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A quick guide for first time property buyers

Buying a home is stressful, especially for first-time buyers, so it is wise to do some research to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. For many people it is also their most valuable investment. Conveyancing is the term that refers to the legal process of transferring one person’s property (the seller), to another (the buyer).


What does the process involve?

By way of a very brief overview, this is what the conveyancing process looks like:

  • As a buyer, it is sensible to organise your mortgage (if you are taking one) before you start looking for a property. This is so that you know what your budget is.
  • Start looking for and find the property you want.
  • Put in an offer i.e. tell the seller (or in most cases, their estate agent) what you are willing to pay for the property. This is also the time to raise any conditions you have, agree the estimated time of completion of the purchase and agree any additional price for any contents which the seller will leave in the property.
  • When you offer is accepted by the seller, at this point it is recommended that you obtain a survey to check the property’s condition, a valuation to ensure the property is worth what you are paying and you will need to instruct a solicitor to review any legal issues. If you are taking a mortgage your lender will arrange for a valuation of the property.
  • The checks undertaken by a surveyor will include a wide range of examinations, including the structural integrity of the property, whether there’s any signs of subsidence, damp or damage, and whether there are any existing plans for the immediate area that may impact the property.
  • A solicitor’s role is to undertake checks and searches in particular with the local authority, utilities and environmental department to find out if there are common drains that serve multiple properties, whether there is any history of land contamination, to see if you are responsible for any shared public access points and generally find out as much as they can about the property; consider the title deeds for the property to make sure there is nothing onerous affecting the property. They will also check the boundaries to see if there are any disputes with neighbouring properties. Your solicitor will also correspond with the seller’s solicitor to ask any relevant questions about the property and agree the relevant contracts and any other documents. If everything comes back okay and all documents are agreed with the seller, then you can move onto the next level – buying your home.
  • It is often misconceived that this process is straightforward but it is not. It is important to ensure that no stone is left unturned and complete the process properly and professionally.
  • At Protopapas we will always provide you with a full report outlining the details of the property and any concerns which unravel. We will discuss the same with you, either in person or over the telephone. It will then be up to you, the buyer, to decide whether or not you wish to proceed to purchase the property.
  • If you are taking a mortgage to assist with the purchase then we will also usually deal with this aspect as well. Lenders have different requirements which must be met. It is usually the case that your solicitor can also act for the bank provided that they are on the bank’s ‘conveyancing panel’. If your solicitor is not on the bank’s panel, then the bank will appoint their own solicitor.
  • Exchange. This is when you pay your deposit, which is usually 10% of the purchase price. This means you can not back out of the deal without losing your deposit.
  • Completion: Now you hand over the rest of the money for the house in exchange for both the keys and the deeds. At this point, the property is legally yours.
  • After completion there are various formalities which must be completed to as to register you as the new owner of the property and also register any mortgage. Your solicitors will take care of this and keep you updated.
  • You should note that nobody is legally bound to complete the transaction until contracts are exchanged.

Top Tip: As part of the process, ask for a list of fixtures and fittings the seller is willing to include within the cost of the property. Get this in writing. That way you will manage your expectations and will not get a nasty surprise upon arrival.


What is Gazumping?

This term refers to another buyer offering more money to the seller than you have. As a result, the seller goes back on the deal that you made. Sadly, you ca not legally protect yourself from this happening if this occurs prior to exchange. However, it’s always worth asking the seller to take the property off the market as part of your original offer. This rapidly reduces the likelihood of another buyer submitting a higher price.


What is Gazundering?

This term refers to when a buyer reduces the offer which has been made to the seller, usually just before exchange of contracts. If there is a good reason for amending an offer then it may be reasonable to do so, for example, if you identify an issue which needs to be remedied and which is likely to cost a significant amount. However, if there is no good reason for doing so than lowing an offer just before exchange is often seen as a extremely unfair, unreasonable and can result in serious consequences, such as the seller getting very annoyed and refusing to proceed with the sale altogether.

What is Gazanging?

Gazanging is when the seller cancels the sale to stay in their property. This could occur when the market price shoots up as there is a good chance the seller will make more money if they wait to sell in a few months’ time.


In the unfortunate event that you suffer from either gazumping, gazundering or gazanging, a buyer and/or seller will probably lose a lot of money, especially if this occurs just before the point of exchange. Typically, both your solicitor and surveyor will have carried out a lot of work, costing you both your precious time and money. All you can do is act quickly when it comes to finalising the offer and exchanging the contracts. This will probably involve working with your solicitor and mortgage lender to speed things up.


Finding a mortgage and doing all the checks
If you are buying a property then make sure you have got your finances in place first. If you go house hunting before you’ve gone mortgage hunting, you will complicate the process, especially if you do not get the full amount you need and have to scrabble around to make up the shortfall.  Do not automatically go with the first lender you find; mortgage products change almost daily. There are so many mortgage lenders out there, all hustling for your business, especially if you have got an excellent credit score. It is almost inevitable that another lender will match your bank’s offer, or even try to tempt you with a better deal. It is often best to engage an independent mortgage adviser who has access to the whole mortgage market.


Always get a personalised mortgage illustration: this should highlight the important features of your mortgage. Taking out this kind of loan is a massive commitment, so do your due diligence and do not sign up for anything you’ll regret later on. Remember, a mortgage typically lasts for 25 years, so this is a long-term commitment and not something to be rushed into without a lot of careful thought.


Choose Your Conveyancing Specialist

We specialise in in property law and can handle the whole process from start to finish.

Please call us today to find out more.

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