Conveyancing FAQ's

The world of conveyancing can look a little daunting to the outsider, so we have put together a rundown of some of the questions we are frequently asked here at Simpson Millar, along with the answers.

Read on to find out all you need to know about conveyancing and the house buying and selling process.

What Happens If I Change My Mind Part-Way Through? Am I Legally Bound?

Whether you are buying or selling a house, flat or bungalow, you can change your mind before the point at which contracts are exchanged. If you have made or accepted an offer, you are not legally bound to follow it through until you and the other party have exchanged contracts.

What Does 'Exchanging Contracts' Mean?

Exchanging contracts means exactly that. The conveyancing solicitors for each party (the buyer and the seller) will finalise the contracts and exchange them by telephone.

Once an offer has been accepted, a mortgage has been arranged, searches have been completed, and all other requirements have been carried out – including securing the deposit and agreeing a completion date – each party will sign their respective contract.

The solicitors will then read the contracts to one another during a telephone conversation to ensure they are identical and agree that exchange has taken place at a fixed time.

The contracts are physically exchanged via post and the deposit for the property is paid, finalising the process. You are now legally bound to buy/sell the property on a certain date and failure to do so could result in the loss of the deposit (if you are a buyer), as well as possible court action.

When Do I Pay My Deposit?

Unless you have arranged to exchange and complete on the same day – neither impossible nor rare in this day and age – you will pay your deposit to the seller’s solicitors when the contracts are exchanged.

How Is The Conveyancing Process Done And Will I Have To Come Into Your Office?

The ins and outs of conveyancing are fully explained on our 'Conveyancing Process' page.

It is not necessary for you to visit our offices at any time during the process as we can send all documents by email and discuss any queries you have via telephone, as well as email.

I've Received My Quote, Is This Really The Amount I Will Pay - Or Are There Hidden Costs Associated With Buying A Property?

Along with our commitment to ensuring everybody has access to affordable legal services, Simpson Millar believes in total transparency when it comes to both the work we carry out on your behalf and the way in which you pay for it.

When we provide you with a fixed fee conveyancing quote, you will only pay the amount that is stated.

What's more, the quote will be itemised, so you can see exactly what you are paying for, including any disbursements or additional costs that other conveyancing solicitors might hide.

N.B. If, during the course of the transaction, non-standard additional legal work is required, your solicitor will explain what the work is, why it is required, and confirm the costs before commencing.

What Is A Property Chain And What Happens If Someone Breaks It?

A chain occurs when a buyer is purchasing a property from a seller who is also buying a property and wants both transactions to complete on the same day. The completion of one transaction is reliant on the completion of another.

A property chain can break if one party withdraws, for example, due to a survey or legal issue.

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If it happens prior to contract exchange it can not only be frustrating but also costly, meaning the loss of money you have already paid for surveys and searches. It will also mean you having to restart the house hunting process, secure a new mortgage, and once again pay the attendant costs associated with buying a house. You will have no right to claim for any expenditure you have incurred if the chain breaks before contracts are exchanged.

Simpson Millar's 'no move, no fee' guarantee means that in the event your purchase/sale does fall through – apart from any third party fees paid out in terms of searches – you will not pay a penny for the legal work we have already undertaken.

Is It A Legal Requirement To Have A Survey Completed Before I Put In An Offer?

Although a survey is not a legal requirement, having one done is highly recommended.

A survey should not be regarded as an unnecessary expense as it can reveal issues that would otherwise go unseen. This can actually save you money in the long run, because if the problems emerge once contracts have been exchanged and you have moved into your new home, you will be responsible for their repair. If it is structural damage causing the issue, this could end up being very expensive.

Getting a survey completed before you exchange contracts allows you to identify any factors That Might Cause You To Change Your Mind About Buying, Or Seek A Reduction In Price.

When Can I Get The Keys?

You will get the keys to your new home on completion day.

Once your solicitor has issued the full purchase monies to the seller's solicitor, the estate agent will be in a position to release the keys to you.

Can I Still Buy A House If I'm In Negative Equity?

Negative equity occurs when the value of your property falls to below that of the mortgage you have secured on it.

An example of this would be if you bought a house and obtained a mortgage for £175,000 but, due to events affecting the housing market, the value of the property later fell to £140,000. This would leave you having to pay an extra £35,000 over what your home was now worth.

This can lead to problems in selling the property, which, unless you have the savings to cover the shortfall, you would not be able to do without the permission of your lender. Even then, there is every chance they would refuse your request until you have paid back the full cost of the mortgage.

There will also be difficulty re-mortgaging once your existing deal has runs its course, with the majority of lenders refusing to allow you to switch to another favourable arrangement and instead moving you onto their standard variable rate.

If you are determined to move while in negative equity, it is worth talking to your mortgage lender to discuss the situation and, in some cases, find a solution. There are a number of lenders – not many, but some – who will offer a deal allowing you to transfer the deficit to a new mortgage. These often come with additional costs and conditions, such as higher interest rates, early repayment charges on the existing mortgage, and eligibility limited to only those who have to move through necessity.

How Much Stamp Duty Will I Have To Pay?

Stamp Duty is a progressive tax levied on all property transactions above £125,000. The bands are as follows:

Price Band0% of Purchase Price
Up to £125,0000%
£125,001 to £250,0002%
£250,001 to £925,0005%
£925,001 to £1.5million10%
Over £1.5million12%

So, if you bought your property for £285,000, the amount of Stamp Duty you would have to pay would work out as follows:

Price BandAmount To Pay
0% on the first £125,000£0
2% on the next £125,000 (£125,001 – £250,000)£2,500
5% on the last £35,000 (£250,001 – £285,000)£1,750

Resulting in a grand total of £4,250.

If you are buying a property additional to one you already own, there is a surcharge of 3% added to each band, applicable to all property transactions above £40,000.

I'm Concerned If The Purchase/Sale Falls Through I'll Be Left Out Of Pocket – Will I Still Have To Pay?

Unlike many solicitors and conveyancers, Simpson Millar will not ask you to pay a penny in conveyancing fees should your property transaction not go ahead. This is regardless of how much legal work we have already undertaken on your behalf.

You will already have the disappointment and frustration of losing out on the opportunity to move house to contend with, without the additional blow of legal fees landing on your doorstep. Which is why we offer the 'no move, no fee' guarantee, so if the worst does happen, you will not be charged any legal fees by us.

Do I Need A Will Now I'm Buying A Property? If So, Why?

Creating a Will is not a legal requirement for buying a house. It is, however, a sensible move when it comes to arranging how your assets should be distributed following your death. As your home will probably be your biggest asset, ensuring it goes to the beneficiary or beneficiaries you intend it to is important.

In the absence of a legally valid Will, who receives what defers to the rules of intestacy, meaning that your property may not be left to the person or persons you would wish it to go to.

If you own your home as part of a joint tenancy (with your spouse or civil partner, for instance) the property will automatically pass to your co-owner, overriding any bequest in a Will.

As Simpson Millar is a full service law firm, we are not only able to offer the complete range of conveyancing work, but also arrange and ensure the validation of your Will.

Who Pays The Estate Agent?

The estate agent acts on behalf of the seller and there is usually a contract drawn up between the two which sets out the agreement on fees. This usually authorises the seller's solicitor to make the payment directly to the estate agent on completion of the sale.

It is important for sellers to check the estate agent has sent the correct invoice to their solicitor to ensure the right fees are paid.

I Need To Complete As Quickly As Possible – Can Things Be Fast Tracked?

Up until the exchange of contracts, there are various factors in place that can cause delays and prolong the process, including securing a mortgage and third party searches. So far as it is in their power to do so, it is the duty of your conveyancing solicitor to ensure the legal aspects of the process go smoothly.

But there are two parties involved in the majority of transactions and the speed at which you can reach the point where you are in the position to exchange contracts often depends on the speed of their responses.

It is important to consider realistic timeframes for the purchase of your property to ensure expectations can be met. We routinely advise clients that completion usually takes place between 8 and 10 weeks from the issue of contracts.

Some transactions do need a very quick exchange. For example, if you buy a new build the developer will require exchange within 28 days. To enable this, the developer will often provide a full pack of information at the outset, which will assist your solicitor in meeting the tighter deadline.

Get a Quote Today

Our expert team of Conveyancers and Solicitors are on hand to offer you the quality assured Conveyancing service that you expect. We can advise on any aspect of the process and are happy to discuss how we can help make the process as swift and pain free as possible – we want to get you into your new home almost as much as you do!

Call us on 0800 206 1521 to obtain your quote or alternatively fill out our enquiry form and one of our friendly team will be able to start you on the right path!


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Nigel Tarrant | Partner, Head of Conveyancing | Simpson Millar LLP

Nigel Tarrant
Partner, Head of Conveyancing

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