Buying a house is one of the most significant investments that most people make in their lifetime. Whether you are a first-time buyer or an experienced property investor, the process of buying a house can be daunting and complex. In addition to finding the perfect home, there are numerous legal considerations that you need to keep in mind when purchasing a property, but that is where your solicitor comes in. As experts in conveyancing law and practice, they will know the property market inside out and the processes involved in buying your dream property.
If you are buying a house in England and Wales, there are several important legal aspects that must happen to ensure a smooth and successful transaction. In this article, I will outline eight crucial legal issues that your conveyancing solicitor will assist you with when buying a house in England and Wales to help you navigate the process with confidence.
1 – Conveyancing
Conveyancing is the name of the legal process of transferring the ownership of a property. You should engage with a solicitor to handle the legal aspects of the transaction, as it can be complex, and there are clear procedures that need to be followed.
2 – Property searches
Your solicitor will carry out a range of property searches to check if there are any potential issues with the property which could affect your use or enjoyment of the property. These could identify, for example, whether the property is listed, subject to a tree preservation order or whether there are highways or planning decisions that could affect the property. Once these searches have taken place, the solicitor will report back to you about any issues they found, or if there is any cause for concern and, if so, what could be done to reduce this.
3 – Stamp Duty Land Tax
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a tax that you need to pay when you buy a property or land in England (the equivalent in Wales is Land Transaction Tax (“LTT”)). The rules and rates for SDLT and LTT vary depending on the value of the property and other factors.
4 – Exchange of contracts
Your solicitor will have negotiated the terms of the contact with the seller’s conveyancer. The exchange of contracts in the transaction is the point at which the buyer becomes legally committed to buying the property and the seller is legally committed to sell it. Your solicitor will explain the terms of the contract to you and the implications of the exchange of contracts.
5 – Completion
At completion, the balance of the purchase price, taking into account any deposit paid at exchange of contracts, is paid to the seller and the buyer becomes the owner of the property. Your solicitor will tell you when this has happened and you will be able to collect the keys from the estate agent (or from the seller if there is no estate agent involved).
6 – Property ownership
There are three types of property ownership in England and Wales: freehold, leasehold, and the lesser-known commonhold. Your solicitor will carry out a search of the Land Registry to find out whether the property you are buying is owned on a freehold, leasehold or commonhold basis. Your solicitor will explain the implications of this to you and any obligations that you might have to fulfil if you buy the property.
7 – Mortgage
If you need to take out a mortgage, it is important to understand the terms and conditions of the mortgage agreement. Mortgage advisors/brokers and solicitors often work together, helping to protect your interests, and your broker should be able to offer the best financial options for you.
8 – Property insurance
It is important to arrange adequate insurance coverage for the property, both before and after completion. Your solicitor will usually advise you to arrange insurance cover from the point of exchange of contracts.
*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.