A Guide for First Time Buyers’

When I say to my first-time buyer clients, “I know how you feel”, I really do. After three years of working in the Property department, I am now taking the plunge myself of being a home owner and am seeing things from my clients’ point of view.

I have the advantage of understanding the legal side of the process but my personal experience has brought into perspective how the legal side of things is just a small part of what is occupying the buyer’s mind with the practicalities of moving: buying furniture, arranging utilities and insurance.

I think that having an understanding of the legal has helped the process be less stressful along with being in the fortunate position of having no fixed deadline as to when I need to move – although to be in by Christmas would be nice!

So what insight can I offer first-time buyers on the legal side of the process?

Firstly, yes there is a lot of paperwork: paperwork for you to complete and paperwork that you will receive from us.

At the start of the transaction, we need from you proof of identity and proof of deposit funds. With the proof of identity, we will either need to see you in person or you will need to have your ID certified by a financial advisor or another solicitor. For proof of funds, we need to have at least the last three months’ bank statements of where the deposit monies are coming from and if monies have been paid into the account during that period we will need further proof of those payments. We also need to know if any of those monies have come from third parties, for example, gifts from a family member. Whilst this can sometimes seem a bit over the top, we are under a statutory duty to verify the source of funds, so by giving us all the information up front helps speed up the process.

The next step is when we receive documentation from the seller’s solicitors. We will check through this, raise any necessary queries and then send you a copy for you to read and check as well. It is important for you to do this thoroughly. For example, if the plan of the property is incorrect, we may not know as we have not visited the property whereas you know what the property is like.

We then need to carry out searches on the property. The main searches are –

The environmental search – this will check for issues such as contaminated land and flooding;

The coal search – this will check for the presence of past, present or future mining in the  area of the property;

The drainage search – this will check that the property is connected to mains water and  drainage. It will also check for the presence of any sewer pipes within the boundaries;

The local search – this will reveal any planning permissions and building regulations approval in relation to works carried out to the property. It also reveals any notices that the Council may have issued in relation to the property and confirm whether or not the Council maintains the road next to the Property.

If any adverse entries are revealed in the searches, we will need to raise further enquiries in relation to the entry.

We usually advise clients not to order the searches until they have received their mortgage offer. This means that if – for whatever reason – your mortgage offer is declined then you will not have wasted any money on the searches.

When we receive your mortgage offer, we will also need you to provide us with a copy of the lender’s valuation report. This will often highlight issues that we need to raise with the seller’s solicitors, for example, planning permission for an extension. We also check the mortgage offer to make sure that all the key details are correct and if they are not, then we need to report that to the lender.

It is important to remember that as well as you, the mortgage lender is also our client and even though you may be satisfied with a reply to an enquiry, we sometimes need to refer issues to the lender to check that they are happy too. Unfortunately, this can often delay matters and different lenders have different time scales in dealing with correspondence.

Finally, once all the queries have been answered, we will ask you to come in and sign the documentation and discuss completion dates with you. If there are a number of transactions linked together in a chain, you will need to be flexible to link in with the other parties.

Just remember we are as keen as you are to get you moved as quickly as possible, but it is also our job to make sure that everything is done properly and for every enquiry raised there is a good reason for it.

Rachel Hurford