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Purchasing a property? Advice for first-time buyers

Purchasing a property? We answer questions from first-time buyers. Supporting National Conveyancing Week, Monday 20th-24th March 2023.

Male in ripped jeans and female in cut-off jean shorts with paintbrushes signifying first-time buyers of a property purchase.

Buying a property for the first time should be exciting, but so often it can seem daunting. There are many stages in the conveyancing process that are not always clear to newcomers, together with the required checks and documents.  To help you buy your first home, we answer some of the questions we most often receive from first-time buyers.

When should I instruct my solicitor?

You will need to instruct a solicitor once your offer has been accepted by the seller via the agent, although any time before this would also be fine. Once the agent has your solicitors’ details, they can issue a ‘memorandum of sale’ to the solicitors so that they know who represents the seller and the buyer. Instructing a solicitor does not involve any upfront costs, but you will be required to sign an instruction letter.

When should I carry out a survey on the property?

Carrying out your own survey is completely optional, but always recommended as a surveyor can prepare a homebuyer’s report that will outline any structural faults that the conveyancing process will not reveal. It may be good to know of any issues sooner rather than later, as if this is done further on into the process and an issue is found that prevents you from going ahead, you may have wasted money on searches and other fees that could have been avoided. A good solicitor will be able to recommend appropriate surveyors for your needs.

If you are buying with a mortgage, the lender will need to carry out a valuation report, but this is not a substitute for a structural survey.

How and when do I get my mortgage?

You will need to liaise with a mortgage broker or your chosen lender to secure your borrowing. A solicitor does not get involved in this process, but should be able to introduce appropriate brokers. You can begin this procedure even before you have put an offer on a property and that could be beneficial as you will know what your lending position will be and consequently, what you may or may not be able to afford.

Once you have secured a mortgage offer, the bank will send a copy of your mortgage offer directly to your solicitor. The solicitor will need this copy to obtain any signed documents required before sending the request to the bank to release the mortgage funds. These funds go directly into the solicitor’s client account.

How long does the process take?

This is a question that solicitors often find difficult to answer. On average, we see freehold purchases taking eight to ten weeks and leasehold purchasers taking around 12 weeks. However, there are so many variables that can vary how long the process takes. If there is no chain and investigations do not reveal any issues that could take time to resolve, the process can be fast, especially if the area searches come back quickly. However, some circumstances can arise that can lengthen the process, such examples being:

  • Where there is a lengthy chain and multiple transactions need to complete on the same day and are dependent on one another.
  • Leasehold purchases where the landlord information takes a long time to be received.
  • Leasehold transactions where the lease needs extending, or the lease needs amending.
  • A legal problem with the title deeds has been revealed during the solicitor’s review and a new deed needs to be corrected at the Land Registry.
  • A survey reveals structural problems that need to be addressed before exchange.

What are the searches and how long do they take?

Area searches are often a requirement of mortgage lenders and the solicitors will carry out these searches. They often take about two to three weeks to be received depending on the local authority and include:

  1. Drainage search – This confirms how water enters and exits the property and is conducted at the properties water supplier.
  2. Environmental Search – This search identifies any environmental issues that may affect the property, such as flooding, contaminated land and energy and infrastructure within the properties locality.
  3. Local Authority Search – This search identifies any planning and local land charges that affect the property. This search is property specific and does not identify development that may be taking place in the area surrounding the property. You would need to carry out an additional search to obtain this information. The local authority search is often the search that takes the longest to come in.

If you are a first-time buyer and need to instruct a solicitor, Peacock & Co can help guide you through each stage of your purchase. We provide clear, friendly and jargon-free advice in order to help you navigate what can be a complicated process. For any residential property matter please contact our friendly specialist team.

Peacock & Co is supporting National Conveyancing Week, Monday 20th – Friday 24th March 2023. 

National Conveyancing Week graphic of colourful terrace properties next to a blue circle logo featuring a white house and blue key signifying first-time buyer.

This article was written by Mustafa Raniwalla

Please note the contents contained in this article are for general guidance only and reflection the position at time of posting. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters.

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