Buying a property can be a daunting task regardless of whether you are a first time buyer or if you have bought multiple properties.

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions for all you need to know about buying a property.

What is a mortgage valuation?

Before your mortgage lender will make an offer, they will assess whether the property you are buying is worth the price you are paying. A mortgage valuation provides you with a degree of comfort.

What is a structural survey?

Unlike a mortgage valuation, a structural survey is for your protection. It is a full assessment of the condition and state of repair of the property, and it will highlight any structural problems.

What is 'exchange of contracts'?

This is the point where the sale is legally binding for the buyer and seller. The buyer will pay a deposit (normally 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the purchase price), which is non-refundable if the buyer pulls out. The solicitors acting for both the buyer and seller will carry out this transaction and will also fix a date for the sale to complete.

When does the buyer become responsible for insurance of the building?

The buyer is responsible from the point of exchange, so before they have legal title.

What is 'completion'?

Completion is when the legal title to the property is transferred to the buyer, and the balance of the purchase monies are transferred to the seller. If the buyer used a mortgage to buy the property, the buyer's solicitor will have drawn down the mortgage funds and transferred these to the seller's solicitor. If the seller had a mortgage on the property the seller's solicitor will settle the mortgage balance before deducting any fees and any stamp duty and transferring the remaining monies (called "the proceeds of sale") to the seller's bank account.

What is 'conveyancing'?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring the ownership of leasehold and freehold property.

How long will it take to complete the purchase?

There is no definite answer. Typically it takes two months to reach exchange of contracts and another month to reach completion. However, every sale has different time scales.

How much will the Solicitor handling the conveyance charge?

Solicitor's fees vary significantly but most set their fee according to the value of the property being purchased. It is important to get any quote in writing so can you see what exactly is covered. In addition, buyers will pay for searches and the registration of their legal title with the land registry. Buyers will also be required to pay a stamp duty, which is a tax on property transactions set by the Government.

Can a seller withdraw from an agreed sale if they receive a better offer?

Yes, unless the sale has reached exchange of contracts. Each party will be liable to pay their own abortive costs up to that point. Equally, a buyer can withdraw if the sale has not reached the exchange stage, meaning that the property may have been off the market for some time, but the seller has no choice but to re-start marketing. Sometimes a seller will ask for a deposit to be paid in advance of the exchange, this deposit is intended to be forfeited if the buyer withdraws.

What happens to my title deeds on completion?

The buyer's solicitor will hold the title deeds to the property for several months whilst they apply to the Land Registry to register the new owner's title. If the property was bought with a mortgage, the title deeds will be sent to the mortgage lender to be held until the mortgage is repaid. If no mortgage was involved, the title deeds will be released to the new owner for their safekeeping.

What items must a seller leave at a property?

Many more items then you would think can be removed from the property, including carpets and light fittings. A good "rule of thumb" is that if it is nailed or screwed to the property with the intention of it being permanent then it cannot be taken, so removing a fitted kitchen would be disallowed. The seller, prior to the contract being signed, will provide a list of fixtures and fittings.

What if I discover items at the property don't work?

If items are discovered to be broken on the day you move in, then you may be able to pursue the seller for compensation for breach of contract. If you were not warned that an item was broken it can be assumed it is working. However, if the item stops working some time after you have taken possession of the property you have no legal remedy.

If you have any questions about buying a property please feel free to get in touch with your local Whitegates office.