Buying and selling a house is unlike any other purchase you are likely to make. Not only is it likely to be the most expensive purchase you are likely to make, but is also among the most complex.
The reason for this is that there are several checks, legal procedures and contracts that need to be completed, drafted and signed before a sale can go ahead.
These processes involve not only the buyer and seller but also the legal representation on both sides, the estate agent, the mortgage lender, the local authority and the land registry, who either request or provide particular information.
This process is known as conveyancing.
What Is Conveyancing?
Essentially, when you buy a house you are legally buying a set of rights that prove that you own a piece of land and everything on it, you own the property on it, you own gardens, orchards or any other surrounding land or building.
To make sure there are no sudden surprises after you buy the house that may affect its value or even whether you legally can sell it. a series of searches are made or requested that look into every relevant aspect of a property.
These are almost always carried out by a solicitor, usually one local to the area, who will work with the mortgage provider and the solicitor working on behalf of the seller to help carry out these searches as well as answer any questions that come out of the searches.
The nature of the searches vary, but at a basic level include:
- Land Registry Checks: whether the seller owns the property and can sell it and the exact boundaries of the land you are buying.
- Authority Searches: to check if public drains, conservation restrictions or other factors may stop a buyer building on the property.
- Environmental Searches: to check if there are any risks of flooding, contamination, subsidence or other factors that might make a property uninhabitable.
- Location Specific Searches: these can include issues such as medieval church repair charges, mining searches in areas such as Cornwall and Cheshire, and other searches that specific to the local area.
All of these different aspects can affect a house’s price as much as the information gained from housing surveys, so it is important to gather as much information as possible.
As well as the intelligence-gathering steps, the buyer will also need a mortgage offer and buildings insurance that activates from the date the contracts are exchanged.
It is vitally important that you are happy to commit to buying the house before you exchange the contracts because as soon as this is done there is no going back from the purchase.
Before this, if you find out something about the property you are not happy with you can pull out at any time, and your conveyancing solicitor will help determine if a problem is that severe.