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National Conveyancing Week: How To Buy a Home in England or Wales

In celebration of National Conveyancing Week, Irwin Mitchell have written a series of articles aimed at supporting residential property buyers and sellers to understand some of the complexities of specific transactions.

Buying a home is usually the largest purchase you will make in your lifetime. It is important to instruct a reputable Conveyancer and surveyor when you have had an offer accepted on a property.

Your Conveyancer will be requesting searches and raising enquiries when your offer has been accepted and initial paperwork has arrived with them from the seller’s Conveyancer. At this stage, provide information about your purchase to your Conveyancer, such as whether you require Tax Advice for Stamp Duty Land Tax and whether you are receiving any gifted deposits towards the purchase. The sooner you tell them about it, the sooner they can carry out any additional work for you.

What other things should you be doing to ensure the conveyancing runs as smoothly as possible, and that you are informed of relevant matters that fall outside of the work your Conveyancer will do for you?

Instructing a surveyor

You should instruct a surveyor. This is not the same as the survey/valuation that a mortgage lender may prepare, and is usually much more in-depth. See the following web link to RICS Home Surveys to see the different types of surveys available RICS Home Surveys.

A surveyor will attend the property and carry out the level of survey chosen, before providing their findings to you. The survey may include a section for your Conveyancer to raise enquiries about, so do provide it to them. 

A survey can reveal defects in the structure or services to the property, as well as things which may impact the value of the property. You may choose to obtain quotes for required works it might reveal, which you may decide to negotiate with the seller about. In some circumstances, a survey can identify issues which could determine whether you wish to still purchase the property. 

Inspecting the Property

Arrange another inspection to look more closely at the property when your offer has been accepted. Check the condition of the property in detail, looking for any defects or damage, anything of any concern and to also test services where possible, such as taps, showers, heating, electric etc. 

Speak with the seller about what is included in the sale, and reach agreements on any items they may be offering for sale, such as furniture, white goods, curtains or light fittings. The seller will complete a Fittings & Contents Form that will be sent to your Conveyancer, but you should notify them of any additional things to be included so they can ensure this is in the Contract. 

Any loft space or basements should be checked for items and ensure the seller agrees to clear these ahead of completion. Is this is agreed in writing by the seller’s Conveyancer?

Do all windows have keys, if lockable? Are there are smoke and burglar alarms? This information will likely be required for your buildings insurance provider. 

Do a final inspection of the property as close to exchange of Contracts as possible. This is important, because you will take the property as it stands on exchange. Not inspecting just before exchange could result in you inheriting issues you were not aware of.

Things to research and consider that would not be included in conveyancing due diligence

Your Conveyancer is there to deal with the legal work and ensure you purchase the property free from problems with the Land Registry’s Title. There will be matters you want to research that fall outside of conveyancing due diligence. The following are some suggestions, but the list is not exhaustive and it is for you to decide what is important to you:

  • Broadband services. Mobile phone reception and satellite/cable television

Who currently provides these services to the property, if anyone, and is there a local forum where you can see reviews on these services in the area? Do you require a certain broadband speed for work or social use and is this available at the property? Does your mobile phone have a good signal?

  • Busy roads, flight paths, railway lines

Is the property near busy roads, within any flight paths or railway lines and if so, would this impact your enjoyment of the property? If not, may it impact selling the property to buyers in the future?

  • Rubbish collections

Most Local Authorities have websites where you can check what recycling and general waste provisions are in place for the area.

  • Additional costs to living at the property

What is the Council Tax band for the property, how much is drainage and water services and are there any additional costs, such as parking if there is none in the boundaries of the property, or Ground Rent or Service Charges if the property is leasehold.

  • Crime rates

You may wish to research this to ensure you are content with living in the area.

  • Transport links

Will you be reliant on public transport either now or during your ownership of the property and if so, is the transport nearby the property sufficient?

  • School catchments

This of course will impact parents looking for schools for their children, but may also impact property owners if near a school where parking is an issue.

Everyone has different requirements as to what they wish to have details on before buying a property. Whilst it feels like it may be your dream home and you were delighted to have your offer accepted by the seller, it is important to carefully research all things important to you before you commit to an exchange of Contracts and completion, as once you have completed and moved in, those things may spoil your use and enjoyment of the property. If you carry out these investigations soon after your offer has been accepted, you can ask your Conveyancer and Surveyor for their advice on anything you identify as a concern, where relevant, and also ask your Conveyancer to raise any necessary enquiries with the seller.