Army&You quizzed Andrew Garvie (pictured below), of JMW Solicitors, about conveyancing – the legal side to buying a house…

CONVEYANCING2What role does a solicitor have in the conveyancing process?

Your solicitor will be looking after your interests in the house buying process and also those of your mortgage lender if you are borrowing money. The main things your solicitor will concentrate on are the contract and the title deeds, as well as the searches on the property such as who maintains the roads, information on the drainage and a search to check on any potential land contamination or flood issues.

The solicitor will also be there to drawdown the mortgage and to register the deeds into your name.

What should I look for in a solicitor?

Your solicitor should be someone you can relate to and help you along the way with easy-to-understand steps.

Other than getting value for money, you will want to choose a solicitor that has experience and understanding as there can be so many scenarios that get thrown up for you along the way.

What are some of the common issues you come across?

The main issues are the uncertainties when you are in a chain as you aren’t in control of some aspects of the move.

If you are buying or selling and there is no-one else involved other than the party on the other side, this can simplify matters. There are, however, plenty of transactions with long chains that go through without any hitch. Learn to be flexible on dates and you will be fine!

How long does the process take?

A typical purchase or sale may take six-to-eight weeks if there are no undue issues thrown up and you get your survey and mortgage without difficulties.

Should I expect a hefty bill for conveyancing?

The average conveyancing charges are between £500 and £1,500.

Rather than being based on a percentage of the property costs, the legal fees will be several hundred pounds but there will be searches and land registry fees to pay.

If you are buying a property over £125,000 in value, stamp duty will be payable calculated in bands. Your solicitor can quote for that too so you know in advance what you will be paying and can budget for this.

Does having a partner in the Army or being a soldier myself present any problems?

If you have time off this is ideal, but when the home-buying process takes a number of weeks you can expect to liaise by post or email.

It would be good practice to provide your solicitor with an authority that they can deal with either of you if the other is away. There will be documents you need to sign such as the mortgage deed. If you are buying jointly, your solicitor will tell you about the different ways you can hold a property in terms of the shares you own and what happens if one of you dies. The options include the property passing from one to the other automatically and you each having a half share (known as holding as joint tenants) or you can opt to have your share go in accordance with your estate on death.

What if I’m overseas? Can I instruct my solicitor from abroad?

Your solicitor will need to confirm your identity and this can be done by providing a passport/driving licence or Armed Forces identity card.

If you are abroad then a copy may suffice, but your solicitor may be able to do an electronic ID check which will help make things easier.

Can I get away without using a solicitor?

In my experience, transactions involving a non-qualified person do not go well. For the sake of a few hundred pounds, having the peace of mind and knowhow of a solicitor is worthwhile.

If you are buying a property with a mortgage you will need a lawyer to represent the lender. On a sale, you will also need a solicitor to handle the discharge of the mortgage as any buyer would want the security of knowing that the mortgage has been paid off.

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