Land & Property

Residential Property Buying and Selling

Moving home and buying or selling a property can be very stressful; we are here to help you through the process. Our experienced conveyancing team can answer any queries you may have and will progress your transaction quickly and efficiently. We can provide technical expertise and we understand that good communication is key to the process.

The documentation involved in buying a house or flat is vitally important. That is where our conveyancing department come in. There may be defects in the legal documents relating, for example, to work carried out on the property that does not have the necessary planning consents or buildings regulation certificates, or there may be other matters such as restrictions on use. These matters cannot necessarily be seen when you view the property; they only come to light when we receive the paperwork.

Our job is to investigate the title to the property and if there are any problems, to resolve them to your satisfaction so that you do not have any problems whilst you own the property, or when you come to sell it.

We take just as much care when selling a property.

Throughout the process, our conveyancing team will liaise with you, the solicitor for your seller/buyer, the estate agent and your mortgage lender to ensure that the sale or purchase moves to completion as far as possible in accordance with your desired timescale.

Residential Property Lease Extensions

The law gives tenants who have purchased a leasehold property a legal right, subject to meeting certain conditions, to extend the lease on their property.

You can extend a lease either by entering into a mutual agreement with the freeholder, or exercising your legal right. If you exercise your legal right to a lease extension, it will add 90 years to the length of the lease (and reduce the annual ground rent to nothing – or in legal parlance, a “peppercorn”.)

Before you enter into a lease extension, you need to decide whether it is worth the effort and expense. As a general rule of thumb, if the lease is less than 90 years you should almost certainly try to extend it. This is because:

  • Properties with shorter leases are less valuable than ones with long leases (this is particularly true if leases are below 80 years)
  • Properties with shorter leases can be more difficult to get a mortgage on, because mortgage companies will worry that its value might decline and so won’t be good security
  • Properties with shorter leases can be more difficult to sell

Our conveyancing department can also assist you with:

  • Transfer of Equity / Deed of Gift – this involves the transfer of one owner’s share of the equity to the remaining owner. A deed of gift is where no payment is made.
  • Deeds of Covenant – whereby a new buyer or tenant agrees to comply with the rules and conditions affecting the property binding them in the same way as the previous owner/tenant
  • Statutory Declarations for Title Rectifications – a formal declaration by an individual explaining any problems with the property’s title and often claiming the existence of rights acquired by the passage of time
  • Transfer of Registered Estates / First Registration – dealing with the legal formalities, a process involving the Land Registry
  • Freehold enfranchisement – rights of leaseholders as a group to purchase the freehold of a building, often happening together with lease extensions
  • Property acquired at auction – offering exciting and potentially profitable opportunities, but requiring research and not without risk
  • Remortgages – a remortgage can be for many reasons, including: better terms; requirement to release capital; on separation.
  • Buy to let – dealing with the mortgage requirements, purchase of property and tenancies
  • Declarations of Trust – for those entering into a purchase jointly and wanting to record their respective shares
  • Assents – following a death transferring the property to beneficiaries
Equity Release

Equity release can play a crucial role in retirement funding

Products that meet the Equity Release Council product standards have safeguards and flexibility built in to them, which enables thousands of home owners every year to tap safely in to their housing wealth without having to worry about making monthly repayments.

Equity release enables people to use the capital that they have in their property in a number of different ways, to:

  1. give gifts to the family during their lifetime that can help to reduce liability to Inheritance Tax;
  2. supplement any savings and pensions to fund their own retirement;
  3. provide a capital lump sum to assist a son or daughter in purchasing property with a deposit;
  4. release funds from a property on a divorce, to allow both parties to have a home.

 

What is Equity Release?

Equity Release allows individuals aged 55 and over to release money from the property they live in. This money is released, without the need to make any monthly repayments and without the need to move out of your home.

Equity Release products are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). By using an equity release product, you can take a lump sum, or regular smaller sums, from the value of your home.

There are three types of equity release:

  • Lifetime Mortgages;
  • Home Reversion; and
  • Home Income plans.

Lifetime Mortgage Schemes

With Lifetime Mortgage schemes you take out a loan based on the value of your home. This loan is secured against your home, and releases a tax free lump sum. There are no monthly repayments, as the interest is added to the loan, and the loan is only repaid when your home is sold or if you move into long term residential care. Sometimes the loan is flexible, so you can draw down smaller amounts at different times.

Home Reversion Schemes

Under this arrangement you sell the whole, or a part, of your property to the equity release company. You can live in your home for as long as you wish. The property is sold when you die, or move into long term residential care, and the equity release company receives a share of the proceeds in proportion to the percentage of the property you sold to them.

Home Income Plans

This type of scheme is similar to the Lifetime Mortgage scheme but, instead of receiving the loan by way of a lump sum, the loan is used to purchase an annuity that gives you a regular guaranteed income.

 

Financial Advice

The first step is to take independent financial advice from an Independent Financial Adviser who specialises in Equity Release.

You will need advice about your options for you to be able to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages fully before you decide if equity release is right for you. You will need to speak to a specialist financial adviser who is qualified in equity release to help you understand the steps involved and talk you through your options. Things to consider include the effect this might have on state benefits, tax, and your estate.

Equity release is not right for everyone, but with the right financial advice based on your individual personal circumstances, you will be able to make that choice.

Once you have spoken with your financial adviser and have made the decision to take out an equity release plan, we are here to answer your questions and, if you decide to proceed, ensure that the transaction goes through as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

 

Our commitment

Browns Solicitors is a member of the Equity Release Council. All the Equity Release Council’s members follow a strict Statement of Principles, which ensures we act in your best interests. As an equity release customer, you have the right to independent legal advice so you fully understand the cost and commitments involved.

 

If you think Equity Release is the right choice for you, please telephone our conveyancing department to make an appointment for a free half-hour initial consultation.

Commercial Property

Our experienced Conveyancing Department is here to advise you on all aspects of renting a commercial property, and buying or selling business premises. You may be a new business, be ready to expand or want to sell and retire, or move on to a new venture.

Most commercial property is occupied under leases. This can give a business greater flexibility. However commercial leases usually contain detailed controls on the occupier’s freedom to ‘assign’ (transfer a right in the property to another) or otherwise deal with the property. It is important before entering into a lease to fully understand the rights and restrictions. This is where we come in.

Land Purchase

The purchase of land should always be conducted by an expert.

Use our knowledge and conveyancing expertise to answer important questions relating to issues such as permitted use, boundaries, footpath or other public access and rights over the land issues.

Our job is to check that the land has clear title – i.e. is legitimately for sale – and to carry out searches. We will also check the legal documentation relating to the size, scale and dimensions of the site to ensure that you are buying what is being sold. You also need to be sure that you can obtain the necessary approval for your intended use.

Frequently asked questions

Although we strive to answer all your queries by email or on the telephone, a significant number of calls or emails does restrict us progressing with your sale or purchase.

For this reason we:

  • Will charge for additional telephone calls or emails which exceed the normal cause of dealings in a conveyancing matter;
  • Have produced the following Frequently Asked Questions which we ask you to look at before contacting us with a query.

If you have any further questions you think would be helpful on these pages please feel free to send us an email.

Legal Terms

What is conveyancing?

This is the legal process of transferring the ownership of property from one party to another and all the legal work carried out to make the sale or purchase legally valid.

 

What is the difference between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common?

As joint tenants there is no distinct share in the property and if one party were to die their share would pass to the survivor.

If you were to own a property as tenants in common you could specify what share each person owns (for example 50% each) and you leave that share in your Will or it passes under intestacy rules.

 

What is the difference between exchange and completion?

Exchange of contracts binds all the parties to buy/sell the property on the day of completion. Following exchange of contracts no-one can pull out of the transaction and the completion date is fixed.

Completion is when the money is paid for the property and the ownership of the property changes. On the day of completion the buyer will get the keys to the property and be able to move in.

I have found a house to buy, what’s next?

Can the same solicitor act both for me and for the seller?

Although there are limited exceptions, generally the same firm of solicitors cannot act for both parties in a transaction because of a potential conflict of interest.

 

How soon do I need to pay any money? 

We ask you to provide £350 on account of costs before we start work on your matter. This will pay for the searches required to buy your property. You may be asked to pay a deposit when we exchange contracts if you do not have a related sale. The balance of the asking price and our costs and any additional charges such as Stamp Duty will be payable shortly before completion.

 

How long will it take to exchange and complete ?

It is impossible to give an exact timetable as this will depend on many different factors such as how long it takes for your mortgage offer to be issued, whether there are any issues with the title to the property, and the length of your chain (as everyone in the chain has to exchange on the same day and complete on the same day). However, it usually takes around 8 weeks from when you instruct us. If you need different timescales then let us know and we’ll always do our best to help you.

 

Should I have a survey?

We recommend that you have a survey (as well as the mortgage valuation). The mortgage valuation confirms for the mortgage company that the property is worth what you are paying for it, but will not necessarily find any defects or problems with the property. A Homebuyers’ Report or Structural Survey will go into greater detail. Ask us if you need more information.

 

I am buying a leasehold property – what does this mean?

A leasehold property is a property which is subject to a lease. A lease is an agreement to use a property for a period of time without owning it, for example for 99 years. Flats are usually leasehold and shared ownership properties will also be leasehold. The lease will contain various agreements between you as the lessee and the landlord as the lessor. We will explain to you what these are. Under a lease, ground rent is paid and a service charge will be paid. You can usually extend the length of time of a lease by paying the landlord a sum of money.

 

I am buying a property with my partner – we are not married – is there anything I need to think about?

Where more than one person owns a property together they can choose to own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common (see Legal Terms above). If one of you is investing more money into the property than the other they could protect their share by owning a greater percentage of the property – this would be documented in a Declaration of Trust which we can draft for you. Ask us for more information.

 

Do I need to come to the office? 

Although most stages of the process can be completed by post, email or telephone you will be asked to attend at the office to bring your identification. You may not meet with the conveyancer dealing with your matter. If the conveyancer feels a meeting is necessary (such as you are buying as unmarried partners in unequal shares or there is a specific issue with the title) you will be asked to attend a meeting at the office.

 

Why do you need identification from me?

Under the Money Laundering Regulations we have to obtain details of your identity to safeguard against money laundering and mortgage fraud. This is a legal requirement.

I have a buyer for my house, what’s next?

How soon do I need to pay any money? 

We ask you to provide £50 on account of costs before we start work on your matter. This will pay for the documents required to sell your property. The costs and agents fees will be paid out from the sale proceeds on completion before any balance is sent to you. If you are in negative equity you will need to provide us with money to pay off the mortgage, agent fees and our fees before we exchange contracts.

 

Can the same solicitor act both for me and for my buyer?

Although there are limited exceptions, generally the same firm of solicitors cannot act for both parties in a transaction because of a potential conflict of interest.

 

How long will it take to exchange and complete ?

It is impossible to give an exact timetable as this will depend on many different factors such as how long it takes for your mortgage offer to be issued, whether there are any issues with the title to the property, and the length of your chain (as everyone in the chain has to exchange on the same day and complete on the same day). However, it usually takes around 8 weeks from when you instruct us . If you need different timescales then let us know and we’ll always do our best to help you.

 

Why do I need an EPC?

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required by law when a property is marketed for sale. The EPC relates to the energy efficiency of a property and recommendations as to how to make a property more efficient. Your Estate Agent will normally have arranged the  EPC for you. Make sure you keep the EPC when you move, because you may be able to use it again if your move is short-term.

 

Do I need to come to the office? 

Although most stages of the process can be completed by post, email or telephone you will be asked to attend at the office to bring your identification. You may not meet with the conveyancer dealing with your matter. If the conveyancer feels a meeting is necessary (such as you are buying as unmarried partners in unequal shares or there is a specific issue with the title) you will be asked to attend a meeting at the office.

 

Why do you need identification from me?

Under the Money Laundering Regulations we have to obtain details of your identity to safeguard against money laundering and mortgage fraud. This is a legal requirement.

Before exchange of contracts

Who is responsible for insuring the property?

The Buyer is responsible for insuring the property from exchange of contracts, and if you are having a mortgage your mortgage lender will make it a condition of your mortgage offer to have insurance from exchange of contracts. You need to have this in place before exchange.

 

Can I move into the property before Completion? 

If the property you are buying is empty and if the seller agrees you may be able to have access to the property between exchange and completion if you wish to decorate or similar.

 

When should I book my removal van?

The completion date is not guaranteed until contracts have been exchanged. We therefore recommend that you do not book your removals until this has taken place. If your situation might be different, for example with exchange and completion taking place on the same day, speak to us and we’ll advise you on the best course of action.

After exchange of contracts

How is my mortgage repaid?

We will get a statement from the mortgage lender of what is owing on the date of completion and repaid the mortgage from the proceeds of sale.

 

How is the estate agent paid?

So long as you have given us authority in the initial forms sent out to you we will pay your estate agents fees and our fees from the proceeds of sale.

 

When will I get the keys and be able to move into the property?

Generally you will not be able to get the keys until the purchase has completed on the day of completion. It is usual practice to try and vacate a property being sold by midday on the day of competition and to deliver the keys to the estate agent so that the keys are available for collection by your buyers once all money has been transferred (which is usually by 2pm). There could be a delay particularly if there is a long chain or money is coming from mortgage companies in the chain.

After Completion

What happens to the deeds to my house?

Once completion has taken place we will arrange to register your ownership at the Land Registry. The Land Registry will then send a copy of the title register to us and we will send this to you. However, all information is stored electronically at the Land Registry so copies can easily be retrieved.

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