Conveyancing Checklist For Property Purchase

When you are using a conveyancer for the purchase of a property you may be forgiven for thinking that you are able to leave the whole thing in his or her hands; to a certain extent you are right, but you should remember that ultimately it is your purchase and there are certain things for which you must still take responsibility. This is more important these days since it is likely your conveyancer will never actually see the property and may not be from the area.

You must consider such things as is the property suitable for the purpose for which you intend using it, do the boundaries on the ground match those on the title plans, does the property appear to have been altered or extended and have you entered into any agreements of any kind with the seller that your conveyancer may not know about? The key thing is to read and understand any information your conveyancer provides and discuss anything which is not completely clear. Avoid accepting advice second hand via an estate agent or mortgage broker. These people are not legal experts and sometimes misinterpret what they are told.

Property Purchase Checklist

There is a lot to do when buying a property and to ensure that important points are not overlooked it can be helpful to have a checklist to work from. The list below is an example, though as is the case with this entire article it is given without prejudice and neither the author nor the publisher warrant that it is exhaustive. After the list we will examine some of the points in more detail:

  • Discuss any preferred completion dates or deadlines with your conveyancer in advance;
  • Explain to your conveyancer the reason you are buying the property and check that there is nothing in the title which might affect your enjoyment or use
  • Ask for an outline of the conveyancing process and what you will be required to do at various stages;
  • Ensure that you receive a copy of the title plan for the property (which shows the approximate boundaries) and check that it agrees with the position on the ground;
  • Consider whether the property appears to have been altered or extended in the past and if so inform your conveyancer;
  • Ask for copies of any covenants or restrictions that affect the property and check they will not interfere with your enjoyment of it;
  • Discuss with your conveyancer any arrangements or agreements which you have reached with the seller;
  • Check the contract prior to signing and ask your conveyancer to explain any terms you don’t understand;
  • Inspect the property properly and at the three key stages.

Discuss Completion Dates With Your Conveyancer

As a buyer you will often have a date in mind by which you would like to complete, or at least an idea of a timescale. You should discuss this with your conveyancer at the outset so that he can take steps to ensure or any deadlines are met, or at least advise you on whether your deadlines are realistic. Sometimes they will not be but it is better that your expectations are set at an early stage.

Explain Your Reasons for the Purchase to Your Conveyancer

This might seem silly, most of the time you will be buying the property to live in after all. What we mean though is, think about why you are buying this particular property. Do you intend to extend it for example? If so you will be interested to know whether it is a listed building or in a conservation area or whether there are any local planning restrictions. You might want your conveyancer to perform a plan search to see if other properties in the area have applied for a similar permission and what the outcome was.

Does the property has a particular attractive view over some open fields and was this a factor in your decision? If so you’ll want to know whether any development is planned which could obstruct that view. Do you intend to let the property either now or in future and are there any restrictions on letting?

Make a list of the main reasons you were attracted to the property and discuss them with your conveyancer.

Ask For an Outline of the Conveyancing Process

It’s important that you understand the conveyancing process and that you know what will be expected of you and approximately when as this will enable you to plan the transaction so that delays are not caused because you are, say, not available to sign a document.

Check That the Title Plan Matches the Boundary on the Ground

Your conveyancer will not generally visit the property. At most he will see the pictures from the estate agent’s particulars. It is therefore your responsibility to visit the property, armed with a plan, and check that the boundaries on the plan match the position on the ground. If you note that any part of the property appears to be outside the boundary you must report this to your conveyancer immediately so that he can investigate. The title plan is not intended to be 100% accurate however in most cases it should be a good approximation.

Has the Property Been Altered in the Past?

Your conveyancer will ask the seller if he is aware of the property having been altered or extended in the past however nonetheless if you see any evidence that it has (there might be a section with different coloured brickwork, a loft conversion or you may

know from viewing other properties that the internal layout of this one is different) you should mention it to your conveyancer.

Past alterations have a number of implications. It may be that planning permission or building regulations approval would have been required in which case you conveyancer needs to investigate whether it was obtained, or arrange indemnity insurance as the case may be. If you intend to extend in future you may find that because of past extensions mean your proposed work is not permitted development and needs planning permission, or even that planning permission is refused because the council take the view that it has already been extended to the maximum extent permitted.

Ask For Copies of Any Covenants or Restrictions Affecting the Property

Restrictive covenants are restrictions placed on the way in which a property can be used. They are usually imposed by the original landowner such as the Lord of the Manor, or by the developer who built the estate. They may limit such things as your ability to develop the property, to use it for commercial purposes, build a shed, keep pigeons or perhaps park a caravan in the drive.

If the property is a flat there may be a restriction on letting or you may not be able to keep certain types of pets (or indeed any pets).

There may also be positive covenants which require you to do something such as maintain a shared driveway or contribute to the costs of maintaining a green.

You need to be sure that you are fully aware of all your obligations and that these will not adversely affect your enjoyment of the property.

Discuss With Your Conveyancer Any Arrangements You Have Made With Your Seller

Buyers and sellers tend to make all sorts of private arrangements without taking advice from their respective conveyancers, some which are fine and others which are ill-advised. You might arrange to move in prior to exchange or completion or agree to allow the seller to stay on afterwards, or you may agree some sort of cashback.

You might decide to pay a portion of the purchase price upfront and/or pay it directly to the seller. Often you will agree to pay an additional sum for fixtures and fittings. Any such or similar arrangements should be discussed with your conveyancer at an early stage so you can be properly advised on any legal implications.

Check the Contract Prior to Signing

This sounds incredibly obvious but it is surprising how many people do not. First and foremost, check that the purchase price is correct. Second, read any conditions (known as “special conditions”) which are attached. If there is anything that you do not understand ask your conveyancer to explain how it will affect you.

Inspect the Property at the Three Key Stages

When you buy a property, unless the standard conditions of sale are varied (and they sometimes are) then you as the purchaser accept in whatever condition it is in on exchange and the seller warrants that it will be in the same condition on completion as on exchange (except for fair wear and tear).

It is important therefore to perform a full inspection. This includes opening all doors and windows, looking in all cupboards and checking the loft and cellar, turning on taps and testing the hot water and heating. At least three inspections ought to be performed, one before making an offer to establish any repairs that are required, another just before exchange to establish if there has been any damage or deterioration in the intervening period and a final inspection on the day of completion to check that the property is in the same state on completion as it was on exchange. If possible this last inspection should be carried out before completion takes place, though this is not always practical.

These inspections are in addition to professional surveys and inspections which will be discussed in future articles.

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