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What does conveyancing mean?
It is the drawing up of deeds and other documents for the transfer of property and is the branch of the law which deals with titles and their transfer.
Is it important that the title of a property is freehold?
In a number of cases there is little difference in practical terms between freehold and leasehold. A leasehold property with a substantial number of years to run is as worthwhile as a freehold property. In some cases landlord title is more appropriate, eg, for flats where covenants need to be enforced. There is no absolute rule that freehold is better than leasehold. It depends on the circumstances.
Why does it take so long to sell/buy a house?
Generally because buyers need to satisfy themselves by enquiry, searches and survey that there are no problems with the property to be purchased and that the buyer's funds, usually from bank or building society and/or from the sale of their own property, are available. If buyers and sellers are involved in a chain the time taken by each person in the connection multiplies the delay.
At what point is the sale or purchase of a house legally binding, ie when will I be safe from 'gazzumpers'?
A sale or purchase is only binding once written contracts have been exchanged between seller and buyer. In most cases, a deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price, will be paid by the buyer to the seller at that time.
What do searches cover?
Searches are undertaken at various stages in a house purchase. Local authority searches check a property for matters within the knowledge of the local councils, eg planning permission, maintenance of roads, breaches of local authority regulations. Searches are also undertaken to discover mining, old industrial uses (environmental search), common Land. Searches are also undertaken against the title of the property to discover charges against it or even if the seller is bankrupt.
Do I need a solicitor to act for me?
No, you can do it yourself, although if a mortgage is being obtained the bank or building society will insist on their rights being protected by the involvement of a solicitor or suitably qualified conveyancer. Solicitors and conveyancers are, however, experienced in handling conveyancing transactions and in most cases it is advisable to engage one.