Frequently Asked Questions

Image of child holding house in hands against spring green background for Conveyancing frequently asked questions page.

How long will it take?

Typically the buyer requires a mortgage and there is a chain of transactions upon which the sale is reliant.  In this case it will usually take between 4 and 6 weeks to reach a position where contract can be exchanged.  The main time delay is often awaiting the mortgage offer which in turn relies upon the valuation.  In a chain the mortgage offers on each property will need to be in place before an exchange can take place.  Similarly, if there are any complications arising, say from adverse search result, on another property in the chain, it will delay the whole.

On exchange of contracts a completion date agreeable to everyone in the chain will be set and will usually be between 1 and 2 weeks later.

So a ‘normal’ conveyance will take between 6 and 8 weeks.

Will I need to pay any money up front?

If you are selling a property you will be asked to make a small payment in advance.  The agent’s and conveyancer’s fees will be paid from the balance of the proceeds of the sale after any mortgage loans have been repaid.  The overall balancing sum will be sent to you.  If the proceeds of sale are insufficient to cover the repayment of any mortgage loans and the fees you will be asked to pay the balancing sum shortly before completion.

If you are buying a property you will be asked to make a payment up front to cover the cost of the conveyancing searches necessary to progress the conveyance.  These are payments made to third parties and are not part of the fees of your conveyancer.  You may also need to deposit sufficient fund to cover the deposit before exchange of contracts and if there is any shortfall between and incoming funds (from mortgage loans and/or the net proceeds of a related sale) you will need to pay the balancing figure before completion.

Do I need a survey?

The key rule to remember when buying a property is ‘buyer beware’.  Providing you have not been misled, this means you buy the property ‘as seen’ (whether you have seen it or not).  There are no warranties for faults, physical or legal.

It is therefore highly recommended that you have an expert survey the property to make sure it is in a proper state and condition for the price you are paying for it.

If you are buying with a mortgage a valuation report will be carried out on behalf of the lender.  This is a fairly rudimentary report designed to ensure the property has sufficient value to be a good risk for your lender.  You will probably not be able to rely upon the report if anything goes wrong.

However, for an extra fee, you can usually arrange for the valuer to carry out a ‘home buyer’s report’ which, subject to its terms and conditions, can be relied upon by you.

If you are buying an old property or you have any particular worries about the condition of the property it is recommended that you obtain a full structural report, again at a higher cost.

When can I book my removals?

The date of your move cannot be guaranteed until contracts are exchanged.  Therefore it is best not to make firm arrangements until that time.  Of course you may be able make a pencil booking for confirmation once contracts are exchanged.

Can I move on a Saturday?

The electronic transfer system used to exchange purchase monies between solicitors’ banks only operates Monday – Friday.  Therefore completion can only take place on those days.  If you are selling your property and moving in to a property you are buying as part of a synchronised sale and purchase you will therefore have to vacate your old property on a weekday.

If you do not have to vacate the property you are living in on the day your purchase is completed (for instance if you are in rented accommodation) you can move at any time after completion, which could be a Saturday.

What do we need to know if we are buying in joint names?

Basically there are two ways in which property can be held when two (or more) people buy together:  as joint tenants or as tenants in common.  The legal differences can be a little confusing but are explained in our Buying a House Together article.

What are conveyancing searches?

For details on conveyancing searches click here.

How much deposit will I need?

The usual deposit is 10% of the purchase price but reduced deposits are often agreed, especially if the buyer is relying upon a mortgage loan of more than 90% and therefore does not have 10% of the purchase price in available funds or if there is a chain.  However, if this is the case then the buyer should be aware that the standard terms of the contract state that if the buyer does not complete on the completion date (through no fault of the seller) then the balance of the deposit up to the 10% becomes immediately payable to the seller (as well as potential compensation for any loss suffered by the seller caused by the buyers failure to complete).

Can I exchange contracts before I receive my mortgage offer?

You can but you shouldn’t.  You would be strongly advised by your conveyancer not to do so.  Once you have exchanged contracts you are legally obliged to complete the purchase on the completion date set in the contract.  If, for whatever reason, your lender refuses your loan, or simply does not provide the offer and funds by the agreed completion date, you will not be able to complete (unless you can find the money from another source) and you will be in breach of contract.

When do I make the first payment under my new mortgage?

You will normally have the opportunity in your mortgage application form of stating on which day of the month you would like your direct debit payment to be processed.  Most people choose a date early in the month when they know funds are more likely to be in the account (if they are paid at the end of the previous month).

Please note that, depending on when you complete and what date you have chosen for your direct debit payment, your first payment will probably be larger than your normal payments.

When do I need to arrange buildings insurance?

You will become liable for the property from the date of exchange of contracts.  This means that, for instance, if there is a fire at the property between exchange and completion it will be your responsibility.  Therefore you should make sure there is adequate buildings insurance in place from the date of exchange.

What happens with the keys?

Arrangement for the handover of the keys should be made between the buyer and the seller in advance of the completion date.  In most cases the keys are left with the estate agent for the buyer to collect once the purchase monies have been received by the seller’s conveyancer.

Alternatively the keys can be handed over direct from the seller to the buyer (again once the seller has confirmation that the money has been received) or the keys can be left with the seller’s conveyancer if this is more convenient for everyone involved.

Any arrangement can be made but the seller should make sure the buyer does not receive the keys before the purchase monies have been received.  If the transaction is at the end of a long chain this can mean a wait for the buyer before they can move in because the money has to pass from bank to bank through each individual sale before it gets to the end of the chain.

What happens if there are items left at the property?

Occasionally buyers arrive at their new home to find the seller has left unwanted items at the property.  If this is the case your conveyancer will write to the sellers asking them to remove the items, stating that otherwise they will be disposed of and a bill for disposal sent to them.

Despite the inconvenience, you should refrain from simply disposing of the items because they legally still belong to the seller, who may have simply left them by mistake.

The only way of avoiding this happening is to visit the property just before completion to make sure it is empty, which of course may not be possible.  And if the items are in a dark corner of the loft you are unlikely to see them.

When will I get my money?

If there is a positive balance on your account at the end of the transaction your conveyancer will arrange for a payment to be forwarded to you either on the day of completion or the next working day.  You will receive this by electronic transfer direct to your account.  There will be no charge for this service.

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