Conveyancing FAQ

What is a freehold and what is a leasehold property?

If you are purchasing a freehold property it will mean that you will be the owner of the property and the land outright.

In contrast, if you are buying a leasehold property you are purchasing a long lease from the freeholder. The lease term will be for a long period of time such as 100 years or 999 years which will reduce over time. A leasehold is more common if you are buying a flat because someone will need to maintain the structure of the building and the general areas, such as the stairwell and landing. If you are purchasing a flat within a private complex, it will also include the cost of maintaining the paths and roads, barrier gates, lighting and maintaining the grass areas. One of the main differences between a freehold and a leasehold property therefore is that the leaseholder will be required to pay money to the freeholder, such as ground rent (which is often a small amount) and service charge (which will vary dependent upon what general areas are being maintained, the number of people benefiting from those areas being repaired and maintained, and the cost of doing so each year).

What is an EPC and do I need one to sell my property?

When a house or flat is being sold it is necessary for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to be prepared. In short, the EPC is an assessment of the energy performance of the property and provides recommendations for how to improve it. An assessor will liaise with you to visit the property for the purposes of preparing the EPC. Often the selling agent will deal with this, however, if you are selling privately we can arrange this for you.

What are ‘searches’ and do I need them?

When you buy a property we will need to advise you about Searches. If you are buying with the assistance of a mortgage the lender will require that certain Searches are carried out and that they are advised about any adverse entries found in them. If you are purchasing without a mortgage, it is your decision whether you commission any Searches.

Searches are documents prepared by various bodies, such as the local authority, which reveal information about the property and its locality. There are many difference types of searches and whether a particular search is necessary will depend on the type of property and where it is located.

The usual searches that we commission are:-

Local Authority Search

This is a specific search of the property and the local land charges register kept by the Local Authority. It will tell you whether there are any planning notices affecting the property, if any trees on the property are protected by Tree Preservation Orders, if it is a listed building or in a conservation area and whether the roads are private or highways maintainable at public expense, for example.

Water Drainage Search

This search will confirm that the property is connected to a public sewer and water supply. It will confirm whether the property is served by a meter or charged at a rateable value and whether there are any public sewers within the boundaries of the property.

Environmental Search

Local authorities are required to inspect and identify contaminated sites and issue notices requiring the contamination to be remedied. Liability, however, often falls on the current owner of the land because the original “polluter” either cannot be identified or is no longer in existence.

An environmental search will check whether the property is built upon land contaminated from past usage. The reports also comes with some insurance cover in the event that the Local Authority serves a Part 2A Remediation Notice and costs have to be borne by the property owner.

The report also indicates whether the property is in a radon gas affected area and whether the property is in an area vulnerable to flooding from rivers, groundwater flooding or surface water.


Additional searches

Additional searches, such as mining searches, may also be required depending on the location of the property.

You may also wish to commission additional searches yourself. For example, you can find out whether the property is in a location close to proposed new wind farm development or exploratory drilling for gas including hydraulic fracturing (otherwise known as “fracking”).

How long will it take?

A typical purchase of a property with the benefit of a mortgage usually takes in the region of 6-8 weeks from instruction to moving day. However, this will depend entirely on the circumstances. For example, if you are also selling a property and need to tie the two transactions together, then time estimates may vary because all parties in the chain will need to be ready to ‘exchange contracts’.

Who do I pay the deposit to?

Your deposit is sent to us and is payable to the seller when parties ‘exchange contracts’.

What does ‘exchange of contracts’ mean?

A contract for sale of land, unlike the sale of goods, is NOT enforceable unless the terms of the contract are evidenced in writing. ‘Exchange of Contracts’ is when the selling party and the buying party are legally bound into the transaction. There is therefore no obligation upon either the seller or the buyer to proceed with the transaction until after contracts are exchanged. This date is usually agreed 1-2 weeks prior to the completion day so that we can request mortgage money, conduct final searches and obtain redemption figures etc. this then also allows both parties time to make arragements for hiring removal vans and obtaining meter readings etc.

What is the Completion date?

The completion date is the day agreed upon at exchange of contracts that the seller and the buyer will complete the transaction. It is therefore the day that the buyer must pay the full purchase price to move into the property and the seller moves out of the property.

When will I be able to get the keys?

Keys will be available on the ‘completion day’ once the seller has confirmed receipt of the full purchase price from the buyer. Most sellers and buyers arrange the handing over of keys on completion either through an estate agent or between themselves.