double glazing. Will I need to produce anything for the buyer?
Yes, apart from the original guarantee, since 1st April 2002 it is a requirement that building regulation approval is obtained or a certificate issued by a contractor under the Fenestration Scheme for Self Assessment (FENSA). Buyers will check the FENSA website to see if such a certificate exists at http://www.fensa.org.uk/asp/certificate.asp or that the Local search reveals building control consent.
Am I committed once I have signed the contract?
No. Lawyers like to get their clients signed up to the contract as early as possible so they have it on their file ready to exchange at a moments notice when you tell them to. Only when contracts are exchanged between solicitors do you become legally bound. Exchange of contracts is simply a telephone call between solicitors acting for the sellers and buyers in the chain of transactions when every seller and buyer is ready in which they simply agree to put their signed part in the post that same evening and to pay the deposit.
Can I have access to the property prior to completion?
If the property is empty the seller may well allow access to the property before completion but only after exchange of contracts . Usually this is only to allow you to carry out essential work. If access is required please notify us as soon as possible so that a request can be made to the Sellers' conveyancer - or negotiate it through the Estate Agents (letting us know what you have agreed) and the lawyers will document your permission.
Who arranges the completion date?
The completion date is agreed between the seller and buyer and all other sellers and buyers in the chain. Ideally you should have some commitment at the start of the legal work when offers are made and accepted - perhaps making it a condition of your offer, or accepting one.
What is 'exchange of contracts' and 'completion'?
In England and Wales, making an offer is not a contract and parties are free to back out. Only once an 'exchange of contracts' takes place, does the law consider parties are bound to proceed and cannot back out without suffering considerable financial penalty. As a result, never exchange until you are happy to proceed, and in the case of a purchase, that you and your lawyer are happy with the contract papers, searches and that your mortgage or other finances are 100% guaranteed.
Exchange is effectively a legal handshake, locking the parties in. Completion is simply the moving date. It can be on the same day, but that is not popular, as it means that booking removals (and paying a non-refundable deposit could be lost, or taking a day off work could be wasted if the expected date for a simultaneous exchange and completion gets delayed at the last minute.
So people like to exchange for a completion date say one or two weeks later, as that gap then means either party can safely arrange removals and days off work and know that the completion date is set in stone and will happen - unless either party is foolish to pull out after exchange and suffer the above penalties. They rarely pull out as a result!
Do I have to go to your office for exchange of contracts or completion?
No. Whilst we always are glad to meet with our clients, people prefer to avoid taking time out of work to visit a lawyer when conveyancing is almost always handled through the post, via email and telephone. We always arrange to have all the documents signed by you in good time before exchange of contracts and completion.
What about building's insurance?
When selling, only ever cancel your building and contents insurance on completion of your sale, not before.
On a purchase, we shall inform you whether you must insure at exchange - which is most common - or on Completion. So set about obtaining quotes now so you know who you may choose. Remember that Mortgage Lenders are usually more expensive, but with comparison sites galore on Google, you should be able to make a very informed decision, or even by using your mortgage broker.
How early on the completion day can I get the keys on a purchase?
The time for completion is dependent on money being transferred through the banking system. The usual time is 12 noon. By that time the money should have reached the seller's solicitors and the keys should be released to the buyer via the Estate Agent unless the parties deal direct on the issue. However, if there is a long chain of transactions the money might be received later and therefore the key release will be delayed.
As a result, efficient lawyers make sure they get any required mortgage funds a day early to prevent delay on the morning of completion, and they make sure that any balance their own clients need to make is secured days before Completion. Some conveyancers fail to do either leaving it all to the day of completion with often disastrous results, and a delayed completion date.
Where do I collect the keys on completion?
If there is an Estate Agent, then the usual place is at the Agents' offices. If there is no Agent, or if it is convenient, the sellers may agree with you direct to hand the keys over to you at the property.
When will I receive my money from a sale?
We will send the amount due to you on the day of completion - either by cheque or, at an additional charge, by bank transfer. If you are both selling and buying then the sale proceeds will be used towards the purchase of your new property. Any balance due to you will be sent to you on the day of completion - again either by cheque or bank transfer.
What happens on the day of completion?
On a sale, we will receive the Buyers money, and when we do, will call you to make sure we have your permission to release the keys to the Buyers (usually via any Estate Agent). We then send you your sale money - or use it immediately to send on to your Sellers if you are buying.
On a purchase, we will have received any mortgage money the day before, and if you have no related sale then very early on the morning of completion we send your money by bank transfer to your Sellers. Once they receive it they will release (via any Estate Agent) the keys for you to have, and we will call you to confirm this.
Will I receive any documents following completion of my purchase?
We shall continue to work behind the scenes after the day of Completion to register your ownership at the Land Registry. This can takes a few weeks, although the Land Registry has stated that it will aim to complete all registrations within a period of 5 weeks.
Many firms will tell you that if your property is registered then you have no deeds but that is completely false. Since compulsory Land Registration, it is true that the traditional bundles of conveyances and historical title deeds have been replaced by computerised summary at the Land Registry, but copies may still be needed and the Land Registry charge for producing copies. There may well be planning consents, your Lease, guarantees, searches and new home build warranties to name but a few. These have now become people's deeds, and many firms will destroy them or overlook their safe custody, making your own sale more expensive and possibly delaying it whilst duplicates are sourced. At Trethowans, you will always receive a copy of your Land Registry Title Deed and Plan - called 'Official Copies'. As for the remaining documents, the majority of mortgage lenders do not require title deeds and documents to be kept as part of their security. The lender is protected by registration of the mortgage at the Land Registry. As a result we offer to store them for you or you are free to take possession of them.
I am selling/buying a property, what should I do about my Will?
Our advice must be to always make a Will. The property is a huge asset and what is to happen to it should be recorded in a Will or the wrong people may receive it. If you haven't got a Will or if you have failed to review an existing one everything could take longer on your death adding to the stress and worry your family may feel at this time of bereavement.