- RESIDENTIAL CONVEYANCING
Taking the stress out of the conveyancing process
Anyone who has ever moved home knows it can be an emotional roller-coaster: up one minute and down the next.
Our focus at KWW is to help make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible and preserve the sanity of our clients! You only have to read our Google reviews to see how well our conveyancing team performs in keeping things calm and positive.
KWW can help with all the legal aspects of residential property, from the conveyancing process required for buying and selling, freehold and leasehold, to a variety of other residential property-related services.
Our experienced team delivers the highest quality service and advice, and as a firm we hold the prized Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation, a recognised standard for residential conveyancing issued by the Law Society.
Calm efficiency is the secret of a smooth transaction
We use the latest back office technology to make things quicker and more efficient. But we never forget it’s the personal touch that really makes the difference.
We put a lot of emphasis on communication throughout the process, keeping everyone in the loop: the client, the estate agent and the solicitors on the other side of the transaction.
We will work as quickly as we can without compromising the integrity of the process, always looking out for your best interests in what will almost certainly be one of the most important transactions of your life.
Get yourself Contract Ready ahead of selling your property
Not everyone wants to be in a rush to move home, but for some, speed is most definitely a factor, especially when there’s an important date on the horizon.
So, if the home you are looking to sell comes with the added attraction of being ready and primed for exchange of contracts, then you have just given yourself a huge marketing advantage.
By getting your property contract-ready, you will make it more desirable to buyers and accelerate the home-selling process without incurring additional costs. You can specify if you want to take advantage of our Contract Ready service when you are completing your custom quote.
– WANT TO KNOW MORE?
A deeper dive for those who have more questions
A critical element of any property transaction is selecting the right solicitor at an early stage, says Salv Sole, head of KWW’s property division.
Traditionally, the legal work necessary for transferring ownership of a property is carried out by specialist conveyancing lawyers who have undergone several years of rigorous training.
A specialist conveyancer with local knowledge can help you keep your transaction on track and avoid expensive pitfalls. They will know about issues particular to your location, which may not be apparent to someone working hundreds of miles away and relying on a generic checklist.
Most important though, having a dedicated conveyancer who knows you, and your transaction, personally can take a lot of the pressure out of moving house. They will be familiar with local estate agents and other solicitors in the area, so will be well placed to deal with any unexpected issues as they arise. This can be particularly beneficial if your sale or purchase forms part of a chain of linked transactions.
Many conventional firms have also positively embraced technology, accessing services online, using case management systems, and minimising turnaround times. Price transparency is now a requirement of all solicitors’ firms, who should also publish details of typical timescales and details of the qualifications and experience of their staff. A local solicitor can provide a service which is as modern and efficient as their online counterpart but more personalised.
Ultimately, choosing your conveyancer is a very personal matter. However, before making a decision, speak to the person who will be responsible for your sale or purchase, and do not be afraid to ask questions.
What are their qualifications? How experienced are they, will they be dedicated to your transaction, or will you have to deal with many different case workers? How easy will they be to contact? Most important, ask yourself how confident you are that they will really look after the biggest purchase of your life.
There are a number of key things to look for when deciding which firm to use.
To name a few:
- Is the firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or other licensed body?
- Has the firm provided you with a clear indication of costs?
- Has the firm been awarded the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation from the Law Society?
Choose a firm that has a good reputation, is experienced and has qualified lawyers and, most important, a firm you feel comfortable dealing with.
Sarah Trickey, our head of residential conveyancing, answers some typical questions about the conveyancing process
Why do we need to go through so many checks?
The Proceeds of Crime Act places all solicitors under extremely strict rules to ensure criminals and terrorists do not try to use us as a way to launder money derived from criminal activities.
One of the ways we do this is by being absolutely certain who we are acting for and precisely what the purpose of any transaction is.
When acting for you we are required by law to check your identity and we may also wish to confirm information about your credit status. To verify the information you provide, we may make searches about you with a credit reference or fraud prevention agency; this will include information from the Electoral Roll.
The agencies will record the details of the search and other organisations may share these searches to prevent fraud and money laundering. Scoring methods may be used as part of this process.
What documents will I need to prove my identity?
We will ask you to supply original documents as confirmation of your identity, address or both which we will use along with any electronic checks we perform. Any documents provided to us will be recorded and copied for audit purposes as part of our Anti-Money Laundering requirements.
Suitable items for the proof of identity could be a current passport or driving licence, and for the address, a utility bill, council tax bill or bank statement that is no more than three months old.
We may also require supporting evidence of the source of any money involved, for example bank or building society documents, and full details of any third party to whom you may instruct us to send funds.
Why can’t we deal with everything via telephone and email?
Email and telephone are great ways of dealing with your solicitor throughout a transaction but they can’t be used for every stage in the transaction. Legal documents such as contracts and transfers still have to be signed by hand. In some cases, these documents need to be witnessed.
Many conveyancing transactions are time-pressured, so a quick visit to your solicitor to sign can help you achieve your desired completion date.
Once you have your offer accepted, it’s time to get the ball rolling on legally transferring the ownership to you.
The purchase pack is the initial documentation, containing terms and conditions and the client information questionnaire. Once you have appointed us, we send this to you straight away. We ask you to return the completed pack to us together with your identification documentation. When it is all received, we start the legal work.
Memorandum of Sale
Your estate agents (if applicable) will send us a copy of the Memorandum of Sale, which provides the details of the property, the amount offered and the name of the sellers and buyers and their conveyancers.
We will need to know if you are purchasing with the aid of a mortgage and, if so, who the lender is and how much you are borrowing. We will want to check if there is any element of the purchase that we are legally bound to report to your lender, for example if you receiving funds as a gift or loan from a third party, typically a family member.
The seller will complete a fixtures, fittings and contents form and provide specific details about the property. You will need to check the details and inform us if there is anything that needs clarifying.
Arrange a Surveyor
We recommend carrying out a full structural survey for the property. You should not rely on the valuation report issued by the lender’s surveyor as it is very basic and is produced for your benefit.
We will request searches which will include Local Authority Search, Environmental Search, Planning and Water and Drainage Search which are standard searches. If there is a particular search you would like carried, for example Crossrail or HS2 or a specific infrastructure matter, we will do that for you. See the story opposite for more about searches.
We will examine the documents provided and raise enquiries with the seller’s conveyancer before sending you a legal report. This will contain information about the title to the property and a preliminary draft of the contract and transfer for you to sign.
You should read the contract carefully, sign it and return it to us. The transfer is the legal document which both seller and buyer sign to transfer the ownership of the property. This must be signed in the presence of an independent adult (18+) witness. The original should be sent back to us. We will also report to you with the Mortgage Offer (if applicable) and will send you the Mortgage Deed for your signatures. The Mortgage Deed also should be signed in the presence of an independent adult witness.
Once you are happy with the searches and enquiries, we will require the deposit funds to proceed to exchange of contracts. This is normally 10% of the purchase price. We will account to you after exchange of contracts with a financial statement that shows the funds you have paid, the mortgage funds, Stamp Duty and professional fees and disbursements.
If you are buying and selling simultaneously, we would normally use the deposit received from your purchaser to pass on to your seller and, if required, will request the additional funds from you.
It’s important to have buildings insurance in place by the exchange date. This will be a condition of your mortgage lender and will protect your investment in the property and your mortgage lender’s interest as well.
Exchange of Contracts
When the contracts have been exchanged, both seller and buyer are contractually bound to complete on the agreed completion date. The conveyancers usually exchange contracts over the telephone and then send the completed signed contracts by post.
Exchanging contracts by your conveyancer legally binds both parties to transferring the property, so you can rest assured the seller must vacate on the day of completion. Mortgage monies will be requested from your lender and the paperwork will be collated in readiness for completion.
On the agreed day of completion, we will send the outstanding balance of the purchase price which you have provided to us, including the money received from your mortgage lender, to the seller’s conveyancer by telegraphic transfer. As soon as they receive the monies, they will inform us and the estate agents and the keys can be released. The property will then be legally yours.
Application Land Registry
Once completion has been confirmed, we will pay stamp duty land tax on your behalf. We will also make an application to Land Registry with the change of ownership form called the Transfer Document signed by the vendor.
Once Land Registry has processed the application, you will receive a copy of the title information document showing you as owner. This usually takes a few weeks, slightly longer if the property is a new-build.
We offer some basic advice on the steps you can be taking to ease the sale of your property.
Clean & Tidy
De-cluttering is key to making your home more attractive to potential buyers. Put your excess stuff in storage or give it away to charity. Don’t be tempted to depersonalise too much though, as buyers are looking for a home not a hotel room. Cleanliness is really important. Tidy your garden and, if your home is looking shabby, deep clean it and give it a lick of paint if required
Once you have your home in a saleable state, ask friends to recommend an estate agent. We have some great estate agents in our part of the world and would always recommend you deal with someone who knows the area.
Check each agency’s credentials (estate agents now have to be members of The Property Ombudsman or The Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme) and consider opting for one which is also a member of a trade association such as the Guild of Professional Estate Agents or the National Association of Estate Agents – such membership means they will have to abide by a code of conduct.
Ask at least three estate agents to value your home before deciding on one.
Ensure you check the small print before you sign up to find out how much the commission will be, what the tie-in requirements are, how your property will be advertised and who will handle viewings.
If you think that there might be any legal issues that could complicate your sale – such as a boundary dispute or a problem with a planning permission – then you should speak to us as soon as possible so that we can advise on a solution.
Complete the property forms early on
The seller’s lawyer kicks off the process, and things will not progress until an initial set of documents has been sent to the buyer. These documents are often called a Contract Pack and they include title documentation, a draft contract and completed property forms. For the transaction, the buyer will rely entirely on the Contract Pack, so we strongly recommend sellers complete them, even before a buyer is found.
Other information about your property
If there is any additional information that is mentioned in the property information forms – for example, building or planning consents, guarantees and certificates – then sellers should gather these together at the earliest opportunity.
If you think you have misplaced any important documents, try to get copies if you can recall the relevant providers. The more complete the information provided in the property forms, the fewer the number of enquiries from the buyer’s solicitor.
Have you made alterations to the property?
If you have had alterations or repairs carried out to your property which would have required local authority approval but you do not have the necessary consents, advise us immediately.
When it comes to choosing a new home, your future surroundings can be as important as the building itself.
When you are buying a property, your solicitor will carry out a standard local authority search. This includes a search of the local land charges register. The results will include details of any planning applications which affect a specific property at the time of the search.
However, they will not give you any information about planning applications, or consents, which relate to neighbouring properties.
This basic local authority search effectively forms part of a standard conveyancing checklist. A good solicitor should recognise what makes you, and your purchase, unique. Rather than treating the local authority search as largely a box ticking exercise, they may suggest additional searches and enquiries. These could give you more information about likely planning and development changes, which could influence your decision to purchase.
Concerns over a wider area may need additional enquiries
Your solicitor may recommend a plan search. This is a detailed planning search which will reveal existing consents or applications relating to nearby properties, usually within a 250 meters radius of the property you are buying. So, it should, for example, tell you if your prospective neighbour has permission to build an overbearing extension. Or if a high-density housing development is planned for those open fields, the views over which ‘sold’ the property to you.
If you instruct someone like KWW, a specialist local solicitor, you will also have the benefit of their unique insight into the area.
Safeguarding your purchase
If you have any specific concerns about the property you are buying, you can discuss these with us early on. We can then tailor our searches and enquiries to best reflect your requirements. For example, if a view is important to you, we can check whether there are any plans to develop on neighbouring land that would spoil it.
It is important to appreciate that any search will only provide a snapshot in time. Because there is no plan to develop land at the point you buy your home, it does not mean an application to do so may not be made in the future.
With a freehold, you own your home outright. In contrast, a leasehold interest only gives you the right to your home for a certain number of years, called a term. You have a continuing, contractual relationship with a landlord to whom the property will revert at the end of the term. Generally, this means you have less control than if you owned a freehold property.
Most flats have traditionally been created as leaseholds. This makes sense because it allows reciprocal obligations to be enforced and for costs to be shared, but some unscrupulous landlords abuse the system. Moreover, some new houses may have been sold as leasehold simply to create an additional revenue stream for the developer which they sell on to investors.
Escalating ground rents
As a leaseholder, you will have to pay your landlord ground rent for the right to occupy their land. Historically, this has been a small, or purely nominal, amount. However, in recent years, the market has seen a rise in the average level of ground rents as they have become an investment vehicle rather than just a way of acknowledging a landlord’s interest.
Most leases include a provision to increase the ground rent at fixed intervals, often a stepped rise or in line with inflation. You need to beware as some provide for the amount to increase exponentially. In these cases, the initial sum may appear relatively small but over time they increase dramatically, reducing the value and marketability of your home.
Expensive service charges
A service charge is a way of ensuring that all leaseholders in a building contribute to the cost of its maintenance, and the provision of any shared facilities like car parks or communal gardens. The lease should also set out clearly which services the landlord must provide. Many leaseholders complain about the lack of control over the services they receive and the difficulty in challenging their cost and quality.
The cost of getting consents
A lease will restrict how you may use your property. It will also probably require you to apply for your landlord’s consent in certain circumstances, for example if you want to make structural alterations. In many cases, the landlord must not withhold consent unreasonably, and can only recover reasonable costs for dealing with your application. However, these costs could still be much higher than you expect, and the process of obtaining consent can be time consuming and stressful.
A lease is a wasting asset
Unlike a freehold, a lease is also a depreciating asset. Basically, the shorter the length of term left on your lease, the less it is worth. This may cause issues as the term reduces. Mortgage lenders will require a minimum length of term left on a lease before accepting it as security for a loan, and a shorter term is likely to make your property harder to sell.
You may not own as much as you think you do
A lease should set out precisely what you own. Unfortunately, the description of the extent of the property included in a lease is often complex and sometimes unclear. This can cause problems, particularly if there is an issue over who is liable for a structural repair, or if you want to extend your home.
Your solicitor can help
There is no need to discount a property just because it is leasehold – just make sure that you seek expert legal advice.
KWW has lots of experience in leasehold conveyancing. We can check the lease provisions to ensure the ground rent and service charge are reasonable, and that there are no other onerous provisions which could catch you out later.
We will also make pre-contract enquiries, which can give you important information about how the building, and any common parts, are managed. These should also reveal whether there are any proposed major works planned, which would result in a higher service charge after your purchase.
If there are potential issues, we will explain these and may be able to offer some creative solutions. For example, if the term is short, we can advise you on any legal right to extend the lease, and how you can minimise risk by requiring your seller to initiate the process before you commit yourself to the purchase.
As you may or should know, the legal title to your flat is leasehold. Essentially, you own the right to live in your flat but not the building itself. It’s a harsh fact of property life that as the lease of your flat becomes shorter, so it becomes less valuable.
As the remaining term of your lease becomes shorter, prospective purchasers of your flat are likely to be put off because the lease is so short and/or because they cannot find a lender prepared to lend on security of a short lease.
The shorter the lease, the more expensive it is to extend, and if it’s below 80 years your landlord is entitled to what is known as a ‘marriage value’ bonus. Marriage value is the amount of extra value a lease extension would add to your property, as calculated by a surveyor. Once the lease falls below 80 years remaining, you must pay 50% of that value on top of the usual lease extension price.
Even if you have let your lease fall below 80 years, it makes sense to extend it as the cost of the lease extension will increase exponentially over time.
You have to satisfy only two criteria to be able to extend your lease: You need to have owned the property for more than two years and the original lease term needs have been longer than 21 years. If you are purchasing a flat it is possible for the seller to serve a formal notice on the landlord then transfer the benefit of the claim to yourself. You can then proceed with the lease extension rather than waiting two years.
By law, you are entitled to a 90-year lease extension on top of your current term but your freeholder may agree to a different term. Additionally, your ground rent is reduced to nil.
If you choose to embark on a lease extension and appoint KWW Solicitors, we will liaise with a qualified surveyor on value and then serve a statutory notice on your freeholder, setting out the amount you are willing to pay for the lease extension and giving a date by which the other party must respond by way of a counter-notice. As a leaseholder, you have to pay the freeholder’s valuation and legal costs, as well as your own.
Once the counter-notice is received, KWW Solicitors will check with the valuation surveyor that the freeholder’s cost of extension is reasonable. If there is a dispute, the valuation surveyor will negotiate on your behalf. If no compromise with the freeholder is reached, the dispute is resolved at a tribunal.
The best way to remove any anxiety about leases is to purchase the freehold of your block of flats. This gives you the ability to extend the term of your lease to 999 years, making it more valuable and easier to sell.
Leaseholders must pay ground rent and service charges to their landlord. Service charges can be quite high and are often a sore point. Owning the freehold gives you the option to take over the management of the building. You may also take over management of the building without buying the freehold (Right To Manage).
To be able to buy the freehold you need to float the idea with other leaseholders in your block and at least 50% of the flat owners must agree to the purchase.
If there is insufficient interest and you still want to extend the length of your lease, you should be able to secure an individual lease extension (see opposite page).
It’s essential for the participating leaseholders to sign an agreement that commits them to participation in the process. The participating leaseholders will then sign a formal document called an Initial Notice, which sets out basic details of the participants and the price they are willing to pay. This starts the formal process.
The price you pay to the freeholder will depend on a number of factors, including the market value of the flats, the number of years left on the leases and the number of flats which participate.
As with the process for a lease extension, if terms for the purchase of the freehold cannot be agreed with the freeholder, then an application may be made to the First Tier Tribunal to determine the price to be paid for the acquisition of the freehold.
– OUR RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY CHARGES
We have set out a guide to our pricing to give you a general idea of what costs might be involved across the range of property-related services we provide
The fee we give our client at the outset is the cost they need to pay.
Our quote will include the details of the payments that will have to be made to other bodies on your behalf (disbursements), for example Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty) and Land Registry fees.
We will supply you with a personalised estimate but as a guide the fees start from £1,195 +VAT. On top, we charge the following:
- Drafting and submitting the Stamp Duty Land Tax return – £100 + VAT
- Arranging the transfer of monies on completion – £35 + VAT
- Client verification administration – £90 + VAT
- Local Authority Search (varies) – circa £150 + VAT
- Drainage & Water Search* (freehold properties only – cost varies but Thames Water for example) – £59.47 + VAT
- Ground Sure Home Buyers Report (environmental searches including flood data) – £59 + VAT
- Chancel Indemnity Policy – £12.22
- Index Map search – £4 + VAT
- Bankruptcy search – £2 + VAT per buyer
- Land Registry pre-completion search – £3 + VAT
- HM Land Registry fee – Anywhere between £20 and £500 depending on the value of the property.
These fees may be subject to change if further information relating to your property is required.
Additional anticipated Disbursements: Leasehold Properties
There are certain disbursements which will be set out in the individual lease relating to the property. The disbursements we anticipate will apply are set out below.
This list is not exhaustive and other disbursements may apply depending on the terms of the lease. We will update you on specific fees upon receipt and review of the lease from the seller’s solicitors.
- Notice of Transfer fee (if chargeable) is set out in the lease – approx. range £30 to £90
- Notice of Charge fee (if property is to be mortgaged – approx. range £30 to £90
- Deed of Covenant fee (provided by the management company for the property and often difficult to estimate – anywhere between £75 and £250
- Certificate of Compliance fee (to be completed upon receipt of the lease) – approx. £75 to £150
Fees vary from property to property and can sometimes be much more than the ranges set out above. We can give you an accurate figure once we have sight of your specific documents.
You should also be aware that ground rent and service charges are likely to apply throughout your ownership of the property. We will confirm the ground rent and the anticipated service charge when we receive this information.
Stamp Duty Land Tax
This will depend on the purchase price of your property. You can calculate the amount you will need to pay by using HMRC’s website
We do not undertake tax advice.
Other cost factors
There may be factors which would typically increase the cost of the fees estimated above. Where there is likely to be any additional cost, we will inform you at the earliest opportunity and a clear estimate of those extra costs will be provided.
Factors that may lead to an increase in cost include:
- If a legal title is defective or part of the property is unregistered
- If you discover building regulations or planning permission has not been obtained
- If crucial documents, we have previously requested from you have not been provided to us
- If the property is a new-build
- If the property is less than 10 years old
- If you require to exchange within six weeks of instructing us
- If you require completion within six weeks of instructing us
- If you require simultaneous exchange and completion.
Our leasehold property fee assumes:
- This is the assignment of an existing lease and is not the grant of a new lease
- The transaction is concluded in a timely manner and no unforeseen complication arise
- All parties to the transaction are co-operative and there is no unreasonable delay from third parties providing documentation
- No indemnity policies are required. Additional disbursements may apply if indemnity policies are required.
Our fees cover all the work required to complete the sale of your current property. Each transaction is different and we will supply you with a personalised estimate.
As a guide, our fees start from £1,095 + VAT. In addition, we charge £35 + VAT for arranging the transfer of monies on completion through the banking system, £90 + VAT for client verification administration, including anti-money laundering and £18 (no VAT) for HM Land Registry copies.
The cost for obtaining Office Copy Entries from the Land Registry is £6 plus VAT and a further £3 plus VAT per document to obtain any other documents relating to the Title.
We do not undertake tax advice.
Other cost factors
There may be factors which would typically increase the cost of the fees estimated above.
Where there is likely to be any additional cost, we will make sure you are informed at the earliest opportunity and provide a clear estimate of those extra costs. Factors that may lead to an increase in cost include:
- If a legal title is defective or part of the property is unregistered
- If crucial documents we have previously requested from you have not been provided to us
- If you require to exchange within six weeks of instructing us
- If you require completion within six weeks of instructing us
- If you require simultaneous exchange and completion.