Guides to Conveyancing: Buying a Property

What our clients say…

Thank you for dealing so quickly and efficiently with our house completion. I recognise that we asked for a very quick turnaround and throughout you were both very supportive and on the front foot to make that happen. It was a pleasure dealing with you both on the purchase.


The service throughout has been absolutely excellent.

Conveyancing Client

We were very satisfied with the professional service we received.

Conveyancing Client

I would recommend Switalskis to anyone who wants to buy a property. Sarah Cookson was very helpful.

Conveyancing Client

Planning on buying a property and want to know more about how the process works? Find out in our guide…

Before we begin any conveyancing work on your behalf, we will give you an estimate of the costs. We will also ask you to provide proof of your identity and proof of funds. There are a number of parts to the legal work involved in buying a property. This step-by-step guide will take you through the process.

1. The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

You’ll need to obtain an EPC. Anyone selling a property in England and Wales must have one available for prospective buyers.

With your input, we will complete the remaining legal work on your behalf.

2. Checking the Paperwork

The seller’s solicitors are responsible for preparing the legal paperwork relating to the property you are buying. We will request the Pre-Contract Package from them – this includes official copies of the seller’s title, the draft contract, and a complete seller’s property information form and fixtures & fittings list. When we receive the pack, we check everything is in order. We also check for anything that will affect the property (restrictions or other matters) and advise you of them.

3. Searches

Depending on the location of the property and the requirements of your mortgage lender, we may undertake a number of different searches relating to the property:

Local Search

This search is nearly always necessary. It is conducted with the Local Authority and looks into matters like planning permissions, environmental health matters, compulsory purchase orders, tree preservation orders, highways and roads proposals, and enforcements. This will only reveal matters related to the specific property you are buying. We do not normally undertake searches regarding other properties in the area, however you may wish us to undertake a plan search, which will reveal any planning applications and land usage policies for the neighbouring properties and the surrounding area.

Water Search

This search is often a requirement of lenders and is undertaken where the Local Search does not contain information regarding the property’s drainage arrangements, or if there is a doubt about the property’s connection to mains drainage and sewers.

Environmental Search

This search may be necessary in order to check whether the property you are buying could be affected by things like subsidence, flooding or landslide. It also provides information on matters like contaminated sites, air quality, and landfill and waste sites in the vicinity of the property. In some cases, an environmental search could be invaluable. When a Local Authority identifies a contaminated site, it can demand that action be taken to decontaminate it. Whilst liability primarily falls on the party that caused the contamination, if they cannot be found, the burden often falls on the current owner of the land. Compliance with the Local Authority’s requirements can be expensive and the costs can exceed the value of the property.

Railways, Telecommunications, Electricity, Gas and other similar searches

This search is useful where telecoms companies, electricity companies, Railtrack, Transco and other companies have equipment running through or near the property. It is conducted with the companies themselves. The search will show any rights of access, or other obligations affecting the property.

Flood Plain and Landfill Search

These searches are conducted with the Environment Agency based on the postcode of the property and indicate the proximity to the property of flood plains or landfill sites.

Plan Search

This search gives information on planning applications and land usage policies for both the property itself and the surrounding area. It therefore goes much further than a Local Authority search. The kind of information revealed by a plan search can be extremely useful as it could, for example, show a planning application relating to a neighbouring property or vacant area of land which, should it be approved, could affect the value of the property you are purchasing. You should advise us if you wish us to undertake a plan search as we would not normally do this unless requested.

Coal Mining Search

This search is relevant in coal mining areas, like parts of West Yorkshire. It is a paper-based report and does not involve physical inspection of the property. Your mortgage lender may request this search if the property is in an area where there is or has been coal mining. You should let us know if you believe the property you are purchasing lies in an area that may be affected by coal mining.

4. Checking Planning Permission and Building Regulations

If you know, or think, that the property you are buying has been altered or extended in any way, you should let us know so that we can check and ensure that the correct planning permission and building regulations were obtained at the time, and that there is no breach of any restriction.

5. Checking your Mortgage Offer

You will receive a written confirmation of your mortgage offer from your lender. We will also need to receive a copy of the mortgage offer and any special instructions your lender makes before you can exchange contracts. You should ensure that over and above your mortgage you will have enough money to cover legal fees, stamp duty (if it is payable on the property you are buying), Land Registry fees and VAT.

6. The Survey

It will be a requirement of your lender that there is a survey undertaken on the property you are buying. You may be aware that there are different kinds of survey and be unsure of which kind of survey you should request. A description of different surveys is below:

A Valuation

A valuation is is not really a survey, but rather an inspection of the property at a very limited level. Its purpose is to confirm to the lender that the value of the property is at least equal to the value of the mortgage.

A Homebuyer’s Report and Valuation

Sometimes called a ‘valuation and survey’, a homebuyer’s report and valuation will give information on both the value of the property and the property’s state of repair and general condition. It is a very broad report and will not give advice on remedial work necessary to repair any defects in the property.

A Building Survey

This is a comprehensive and detailed investigation of the property and goes into much more detail than the homebuyer’s report. The surveyor will present a written report which records the construction and materials used, appraises the condition of the building and advises on any repairs or modifications necessary to modify any defects. This type of survey is suitable for older, larger properties and non-standard buildings (for example residential properties that were once used for other purposes). Because of the level of detail, it is more expensive than a simple survey.

Which kind of survey should you undertake?

The choice of survey is yours, but you should always bear in mind the risks involved in buying property: if the property you buy does have any defects, it is not likely that you will have any comeback against the seller. We would recommend you at least have a homebuyer’s report and valuation as this will highlight any obvious defects in the property. You could use your lender’s surveyor for this – if so, you should advise your lender that you wish to do so.

Alternatively, you could commission your own independent survey. If you decide to do this, you will still have to pay for the lender’s valuation, but there are advantages in having an independent survey completed, not least of which is that the independent surveyor’s report will not have any bearing on your mortgage offer. By contrast, where your lender’s surveyor finds defects, it is very likely that quickly rectifying these defects will be a condition of your mortgage – your lender may even retain a portion of your loan until the work has been completed.

7. Signing the Contract and other documentation

You will be asked to sign the contract, the mortgage deed and the stamp duty land transaction return. Once this paperwork has been completed and your deposit has been received (see below), we can exchange contracts with the seller’s solicitor, making the purchase legally binding. Once contracts are exchanged, we can begin preparing the final account and contact your lender to request the mortgage advance.

8. The Deposit

A deposit payment is payable at the exchange of contracts, even if you are borrowing most or even 100% of the payment from a mortgage lender. The procedure varies depending on whether you are only buying or buying and selling at the same time.

Buying only

If you are only buying, you should consider this at an early stage as your mortgage funds will not be released by your lender until completion. Usually, you would be expected to pay a deposit of 10% of the purchase price, although this is sometimes reduced if you have a 95% or 100% mortgage.

Buying and Selling at the same time

Effectively, you will not be asked to pay an extra deposit at exchange of contracts, as we would generally pass the sale deposit on to your seller’s solicitors, even if this is not equal to 10% of the purchase price. You would only need to pay the whole 10% in the event that you withdraw from the deal and were therefore in breach of contract as this would be compensation for the seller.

9. Buildings Insurance

You should arrange buildings insurance from the time of exchange of contracts, as sellers are within their rights to cancel their insurance policy on the property from this point. You may have arranged for buildings insurance to be provided by your mortgage lender – if so, your lender will take care of this for you. If you are buying brand new home, the builder will insure the property until the time of completion, so you need not start an insurance policy before the completion date.

10. Completion

The completion date is the date that you can pick up the keys to your new home and move in. Whilst you will probably be anxious to move toward this date, it is important that to avoid disappointment you do not make any commitments, such as booking a removal service, until the completion date has been fixed. We will advise you as soon as we are at a stage where the completion date can be arranged.

On the completion date, we will transfer the balance of the purchase price and the seller’s solicitor will forward the title deeds in return.

Stamp duty is then paid, if applicable. Then, we will arrange to register the transfer of title with the Land Registry and, once the title is registered, arrange for the original document to be sent to your mortgage lender. This is the end of the conveyancing process.

Recognition for our Residential Conveyancing team

  • LFS Conveyancing Awards	2016 - Highly Commended - Regional Conveyancer of the Year
  • LFS Conveyancing Awards	2015 - Highly Commended - Regional Conveyancer of the Year

What our clients say…

Thank you for dealing so quickly and efficiently with our house completion. I recognise that we asked for a very quick turnaround and throughout you were both very supportive and on the front foot to make that happen. It was a pleasure dealing with you both on the purchase.


I would recommend Switalskis to anyone who wants to buy a property. Sarah Cookson was very helpful.

Conveyancing Client

Residential Conveyancing News