Residential Property Conveyancing Solicitors
In the highly competitive market for residential conveyancing you may wonder what is different about Wannops LLP?
At Wannops we are proactive and offer advice from the outset to ensure that any unexpected icebergs are successfully navigated. Before your property is even on the market one of our experienced solicitors will be happy to meet with you to give practical advice to ensure that your property has a good and marketable title. By taking advice early you minimise the risk of the transaction breaking down at an advanced stage and you will also have the comfort of knowing that your property is ship shape once a buyer has been found. If any issues are discovered we will offer practical advice to overcome the issue. We have had feedback from clients and estate agents that getting legal advice before a sale is agreed ensures that the transaction is as smooth as possible and allows contracts to be exchanged faster. This is particularly important in an uncertain economy where there is a greater risk of one of the parties changing their mind.
London, Country & Coastal properties
Wannops has a well respected and experienced property teams based in Chichester, Bognor Regis and Worthing who specialise in dealing with high value London residences, country estates and exclusive waterfront properties. When looking at these unique properties you need an expert who deals with these sorts of properties on a regular basis to ensure that you are given the correct advice and that costly mistakes are not made. These properties can have unusual rights or covenants affecting them that are not encountered frequently and therefore it is important that you use a specialist solicitor familiar with the intricacies that may arise.
Our flexible service is tailored to your needs and we are happy to visit you in the comfort of your own home if you are busy and don’t have time to come to our office.
For further details please contact one of our legal advisors listed on the right hand side of this page.
BUYING AND SELLING RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY
Despite what people may say, a property sale or purchase transaction is rarely ‘standard’. Each sale and purchase is different, often due to legal issues relating to the title to the property concerned, the length of the chain of buyers and sellers, the co-operation between firms of estate agents and conveyancing solicitors or the different personalities of the buyers and sellers themselves.
For that reason, we never delegate transactions to a clerk. Your transaction will be dealt with by a qualified lawyer within the conveyancing team, to whom you will have direct email and often telephone access.
We believe that good communication eases the stress of the transaction, and creates a more positive experience for all concerned.
BUYING A PROPERTY
Deciding on the property to buy:
The estate agent office, offering the property for sale, will arrange for you to view the property, and will put forward to the seller, any offer you wish to make.
The estate agent will also be able to let you have a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate for the property.
N.B. If you are thinking of renting out your new property, please be aware that The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 set out the minimum level of energy efficiency for private rented property in England and Wales. In relation to domestic private rented properties, the minimum level is an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of band E.
Finding a solicitor and applying for a mortgage
You will need to find a solicitor to act for you in connection with your purchase. If instructed, we will also act for your mortgage lender, and do not charge extra for doing so. There are some formalities to deal with, when instructing a solicitor, so the sooner you instruct us to act for you, the sooner we are able to deal with those formalities, and start the property purchase process.
At this stage, we will also request from you some money on account, to enable us to apply for searches, once the contract pack has been received.
The solicitor starts the purchase process
The estate agents will write to us with their memorandum of sale, which will include all the details of the transaction, including the seller’s solicitors’ details.
We will write to the seller’s solicitors and confirm we are instructed, and ask that they send us a contract pack. This will include a Property Information Form, a Fixtures and Contents Form, and if the property is leasehold, a Leasehold Information Form. The pack will also include a contract for our approval, and a copy of the seller’s title to the property.
Searches and Approval of Contract
With our initial letter to you, we will send you a Search Information Sheet. This will list for you the various searches that are available, and which we can obtain for you, should you wish. If you are obtaining a mortgage, the searches required by your lender are Local Authority, Drainage, Environmental and Chancel Insurance. If you require any additional searches to be carried out, you can indicate which ones on the Information Sheet, and we will obtain the results for you.
The time it takes to receive the Local Authority Search varies from Local Authority to Local Authority, but generally takes around 10 – 14 days.
At this stage, we will also check over the contract pack, and return one part of the contract, approved, with any amendments we require. We will also raise pre contract enquiries with the seller’s solicitors.
Also at this stage, we would prepare our title report to you, so that you are able to look through the papers included within the contract pack, and raise, with us, any queries you may have.
Mortgage offer, search results and further enquiries
Once the mortgage offer and search results are received, we will review these and prepare reports to you on each. The mortgage deed will be sent to you at this point, for you to sign and return to us, in readiness for exchange and completion. In addition, when replies to enquiries are received, we shall send copies to you, along with the contract for you to sign in readiness for exchange of contracts.
Unless you have a related sale, we will ask you to let us have your deposit, which should be between 5% and 10% of the purchase price, depending upon how much you are looking to borrow from your mortgage lender. We will hold this here, until we are in a position to exchange contracts.
Prior to exchange of contracts, we will speak to you to ensure you are happy with everything, and agree to being legally committed to the purchase.
Exchange of contracts and completion date
On exchange of contracts, the completion date will be written into the contract and this will then become binding on all parties.
At exchange of contracts, it is usual for you to put in place your buildings’ insurance on the new property. Our title report will explain what is required in this respect.
Mortgage advance and Preparing for Completion of your Purchase
Once contracts have been exchanged, we will write to your mortgage lender, requesting the mortgage monies for the day before completion. As mortgage lenders cannot guarantee when we will receive mortgage funds, we request the monies for the day before completion to avoid any delays on the day of completion.
At the same time, we will send you a completion statement, showing any balance of monies we require from you for completion. The statement will show you all the money we have and expect to receive, and all the monies we are having to pay out. We would ask that the monies are sent to us electronically, at least a day or so before the completion date, again to avoid any delays on the day of completion.
Also prior to completion, we will carry out a final search of the title at the Land Registry, and also obtain a bankruptcy search against you, as required by your mortgage lender. If there are any problems with these search results, we will of course speak with you.
On the day of completion, we will send the purchase monies to the seller’s solicitors. As soon as they receive the funds, they will telephone the estate agents and authorise them to release the keys to you. When you go to the property, we recommend that you note down the meter readings, and pass these on to the relevant service providers, to ensure you are only paying for services you are using.
Also on completion, we will pay your stamp duty land tax liability to Revenue and Customs.
When we receive the title deeds and transfer of ownership document from the seller’s solicitors, we will submit our application to the Land Registry for you to be registered as the owner of the property. The Land Registry can take some time to finalise the registration, and as soon as the completed registration is received by us, we will send a copy to you and to your mortgage lender.
Once registered, the registers of titles at the Land Registry are open to the public, and therefore anyone can obtain a copy of the title to any registered property. With this in mind and to minimise any potential property fraud, the Land Registry has set up a Property Alert, which is an award winning free property monitoring service, aimed at anyone who feels a registered property could be at risk from fraud.
The Web address to register for this free service, and for more information, is:
Once you have signed up to the service, you will receive email alerts when certain activity occurs on your monitored properties, allowing you to take action, if necessary.
SELLING A PROPERTY
Selling a property
Seller approaches estate agents, to obtain valuations, with a view to selling their property. Prior to marketing, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) must be commissioned, unless a Certificate has been obtained for the property within the previous 10 years, and no major changes have been made to the property. You can check the government register to see if an EPC exists for your property:
Appointing a solicitor
The earlier a seller can appoint solicitors, the sooner those solicitors can obtain the information to enable them to issue the contract papers, as soon as a buyer is found. The seller should, therefore, confirm their instructions to their solicitors and provide any funds required in connection with initial costs to be incurred, as soon as the decision to sell has been made, even if prior to finding a buyer. The seller should also provide their solicitor with their contact details, and details of any existing mortgage. We will ask you to complete our Client Details Form, which covers all of these points. We would also ask you to complete the property information forms, which will form part of the contract papers.
Appointing an estate agent
Once the seller has decided upon which agent to use, the seller will be asked to sign an agency agreement. Once this is done, and the EPC ordered, the property can be put on the market. Your chosen estate agent should then arrange viewings, and inform you of any offers made. At this stage, it would be wise to pass your solicitor’s details to the estate agents, so that when an offer is accepted, the confirmation can be sent to the solicitor without delay.
After an offer has been accepted
Once an offer has been accepted, the agents will then issue their particulars (giving details of the property, the price and the other party and their solicitors). This is sent to all parties and their respective solicitors.
As the majority of land in England and Wales is now registered at the Land Registry, your solicitor will obtain a copy of your title from the Land Registry, which would then enable the draft contract to be drafted. This is then sent in duplicate to the buyer’s solicitors for approval, along with the property information forms and other supporting documentation.
Redemption figure from the seller’s lender
At this stage, we will obtain a provisional redemption figure from your mortgage company, to give an indication of the amount required to repay the mortgage on completion. A final figure is requested once contracts have been exchanged and the completion date is known. The provisional figure enables us to calculate the balance due back to you on completion. A copy of the redemption statement will be sent to you, once received, for your information.
Freeholders or managing agents
If the sale property is leasehold, we would need to obtain management information from the freeholder or their managing agents. They usually charge a fee for providing this information, and once this fee is known, we would notify you.
Enquiries from the Buyer’s solicitors
Once the buyer’s solicitors have had an opportunity to review the contract papers, they usually raise pre contract enquiries. We will deal with these as far as possible, from the information provided by you, and pass to you any further enquiries that require your input. Once all replies are available, these will be passed to the buyer’s solicitors. The buyer’s solicitors will usually approve the draft contract at the same time as raising enquires, and the approved contract would then be sent to you for signature, in readiness for exchange of contracts.
Exchange of contracts
Having dealt with any additional enquiries and having leasehold management information, and once a final completion date has been agreed, we should be able to proceed to exchange of contracts. We will always speak to you before contracts are exchanged, to ensure you are happy with the final arrangements. On exchange, the completion date is then fixed, and the contract is binding on all parties. The deposit paid by the buyer is usually held by us until completion, unless it is needed in connection with your related purchase.
On completion, the buyer’s solicitors send the purchase monies to us, and upon receipt of the monies, we will authorise the estate agents to release the keys to the buyer. This usually happens around lunchtime to early afternoon. You will, usually, need to have vacated the property by this time.
Once we have received the purchase monies, we will repay your mortgage, pay the estate agents’ commission account and deduct the legal costs and disbursements are deducted. The balance is then sent to you.
The title deeds are then sent to the buyer’s solicitors.
Equity release is a way of releasing the wealth tied up in your property without having to sell it and move to another home. You can either borrow against the value of your home or sell all or part of it in exchange for a lump sum or a regular monthly income. Some plans give you the option to “draw down” further equity (cash) at a later date, based on your requirements.
Equity release is designed to help home owners aged 55 or over, who either own their property outright, or have relatively small mortgages left to pay.
The equity in property is the difference between its current market value and any outstanding mortgage or loan secured upon the property.
The Conveyancing Partners within the firm, Julia Beach, Gavin Clark and Alan Wheatley, are able to advise you in relation to Equity Release, and have acted for many clients who have taken advantage of the various Equity Release Schemes on the market.
JOINT OWNERSHIP OF PROPERTY
Where property has a registered title, the person who is the legal owner of the property is called “the proprietor” and his/her name is shown as such on the title Register. Where there are two or more people who own the property together, they are shown on the title Register as joint proprietors. They will normally hold the property in one of two ways: either as joint tenants or as tenants in common. These are technical terms but their effect can be explained as follows:-
Joint tenants – means that they own the property together in such a way that, if one of them dies, his or her interest in the property passes to the other proprietor(s) automatically. No interest in the property will pass to the estate of the proprietor who has died, nor can such a proprietor deal with the property in his/her will. This way of holding the property is often, but not always, used where joint proprietors are married.
Tenants in common– means that they own it together with each treated as having a separate share in the value of the property. Typically, each tenant in common will share in the value of the property equally, according to their number; a half share if there are two, a one third share if there are three, etc. However, the proportions need not be equal if the proprietors agree something else. This kind of arrangement is often used where the owners have each put up money of their own to buy the property. It is also possible for other people who are not shown on the Register to share in the property as well. The separate shares in the property can be detailed in a document called a Declaration of Trust.
Declarations of Trust – Declarations of Trust are very useful documents when two or more people buy property jointly together. The Declaration of Trust will set out each owner’s share in the property. It also sets out the rights and obligations of each owner in relation to the property, for example, relating to payment of outgoings and mortgage contributions. The document details what should happen if one owner wishes to “walk away” from the property. In those circumstances, the opportunity is given to the remaining owner to buy out the share of the owner who wishes to leave. If a buy-out does not happen then the property is placed on the open market. The Declaration of Trust can detail how the property’s open market value should be determined in the event of any disagreement. The proceeds of sale of the property would then be distributed to the owners in the shares as recorded in the Declaration of Trust.
Severing the Joint Tenancy – Where two or more proprietors hold the property as joint tenants, it is possible for them to alter the way in which they hold the property so that they become tenants in common. This will happen, for example, if one of the proprietors sells or otherwise deals with his/her interest in the property, or notifies the other proprietor(s) that he/she wants the property to be held by them as tenants in common. This is called “severing the joint tenancy”. We can deal with this for you, and submit the application to the Land Registry to amend the title Register to reflect your decision.
MORTGAGES AND REMORTGAGES
We are panel members with the majority of mortgage lenders, and are therefore able to act for you and your mortgage lender, to bring the completion of your mortgage to a swift conclusion.
The majority of house purchases involve a mortgage loan, and we have acted for most mortgage lenders and are therefore able to provide you with an explanation of the mortgage process.
You may already own a property which is either not mortgaged and you wish to raise finance on it, or you have a mortgage and wish to change lender to have a better interest rate.
NEW BUILD PLOT PURCHASES
Our conveyancing team has many years’ experience in the area of legal services needed, in the new-build industry. Our team has acted on many new build sites, both in West Sussex and further afield, and have the expertise to progress your matter at the pace required by the developers. Although we may be recommended by the site office of the various developments, we are completely independent of the developers, and will always act in your best interests.
Our experienced team will help you prepare for the auction, by checking the pre- sale legal pack to avoid any unnecessary surprises, carrying out property and land searches, where necessary, and supplying you with a detailed written report. If you are successful at the auction, we will complete the pre and post completion work for you, too.
RIGHT TO BUY
We have acted for many buyers, buying through the Right to Buy scheme.
Right to Buy was introduced in 1980 and gives eligible social housing tenants (e.g. Council Tenants, Housing Association Tenants) the right to buy their home at a discount. Over the years, discount levels and eligibility criteria have varied.
From 6 April 2018, maximum discounts are £80,900 across England and £108,000 in London. Discounts increase in April every year in line with any increase in inflation.
Council tenants will probably have a Right to Buy if they have spent at least 3 years as a public sector tenant. The 3 years doesn’t have to be continuous and you can add together any time you have spent as a public sector tenant. A public sector tenant is someone whose landlord is a public body such as a Council, Housing Association or Government Department. Eligibility criteria also include having no legal issues with debt or any outstanding possession orders. You should be aware that some properties are exempt from Right to Buy. Check the following web link to see whether you are eligible:
HELP TO BUY EQUITY LOAN, HELP TO BUY ISA AND SHARED OWNERSHIP
The government has created the Help to Buy schemes including Help to Buy: Shared Ownership, Help to Buy ISA and Help to Buy: Equity Loan, to help people buy their own home.
More information is available at: https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk/
HELP TO BUY: EQUITY LOAN
With a Help to Buy: Equity Loan the government lends you up to 20% of the cost of your newly built home, so you’ll only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.
You won’t be charged loan fees on the 20% loan for the first five years of owning your home. After five years, interest is payable on the Government loan on top of the existing mortgage repayments. Repayment of the loan is required when the property is sold or at the end of the mortgage period.
More information can be obtained as: https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk/wp- content/uploads/Help-to-Buy-Buyers-Guide-Feb-2018-FINAL.pdf
LONDON HELP TO BUY
To reflect the current property prices in London, from February 2016 the government increased the upper limit for the equity loan it gives new home-buyers within Greater London from 20% to 40%.
HELP TO BUY: ISA
If you are saving to buy your first home, and save money into a Help to Buy: ISA, and the government will boost your savings by 25%. So, for every £200 you save, you will receive a government bonus of £50. The maximum government bonus you can receive is £3,000.
To take advantage of this scheme, you must first open a Help to Buy ISA. These are available from a range of banks, building societies and credit unions. Please check the link below, to choose a provider:
These government bonuses are available to each first time buyer, not each household. This means that if you are planning to buy with your partner, for example, you could receive a government bonus of up to £6,000 towards your first home. For you each to receive a bonus, each of you must have your own Help To Buy ISA account.
You can save up to £200 a month into your Help to Buy: ISA. To kick-start your account, in your first month, you can deposit a lump sum of up to £1,200.
The minimum government bonus is £400, meaning that you need to have saved at least £1,600 into your Help to Buy: ISA before you can claim your bonus. The maximum government bonus you can receive is £3,000 – to receive this, you need to have saved £12,000.
You will need to notify us at the beginning of your property purchase, that you wish to claim the government bonus under the Help to Buy ISA scheme, so that we are then able to advise you when to close your account. When you are close to buying your first home, you will need to close your Help to Buy ISA and obtain a closing statement from the bank or building society that held your ISA. You need to pass that statement to your solicitor, so that we can then apply for your government bonus on your behalf. Once we receive the government bonus, it will be added to the money you are putting towards your first home. The bonus must be included with the funds consolidated at the completion of the property transaction. The bonus cannot be used for the deposit due at the exchange of contracts, to pay for solicitor’s, estate agent’s fees or any other indirect costs associated with buying a home. You will also need to sign a First Time Buyer Declaration, which will need to be uploaded to the scheme website, before the funds will be released. We will send this Declaration to you for signing.
For more information of the Help To Buy ISA, please see:
Our experienced conveyancing team has many years’ experience in shared ownership transactions, and will be able to guide you through this process.
The Shared Ownership Schemes are designed to help you buy your property, if you can’t quite afford the mortgage on 100% of property you want to buy. The Schemes offer you the chance to buy a share of your home (between 25% and 75% of the home’s value) and pay rent on the remaining share. Later on, you could buy bigger shares when you can afford to do so.
The criteria for using the Help to Buy: Shared Ownership in England is:
- i) Your household earns £80,000 a year or less outside London, or your household earns £90,000 a year or less in London, and
- ii) You are a first-time buyer, you used to own a home but can’t afford to buy one now or are an existing shared owner looking to move.
With the Shared Ownership scheme, you can buy a newly built home or an existing one through resale programmes with housing associations. You will need to take out a mortgage to pay for your share of the home’s purchase price, or fund this through your savings. Shared Ownership properties are always leasehold.
Please see the link below for more information.
In the Budget on 22 November 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a relief from SDLT for first time buyers. The relief applies to purchases of residential property for £500,000 or less, provided the purchaser intends to occupy the property as their only or main residence.
First time buyers purchasing their first home for £300,000 or less will pay no SDLT. Where the purchase price is over £300,000 but does not exceed £500,000 they will pay 5% on the amount above £300,000.
A calculator is available on HMRC’s website which calculates the SDLT due for first time buyers who are eligible to claim the relief:
Through the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme, the Government will lend a buyer up to 20% of the cost of the newly built home, so they only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the difference.
A buyer with a Help to Buy: Equity Loan will not be charged loan fees on the 20% loan for the first five years of owning the property.
Equity loans are available to first time buyers as well as homeowners looking to move. The home the buyer wants to buy must be newly built with a price of no more than £600,000.
A buyer buying through the Help to Buy scheme will not be able to sublet their property. Anyone buying through the Help to Buy scheme must not own any other property at the time of buying the new home.
For more information please see https://www.helptobuy.gov.uk/
Shared Ownership is available to first time buyers and those that do not currently own a home, depending on the circumstances of each case. It gives the buyers an opportunity to buy a share in a property. The buyer usually pays a mortgage on the share they own, and pays rent to a housing association on the remaining share. The buyer then only needs a mortgage for the share they are purchasing, and as a result, the amount of money required for a deposit is a lot less than if the property was being bought outright.
The buyer of a shared ownership property has the option of increasing their share through a process known as ‘staircasing’, and in most cases can staircase all the way to 100%, thereby owning the property outright. Shared Ownership Properties are always leasehold.
Please refer to the following link for more information:
FREEHOLD is effectively absolute ownership of the property.
LEASEHOLD provides the holder of the property with rights of possession and use of the property but not absolute ownership. The freehold is retained by the freeholder, who grants the lease as the landlord, to the holder of the property, who is referred to as the tenant. The lease is granted for a period of years, called the lease term, with the lease expiring at the end of the lease term, and the property reverting to the freeholder. Legislation exists which gives tenants various rights relating to the extension of their lease term, depending on the circumstances of each case. A tenant must have held the leasehold property for at least 2 years, before they can apply for a lease term extension.
In January 2013, the Government introduced an initiative whereby homeowners are able to make energy saving changes to their properties, and repay the cost of those changes through their electricity bills. This is called The Green Deal. A buyer of property needs to be aware of whether the property they intend to buy benefits from the Green Deal, as otherwise, they could find they are repaying the cost of the works without realising, following completion of the purchase. The seller is under an obligation to disclose the Green Deal works to the buyer.
In addition, it is important that a buyer obtains a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) from the selling estate agents (or direct from the seller, if there are no agents), as the Certificate should also reveal the Green Deal. The EPC may not, however, be conclusive, as these certificates are valid for 10 years, and currently need not be updated to reveal the Green Deal.
For more information regarding the Green Deal, please see the government web site:
Contracts for the sale of a property are prepared in two identical parts: one part to be signed by the seller, and one part to be signed by the buyer. Each part of the contract must incorporate all the terms that have been agreed between the buyer and the seller.
Once each part of the contract has been signed and the parties are ready to exchange contracts, the solicitors for the buyer and the seller date and physically exchange their respective parts of the contract, so that the seller’s solicitor holds the part signed by the buyer, and the buyer’s solicitors holds the part signed by the seller. At the same time, the date for completion of the purchase is usually written into the contracts.
Once exchange has taken place, the contract is said to have been made. This marks the point when the contract becomes legally binding.
The speed at which a sale of property can proceed is usually governed by the pace at which the buyer can proceed. The buyer’s solicitors will need to obtain search results, approve the contract and title deeds, raise any questions with the seller’s solicitors and receive replies, and receive the buyer’s mortgage offer, before contracts can be exchange. Generally speaking, we usually estimate around 4 – 6 weeks for exchange of contracts for a freehold property, and 6 – 8 weeks for exchange of contracts for a leasehold property.
The speed at which the purchase of property can proceed is usually governed by the pace at which the buyer can proceed. The buyer’s solicitors will need to obtain search results, approve the contract and title deeds, raise any questions with the seller’s solicitors and receive replies, and receive the buyer’s mortgage offer, before contracts can be exchange. Generally speaking, we usually estimate around 4 – 6 weeks for exchange of contracts for a freehold property, and 6 – 8 weeks for exchange of contracts for a leasehold property.
Although a buyer will not actually own the Property at exchange of Contracts, they will usually be responsible for its insurance from that time. If the buyer is not insuring through their lender, they should make arrangements so that cover can be put into effect immediately upon exchange of Contracts. If insuring through their lender, we would ask the lender to effect appropriate buildings insurance cover once Contracts have been exchanged.
The reason for the timing of the insurance cover is that, following exchange of contracts, the risk for the property usually passes to the buyer.
Although there is no obligation on the buyer to do so, it is invariably good advice for the buyer to have a survey done of the property. If the buyer is obtaining a mortgage to help with the purchase of the property, the lender will nearly always require a survey to be carried out. The lender’s survey is to help the lender decide whether to grant the mortgage, and cannot be relied upon by the buyer/borrower. The common law principle of caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) means that, subject to some exceptions, the buyer will take the property in the physical condition that it is in, regardless of whether the buyer knows of any defects in the property, or not. Therefore, we would always strongly advise clients to have their own survey carried out on the property, prior to exchange of contracts.
In property transactions, a deposit is usually paid by the buyer on exchange of contracts. The payment of the deposit demonstrates the buyer’s commitment to the transaction and provides a financial incentive for the buyer to proceed to completion. If the buyer fails to complete the purchase, the seller is normally entitled to forfeit and keep the deposit and any accrued interest on it, regardless of whether the seller has suffered any loss. The amount of deposit paid on exchange of contracts is usually between 5% and 10% of the purchase price. The amount of deposit available will often depend upon the percentage loan to value, of the amount you are borrowing from you mortgage lender. Often, if a buyer is also selling a property, the deposit paid on the sale is used for the purchase.