House Buying FAQ

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life and many people find the process stressful. You need to be confident that you will receive the best possible service from a professional and experienced lawyer.

If I instruct you on a conveyancing transaction how long will it take?

This is a very difficult question to answer.  It depends on a variety of things.  The most important factor is “the chain” (see below) but also other factors such as the amount of time that it will take to obtain search results (this varies depending on how many transactions are going through at the same time), whether you (or others in the chain) are taking a mortgage and so on.  The normal timescale is 8-12 weeks.  There is a limited amount that we, as your solicitors, can do about the chain but what we can (and do) ensure is that you are kept fully informed of developments and that we communicate effectively with other professionals in the process.

What is a chain?

People who are buying and selling usually want to synchronise the two transactions.  This often results in several linked transactions each dependent on the other and exchange of contracts (see below)  cannot take place until all in the chain are ready.  That means that the timescale is dictated by the transaction that is taking the longest (usually because the sale was agreed last).

How much will the process cost?

This depends upon a variety of things which include whether your property is freehold (most houses are freehold) or leasehold (most flats are leasehold), the price or value of the property and whether there are any particular factors that are likely to make the transaction more complicated or more straightforward than usual.  When you contact us we will give you the best possible estimate that we can of the cost involved.

How much is it going to cost?

We do not believe in a one size fits all approach. Some transactions are more complicated than others and we will need to discuss fees with you at the point when we take instructions.

As a general guide however, our charges for acting on a straight forward purchase of a low value property (under £200,000) might be as low as £700 plus VAT increasing in increments to over £2,000 plus VAT for a property worth over £1,000,000.

When budgeting for a transaction please remember that disbursements also have to be paid. On a residential sale you might expect disbursements of £50-£100.

On a residential purchase you will have to pay search fees which will probably be around £300. You will also have to pay SDLT (on properties purchased for more than £125,000 or on any second property). You can obtain further information by clicking this link:

For details of Land Registry Fees on a property purchase please click:

Or, if you prefer, please contact us from the website and we will call you to discuss your needs, provide a fee estimate specific to your transaction and confirm the details (including disbursements) by e-mail or post.

Shouldn’t I just ring round to find the cheapest price?

 Price is of course a factor.  The amount charged by different firms varies widely.  What people do not always appreciate is that so to does the quality of service that is provided.  The cheapest firm still has to make a profit and can only do that by providing a lower level of service than firms that charge more.

Factors other than price that prospective clients should take into consideration are:-

  • Reputation – speak to family or friends who may have bought and sold a property recently, find out which firm they instructed and what they thought about the level of service.
  • Also, discuss your choice of solicitor with estate agents but please note that some estate agents pay referral fees to particular companies.  If an agent is trying very hard to steer you in the direction of a particular firm (particularly an online firm or a firm from out of the area) it is likely that they are receiving payment for making that referral.  The only reason why a firm would pay a referral fee is that it’s reputation is not strong enough to attract clients. We do not pay referral fees.

If I am going to instruct you when should I do so?

As soon as possible.  If you can speak to us before you even put your property on the market or make your offer we will be in a position to get your file opened, have all the necessary paperwork completed and to hit the road running as soon as the estate agents have negotiated the deal.

What is the difference between exchange of contracts and completion?

Exchange of contracts is the point at which you enter into a legal obligation to buy or sell a property.  If you pull out after exchange of contracts there will be legal consequences.  Completion is the date that you pay over the balance of the money and the property becomes yours.  If you are buying a house to live in that is the date that you move.

It is quite early in the process but I am being asked to agree to a completion date. Should I do so?

No.  There is an element of stress in the conveyancing process.  We can help you to reduce that but we cannot avoid it altogether.  The number one thing that causes unnecessary stress is trying to fix a completion date too early in the process.  It is far better to keep and open mind on that until you are almost at the point of exchange of contracts.  At that point we will suggest to you that you should discuss completion dates with agents and others in the chain.  Once a mutually acceptable date is agreed upon we can go ahead and exchange contracts.

People tell me I might get gazumped. What does that mean?

Gazumping is where the seller is offered more money after he has agreed to accept your offer.  There is a limited amount that you can do about this.  The best thing is to ask the estate agent to assure you that no further offers will be considered after yours has been accepted.  However, agents are legally obliged to pass on any further offers to the seller so you may still be gazumped. The best way to avoid being gazumped is to instruct a good solicitor who acts swiftly and communicates with others in the chain.  If a seller is confident that the transaction is moving forward he/she will not usually want to take the risk of starting again with a different buyer who may or may not see the transaction through.  Remember buyers sometimes pull out as well!

People keep telling me about delays with the local search. What does that mean?

There are various searches that need to be carried out in a conveyancing transaction.  Many of the searches are computerised and can be carried out online so that results are back within minutes.  However, the most important search needs to be carried out with the district council.  It will disclose any local land charges registered against the property, whether the road outside is publicly adopted, whether there have been any breaches of planning permissions.  This search is carried out manually by the council staff or by private search agencies that are permitted access to the council records.  These searches take at least a couple of weeks to complete and often, during busy times or where a particular council is short staffed, they can take much longer.  If there is a delay in getting a search result on a property that you are buying there is little that can be done but, once again, it is a matter of your solicitor communicating effectively with others and, of course, acting quickly to get the search in hand in the first place.  We will do both those things.

What is SDLT?

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a tax that is payable when you buy a property.  SDLT is payable when you buy a home for more than £125,000.  The rates can be found online.  A higher rate of tax is payable (whatever the value of the property) if the property that you are buying is not going to be your main residence.

Are there ways to avoid paying SDLT?

Not really.  We will, of course, ensure that you do not pay anymore SDLT than you absolutely have to.  Some organisations will tell you that they have sure fire schemes to reduce or avoid SDLT.  Most of them are not effective and can result in the buyer paying not only the correct amount of tax but also interest and penalties.

Do I have to pay a 10% deposit when I exchange?

 Not always.  If you do not have the full 10% then most sellers will accept a lesser amount. Again this is something that we will discuss with you at an early stage in the transaction and manage the situation for you.

Can you act for both parties?

Sometimes we can.  There are rules that apply.  If your seller or buyer wants to us instruct us as well please speak to us and we will see if we can act for both.

I see that you are members of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). What does that mean?

Please click this link to read about our CQS accreditation 

Should I get my conveyancing done online?

Online firms are often touted as being quick, cheap and effective.  People who come to us after having instructed an online firm previously usually tell us that their fees are more than expected, that it is very difficult to ever speak to anybody on the phone and almost impossible to speak to the same person twice running.  Firms are usually hundreds of miles away so there is no option for a face to face meeting.  The process often resembles a factory production line.  Also, the vast majority of online conveyancing firms pay referral fees to estate agents since the level of service they offer is not good enough to attract clients through recommendations or repeat business. We are not saying that there are no decent online conveyancing firms but we are confident that we offer a considerable better service and value for money.

I see that you also have LEXCEL accreditation. What is that?

Please click this link to read about our LEXCEL accreditation.