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The legal side of buying and selling a property

Updated on February 1, 2016

In a previous Hub, I have covered the ways in which you can help yourself when it comes to selling your property as well as suggesting going down the route of having an estate agent doing most of the grunt work for you.

However, whilst the estate agent is an option which is recommended but not compulsory, it is a mandatory requirement that all properties that are being bought and sold are done so through the legal route. To that end, you need to get a solicitor to carry out this task for you.

Will any type of solicitor be able to do the job?

For many that are new to selling and buying property, the most common misconception is that any solicitor will be able to carry out the task. However, much like you wouldn’t get a lawyer that specialises in consumer law to get you off the hook in a murder trial, you wouldn’t want to get a criminal solicitor to carry out the legal work for you buying or selling a property.

It should be noted at this time that regardless if you are the buyer or the seller of the property, you must have a solicitor to carry out the legal work for you i.e. each party has a lawyer

What aspects does a conveyancing solicitor get involved in with a property sale?

When you instruct a conveyancing solicitor, they will get involved in various aspects of the sale as highlighted below:

1) The money- Arguably, the most crucial part of the sale revolves around the funds being released. This in itself can be fairly complicated and involves the amalgamating all the funds that are available. In the even that you are the one that is buying the property then you will need to firstly approach a mortgage lender of your choice who will either approve or deny the funds which you are looking to borrow. The lender will then contact your solicitor and pass the funds onto them when the time is right (usually around 48 hours before the sale is finalised to make sure the money is held in their account).
One thing to be careful of though is that some mortgage lenders will only deal with a list of pre-approved conveyancing solicitors so this is something which should be checked out first before you get your solicitor to do a large amount of work for you since this could prove to be costly.

2) Checking the safety of the property- This would involve having a survey undertaken on the property to ensure that there has never been anything untoward in the area. What is meant by this is that the property has not been built over a previously used coal mine which has now been sealed up. It would also involve checking to see if the property has been built on land that has previously been subject to the storage and dispoal of toxic waste. A check would also be made to ensure that the property has not been built over abandoned wells or areas that have previously had free flowing water (such as streams). All three of these situations could potentially be unsafe if the proper precautions have not been taken both at the time of the excavation of the land as well as the actual building of the property.

Having a property in an area such as this may also make it less likely for the bank to lend you money, or even an insurance company insuring the property. Both of these are interconnected whereby the bank doesn’t want to lend money on a property that may be unsafe and therefore you default on the loan, especially when the insurance company won’t pay out on a premium because of the aforementioned issues.

3) Check of ownership- Your conveyancing solicitor will also check to see who actually owns the property in question. This isn’t so much of an issue these days but it previously was one whereby jilted spouses would sell the property under the feet of their partner when they had no right to do so. The end result is that the sale can become extremely messy and cost all parties involved a lot of money.

4) Property issues- Whilst in an ideal world everything would go off without a hitch, sadly this doesn’t always happen. It may be the case that you sell the property and within the first week there are problems with the property. In this case the solicitor would step in to rectify these. These can be minor things such as taps not working etc. However, the solicitor will also be instrumental in cases whereby a buyer has made a false claim in saying that something is wrong with the property and will be able to quickly settle the issues raised. They will also set out the terms of the sale and if either party defaults on these terms it would allow the other party to either pull out of the sale or sue the other for breach of these terms and conditions. Whilst this is a rather extreme example, it is a scenario that does pop up from time to time and your solicitor should be on the ball with this.

Finding a solicitor

Thankfully these days finding a reputable solicitor is as easy as doing a search online with the name of your location and then adding solicitors at the end of it. I.e. ‘Glasgow conveyancing solicitors’ or ‘Leeds Conveyancing solicitors’.

Before you let them do any work, though, let them know what your requirements are and ask them for an estimate of the price of the work. It is essential that this is done at the start since it will avoid any large and unwanted bills at the end of the service. Whilst the estimate may vary from the final price, it should not do so to an excessive amount.

Any reputable solicitor will be part of a governing body or association for their profession, such as the Council for Licensed Conveyancers in the UK. Depending on your location in the world, a similar organisation will exist but under a different name.

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