Conveyancing – Frequently Asked Questions

I have sold privately without an estate agent, what needs to happen to start the process?

Both parties will need to instruct a solicitor or conveyancer and pass on their details, in order to get the process started. You will need to let your solicitor know the agreed price and any other terms which form part of the sale, such as any agreed timescales for exchange of contracts and completion.

How long does the conveyancing process take?

Current averages are between six to ten weeks. Timings can be dependent on a number of factors including the length of any chain, the complexity of the transaction and the speed at which any third parties may work. There are three main stages to the transaction being pre-contract enquiries, exchange and completion. We do endeavour to progress the transaction as quickly as possible and work towards any completion dates you may have.

Should I get a survey?

You will not get any guarantee or warranty as to the physical state of the property that you are buying and you should therefore carefully consider carry out a full structural survey in respect of the property so that you are fully aware of any physical defects with the property.  If you are obtaining a mortgage then your lender will carry out a basic valuation of the property for their own purposes but this is not sufficient for you to rely on.  You should therefore consider having a more detailed survey carried out yourself, particularly if the property is older or a lot of works have been carried out to the property.  We are able to offer suggestions for local surveyors.

What is the difference between a freehold and a leasehold property?

With a freehold property, you own the building and the land outright. You would not have to pay ground rent or service charges to a landlord but you will normally be solely responsible for repair and maintenance.  With a leasehold property you have a lease of the property from the landlord for a fixed period of time, known as the ‘lease term’ often between 90 and 150 years.  The Lease details the legal rights and responsibilities of both you and the landlord. The rules and obligations in a lease usually include restrictions on your use of the property, for example, the requirement to obtain the landlords consent for lettings and any alterations to the property.   With a leasehold property you normally also have to pay ground rent, maintenance costs and insurance costs.

What does a ‘share of the freehold’ mean?

If you are buying a property with a ‘share of the freehold’ you are still purchasing a leasehold property but a share of the freehold is sold to you with the flat/house. The ownership of the freehold may be held by individuals in their personal names in which case your name would be entered on the freehold title in place of the Seller, or alternatively, and more commonly, a company is the owner of the freehold and some or all of the tenants hold a share or membership in that company. There are both advantages and disadvantages in holding a share in the freeholder and we would be able to advise you further on those aspects.

Can I use the deposit from my sale for my purchase?

Under the terms of a standard sale contract, you can use the deposit you receive on your sale, as a deposit on your purchase, if the property you are purchasing is to be your residence and is in England or Wales.  If there is a shortfall, your seller may ask you to top this up to 10%.  You can exchange with less than 10%, but under the contract if you did not complete, you would have to pay the seller the full 10% deposit.

What is the difference between exchange of contracts and completion?

Exchange of contracts is where a fixed completion date (the moving day) is agreed and the parties are legally bound to buy and sell the property.  Please see our Conveyancing Guide for further information on the process in general.

I have agreed a completion date with all parties in the chain, but we have not exchanged yet. Should I book our removals?

The short answer is no.  Until exchange of contracts, any party can withdraw and the completion date may well be delayed.  Most removal companies can provisionally book you in, but will not take a deposit from you and secure the booking until you have exchanged contracts.  If timings slip, then a new completion date has to be negotiated with all parties in the chain, for a date when all parties can secure removals.

How can I find out how long the chain is?

Many estate agent will wait until the chain is complete until they issue the memorandum of sale.  At Macdonald Oates, if we cannot ascertain the length of the chain, we will contact the estate agent and ask.  We can then advise clients on how this might affect timescales.

I do not think my property is registered at Land Registry, can I still sell it?

If your property is unregistered we will review the original deeds and documents that you hold in order to ensure that you are able to evidence good title to the property. Copies of these deeds and documents will then be provided to the buyer’s conveyancers who will make an application for first registration following completion of their clients purchase. It is not normally necessary to register the property prior to completion unless there are concerns with the title. If your property is currently unregistered, you may wish to consider registering it before selling as this can save time when you do come to sell the property.

When can I collect the keys?

You can collect the keys on the day of completion from the estate agents or from the seller/solicitors if there are not any agents.  This is usually around 1pm but timing is dependant on when the seller vacates and the length of any chain.

Conveyancing can be a confusing process particularly if you are a first time buyer or have not bought or sold a property for a while. If you have any questions relating to buying, selling or other property matters then please telephone our residential property team who will be pleased to provide further assistance on either 01730 268211(Petersfield) or 01730 816711(Midhurst).