Advice for house hunters #SolicitorChat with The Law Society.

Purchasing a home is likely to be one of the biggest transactions you will make in your life and the process can be complicated. We be discussed how a solicitor can help you to avoid costly mistakes and what you can do if your house sale or purchase is delayed due to coronavirus. Thomas Healy discussed this and more live on Twitter this morning during #SolicitorChat.

Join The Law Society and other firms discussing on Thursday mornings 0900-1000.

Talk us through the process of purchasing a new home.

Once an offer has been accepted on a property, a process called conveyancing occurs. This involves the solicitor investigating the legal title to the property, carrying out searches, making enquiries, drafting the contract & transfer, transferring completion monies and registering the property at the Land Registry. There are other factors to consider, such as surveys of the property, management companies, mortgages and help to buy schemes.

How can a solicitor help someone throughout the conveyancing process?

Buying & selling property can be stressful and clients benefit by having solicitors who make the process run smoothly by offering clear advice and solving problems quickly. Many solicitors are specialists who have a huge amount of experience in residential property transactions.

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

When buying a property, the Latin terminology of ‘caveat emptor’ applies. This means ‘Let the Buyer beware’. The seller is not obliged to advise a buyer of any defects in the property. No warranties are given about the state or condition of any of the fixtures or fittings.

It is therefore largely the buyer’s responsibility to identify legal or physical defects with the property and any other issues. Without a solicitor, these issues can often get missed.

Our Litigation team at Mundays often deals with property disputes where solicitors of sufficient expertise were not involved and the cost to rectify the issue is always exponentially higher than the fees that would have been paid to a specialist solicitor originally.

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

We would always advise on the availability of a Covid delay clause. However, this question depends on the stage of the transaction. If at the outset, it is clear that a property purchase or sale is being delayed, for example due to not being able to obtain a survey of the property.  

Clients should contact their solicitors and estate agents to take advantage of their contacts and relationships. It may be that a survey can be done quicker through another company. In the case of property searches, these are usually set in stone and can delay transactions.

If a transaction is urgent, discuss the possibility of no-search indemnity insurance with your solicitor. Lastly if a transaction is being delayed after exchange of contracts, review your contract to see if a Covid rider has been annexed.

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

As with the previous stamp duty holiday in 2008, there is always a rush to finalise transactions before the March deadline. Conveyancing can be a long process as it involves various parties, including (but not limited to) surveyors, mortgage companies and search providers.

In order to have the best opportunity to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, be proactive and ahead of the curve by ensuring client care documents, ID, and AML checks are completed and returned to your solicitor as soon as possible.

If a Buyer, ask your solicitors if there are legal and commercial solutions, which would speed up the transaction. Buyers need to have a contingency if the other party in the transaction is not to contract in time for you to enjoy the benefit of any stamp duty reduction.

The contents of this article are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this article. © Mundays LLP

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