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Terminology – when it comes to buying or selling a house, flat or apartment, you are bound to come across words that you don’t use in everyday life. Feel free to use the jargon buster on this site to help, but here is a tour of the main bits with the legalese in brackets:

Conveyancing – this is the transfer (conveyance) of the ownership (legal title) of the house or flat (property or residential property) from one person to another (each person may be called a party). In some countries, like France, a notary acts for both buyer and seller to ensure that this happens properly. In England we still have an adversarial system – each person (party) appoints their own adviser (conveyancing solicitor) to look after their interests. So, it is up to the buyer to make sure that he or she does a good job, and asks the right questions – buyer beware (caveat emptor if you know your latin). Unless you are a conveyancing solicitor then you probably need an adviser to help.

To a degree the seller has an easier job, as the buyer is the one taking all the risk – so if you are buying you might want to get a good adviser. You might expect us to say that we can find you the cheapest conveyancing solicitors fees, and whilst we probably can, you might want to think carefully before accepting the cheapest price.

Why do we say this? For most of us, buying a house is one of the biggest financial commitments we make and often is accompanied by a large borrowing (mortgage). Why then would you go for the lowest price? If the result of skimping here is a problem later, then the cost of putting that problem right will dwarf the saving you make on fees.

Consider for a moment how businesses achieve low prices – pile them high and sell them cheap. What that means is using the cheapest, least qualified resource you can find to do most of the work, overseen by a small number of experts. Some will say that this is fair game, and it probably is provided quality is maintained. It’s a personal thing but for one of the biggest personal commitments we recommend spendimg a little more to get more experienced advisers.

If you have a mortgage then your lender may only deal with solicitors approved by them – so mortgage solicitors are often chosen by lenders rather than customers.

Process

Generally, buying and selling follows the same path:

Offer, acceptance, searches, survey, questionnaires, contract exchange, deposit, completion, stamp duty, transfer of title.

By way of a brief explanation of what these mean:

Offer and acceptance – mean what you think they mean – this is in essence the contract in principle, and the conveyancing process then ensures that the buyer knows what he is buying, on what terms.

Searches – there are various searches that your adviser will recommend to ensure that you are aware of things that might affect the property – for example is the house in a flood plain area, is there future development planned next door, is the ground contaminated. These are worth doing as nobody wants to own a house that they can’t sell.

Survey – this is really to establish whether the house is structurally sound. These days surveys come with so many qualifications that you almost can’t rely on them but we have known situations where the surveyor has identified structural issues, and this is gold dust (not literally). If you can find a good surveyor it is well worth it.

Questionnaires – if you don’t ask you don’t get. The right information that is – if you ask a question the seller has to answer honestly – if they don’t then you may be able to get compensation or potentially reverse the purchase. So, asking the right questions is really important. Your residential property solicitor will have standard questions but you can ask anything you like (within reason).

Contract exchange – the contract is pretty much standard form with a few additions/deletions depending on circumstances – as you might expect, once you exchange contracts you are committed to buying the property. The buyer pays a deposit at this point.

Completion – this is the transfer of money in exchange for the transfer of ownership, all managed by your residential conveyancing solicitor, including registering this at the land registry, and paying any stamp duty along the way.

Comparisons

Although we find you conveyancing solicitors quotes, we only look within a pre-selected panel of advisers whose quality we are happy with, and this may include licensed conveyancers or other advisers. If you use other platforms be careful to ensure that they are independent – many are offering to search for fees, but actually offer conveyancing services themselves so they are in truth a vehicle to collect work rather than a genuine service to find suitable advisers.

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