Sharron Tennant, Partner and Head of Residential Property at Spire Solicitors Norwich office answers some property queries.
Before I instruct a solicitor, can I ask for a quote?
Yes. Solicitors are used to being asked this. Check that his/her estimate includes VAT and disbursements, e.g. stamp duty and Land Registry fees on a purchase. It is preferable to use a local solicitor and arrange a meeting at the outset.
What are legal searches when buying a house?
Generally a solicitor instructed on your purchase will make a local search with the District or City Council for the area in which the property is situated. This is useful for checking whether amongst other things the sellers have obtained planning permission and/or building regulation approval for any alterations or extensions to the property.
To obtain a comprehensive picture, solicitors will also carry out water and drainage searches and, these days, an environmental search to check for such matters as flooding or contamination risks.
What is a mortgage valuation?
If you need to obtain a mortgage for your purchase, the lender will require a valuer/surveyor to inspect the property and value it to be satisfied that the property provides adequate security for the proposed loan. A mortgage valuation should not be treated as a survey, although the lender could be requested to extend the valuation to a homebuyer’s report for an increased fee.
Why is exchange of Contracts so important in the house buying process?
For a Contract to buy or sell a property to be legally binding it has to be in writing and contain all the agreed terms. It also has to be signed by both the buyer and seller so usually each sign an identical copy which is then exchanged. Once Contracts are exchanged the purchase and sale becomes binding on the parties. Up until exchange of Contracts takes places either party can walk away and there is no come back in respect of any expenses incurred to that date. Once exchange has taken place the completion date becomes fixed and neither party can renege on the deal without repercussions.
What if I can’t move out on the completion date set in the Contract?
If you fail to give possession on the agreed completion date you will be in breach of Contract and potentially liable for any additional expenses that the buyer incurs as a result. The completion date can only be changed by written agreement between the parties.