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    The legal process of buying and selling a property is called conveyancing. Conveyancer is the generic term given to either a conveyancing solicitor or licenced conveyancer. All solicitors practising law in England and Wales must also be registered with the Law Society. There are separate societies for Northern Ireland and Scotland.

    As soon as you place an offer on a property, your estate agent will ask for your conveyancer’s details to pass onto the seller’s conveyancer. It’s therefore wise to establish contact with a professional before you start looking for a property to avoid having to make this important decision in a rush. A conveyancer’s job is to take care of all legal aspects of moving house, which include:

    • Local search
    • Land charges search
    • Land registry
    • Stamp duty

    Apart from the conveyancing work there is also the lender’s legal work to be done. Your conveyancer could act for the lender, which should save you money. The principal task is to draw up a mortgage deed, which sets out the conditions of your loan. The lender will hold this and the title deeds of your property until the loan is paid in full.

    Property Surveys

    It’s estimated that on average only 20% of all homebuyers commission a professional survey. This is somewhat surprising considering that buying a property is probably the biggest purchase in most people’s lives. One explanation for this low take up is that many homebuyers believe the mortgage lender’s survey is sufficient.

    In fact, the lender’s survey is simply a mortgage valuation, a property inspection to establish the amount and terms of the loan. This survey will not tell you if the property is worth the price you’re paying for it, nor point out any structural defects. To obtain this vitally important information you’ll need to get a professional opinion by commissioning a chartered surveyor before you sign any contracts.

    Homebuyer’s report

    This type of survey is designed to keep costs to a minimum and is likely to be the best choice if the property you are buying is conventional in type and construction, is apparently in reasonable condition and built within the last 30 years. The survey focuses on defects and problems that are urgent and likely to have an effect on value. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the main objectives of the Homebuyer’s report are to:

    • Make a reasoned and informed judgement on whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
    • Assess whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price.
    • Make clear what decisions and actions should be taken before contracts are exchanged.

    Building survey

    This type of survey is suitable for all residential properties and provides a full picture of the property’s construction and condition. Because the level of detail is higher than the Homebuyer’s Report, a Building Survey is more expensive. This type of survey is required when a property is of an unusual construction or has had extensive alterations, if it’s old, in need of serious structural repair or if you’re planning a major conversion or renovation.

    The final report will include detailed technical information on the construction of the property, materials used and a listing of all major and minor defects. The report does not provide a valuation, however this can be arranged as an agreed extra.

    BBC Website 7.1.10