Jargon Buster

Some of the terms used in conveyancing can be confusing.  To help you we have compiled a list of terms that you are likely to come across when buying, selling or remortgaging a property:

completion date

This is the date that legal ownership of the property passes from the seller to the buyer.

The completion date is written in the contract so when contracts are exchanged the buyer and the seller are under a contractual obligation to ‘complete’ the transaction on that date.  So on a practical level this is the date upon which the buyer must make payment of the outstanding purchase price and the seller must vacate the property so the buyer can move in.

Whilst potential dates for this to happen should have been discussed between the buyer and the seller from an early stage the date is not to be relied upon until contracts are exchanged.  Therefore no firm commitments should be made, such as arranging removals or giving notice on a job, until that time.  All sorts of things might happen to delay an agreed completion date before contracts are exchanged, for instance, the buyer not being able to arrange a mortgage or a search result not coming through in time.

contract

This is the document containing the agreement between the buyer and the seller.

It contains the main terms, such as defining the property, the price to be paid and who the buyer and the seller are.  The bulk of the contract is made up of provisions for what is to happen if something goes wrong (which rarely happens once contracts are exchanged).

deposit

This is the amount agreed in the contract that will be transferred to the seller’s solicitor when contracts are exchanged.

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).

disbursement

This is a fee that a solicitor has to pay to someone on your behalf, for instance a payment to the Land Registry for a property search.

environmental search

This is carried out check if there are any known environmental issues affecting the property, these include matters such as landfill or waste disposal sites in the area, if the property has been built on an old industrial site and whether there are any risks from contaminated land, toxic emissions, flooding, subsidence etc.

exchange contracts

In the modern conveyancing process the buyer and the seller sign identical copies of the contract.  These signed copies are then held by their respective solicitors until both parties are ready to legally commit to the sale/purchase of the property.

When both parties are ready the solicitors will exchange contracts.  Nowadays this normally involves a telephone call during which certain things are agreed and then each solicitor will send their client’s signed copy of the contract to the other.

This is a very important part of the conveyancing process.  From the second the contracts are exchanged (technically during the telephone conversation not the physical exchange in the post) all the terms become legally binding.  The seller must sell and the buyer must buy at the price stated.  Up until then, even though both copies had been signed, nothing was legally binding and either party could have walked away from the transaction with no obligation to the other party.

fixtures, fittings and contents form

This is a list of the items at the property which are either included or excluded from the agreed price. This form is completed at an early stage by the seller and sent to the buyer, so that both parties understand what is included in the selling price.

freehold

Ownership of both the land and the property that stands on it.

land registry

Officially known as Her Majesty’s Land Registry (HM Land Registry) this is a central body that guarantees title to registered estates and interests in land. It records the ownership rights of freehold properties, and leasehold properties where the lease has been granted for a term exceeding seven years.

leasehold

Temporary ownership of the property but not usually the land on which it stands.  There will be a landlord who will own the freehold. When the lease expires ownership of the property reverts back to the freeholder.  This usually relates to a flat or apartment.

legal fee

This is the charge made to cover the cost of the time our lawyers spend on your conveyance.

If your sale or purchase does not complete then you will not be charged our legal fees, only the disbursements we have incurred on your behalf.

local authority search (or local search)

This is a list of questions about the property, which are sent to the local authority.  It is carried out to ascertain if there are any matters affecting the property which a prospective purchaser would want to know about before they decide to go ahead with a purchase. It covers, amongst other things, such items as; whether the road serving the property is maintained by the local authority, whether there have been any planning applications on the property and whether there are any tree preservation orders.

It is important to note that the search only reveals entries against the specific property searched against and does not reveal information relating to neighbouring properties, e.g. will not reveal whether the immediate neighbour has been granted planning permission for a large extension.  Therefore, if you require information on any particular point or if you wish us to ask any particular questions of the local authority you should let us know at the very start of the transaction because the Local Search is often one of the first matters undertaken.

mortgage

This is a loan secured on the property.  When the property is registered at HM Land Registry a note is attached to the property registering the interest of the bank or building society lending the money.  You will not be able to sell the property without paying off the loan.

If you are buying, contracts should not be exchanged until you have received a written mortgage offer.  If you exchange and do not receive you mortgage offer (and monies) before the completion date you will not be able to complete and will be in breach of contract.

If you are selling, we will contact your mortgage lender(s) at an early stage to ask how much it will cost to pay off any mortgage(s) secured against the property.

mortgage account number

This may also be called a ‘roll number’ and is the reference number for your mortgage.

mortgage deed

This is the legal document which creates a legal charge over the property and which is sent to HM Land Registry so they can make a note against the property that the lender has an interest in it.

mortgage fees

These fees are normally charged for acting on behalf of your bank or building society in the conveyance.  Gard & Co. do not charge an additional fee for acting on behalf of your bank or building society.

mortgage offer

This is your lender’s formal written offer of your mortgage setting out all the details of your loan. This will only be sent out by your lender once it has carried out all of its references and credit searches and received a satisfactory valuation report on the property.

plansearch

A Plansearch covers commercial and residential planning applications within a radius of 250m of the property.  This means that information which could have a major impact on the enjoyment and value of a home, e.g. plan to build an industrial unit on the waste land on the corner of the street, is revealed to the potential purchaser.  We will normally only carry out this search if specifically requested to do so by you.

property information form

This is a questionnaire about the property which is completed by the seller. It covers matters such as boundaries, neighbour disputes and guarantees.

The contents of the form are legally binding and as such any false information, or failure to disclose information, can give the buyer grounds for taking legal action.

redemption

The final payment of a mortgage loan.

redemption fee

This is a fee charged by the lender for paying off a mortgage before the end of its term.  This can be a fairly low administration fee or can be much higher if the borrower has had the benefit of a fixed interest rate or received a cash-back or similar incentive and the mortgage is paid off within a certain agreed time limit, e.g. 3 years.

redemption figure (redemption statement)

This is the balance outstanding on your existing mortgage. It will normally be sent to us by your mortgage lender in the form of a redemption statement.

SDLT – stamp duty

This is a tax charged by the government on the purchase of a property.  The amount of tax to be paid is based on a percentage of the purchase price.  The relevant rates [as at 4th December 2014] are contained in the table below:

Purchase price

Rate of duty paid on the part of the property price within each tax band

up to £125,000

0%

£125,001 – £250,000

2%

£250,001 – £925,000

5%

£925,001 – £1,500,000

10%

£1,500,001 and over

12%

The rates apply only to that part of the property price that falls within each band.  0% is paid for the first £125,000 then 2% on the portion up to £250,000, 5% up to £925,000, then 10% up to £1.5m; 12% on anything above that.  So, for example, on a £300,000 property the tax to pay would be £0 on the first £125k (0%), £5,000 on the portion up to £250,000 (2%) and £2,500 on the remaining £50K (5%).

survey

This is a report carried out by a surveyor on the current physical state of a property.

All property is ‘sold as seen’ so if you are buying a property it is up to you to find out about any physical defects before you commit to buy. Therefore a survey is highly recommended.

If you are buying with a mortgage the lender will require a satisfactory mortgage valuation before it will make its formal offer.  However, you should be aware that this is not a structural survey – it merely ensures that the property is of sufficient value to protect the lender’s interest should you default on the loan.

title deeds

The Land Registry now maintains an electronic register of all registered property titles. This means that when you complete your purchase you will no longer be given any title deeds but will receive confirmation of your ownership. If you are selling a property which you have owned for many years you or your lender may still have the original title deeds which will be required.

transfer deed

This is the document that passes the legal ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer on the completion date.

The transfer deed will be sent to HM Land Registry after completion so that their records can be altered to record the buyer as the new owner of the property.

water and drainage search

This is a search that will tell you whether the property is connected to a public or private water supply and whether waste water goes into a public or private sewer with a plan to show where water and drainage pipes are located.  It also contains detailed information and plans showing the position of the services.

© 2017 - Gard & Co. Solicitors in Plymouth