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    18 January 2021

    Advice for house hunters: Q&A

    The coronavirus pandemic hit the housing marketing hard when we entered the first Lockdown in March 2020, with buyers and sellers told to stall purchases.

    There was welcome news when in July 2020, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced there would be a break in stamp duty payments on property purchases up to £500,000 until 31st March 2021.  As estate agents reopened, there were signs that this had created a boom in property transactions across the UK with many homeowners looking to trade up for bigger homes.

    Purchasing a home has always been one of the biggest transactions you will make in your life and the process can be complicated.  As house hunters race to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, Property Solicitor Chrissie Hartley-Hengist reviews how a solicitor can help you avoid costly mistakes during the conveyancing process and what you can do if your house sale or purchase is delayed due to coronavirus.

    Q1. What is the process of purchasing a new home?

    1. Making an offer and having an offer accepted on your new property. This is usually dealt with through the estate agent.
    2. Instructing a solicitor.
      • The solicitor will ask for the papers pertaining to the property and once these are received, the transaction usually takes about 8 weeks, give or take.
      • From this pack of information, the buyer’s solicitor will look at the paperwork, request searches and report this information to you the client. There will then be a period of questions back and forward starting with the solicitor enquiries and then adding in any questions the client has, after reading the report produced by the solicitor.
      • If a mortgage is being obtained once the offer is received, the solicitor will report on this to the client and also report to the lender directly, if there are any such matters with the property that are necessary to report to the lender according to their instructions.
      • Once enquiries are dealt with, searches are received and the mortgage offer is in, then the solicitors will be able to exchange contracts. This is the point at which the buyer and seller are committed to the contract.
      • Prior to exchanging contracts, a completion date (move in date) will need to be agreed; usually the estate agent will help to negotiate dates but if the buyer and seller are in contact they may agree a preferred date, subject to the legalities being completed.
      • The final stage is completion. This is when the buyer receives the keys and gets to move into the property.

    ** Please note this is a solicitor’s overview, naturally there are many other things the buyer themselves will organise such as removals, applying for a mortgage, inspection of the property, survey and sorting out utility connections.

    Q2. How will a solicitor help someone throughout the conveyancing process?

    The solicitor’s main job is to provide as much information to the client as possible and to advise on the implications, so that the buyer can ultimately decide whether they wish to proceed with the purchase.  Solicitors are there to help and report all the aspects of the property.  A solicitor will always work in the best interest of their clients.  Do not be afraid to ask your solicitor as many questions as you want but also ensure you read all of the paperwork they give you and then highlight anything you do not understand or have concerns with.

    Q3. What mistakes do people tend to run into without expert advice from a specialist solicitor?

    It is always important to obtain advice from a suitably qualified solicitor, without such advice clients may not appreciate issues that a solicitor would know to be a particular issue or could have consequences that a client could not be expected to spot.  Solicitors are trained professionals; who generally spend over 7 years completing their training and will certainly be able to bring value to your transaction.

    Q4. What can people do if their house purchase or sale is delayed due to coronavirus?

    It is a challenging and strange time and there is always a chance that the transaction will be delayed because of coronavirus, clients should appreciate this.  Solicitors are continuing to do all they can to ensure the process is as smooth as possible and will aim to update clients if their transaction is affected as a result of the coronavirus, or any changes in the law in relation to moving.

    Clients should, however, be aware that solicitors will receive information in the same way clients do and may need time to consider how best to protect their clients, as a result of any further changes in the law or guidance.

    Q5. What should buyers bear in mind when it comes to the stamp duty holiday?

    Buyers should be aware that there is no guarantee that their matter will exchange and complete prior to the expiration of the SDLT holiday, they should consider whether they could proceed if the holiday ended during their transaction, or whether this would be a deal-breaker and make this clear to their solicitor.

    If you would like to take legal advice regarding buying and selling your home or would like to discuss any of the points raised in our ‘Advice for house hunters’ Q&A, our specialist property team will be able to assist.  Please email realestate@steeleslaw.co.uk or call 01603 598000 and a member of the team will be happy to contact you.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.


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