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you need to
about buying and
selling a house in 26
Everything you need to know
about buying and selling a
house in 26 Bite-Sized Chunks
For those of you looking to sell or buy
your property, why not get yourself
geared up and up to speed with our
“Everything you need to know about
buying and selling a house in 26
Each bite-sized chunk will build in to (as
they say in the TV ads) a valuable guide
to buying and selling a house.
And please forgive me for using the
term house, but it is easier to use than
references to flats or apartments. But
we will include specific references to
buying or selling leasehold flats.
We will give you all our experience as
Solicitors and from our days as one of
the very few legal firms in England and
Wales who were also Estate Agents.
This Guide is written in plain, easy to
understand language rather then legal
jargon. Better just say at the outset (we
are lawyers after all) that this Guide is
not intended to form nor does it repre-
sent actual legal advice. All information
is relevant as at January 2012.We would
be delighted to answer any questions
you have, and would be delighted to
help you with your Conveyancing if not
soon then sometime in the future.
All Ship Shape and
As Conveyancing Solicitors in Bristol
you might forgive us for the nautical
Estate Agents will advise you that
Spring is one of the best times in the
year to sell your house or flat.
Most Estate Agents will also advise you
(but the advice is often ignored) to get
your home in tip top condition as far
as possible before it goes on the market.
As the expression goes, you never get a
second chance to make a first
impression. Put another way what you
need to achieve is kerb appeal.
With the present subdued state of the
Housing Market, it is even more
essential that your property stands out
from the crowd.
Competition amongst Sellers is
fierce, as buyers are few and far
Smartening the appearance of your
home may not actually add much to its
value, but it could make the difference
between selling in a reasonable time or
sticking and going stale on the market.
Here are our top tips to ensure you get
to the top of the podium with your
• Give yourself enough time between
thinking about selling and actually
ringing the Estate Agent for a valuation
with a view to selling
• Touch up or re-paint (neutral
remember not nuclear)
• Re-plaster and Re-point where
necessary (well presented puts the
potential buyer in the right frame of
mind to make an offer)
• Start with the garden
• Don’t forget the front door -
gleaming is good (as Gordon Gecko
might have said)
• If you are selling a flat, make sure the
communal areas are up to scratch (even
if you do it yourself-with permission of
With a little fore thought and planning
you could reap the rewards of a sale
within a reasonable time.
To paraphrase the well known Channel
4 programme “Location, Location,
Location”- what you need is
If you have heeded our advice you have
or are in the course of putting your
house or flat in tip top condition ready
But like Conveyancing Solicitors not
all Estate Agents are the same.
Here are our top tips to help you
choose an Estate Agent to help you sell
1. Ask around.
Talk to friends and colleagues about
2. Ask your Conveyancing Solicitor
Yes, strange as it may seem, your Con-
veyancing Solicitor will have had deal-
ings with all the local agents. Your Con-
veyancing Solicitor may also be able to
negotiate for a better fee you as well.
And no, your Conveyancing solicitor
won’t charge for his time and advice.
3. How Many Valuations (or Market
Appraisals, it’s posher) Do You Need?
If you get three valuations you should
be able to smooth out any anomalies
between the top price and lowest price.
Some Agents will try and bamboozle
you with the highest valuation to gain
The theory goes that if it doesn’t sell
You're Tip Top Now
Our Top Tips:
Choosing an Estate Agent
and they have your property long
enough, you will eventually drop your
price to a more market sensitive price.
It is tempting to go for the middle
valuation, but there are a few other
points you should bear in mind;
• Getting the price right in the current
market is more important than ever to
avoid your property sticking and even-
tually going stale.
• Ask your Estate Agent as well for
“priced to sell”rather than expect to
achieve. Remember, your Estate Agent
wants to create buzz for your property,
so attracting more than one interested
buyer can lead to a small scale (or large)
4. Horses for Courses.
As we said before, not all Estate Agents
are the same, some will specialise in
particular types of property e.g. top of
the market middle market and mass
Look around for“For Sale”boards in
your area and do research on line to see
the Estate Agent most suited to your
5. Question1: Your time starts now...
Don’t be afraid to ask searching ques-
tions about the Estate Agent’s compe-
tence. Any Estate Agent worth his salt
will be more than happy to demonstrate
3So here goes:
• How many similar properties have you
sold in the last 6 months and what
percentage of the asking price did you
achieve (The average at the moment is
• What information have you based
your valuation on and have you proof
• Will you accompany all viewings, in
the evenings and at weekends
• What is included in their fee; does it
include all advertising costs and
• Where will your property be adver-
tised; portals; regionally; locally
6. Are Estate Agents Fees Negotiable
Yes, of course they are, but remember
you are dealing with an expert negotia-
tor, so it won’t be easy.
If your Estate Agent drops his fees too
quickly, consider how well he or she
would be able to convince a Buyer that
your property was correctly priced
7. What type of Estate Agency Agree-
Sole Agency Agreement:
This is the most common and works for
both parties best. You get total commit-
ment from your Estate Agent, the fees
will be the lowest and you only pay the
one fee if a sale is agreed and completed
Can work well if you have a property,
which would benefit, from both local
exposure and national exposure. The
downside will be a higher fee as the
Estate Agents split the fee
The most expensive (as only one Estate
Agent will get paid) and tends to be the
marketing of last resort. Does bring
with it a hint of desperation
9. The Small Print
As Conveyancing Solicitors we ought to
give some advice (general advice
you understand- speak to your own
Conveyancing Solicitor for specific
advice-we’re only trying to help) about
the Estate Agency Commission
Resist too long an agreement. 6 weeks
should be enough for you to gauge
how good your Estate Agent is, and you
can then extend it by one or two
weeks notice. You remain in control.
The average time to sell a property at
the moment is just over 10 weeks so
an agency period of 12 weeks should
suffice (that’s 10 weeks and 2 weeks
Don't let your Estate Agent
In this chapter we concentrate on ad-
vice given by Estate Agents about
which conveyancing firm to use.
You can now look for a Conveyancing
quality kite mark under the
Conveyancing Quality Scheme. You can
rest assured that the firms which attain
the kite mark are truly Conveyancing
Specialists. Not all firms of Solicitors will
be able to use the kite mark.
Knowledge is Power: Forearmed is
Forewarned ; so when your Estate
Agent demands you must use“their
lawyers”as your Conveyancing Solicitor
for the Conveyancing on your home,
listen carefully, but don’t be bullied.
Conveyancing Solicitors and Estate
Agents working in harmony will give
you the best chance of a stress free
But motivation to get you the best
person for the job, has been eroded
over the years by Corporate owned
Estate Agents, who own their own firms
of Licensed Conveyancers.
You need to be aware:
There are the Corporate Estate
Agents who are forced to“push”
Conveyancing to their sister
This option is usually the most expen-
sive. It involves high pressure tactics to
get you to sign up to the Conveyancing
service as soon as possible or face the
prospect of being pestered until you
make a decision.
This option invariably results in a Con-
I have many examples, where Sellers
and Buyers have been denied access or
at best strongly advised against using
their existing Conveyancing solicitors in
favour of the more expensive“in house”
There are Estate Agents who are paid
to refer Conveyancing to Conveyanc-
ing firms of solicitors
There are Conveyancing Solicitors, who
are referred by the Estate Agent (the
Estate Agent will receive payment)
This will include some corporate estate
agents as well as independent agents.
The Estate Agent should disclose that
they will receive a referral fee.
When it is a genuine arrangement (in
the best interests of the client) the fee is
for promoting the benefits of the par-
ticular Conveyancing services, and will
involve streamlined Conveyancing with
protocols of agreed service standards;
telephone communication, updates etc,
enhanced cooperation and is generally
on a no fee no sale basis.
Alas, there is evidence that Estate
Agents will go to the highest bidding
Conveyancing firm or intermediary.
This will normally be a slightly cheaper
option than the Conveyancing provid-
ed by corporate estate agents.
There are Estate Agents who recom-
mend Conveyancing Solicitors
These Estate Agents will be invariably
independent estate agents, owner run,
who have worked closely with efficient
and competent law firms and Convey-
ancing solicitors over the years, and
whose services they are happy to rec-
ommend without payment.
This is also happens to be usually the
cheapest option as well.
Use wherever possible a firm of solici-
tors who are members of the Convey-
ancing Quality Scheme.
Don’t accept the first offer of Convey-
ancing without doing your own re-
search, by asking friends, family and
finding out about the type of Estate
Agent and the Conveyancing firm on-
You should decide who you would like
to do your Conveyancing and then tell
your Estate Agent whom you are using.
If your Conveyancing firm tells you that
your call is important to us but your call
will be held in a queue until the next
available case handler is available.
RUN A MILE and tell your Estate Agent
you won’t be using that firm.
And Bully for you!
Ten years in the making before their
introduction in August 2007, the Sellers’
Pack then the Home Information Pack
(HIP) finally bit the dust in May 2010.
As Mr Pickles, the Communities Secre-
tary announced on May 20th 2010:
“HIPs are history. This action will en-
courage sellers back into the market,
and help the market as a whole and the
Sorry, Mr. Pickles, but I don’t think you
can blame HIPs for holding back the
Housing Market (clue: try Banks), but I
Were HIPs Ever
Up until then it was a legal requirement
that before you put your property on
the market for sale, you were required
to have a HIP available.
HIPs were composed of basic legal
information such as, either Land Regis-
try documents proving title or what is
known as an Abstract or Epitome of
Title where the property was older and
had not been registered at the Land
Registry, a plan of the property and
searches such as Local Authority
Searches, and a Drainage Search.
There was also an Energy Perfor-
mance Certificate (EPC) designed to
test and rate the energy efficiency of a
And it is the EPC which is the sole survi-
vor of the HIP cull.
An EPC is still a requirement before you
are able to put your property on the
market. The important difference is that
it needn’t hold up the marketing. The
HIP must be available within 28 days.
An EPC costs on average about £40.
What does an EPC contain?
An Energy Performance Certificate is
prepared after a Domestic Energy As-
sessor carries out an inspection of your
Property. The purpose of this inspection
is to calculate how energy efficient and
environmentally friendly your property
The certificate is drawn up, detailing the
costs of running your property, how
much Carbon Dioxide it produces per
year, a summary of how certain features
of your property affect its rating and
measures that can be adopted to save
money and improve the properties
All in easy to understand fridge type
ratings from A-G
From 20th May 2010, a new duty on the
person acting on behalf of the seller,
normally the Estate Agent or the Seller’s
Solicitors if the sale is private to be
satisfied that an EPC has been commis-
sioned before marketing is begun.
All of the new duties carry fixed penal-
ties where somebody fails in the duty
conferred on them by the new regula-
If in doubt your Estate Agent or your
Conveyancing Solicitor will advise you.
It’s never to early to think ahead when
you are planning on a buying or selling
Here’s a heads up, if you are thinking
buying or selling a house or a flat.
1. Give yourself as much time as
possible before you actually put your
property on the market for sale. This
10 Ways To Avoid
Stress When Moving
will allow time to declutter: touch up;
redecorate and carry out minor repairs
in order to present your home in the
best possible condition
2. Get 3 valuations or market ap-
praisals from Estate Agents as you
should be able to smooth out any
anomalies between the top price and
3. Instruct the right Conveyancing
Solicitor at the very beginning, even
before you have found a buyer. This way
you get to know who you are working
with, how they will work with you and
the relevant paperwork can be pre-
pared (excluding the sale price) and
ready to send to the buyers solicitor as
soon as you have a buyer, avoiding any
delays right from the start
4. Get your mortgage offer(s) in
place; talk to mortgage lenders as soon
as you think you are moving. By having
financials in place early on will make
you a more attractive and credible
buyer for any vendor
5. Be Realistic; don’t get too carried
away with reported increases in house
prices. . Pricing to sell will get people
through the door to view and sell your
house faster. Remember the property
you buy should be cheaper too!
6. Be upfront with your Conveyanc-
ing Solicitor, they are on your side after
all. Share with them any potential prob-
lems or possible issues, however small
or insignificant they may seem to you.
Your Conveyancing Solicitor can then
judge any impact they may have on
your Conveyancing transaction
7. Avoid same day exchange and
completion; this is a recipe for poten-
tial disaster and for maximum stress!
You may be encouraged to do this BUT
most house sales involve a chain of
transactions and sometimes a lengthy
one. You may not actually move on the
day proposed because one person in
the chain may change their minds. So
for your sanity avoid it at all cost
8. Ensure you visit the property you
want to buy several times, and at
different times of the day to be sure it
really IS the property for you before
exchange of contracts. It’s a bit late to
find out once you’ve move in for exam-
ple that you get no sun in your garden
after 3pm, if a sunny garden was a
9. Keep in regular contact with your
Conveyancing Solicitor and Estate
Agent, after all they are working for
YOU! Regular and clear communication
is vital. So whether you have good or
bad news, pass it on as soon as possi-
10. Don’t skimp on the survey; this is
probably the largest single purchase
most people make, so don’t be caught
out by always opting for the cheapest
option! Even new houses can have
major faults (we’ve all seen TV shows on
this) . . . so opt as a minimum for a
Homebuyers Report for peace of mind,
We have already covered some of the
tips in“Everything You Need To Know
About Buying and Selling a Property- in
26 Daily Bite-Sized Chunks”and will
investigate the others soon.
Back in the day a long long time ago in
a land not far from where I am now,
Estate Agents were open more hours
than Ronnie Barker and David Jason.
8’til 8 was common and all weekend.
Now Estate Agents are open more
civilised hours-the reason; the internet.
The internet has freed up not just Estate
Agents and enabled them to get a life,
but it has also taken out some of the
detective leg work of potential buyers.
Here’s a list of 10 property websites
you should visit before you buy (I
admit one is fairly obvious, but I make
10 Property Websites
You Should Visit
Before You Buy
1. The Land Registry is a government
department and records the true price
paid not what you might have seen in
an Estate Agent’s window.
es This is where you will find out what
your neighbour’s home sold for, or if
you are buying what prices have been
achieved for properties in the locality.
2. www.rightmove.co.uk the daddy of
all the so called property portals. It’s the
one portal that most Estate Agents feel
they need to be on.
Most new property will be uploaded to
Rightmove as soon as it marketed.
Other websites to look at for property
for sale are www.primelocation.com/
and www.zoopla.co.uk/ and www.
3. Want to find out not just about hous-
es for sale but more in depth knowl-
edge about services, amenities, schools
and hospitals then go to
4. General market conditions; price
moves up or down; number of mort-
gage approvals, average time it takes to
sell a property; average number of
viewings go to www.hometrack.co.uk
5. Itching to put new apps on your
iphone or ipad, you’ve guessed it head
over to the itunes store. Lots of Estate
Agency have their own apps and are
free to download.
6. Mortgage finance is particularly tight
for most people without a huge deposit
to put down. You’ll get an idea of the
type of mortgage products available at
es/ and www.moneysupermarket.
com/mortgages/ and if you want a
mortgage broker to help you (good
idea in the present market) try www.
7. You will need to insure your new
property so pop along to www.com-
ance/ or go direct with a company such
8. Don’t miss out on having your new
home surveyed. For a range of good
local surveyors start at www.alliedsur-
9. It may be a bit premature but you will
need to budget for your removals
www.pickfords.co.uk has a lot of
useful information on their website, and
make sure you explore a local solution
10. Last but not least, everything you
need to know about Conveyancing
There are approximately 300 hundred
blog posts on all aspects of Conveyanc-
ing, plus our very own online convey-
ancing calculator to help you budget
for your move.
All covered by our fixed fee guarantee
with no hidden extras.
How to Choose a Conveyancing
Solicitor: 10 Helpful Steps
“Can your Conveyancing Solicitor
Walk the Walk or Just Talk the Talk”
When you choose a Conveyancing
Solicitor to help you move home, you
might reasonably expect all Conveyanc-
ing Solicitors to be technically compe-
That’s true and there are many surveys
to confirm the high satisfaction levels in
a technical sense.
But what about service level compe-
Can Your Conveyancing
Solicitor “Walk the Walk”
or Just “Talk The Talk”?
A simple question to ask your Con-
veyancing Solicitor - Can your Convey-
ancing Solicitor provide you with testi-
monials? In other words can they“walk
the walk”as well as“talk the talk”?.
Here are ten steps to point you in the
right direction when choosing a Con-
veyancing Solicitor for your home
1. Listen to friends and family who
have been moved home recently.
Would they recommend their Convey-
2. Don’t be bullied by your Estate
Agent into using their preferred law-
yers. Many estate agents are incentiv-
ised to gain a Conveyancing Instruction.
3. Disgruntled clients complain about
poor or non existent communication,
and voice their frustration on the inter-
net. Put the law firm name into Google
4. Will your Conveyancing Solicitor
explain legal jargon and use plain
5. If your Conveyancing firm says they
value your call when you ring yet do
not have anyone to answer the call and
you are put in a queue. Avoid like the
6. How will your Conveyancing Solici-
tor contact you and is it what you
want; by letter, email, text or in per-
Will you deal with the same person in
the Conveyancing law firm or be passed
from pillar to post? Can they guarantee
all telephone calls and emails will be
returned by the end of the day
7. Will your conveyancing Solicitors
ensure you avoid any nasty bill
shocks? Have you had a full written
breakdown of all the costs involved
with a guarantee of no hidden extras.,
not just an estimate
8. Avoid low Conveyancing fees
headline rates. If it says Conveyancing
fees from £299 you know it is going to
cost considerably more!
9. Consider a local solicitor for con-
venience. If problems occur you may
need to see your solicitor face to face;
not easy if your lawyers are at the other
end of the country
10. Courtesy and engagement are
rarer than you might think.
If you like your Conveyancing Solicitors
and they are nice people, your transac-
tion is likely to go much more smoothly.
Conveyancing Solicitors are after all
human beings as well!
If you are one of the 4 out of 5 Home-
buyers (actually 18% according to
recent research by MORI and Which
magazine) who do not have a full
survey or a RICS Homebuyers Survey
and Valuation carried out on their
new home: think again!
Many excuses are used for failing to
carry out a survey; cost; extensive local
knowledge; age of the property, old
and new and most popular of all- our
Lender will carry out the survey.
The Lender“survey”is actually not a
survey at all and is merely a valuation
of the property to ensure the Lender is
not lending too much on the property.
A common excuse is to believe that a
new house built within the last ten
years has a NHBC guarantee. This is
somewhat misleading as there is no
such thing as a NHBC guarantee; merely
The warranty is really only effective,
unless in extreme cases, for the first two
years after the property was built.
What types of Survey are available?
There two types of survey available,
although a new survey product has
been recently introduced known as a
“Home Condition Survey”.
Home Buyer’s Reports are specifically
designed as an“economy”survey on
residential property to fill the gap be-
tween the Mortgage Valuation Report
and the Building Survey/Full Structural
A Home Condition Report is similar
but includes Defects Insurance to a
Don't Need One; Don't Want One
- A Cautionary Tale
value of £20,000. It is also useful to
commission a Survey if you are buying
out of your area.
Here is a cautionary tale about buy-
ing a property, not in your area,
where you have little knowledge of
property or the surrounding area.
Clients of ours were relocating because
of a job move to the North West of
England (they currently reside in Chip-
They did a bit of detective work and
scouted various locations, and eventu-
ally found a property overlooking a
park at a good price but in need of
By taking our advice (we always advise
clients to have at least a Homebuyers’
Survey) they instructed a local Surveyor
to carry out a Homebuyers Survey.
Most of the recommendations were not
a surprise given the state of the property.
It was the final summary which took
our clients breath away, and it was
information that without the Surveyors
local knowledge of the area, would not
have been easily available to them. The
“While the property is located in an
enclave of prestigious houses overlook-
ing a park, we would point out that
within 200 metres of the property, it is
possible to buy a terraced house for as
little as forty thousand pounds.
This could severely affect the long term
value of the house and much depends
on the immediate adjacent area takes,
as to whether it will prove to be a good
Although, my clients would have hap-
pily endured the renovation of the
property, the uncertainty of a potential
reduction in the value of the property,
through circumstances beyond their
control, was an unacceptable risk.
It would remain to be seen whether my
clients would have lost money. But for
them, the fact that the cost of a survey
has ensured that they will not poten-
tially lose tens of thousands of pounds
has been money very well spent.
So always commission a survey, not
only will it help identify problems and
allow you to budget accordingly, ac-
cording to The Which research, when a
buyer commissioned a survey they
were able to achieve an average reduc-
tion in the asking price of £2000.
When you are working out your
budget for your home move, there is
no need to worry about cost overruns
when you know you have agreed a
fixed fee with your Conveyancing solici-
You, let alone your Conveyancing Solici-
tor, will have no idea how long or how
complicated your Conveyancing trans-
action will be.
You may be happy to just agree an
estimate or a minimum or maximum
Get a Fixed Fee Quotation.
range. There really is no need.
The Ministry of Justice conducted re-
search in 2010 into Conveyancing fees.
31 per cent of people who moved
home in the last three years obtained
an estimate of their legal fees from
their Conveyancing Solicitor.
61 per cent were able to obtain fixed
fee quotations; whilst 4 per cent
walked the tightrope of hourly billing
(how long exactly is that piece of
A final 4 percent did not bother or were
unconcerned enough to get a Convey-
ancing Fee or Estimate before proceeding.
It may be a surprise that 3 out of 10
people were willing to accept a Convey-
ancing Estimate. There really is no need,
when there are so many Conveyancing
firms who offer a fixed fee.
At Clutton Cox for example you can use
our Conveyancing Calculator to get all
the figures involved including Stamp
Duty and the other third party pay-
And better than that, the Conveyancing
Fees are covered by a guaranteed
fixed fee with no hidden extras.
Where we have no idea of what may be
involved in a Conveyancing transaction
we have a menu of fixed fees for every
The client will only pay if it happens, if it
doesn’t happen you don’t pay the fee.
And if something happens which is not
covered by our menu of prices, then
you still don’t pay anything.
In all our years of experience in Convey-
ancing, we have found that reassur-
ance that there will be no nasty bill
shocks at the end of a Conveyancing
transaction, is one of the best ben-
efits we have to offer our clients
So, it’s an easy decision to make why
accept an estimate when you can have
the comfort and piece of mind of a
fixed fee guarantee.
People often say their solicitors fees
were thousands and thousands of
What they really mean is that the over-
all cost of moving was thousands and
thousands of pounds which included
their Solicitors fees. Different thing
Do you actually know what proportion
of the overall legal costs of purchasing
a house or flat in the UK goes to your
Conveyancing Solicitor? You may be
Say you were buying at £350,000. OK
that’s a bit above the average but by no
means in the realms of the super rich.
Where Does All The
The answer and at the risk of exploding
an urban myth is approximately 5-6% of
the total legal costs of buying a prop-
erty goes on your Conveyancing solici-
I am afraid there are no prizes for guess-
ing where the rest goes?
A whopping 90% to the government
in Stamp Duty Land Tax and VAT, with
a further 2 and a bit percent to another
Government Department, the Land
It is incredible that out of a total cost of
approximately £11765 that around
£10600 goes on Stamp Duty Land Tax
and VAT .
The rest of the Conveyancing fees are
made up of search fees, online money
laundering checks and bank transfer
What is Stamp Duty Land Tax
Its name was changed by the then
Chancellor Gordon Brown a few years
back. It was one of his tax changes that
didn’t quite make his budget speech,
but turned up in the small print later. It
is in fact a new tax and different to the
old Stamp Duty.
Originally, Stamp Duty was levied in the
late 17th Century to build up the war
chest for a war against France.
Personally, I would hazard a guess that
we must have enough in the kitty by
now to have a go. At the very least
How much is Stamp Duty?
Stamp Duty kicks in at £125000, on
which you will pay Tax at 1% of the
whole purchase price you will pay 1%
up to £250000.
Over £250001 and upto £500000 you
pay 3% and 4% above that for those of
you lucky enough to buy a property
over £I,000,000 pounds, you will pay 5%.
If you are curious you can access the
Clutton Cox special online Conveyanc-
ing Costs Calculator here and find out
So next time you are in conversation
with someone who has just purchased
a property and claimed that their legal
fees were in the thousands of pounds,
you have the opportunity to remind
them where the money really went!
How do you what you will get, when
you instruct your Conveyancing Solici-
tor to act for you when you move home
Strange as it may seem all you have to
do is ask.
You will get a good indication of how
your Conveyancing Law firm will deal
with from your original contact.
Not all Conveyancing Solicitors are
the same: some people like to deal
with a Solicitor all the time, others are
happy with a case handler or dealt with
by a team of people.
To help you understand why some
Conveyancing Solicitors are different,
you should have a list of frequently
asked questions so you can decide if
the particular firm of Conveyancing
Solicitors are for you.
What to Expect from Your
Here are some questions to ask your Conveyancing Solicitor:
1. What do you charge?
2. Will there be any hidden extras?
3. How do you Bill?
4. What are your terms?
5. Who will be looking after me?
6. How often will we need to meet?
7. Where do we meet?
8. Do you guarantee your work?
9. What will you do for us?
10. What will we need to do for you?
11. Can you tell what it is going to cost, now?
12. What other matters can you help us with during the matter?
13. What steps are necessary before we can start working together?
14. Where do I go to get my service issues addressed?
15. Do you have a website so we can see a little more about you?
16. Do you bite? (just kidding on that one)
There is so much information already
available on the internet that a Google
search for Conveyancing Solicitors (in
your area) will give you a better under-
standing of how one firm can give you
more than another firm.
Tactics can vary when you put your
property on the market for sale.
You will have heard phrases such as a
Sellers’market or a Buyers’market.
In the former, tactically, you can be
more bullish on the asking price in the
later you will need to be more cautious.
There are too few buyers in most parts
of the country at the moment (London
seems to always to be the exception) to
do anything other than price your
property realistically, some might use
the term aggressively.
The projections for the housing market
are pretty much the same for the fore-
seeable future: low volumes of sales;
Don't Show Your
First Offer the Door
restricted mortgage finance available;
confidence fragile in the face of rising
interest and cost of living and an uncer-
tain employment outlook.
House price inflation for most of the
country is unlikely and prices may
even dip again if more“stressed sales”
come on to the market later in the year
An Estate Agent’s remit is to create
interest in your property and to per-
suade potential buyers to view. The
“proof of the pudding”is whether you
get an offer on your property and how
Your ideal scenario is for one of the
early viewers (yes it might even be the
first viewer) to make an offer on your
Word of advice: Don’t show your
buyer’s first offer the door if the offer
is below asking price. It may actually be
the highest offer you receive, rather
than the first of many escalating offers.
When clients ask us to advise them
generally on buying a property, we
always tell them to find out how long
the property has been on the market.
In the present market conditions, how
long a property has already been on
the market is a determining factor in
how it should be valued.
Good properties in the right loca-
tions and keenly priced will not stay
on the market for long. Fresh to the
housing market gives you an advan-
tage, which shortens over time the
longer your property stays on the mar-
If you miss the early market and your
house remains unsold for a month or
two, it is a sign that the asking price
does not meet with buyers’expecta-
When you receive an offer after such a
length of time it is highly unlikely to be
for the asking price (or near). Again, do
not blow your Buyer out of the water
and dismiss it as“derisory”. If you feel
you really cannot countenance the
offer, then are you really that serious in
selling in the first place.
In both instances, your Estate Agent will
earn their commission by negotiating a
price that will be nearer to the asking
price for you.
If you’re selling, think very seriously
about any offer you receive
Buying a house and setting up home
with a partner is quite common be-
fore a marriage or a civil partnership. It
is also quite common for divorced
people to set up home with a new
Call us Conveyancing Solicitors morbid
if you like, but what if your relationship
were to go all wrong.
By taking the proper legal advice from
your Conveyancing Solicitor right at the
beginning of the Conveyancing trans-
action, you may avoid further anxiety
and financial stress.
Here is a list of 5 simple and straight for-
1. PUT the deeds of your property into
This way you will not encounter prob-
lems of sharing in the profits on sale,
especially where you may have contrib-
uted to improving the property.
It also eliminates a potential crisis if the
named owner asks you to leave the
2. DECIDE whether you would like to
own the property jointly (known as a
joint Tenancy) or whether you prefer a
predetermined share e.g. 50/50 or
60/40 ( Tenants in Common)
3. WHAT happens to the money when
If you have put in an unequal share
rather than simply having your capital
returned on sale or transfer, you can
have your contribution expressed as a
percentage in a document known as a
Declaration of Trust.
That way, if your relationship doesn’t
work out each partner will know exactly
how much of the net sale proceeds will
be his or hers to receive.
Don’t risk it and have to let a court
4. WORK OUT your ongoing running
expenses for your new property.
Again, if unequal you might consider a
These documents are by no means
uncommon, and both partners will
benefit from full disclosure of finances
and getting things off your mind right
at the beginning.
The Deed could always be ripped up at
a later date or reviewed and renewed as
the partners see fit.
Without a Will there is no absolutely
guarantee that the property will go to
your partner on death. In fact, in the
worst case scenario, with no agreement
with the executors of the deceased
partner, you might be forced to sell the
property and only receive your original
You can find Conveyancing Solicitors
who will give you a fixed price for any
additional Deeds or Documents and
also provide you with a fixed fee guar-
antee with no hidden extras.
In all cases, individual circumstances
will vary, and you should obtain specific
advice from your Conveyancing Solicitors.
5. MAKE a WILL. This is essential advice,
especially where you have decided to
hold the property asTenants in Common.
Buying a flat, or an apartment, as
Developers like to call them, differs
from buying a normal house or freehold
Leases are used where there is one
building or a block with multiple own-
The legal proof of ownership will be by
way of a Lease. You will be known as a
Leaseholder or Lessee or Tenant (termi-
nology varies as to what was fashion-
able a the time of the original Lease)
Under a Lease you will own the lease-
hold flat only for the remainder of the
period stated. The length of a Lease will
vary from 99 to 999 years. You will have
difficulty obtaining mortgage finance if
the number of years remaining on the
Lease is fewer than 60 years.
Leases are complicated and often
Buying a Flat:
What You Need to Know
as a Buyer
There will still be a freehold and a free-
holder owner; the Landlord, who will
either be non resident or better still one
of the residents who all form part of a
management company specifically
formulated to run the management of
the whole building or block.
There are however, professional man-
agement companies who will run the
management of the building (often
when a Developer is selling).
Your responsibilities and obligations
will be governed by the terms of the
Ground rent and service charge
A lease is similar to a Tenancy so you
must pay a rent to the Landlord. At best
this will be a peppercorn (legal speak
for nothing) or may be several hundred
Service charges are levied to cover the
maintenance of the whole building.
Even if paid in advance, service charges
are often subject to adjustment when
the actual expenditure for the year has
If the flat seems to have been altered or
extended since date of the original
lease, your Conveyancing Solicitor will
need to check if the alterations have
occurred in the recent past and that
necessary consents were obtained both
form the Local Authority as well as any
consents required under the Lease.
Alterations, extensions, improvement
Please note that if you plan any altera-
tions to the flat after you move in:
External alterations or extensions to a
flat will generally be impossible or
impracticable, and even internal altera-
tions may need:
(a) Building Regulations Consent
(b) (If the building is listed or in a con-
servation area) Listed or Conservation
(c) Consent under the flat lease and any
other covenants which affect the
(d) The consent of your mortgage
The Building in which the flat forms a
part will be insured by the Landlord.
You, as the leaseholder should arrange
contents insurance in the normal way.
Are there any special problems?
Conveyancing Solicitors do not normal-
ly visit the property, so it is difficult to
You should always report and seek
advice from your Conveyancing Solici-
tor on anything unusual from your own
inspection or conversations with the
Seller of the flat.
You have sold your house or you have
just found the house you were look-
ing for and for the purposes of argu-
ment you have instructed the non
fictitious Conveyancing Law firm
CLUTTON COX - What happens next?
Here is a list of commonly asked ques-
tions and some helpful answers
Q What will my Conveyancing solici-
tors want from me to kick everything
A. We will ask for some information
from you, about you and your property,
to get matters started. At regular inter-
vals we will then report to you in writ-
ing or email at each stage of the trans-
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Will I need to make an appoint-
ment to come to the office?
A. We are able to deal with everything
through the post, fax, e-mail or by
telephone. Money laundering legisla-
tion will require us to produce some
identification from you and make fur-
ther on line checks. If you are local feel
free to pop in and see us.
Q. When will I have to pay you some
A. Where you are purchasing, we ask for
£250 on account to cover the initial
search fees. This will be held in our
client account separately from the
Firm’s own money, subject to our right
to transfer and use the same in pay-
ment of our legal fees and expenses.
Our Money Laundering risk manage-
ment procedures mean we cannot
accept cash in excess of £300
Q. Will I have to pay a deposit and if
so, when will it be needed?
A. Yes, if you are just buying a property.
We will tell you when we need it–it
should be a Bankers Draft or a Building
Society cheque made payable to‘Clut-
ton Cox’. We do NOT accept personal
cheques because of delays. If you are
buying and selling, we do not usually
require any additional money.
Q. Who will let my new Building Soci-
ety/Bank know when the new mort-
gage funds will be required?
A. We will advise them of the date. We
ask for the monies where possible to
arrive the day before completion to
avoid any delays on your moving day.
Q. How soon can I receive any money
due to me?
A. We will post any balance in your
favour to your new address within
seven days. We can also‘Telegraph’
monies directly to your Bank Account
for an additional fee
Q. What time do I have to leave my
property and what do I do with the
A. The contract normally states 1pm.
Please leave your keys with your Estate
Agents, who will release them to your
buyer when we have called them to say
the money has been received.
Q. When can I get the keys for my new
A. Usually after lunch on the day of
completion. There can sometimes be a
delay where a chain is involved. We
must wait for money to be received
before sending your money.
Conveyancing Solicitors can be rather
blasé with their use of jargon
Some Conveyancing Solicitors prom-
ise to speak in Plain English (we at
Clutton Cox do at least); other Convey-
ancing Solicitors no doubt still wallow
in the odd“hereinbefore”and“aforesaid
So if you are embarking on a sale or
purchase here is a little help.
So for viewers at home only, here goes:
Agreement: Another word for the
Contract of Sale
Caveat Emptor: Only bit of Latin, we
promise:“Let the Buyer Beware”
Client Care Letter: Your agreement
with your Conveyancing Solicitor, de-
tailing how much you will pay, how you
will be treated and what to do if you
have any problems or complaints
Completion: The legal formality of
paying over the balance of purchase
monies in return for a signed Transfer
Deed on the Completion Date
Completion Date: The date in the
Contract when possession of the prop-
erty is given by the Seller to the Buyer
in return for any balance of the pur-
chase price a.k.a Handover of Keys day
Contract for Sale: a legal document
which sets out the terms of the sale and
purchase of the property
An A-Z through
Contract Rate: a penalty rate of inter-
est payable by either the seller or the
buyer if the Conveyancing transaction
does not complete on the Completion
Covenant: A legal obligation or restric-
tion affecting a property
Deposit: A sum of money usually 10%
of the Purchase Price paid by the buyer
to the Seller’s solicitor on exchange of
contract. Non refundable if the Buyer
does not proceed to completion day
Disbursements: Payments made by
your Conveyancing Solicitor but pay-
able by you to Third Parties
Easement: A right benefiting one prop-
erty over another such as a right of way
Exchange of Contracts: Literally, the
exchange of a signed contract by the
Seller and the Buyer confirming a le-
gally binding contract to buy and sell a
Fixtures Fittings and Contents
Form: What the Seller has agreed to sell
to the Buyer either include in the sale
price or in addition
Freehold: Ownership which lasts until
you decide to sell, as opposed to Lease-
hold which is time restricted (although
that can be up to 999 years.
Land Registry: or HM Land Registry is
the Government office charged with
authenticating sales of property and
transferring into the Buyers name
Leasehold: Ownership which is time
dependent and subject to more restric-
tions and obligations e.g. flats are lease-
Local Search: A list of answers given by
the Local Authority from their data and
records including financial charges,
highways and planning
Mortgage: Literally,“death pledge”, but
now a deed secured on a property to
ensure payment to the Lender
Official Copies of Register: Official
copies of registered title to a property
from the Land Registry
Property Information Form: A ques-
tionnaire in standard form completed
by the Seller which gives information
about the property
Redemption Figure: The repayment of
an existing mortgage on a property
Registered Land: Property (freehold
and leasehold) where proof of owner-
ship and matters affecting the property
have been authenticated (registered)
by the Government Department known
as the Land Registry
Solicitors’Costs: Solicitors’fees pay-
able for the Conveyancing transaction
Stamp Duty: Now Stamp Duty Land
Tax, a punitive tax paid by the Buyer to
the Government on the purchase of a
Survey: An independent report carried
out on a property for the Buyer detail-
ing any defects, which may include a
valuation of the property
Transfer Deed: a new title deed trans-
fer the property from the Seller to the
Buyer. Used instead of a Conveyance
Unregistered Land: Property (freehold
and leasehold) not yet registered at the
Land Registry where proof of owner-
ship and matters affecting the property
will be determined by inspection of the
Valuation: If you take out a mortgage,
the Lender verifies the price is a fair
market value. Not to be confused with
Vendor and Purchaser: A bit old fash-
ioned now, we prefer Seller and Buyer
of the property
Z: There is no Z
We, Conveyancing Solicitors have
been doing Conveyancing for a long
time (some like me an awfully long
Conveyancing Solicitors have also
relied on a standard contract for sale
to make life for sellers and buyers as
easy and as fair as possible.
And over time, a fair bit of tweaking to
what are now called the Standard
Conditions of Sale has taken place.
How Standard Is The
Standard Contract For Sale?
Until 2003, there were two“Standard
Conditions of Sale”utilised by Convey-
ancers; one of which had reached its
The latest version is the 5th Edition
which was introduced in April 2011.
So common are these standard condi-
tions that most solicitors when issuing a
draft contract for sale to a prospective
buyer’s solicitors, only refer to them by
name, and do not reproduce the condi-
tions in full.
The new Standard Conditions of Sale
(5th Edition) draws together best
practice and is designed to be used as a
new Protocol in conjunction with the
new Law Society Conveyancing Quality
The need for a written Contract for sale
signed by all parties to the transaction
is laid down in Statute.
There is no such thing as a verbal con-
tract for sale of land. You may have
heard phrase“a verbal contract is not
worth the paper it is written on”used in
Some Conveyancing Solicitors such as
Clutton Cox rely on the Standard Condi-
tions almost exclusively, and will only
add additional clauses which are spe-
cific to the circumstances of the sale.
The good news is that the new 5th
Edition will prevent some Conveyanc-
ing Solicitors, rather annoyingly includ-
ing clauses which are clearly not rel-
evant to the transaction in order to
keep to their own standardised version
of the contract.
In the new 5th Edition that word
“Chattels”will disappear and be re-
placed with the much more widely
used term “Contents”
Other changes introduced will make
responsiblity for inusring the property
that of the buyer after exchange of
It is always rather tedious explaining to
a client why the other side’s solicitors
have included a clause which does not
It goes without saying that if you have
any questions relating to a standard or
additional clause in a contract you
should consult your Conveyancing
When you are buying a house, commis-
sioning a search of the records held by
the Local Authority, normally kicks off
the Conveyancing Process.
The local search or more correctly the
Local Authority Search is essential in
every Conveyancing purchase; that is if
you don’t want any nasty surprises
when you buy your new home.
The Local Authority will look up the so
and restrictions) register. The Local
Authority will provide further informa-
tion as well in relation to the use of the
property and responsibility or other-
wise of footpaths and highways.
A planned motorway at the bottom of
your garden is the most common illus-
tration, we Conveyancing Solicitors trot
out. Although less likely now, the threat
of a high speed railway at the bottom of
your garden is very much on the cards
properties on the proposed new high
speed rail link from London to the Mid-
lands and beyond.
1. Who pays for the Local Search?
The Local Authority Search is no longer
undertaken by the Seller, now that HIPs
have been culled. The Buyer pays for
the Local Search
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will put in
hand the Local Search as soon as you
have put him in funds to do so at the
outset of the transaction.
When your Conveyancing Solicitor asks
you for money on account, it is for the
local Search and any other searches
which may be required.
2. How long will the local Search
Timescales vary around the country,
from same day (electronically) to sev-
13. How much will the Local Search
The cost of the Search also varies wildly
from £75 to a couple of hundred
In this area the cost of a local search
with South Gloucestershire Council is
£100; Bristol City Council £100 and
Stroud District Council £149
4. What is included in the Local
The Local Authority’s records will indi-
• are the highways adjoining the prop-
erty are publicly maintained
• major road schemes close to the prop-
erty, and minor schemes abutting or
affecting the property
• a list of planning decisions affecting
• contaminated land
• is the property in a conservation area
• a list of building regulations affecting
• Enforcement notices for violation of
5. What a Local Search Won’t Reveal:
Local Authorities do not guarantee the
accuracy of the replies they give.
The Local Search will normally not
volunteer specific information about
nearby road proposals or new develop-
ments, unless there has been a formal
application for outline or detailed plan-
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will not
visit the property you are purchasing.
If you are concerned about potential
development as your property abuts
vacant land or fields you MUST inform
your Conveyancing solicitor who can
make further enquiries on your behalf.
You could also visit the Council’s Plan-
ning Office who are very helpful in
filling in background information for
6. Will the Local Search run out?
A Local Search is time sensitive.
Recent planning proposals submitted
after the date of your Local Search will
not be covered.
You will need to take the advice of your
Conveyancing Solicitor as to whether
you should renew the Local Search.
At all times if you have any questions
your Conveyancing Solicitor will be only
to happy to advise.
In chapter 18, we looked at what the
Local Authority Search might reveal or
Here is a round up of some of other
searches which may be carried out by
your Conveyancing Solicitor; some of
which will be obvious, others less so
The Water and Drainage Search
This was compulsory under the old HIP
regulations. Now, although no longer
compulsory, most Conveyancing Solici-
tors will carry one out as a matter of
A Water and Drainage Search will dis-
cover; the location of the nearest public
sewer; is there a public sewer within the
boundaries of the property and wheth-
er the sewers are adopted or still private.
Chancel Repair Liability
Chancel Repair liability is an ancient law
which could still affect property in
England and Wales.
Property owners in the vicinity of a
medieval or earlier church could be
asked to contribute some or all of the
repairs to the Chancel of the Church.
The Chancel is where the altar lies and
pretty much the east end of the Church.
Conveyancing Solicitors will carry out a
Commons and Not So
1Chancel Repair Liability search for you
in certain circumstances; some Convey-
ancing Solicitors will carry out the
Chancel Repair search by default. For a
fuller investigation click here for Chan-
cel Repair Liability
Common Land and Village Greens
If the property you are purchasing is
close to or separated from the road by
“common land or a village green”, your
Conveyancing Solicitor will insist on
carrying out a commons search.
Commons searches are crucial in such
circumstances. In general no develop-
ment is allowed where land has been
registered and designated as a com-
mon or a town or village green.
Coal Mining Search
There are obviously areas of the country
where the effects of past coal mining
are still clear. Such areas include South
Wales, the East Midlands and Yorkshire
Other areas are not so obvious where
the coal workings may have ceased
over a hundred years ago.
I my neck of the woods, if you are buy-
ing a property and having your
Conveyancing in Bristol or in the
former Somerset Coal Field, the threat
of past coal mining may not be so obvi-
ous- unless you are buying somewhere
with a clue in the title, such as Coalpit
Heath in South Gloucestershire
Some searches have a purely regional
tint: Conveyancing in Cheshire; Convey-
ancing in Great Manchester or Droit-
wich Spa will normally require a Brine
Conveyancing in Dudley or Conveyanc-
ing in Sandwell, Walsall or Wolverhamp-
ton will flag up a Limestone search
If you are buying and having your Con-
veyancing in West Devon or Cornwall
then invariably a Tin search will be
These searches are common when
Conveyancing is carried out in Dorset,
West Devon or Cornwall.
Regional searches are relevant, even
where any such mining operations may
have ceased many years ago as a risk of
subsidence remains a possibility
If you are also taking out a mortgage,
your Lender will need to have such
information before it decides to lend
money on the property.
Your Conveyancing solicitor will look at
each Conveyancing transaction on its
Where you have any doubts always
consult with your Conveyancing
Conveyancing Solicitors define a
defect in title as not just a problem with
the legal title to the property. Defects
can also involve a lack of documenta-
tion or the potential for a liability not
yet identified or claimed such as a
Chancel Repair Liability.
It might be that in Conveyancing terms
you have been naughty (however un-
wittingly) failing to comply with current
planning laws or building regulations.
There has been much legislation over
the last decade requirement certificates
from qualified contractors for electrical
works, central heating and new win-
What Do Defects in
Title Look Like?
You may also have done something to
your property in contravention of a
covenant over the property.
Covenants fall into two categories;
Restrictive Covenants and Positive
Firstly, and more commonly, restrictive
covenants e.g. can restrict your ability
to add or amend the property without a
third party’s consent, or even in ex-
treme cases an absolute ban on doing
anything to the property.
The good news is that recent decisions
by the Courts have tended to take a
more pragmatic or some might say
common sense approach to interpreta-
tion of longstanding covenants.
There have been recent examples of
covenants being challenged where the
original person or persons who had
imposed the covenant had long since
Secondly, positive covenants where
the Seller of a property has failed to
carry out an obligation e.g. to maintain
a fence or boundary.
Lack of Documentary evidence is an-
other defect in title where written rights
to use a footpath, a lane or even a road
neighbouring a property simply do not
What Happens When a Conveyancing
Defect is Discovered?
A Conveyancing solicitor’s first port of
call where such defects are discovered
is to ask for the defect to be rectified.
Where a document is missing, say a
death certificate, the process is simple.
You ask for a copy or approach the
relevant Probate Registry if one cannot
Where there is evidence of a long
standing usage of a footpath for exam-
ple, the Seller may be asked to swear a
document known as a Statutory Dec-
The Statutory Declaration will detail
actual personal knowledge of circum-
stances which have existed over time.
Some situations, however, may require
fresh deeds to be drawn up called
Deeds of Rectification.
The difficulty in modern day Convey-
ancing is that the time taken to track
down relevant parties or to seek per-
mission for works carried out many
years ago can be very time consuming
This is where Conveyancing Solicitors
turn to Insurance Companies. The Insur-
ance Company will issue a Defective
Title Indemnity Policy to cover the
As always if you have any problems or
queries your Conveyancing Solicitor will
be more than pleased to help and
Your Conveyancing Solicitor has iden-
tified a Conveyancing problem on the
house you are buying: there may have
been a breach of a restrictive (onerous)
covenant (condition) relating to the
In an ideal world, your Conveyancing
Solicitor would have the time and the
resource to fix the problem.
It may require further deeds of rectifi-
cation or variation. A Statutory Dec-
laration from a knowing person could
be obtained or when all else fails an
application to a Court or Tribunal for a
ruling on status of the defect.
In the real world, when your sale or
purchase is linked to a series or a chain
of transactions, the pressures are such
that time to investigate an alternative
remedy is limited or too costly
The Solutions Are Out There!
So what happens next? Well, in a busy,
modern Conveyancing law firm, de-
fective title indemnity insurance has
been the line of least resistance in
solving such problems.
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will either
call for or be called upon to provide an
indemnity policy to cover the defect.
Where you are buying a property with a
mortgage, your Lender may insist upon
a policy before agreeing to release the
Solicitors have an exemption under the
Financial Services and Markets Act of
2000 where they are allowed to arrange
indemnity policies where the activity is
incidental to a Conveyancing transaction.
Conveyancing Solicitors normally
arrange the indemnity policy them-
selves under a self certification scheme
for straight forward issues. For more
complex issues the Conveyancing so-
licitor would write a report setting out
the facts and sending it to special un-
The premium is a single premium and
not a recurring yearly premium, typi-
cally between £250 and £500.
Are Defective Title Indemnity Ploicies
all they’re cracked up to be?
A defective title indemnity policy is
like a sticking plaster; in the majority
of cases it will suffice.
But there are also a few issues that you
should be made aware of:
• The policy may only run for a specific
period of time.
• The policy is confidential and may only
be disclosed to prospective purchasers,
their mortgagees and their respective
legal representatives. This is to avoid in
the Insurers’eyes“people coming out of
the woodwork”and making claims.
• The policy may be avoided if there is a
change of use of the property e.g. resi-
dential to business use.
• You will not be covered for the full
amount you paid for the property, but
merely the adverse difference in the
market value of the property
So, you may rely upon an Indemnity
policy in the vast majority of cases. They
are not a perfect solution, but never-
theless an adequate solution.
At a conference of about 350 Convey-
ancing Solicitors I attended recently,
the audience was asked had they
known of a situation where a Defective
Title Indemnity Policy had been in-
voked. Not one hand went up!
In all case you should take the advice of
your Conveyancing Solicitor.
There have been many regulations
brought in by the Government since
On your sale, your Conveyancing So-
licitor will ask you to complete a
Property Information Form asking
you to detail any works you have had
carried out to your property which
might have required Building Regula-
tion approval or a certificate from a
Such regulations govern situations
where you have erected a new build-
ing, extended or altered an existing
one, and include drains,“heat produc-
ing”appliances (normally central heat-
ing but may include other heating),
washing and sanitary facilities and hot
Here is a list of some of the require-
ments, which you would not have
Did You Know?
required to apply for formal building
regulations but would have needed a
Since 1st April 2002 any new or replace-
ment windows, glazed doors and roof
lights and windows require a FENSA
(Fenestration Self Assessment Scheme)
Since 1st March 2003 any new central
heating system has needed a registered
Contractor’s“Certificate of installation”
Since 1st January 2005, newly installed
electrical wiring (with a few exceptions)
must carry a certificate from a regis-
It may not surprise you that Building
Regulation approval must be sought
from your local Council Planning De-
partment for amongst other works.
• Removal or part removal of a load
• A loft conversion
• Conversion of a House into Flats
• Insertion of Cavity Wall Insulation.
Proof of Building Regulations
Where you are buying a property, your
Conveyancing Solicitor will check
whether formal building regulation was
applied for or check to see there was a
Final Certificate (from 1996 onwards)
obtained from the Council confirming
the works have been carried out in
accordance with the Building Regulations.
vised and may not be up to standard.
You should seek advice from your Sur-
veyor in this circumstance.
You could apply retrospectively to the
A Defective Title Indemnity Policy
may also be suggested and should be
paid for by the Seller. Some policies do
not cover remedial work.
But, note that if you contact the Coun-
cil, the indemnity policy route will not
be open to you.
Enforcement of Building Regulations
It is fair to say that an enforcement
notice issued by the council cannot be
served more than 12 months from the
date of completion of the works.
But, technically, there is currently no cut
In practice, a Local Authority will only
seek emergency injunction powers
where the building is in imminent
danger of collapse.
You can download“Building Regula-
tions: An Explanatory Booklet”from the
In all cases of doubt, you should
contact your Conveyancing Solicitor.
Lack of Building Regulations
This would be regarded as a defect in
If the works were completed many
years ago, your Conveyancing Solici-
tor should advise you that the works
may have been carried out unsuper-
The Housing Market in England and
Wales is showing distinctly different
characteristics depending on where
you are buying and selling.
London almost seems a law unto itself
with many people chasing few proper-
ties. In the rest of the country, markets
can vary considerably.
In such fragmented markets, Gazump-
ing and Gazundering can rear their
Gazumping and Gazundering
Gazumping is where a Seller refuses
(normally at the last minute) to author-
ise his or her Conveyancing Solicitor to
exchange contracts on their property.
The reason: they have found another
Buyer at a higher price.
Whether or not you consider Gazump-
ing to be a rather dastardly ploy, it
inevitably ends in disappointment for
the original Buyer, who by then will also
have been considerably out of pocket.
There is nothing legally an unsuccessful
Buyer can do to force a sale, as an offer
to buy land in England and Wales is not
legally binding unless it is evidenced in
writing. For those who like chapter and
verse and impromptu quiz questions;
originally Section 40 Of Law of property
Act 1925 as amended by Section 2 of
Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provi-
sions) Act 1989.
In any frothy housing market,
Gazumping is almost a natural by-
Government has in the past tried to
diminish the practise of Gazumping.
If you take yourself back to heady days
of 1997 (housing bubble before last),
you may recall the tale of a Labour M.P.,
who was so appalled by being ga-
zumped on his proposed house pur-
chase, that he called for a reform in the
Conveyancing and home selling and
This indignation eventually morphed
into the Home Information Pack, the
HIP in August 2007.
The irony was that HIPs facilitated
New purchasers, armed with a proper
HIP, were able to offer more money for
the property and attend the Seller’s
Solicitors offices and physically ex-
In today’s Housing Market, where the
number of transactions is way below
average, the opposite of Gazumping is
more prevalent: Gazundering.
The Buyer here decides to reduce his
offer at the last minute, and the Seller
must decide whether to accept the
lower offer or risk the deal falling apart.
Speak to your Conveyancing Solicitor
about a “Lock Out”Agreement.
This is a binding deed primarily for the
benefit of a Buyer, but also gives the
Seller a degree of certainty
The Seller, provided the Buyer is ready
to exchange contracts within a defined
period, cannot sell to anyone else.
In the present climate, which Estate
Agents would call a Buyer’s market
(more houses for sale but too few Buyers)
it is difficult to see a Buyer agreeing to
enter in to such an agreement.
Contact your Conveyancing Solicitor to
prepare a “Conveyancing Pack”which
will be available the moment you sell
and can shorten the time to exchange
contracts. The Conveyancing Pack can
include everything needed to effect a
swift exchange of contracts.
These are just a couple of examples
how your Conveyancing Solicitor can
help you achieve a successful outcome
to your Conveyancing transaction.
As always the best advice is to speak
to your Conveyancing Solicitor.
Radon Gas is a naturally occurring
radioactive gas, which is found in ura-
nium in rock strata beneath the earth,
particularly prevalent in areas with
granite bedrock. The difficulty is that
you cannot see it feel it or touch it.
Radon Gas may increase the risk of
certain types of cancer notably lung
cancer. It is important, however, to note
that it is only one of several factors in
such illnesses and it would be difficult
to single Radon Gas out as the main
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will tell
you when you are buying your new
home whether it is in an area likely to
be affected by Radon Gas.
This information will be revealed as one
of the standard enquiries asked of the
What Has It Got To Do With
There are traces in most parts of the
country, but higher than average inci-
dences are found in counties such as
Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.
If you are buying a house and having
your Conveyancing in Bristol, Bath or
the Cotswolds, these areas are affected
by Radon Gas, but are usually within
permitted levels. Wales and the Pennine
district are other areas to note.
There is a helpful Radon Gas map
(shown on the right) from the Depart-
ment for Rural and Food Affairs website
showing the incidence of Radon Gas in
There is a helpful question and answer
page on the Health Protection Agency’s
website, and a full explanation of
Radon Gas can be found on the inde-
pendent Radon Gas Council website as
The Good News:
You can test the property and take
relatively inexpensive counter meas-
Counter measures include increasing
the sub floor ventilation.
If you home was built after 1988, addi-
tional sub floor ventilation would have
been constructed by the Builders, as it
forms part of the NHBC requirements.
If your home was built prior to 1988,
you can install monitoring equipment
which will judge levels of Radon usually
over a 9 month period.
Will Radon Gas affect my ability to
sell my home?
It is unlikely to do so even where prop-
erties were built prior to 1988.
The time taken to monitor is usually the
reason why most people would not
bother. It would always be possible for
a buyer to have works done (at their
expense, unless the Seller agrees to pay
for it) after completion has taken place.
In all case where you have any anxie-
ties, a test will be the only sure way of
discovering, but your Conveyancing
Solicitor will also be able to help with
their local knowledge.
You will never hear someone say I am
out of pocket because my Conveyanc-
ing Solicitor made a mistake; it’s all
gone wrong (Pete Tong in rhyming
No: not even from that bloke down the
The reason: Conveyancing Solicitors
have a great reputation for trustwor-
thiness and integrity.
It Ever Go
Added to that, Conveyancing Solici-
tors in the UK hold the world’s most
comprehensive Professional Indem-
The scheme which is compulsory for all
firms of Solicitors provides that each
firm of Solicitors holds minimum
level indemnity insurance.
So, when you instruct your Convey-
ancing Solicitor to act for you in your
sale and purchase, you are protected
up to a minimum sum of 2 million
The Solicitors Regulation Authority
(SRA) is the independent body which
governs the professional conduct of
The SRA has one of the most stringent
regulatory schemes out of all the pro-
The ultimate sanction against a Con-
veyancing Solicitor is that he may be
struck off and simply not able to prac-
In Conveyancing transactions, Con-
veyancing Solicitors rely upon under-
takings from fellow Conveyancing
Solicitors, for example, to pay off (or
redeem as it is known) a mortgage on a
Conveyancing Solicitors facilitate the
exchange of contracts where often
there are many links in the chain.
The Banks and Building Societies are
also able to instruct Conveyancing
Solicitors to utilise safely mortgage
funds on their behalf.
This is only possible with the certain
knowledge that the funds will be used
correctly. In the very rare case where
the funds go astray, the Banks and
Building societies know they monies
will be recovered.
House moving is stressful at the best of
The comfort and peace of mind in
knowing that you are fully protected if
anything goes wrong is the greatest
benefit in using a Conveyancing
Solicitor to carry out the Conveyancing
on your home.
So relax, (OK as best you can), and rely
upon your Conveyancing Solicitor to
complete your move as soon as
This Clutton Cox Solicitors Guide to
Buying and Selling Your Property has
reached it’s end (phew!)
This final post puts all the stages of the
Conveyancing process into chronologi-
cal order for you.
There are four main stages in the
Conveyancing process, three of which
you will be involved with, and a final
• Pre Exchange
• Post Completion
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will
request a draft contract from the Seller’s
Conveyancing Solicitors, along with the
replies to the Property Information
Form and Fixtures and Fittings Ques-
You cannot have a contract to buy
property unless it is in writing or there
is some written evidence of it.
This gives the Buyer’s Conveyancing
Solicitor time to investigate the title to
the property contained in the draft
The Buyer will at this stage arrange
mortgage finance and have the prop-
The Seller will find another property to
purchase or look at alternative accom-
Whilst investigations are being carried
out all correspondence should contain
the phrase “subject to contract”.
This is used to ensure that both the
Buyer and the Seller are not committed
to a contract without having all of the
Once your Conveyancing Solicitor has
received the contracts, this usually
takes around a week, the following will
• Your Conveyancing Solicitor will look
through all of the paperwork provided
and will raise necessary further enquiries.
o Usually, this is because the docu-
ments provided do not contain all of
the information required or the infor-
mation contained within the docu-
ments raise further questions. Once the
replies to these enquiries are received
your Conveyancing Solicitor will report
back to you, by letter, email or over the
telephone or in person.
o Your Conveyancing Solicitor will
apply for any searches that are deemed
necessary in relation to your chosen
property and once the results are re-
ceived a report is forwarded to you for
information and comments
o A local search varies around the coun-
try so expect between a couple of days
and a few weeks to come back.
• A copy of your mortgage offer will be
forwarded to your Conveyancing So-
licitor and once this is received a report
is made to you regarding the contents.
You should check your mortgage offer
carefully to ensure that the offer you
received relates to the mortgage prod-
uct that you applied for. You should also
ensure that you are able to satisfy any
conditions attached to that offer before
you accept the mortgage offer, usually
by signing one copy and returning it to
1TOP TIP: Your Conveyancing Solicitor is
highly unlikely to see the property so if
there is anything that strikes you as odd
or different you will need to make sure
you mention this as possible.
Exchange of Contracts.
Before giving your Conveyancing Solici-
tor the go ahead to exchange contracts
you should be satisfied with all of the
search results, enquiries raised, your
mortgage offer, your Surveyor’s report
and have Buildings Insurance arrange-
ments in hand for your new property.
At this point your Conveyancing Solici-
tor will request a deposit, usually 10%
of the agreed purchase price. The Seller
may if agreed in advancer, a smaller
amount depending on circumstances.
Once you have provided the deposit to
your Conveyancing Solicitor, provided
all other parties in the chain are also
ready, an exchange should be imminent.
If not already agreed, now is the time to
discuss a completion or moving in date.
Once contracts have been exchanged,
usually via a telephone call between
Conveyancing Solicitors, both parties
become legally bound by the terms and
conditions of the contract and will be
required to complete the contract on
the agreed completion date.
You will not be able to change the
completion date once contracts have
been exchanged and if you cannot
complete on the contractual comple-
tion date your deposit may be forfeited
and you could be sued for further out
of pocket expenses.
The completion date is the date when
you will be able to collect the keys for
your new home and/or hand them over
if you are selling.
Between exchange and completion
your Conveyancing Solicitor will be
required to carry out final searches with
the Land Registry, either a Land Charg-
es search or an Official Search, and will
also report to your lender that the title
to the property makes it a suitable
security for their needs and request
release of the mortgage advance.
You may also be required to finalise and
sign some paperwork, if this has not
already been carried out. Prior to com-
pletion your Conveyancing Solicitor
must be in possession of a signed mort-
gage deed and Transfer.
You must also ensure that you have
carried out the following:
• Book/confirm your removers - it may
be necessary to give them a map with
• Cancel newspaper, milk and other
• Send details of your change of ad-
dress to everyone - bank, DVLA, insur-
ance companies, club memberships,
doctor, health authority, credit cards.
Usually about one week before comple-
tion you will receive a completion state-
ment. This sets out exactly how much is
needed to complete your purchase and
will include any Stamp Duty Land Tax
that may be payable.
On the day of completion your Convey-
ancing Solicitor will transfer to the
Seller’s Conveyancing Solicitors the
purchase price, less any deposit paid on
exchange via their Bank electronically.
This process should be virtually simulta-
neously, but in practice can take up to
one hour or two hours to be received
by the Seller’s Conveyancing Solicitors.
(Banks can have bad hair days as well!).
Once they have received the funds they
will call the Estate Agents and arrange
for the keys to be released to you.
Congratulations you are now officially
now a new home owner (and/or an ex
For the Conveyancing Solicitor though,
your transaction does not end there
and there is still work to be done.
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will ar-
range for any Stamp Duty payable to be
paid to HMRC, in accordance with their
requirements. Any fee for Stamp Duty
has to be provided to HMRC within 30
days of completion and upon receipt of
payment they provide your Conveyanc-
ing Solicitor with a certificate that ena-
bles the registration at the Land Regis-
try to be carried out.
The Land Registry can take several
weeks to complete their part but once
everything is checked your Conveyanc-
ing Solicitor will send all the deeds to
you for safe keeping, unless you have
asked them to store the same on your
behalf, in which case they will make
arrangements to store them in their
vault and confirm any details to you in
This guide was written by Paul Hajek.
Paul Hajek has been a Solicitor for 29
years. He has been Principal of Clutton
Cox Solicitors (www.cluttoncox.co.uk)
for the last 26 years. You can also follow
Paul on Twitter http://twitter.com/
paulhajek and LinkedIn http://www.
Contact Clutton Cox:
telephone number: 01454 312125
We hope our Home Buying and Selling
Guide, modestly entitled“Everything
you need to know about buying and
selling a house in 26 Bite-Sized
Chunks”, has given you at least some
tips and guidance that you did not
Your Conveyancing Solicitor is a font
of great knowledge, legal and local,
and more than happy to help you with
any questions you may have before
your start your journey (everyone
seems to be on a journey after X Factor).
And what may surprise you is that you
won’t be charged for initial advice.
And, of course, if you choose Clutton
Cox as your Conveyancing Solicitors,
we’ll get right back to you
Thank you for taking the time to read
our Conveyancing Guide. If anything
you have read has helped you we will
be delighted. If you choose Clutton Cox
to be your Conveyancing Solicitors on
your next would we would be both
delighted and privileged.
Thank you again.
Copyright Clutton Cox 2012.
Cover and graphic design by Roberta Schultz
This Guide is designed for general information based on our personal experience. It is not
intended to form nor does it represent actual legal advice.
The specific references to legislation are applicable only in England and Wales.
You should in all cases seek the advice of your own Conveyancing Solicitor, although if you
require more information please contact us directly.
No part of this report may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying except in the course of a review for publication in a
newspaper or magazine without permission of Clutton Cox Solicitors, Parliament House, 4 High
Street Chipping Sodbury BS37 6AH. Telephone number 01454 312125 or firstname.lastname@example.org