Buying a Property FAQ’s


Buying a home can be stressful and sometimes confusing. At Bright Solicitors, our team are always on hand to answer any questions you may have about the buying process. Julie Milton, Head of our Residential department, goes through some of the frequently asked questions during the purchase of a property. 

How long will it take?

Until contracts are exchanged the answer to this has to be “we don’t know”. It is impossible to tell how long a sale or purchase will take until all the loose ends are sorted out. 

On average, straightforward transactions take 12 to 16 weeks to reach exchange of contracts. 

You should establish at the outset whether the chain of buyers and sellers is complete and whether all concerned have made satisfactory financial arrangements. 

PLEASE DO NOT make any financial commitments for moving, such as removals and giving notice on any rented property, until contracts have been safely exchanged and a definite completion date agreed. 

Should I have a survey done?

If there is found to be anything wrong with the property after exchange of contracts the seller is not liable and the buyer will have to pay for any necessary repairs. 

If you are arranging a mortgage, a valuer will inspect the property on behalf of the lender. It is not advisable to rely upon the valuation report alone because it does not consider the condition of the property in detail and offers you no protection. It is often possible, for an extra fee, to arrange for the same valuer to carry out a more detailed inspection called a “Home Survey and Valuation Report”, or even a full building survey, if the property is very old or needs extensive repairs or alterations. 

If your mortgage lender does not offer anything other than a valuation or you are not having a mortgage, then we do recommend you speak with a few local surveyors to get some quotes and discuss the level of survey you may need./

What is a Local Authority search?

This is an investigation to find out any important information affecting the property, which may be on the Council’s records. For instance, it may reveal that an extension on the property has been in breach of Building Regulations or that the nearest road is not maintained by the Council. There may be a grant to be repaid, or an enforcement notice that needs to be address and once we have the search results these are things we can then check. The search result will not give any information about proposals affecting neighbouring property For information about the neighbouring land/properties you can contact the Council or an additional planning search would be required and you can request this during the transaction. 

Environment matters

Environmental factors increasingly influence the decisions of purchasers, lenders and insurers. In addition, local authorities can now require property owners to clean up any contamination on their property and this could prove costly. Because of this we carry out an environmental search and will send you a copy of the results with our report to you – this also checks for landfill and flooding. 

Why is a written mortgage offer so important?

Before we commit you to buying the property (by exchanging contracts) we need written confirmation that your lender will provide the funds you require, and upon what terms. There are often many conditions in the mortgage offer that need to be satisfied before funds are released. In addition, you need to be happy with the product you are being offered, and to be able to take advice on it. 

A valid mortgage offer must be received and checked before you can set any completion dates.

Is a deposit really necessary?

When contracts are exchanged, a deposit is paid over to the seller’s conveyancer as a down payment on the property. If the buyer fails to complete the purchase on time, the seller can keep the deposit as part-compensation. A seller will not exchange without a deposit.

The seller’s conveyancer will often ask for at least 10% of the price. A less amount can be negotiated, but this would need to be done early in the transaction and would only be agreed if there were good reason.

What do I do about building insurance?

If your property is a flat then your landlord may insurer the property so this would be checked during the transaction.

A house should be insured by the buyer from exchange of contracts (a brand new property should be insured from completion). Houses should be insured not necessarily for the price paid, but for the estimated cost of rebuilding – this is called the reinstatement value. Sometimes this is much greater than the actual market value. You should be able to arrange buildings insurance online with an insurance company or over the phone, through your mortgage advisor or your lender. 

Your buildings insurance needs to be in place and put in risk on exchange of contracts.

When are the estate agents and conveyancers paid?

If you are selling, the Estate Agents will send their invoice to us after exchange of contracts and we will settle the amount on completion from your proceeds of sale. 

Prior to completion we will require you to provide sufficient funds to settle our fees and any expenses we have incurred on your behalf. 

How do I sort out the keys?

Unless special arrangements are made, the keys are handed over on the completion day by the estate agent in exchange for the purchase monies (the seller having previously handed them to the Estate Agent). If there is no Estate Agent you would need to co-ordinate this directly with the seller. 

Funds are generally transferred in the morning and completion takes place between 12 – 2pm. However, if you are in a chain it may be later in the day and the money needs to filter up the chain.

If you have any further questions, please contact a member of our Residential Department.