First Time Buyer Legal Guide – Part 4
FOUR TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN BUYING A HOUSE
1. Viewing a property
Some purchasers are surprised to find just how empty the house they have bought is when they turn the key in the front door on the day of completion. The house they viewed, and fell in love with was carefully decorated with eye-catching fixtures and furnishings. You need to be aware that sellers are entitled to remove just about everything from the property, including carpets, curtain poles, toilet roll holders, wheelie bins and more. During the conveyancing process the seller will complete a fixtures and fittings list indicating what they intend to leave at the property, what they are taking with them, and any items they are willing to sell. The purchaser will be provided a copy of this and it is important that they review it carefully and raise any issues with their solicitor prior to completion.
When you are viewing a property that you are interested in buying be sure to ask what exactly is being left behind in each room. Never assume that something will be left at the property. The seller will be more inclined to offer to leave something behind when you are viewing the house to entice you to buy. And even if the blinds and curtains are not to your taste, it is still useful to have something up to give you a bit of privacy in those first days and weeks until you start decorating your way around the house.
2. When are you in a legally binding agreement
Many clients ring us up enquiring about our conveyancing service and tell us that they have ‘just bought a house’ and need a solicitor to do the legal work for them. They of course understand that no money has exchanged hands yet, but many are understandably confused about when they are in a legally binding contract to purchase the property. They are often surprised to hear that either party can pull out of the sale up until the point that both their respective solicitors have a copy of the contract signed by both the seller and the purchaser. They do not have to give any reason and neither party has any right to compensation for money they’ve spent up to that point on valuations, legal fees etc.
Do not book removal vans or incur any unnecessary expense until you have been advised by your solicitor that you are in a legally binding contract and a completion date has been confirmed. As certain as you may feel that the seller will not pull out, things can change – one of the sellers could lose their job, or hear about potential redundancies and decide to put their property purchase (and sale) on hold, or there could be a death or a diagnosis of a serious illness.
3. Buying with a mortgage – Your Lender has an important vote in the process
Often an issue will arise in respect of the property that the client has to be made aware of and consider whether or not they are willing to proceed. What purchasers are often surprised to hear is that if they are buying with a mortgage their Lender also has to be made aware of any issues and also has to decide if they are happy to proceed with the mortgage in spite of the issue.
The purchaser’s solicitor is acting for the Lender as well as their client, except for on the rare occasions that the Lender has instructed a separate firm of solicitors.
The Lender wants to be satisfied that the property is good security for the money they are lending, and are always imagining a worse case scenario where they have to repossess the property and one day sell it. They want to ensure that there are no issues with the property that would affect their ability to sell it quickly.
It is therefore a fairly regular occurrence that the client will be made aware of an issue but decides they are not overly concerned about it and want to proceed, only to be told by the Lender that they are withdrawing their mortgage offer unless it is resolved. Another issue that can arise is the valuation of the property. The clients may feel that the purchase price they have agreed is a fair price, but the Lender may not necessarily agree based on the valuation survey that they arrange to be carried out. That will affect the amount they are willing to lend and will increase the size of the deposit the client will have to put up.
If you are purchasing with a mortgage be aware that your Lender is as interested in the quality and value of the property as you are. They are an important stakeholder and have the overriding right to say whether an issue is acceptable or not.
4. Choosing a property conveyancing solicitor
You will have chosen your new house with great care, and equally your mortgage advisor and mortgage product. The last thing you will be asked to do is instruct a solicitor to act for you in your purchase, and you should exercise the same care when making this choice.
Some questions to ask are:
Does the solicitor firm specialise in property conveyancing?
If not you may find that they are not up to date with the latest developments in conveyancing, or equally that their main focus lies in other areas of law, and other cases above your purchase.
Is the solicitor firm on the panels for all the mortgage lenders
Solicitors have to be a member of a lender’s solicitor panel in order to act for both you and them during your purchase. If your solicitor is not on their panel you will have to instruct a second solicitor to act for your lender, resulting in a second legal bill for you, and almost certainly unnecessary delay.
How was your first experience of contacting the solicitor?
If you have made an initial enquiry with a firm of solicitors, how was your experience? Did you get speaking to someone quickly? Did they send you information and a legal fee estimate promptly? Did it include all the detail you needed?
Wilson Nesbitt solicitors are recognised as one of the leading Northern Ireland experts in property conveyancing and are on the panels of all the mortgage lenders. We combine years of experience with a modern approach to conveyancing, including the ability for you to track your case online on your mobile device or PC.
Previous instalments of our First Time Buyer Legal Guide