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    Enquiries made by the conveyancer:

    Once you have instructed a conveyancer, the seller’s conveyancer draws up a contract which will eventually be signed by you and the seller. However, before the contract can be signed, your conveyancer must make sure that there are no problems with the ownership of the property, rights of way, access, or future developments in the area that might affect the property. This is called: making enquiries and searches’. The conveyancer makes the enquiries and searches as follows:

    Local searches: These are enquiries made to the local authority about any matters which affect the property which involve the local authority, such as whether there is a compulsory purchase order on the property. Local searches also include questions about any proposed changes or development in the area that might affect the property such as roads, housing, and shops. During the local search, the local Land Charges Register is also checked. This gives information about any matter which affects the property such as tree preservation orders, if it is a listed building or in a conservation area; and

    Enquiries made to the seller by the conveyancer: These are a set of standard questions about the property, boundaries, neighbour disputes and fixtures and fittings that will remain in the property. There may also be additional questions that the solicitor or licensed conveyancer thinks are necessary, such as the transferability of guarantees for any work done on the house, for example, a damp proof course; and

    Arranging to pay the deposit

    If you are also selling a house, it is usually possible to put the deposit on the property being sold towards the deposit on the property you are buying.

    If raising the deposit is a problem, you could consider borrowing the money for the deposit from relatives or you could try to get a bridging loan from a bank. However, the amount of interest you will have to pay for a bridging loan will be high and you should check how much this arrangement will cost. Discuss your options with your solicitor or conveyancer.

    Insuring the property

    You should make sure that buildings insurance is arranged from the date of exchange, because once contracts have been exchanged you are responsible for the property.

    You may be able to get information on buildings insurance from your mortgage lender, solicitor or conveyancer.

    Exchange of contracts

    The final contract between you and the seller is prepared when:-

    • the solicitor (or licensed conveyancer) and you are satisfied with the final outcome of all the enquiries
    • any surveyor’s report has been received and any necessary action taken
    • the formal mortgage offer has been received
    • arrangements about the payment of the 10% deposit have been made
    • the date of completion has been agreed.

    You and the seller each have a copy of the final contract which you must sign. These signed contracts are then exchanged. At exchange of contracts both you and the seller are legally bound by the contract and the sale of the house has to go ahead. If you drop out, you are likely to lose your deposit.

    You should make arrangements for the supply of gas, electricity and telephone service and make sure that the seller is arranging for final meter readings to be made.


    • Completion of the purchase usually takes place about four weeks after exchange of contracts, although it can be earlier. On the day agreed for completion:
    • the mortgage lender releases the money
    • the deeds to the property are handed over to your solicitor or licensed conveyancer
    • the seller must hand over the keys and leave the property by an agreed time.

    Citizens’ Advice Bureau January 2010