Buying a house 101: Claire Loftus, Ison Harrison

By WS Residential:    8 June 2023

At WS Residential, we want to make your homebuying experience as hassle-free as possible. That’s why we want to provide you with not only our knowledge and expertise, but also that of others who play a significant role with the house buying process.

Claire Loftus, partner and expert in property law at law firm Ison Harrison, has shared with us some insights into the house buying process, including details on how long the buying process takes and buying freehold or leasehold.

How long does the whole process of buying a house take?

“It is always hard to give an exact timescale as all transactions and chains are different. We would hope to aim for around six weeks on a freehold sale, and 6-8 weeks on a freehold purchase from receipt of contracts.

“Completions can happen much quicker though if you are a cash purchaser and there is no chain involved. We will always try to give you an idea of a timescale once contracts have been received, and advise on any matters that might increase timescales as soon as they become apparent.”

What are searches and enquires and what type of enquires do they ask?

“Mortgage lenders required that a drainage search and a local search are carried out. If the property is in an historic mining area then a mining search will also be required. A drainage search will confirm that the property is connected for water/drainage, and that the property drains to the main system for both foul and surface water drainage.

“It will confirm if the property is billed according to a rateable value or a meter, and will also advise if there are any drains or sewers within the boundaries of the property – this is important if the property has been extended in any way, or if you plan to add an extension or conservatory. Drains and pipes should not be built over without the consent of the Water Company.

“Local searches confirm that the roads leading to the property are adopted, they also confirm the planning and building regulation history for the property and any works done. In addition it will confirm if there are any local policies which could affect the property ie conservation areas, smoke control areas, or if the property is a listed building.”

What if I have purchased a leasehold property how does this differ from a normal freehold purchase?

“Leasehold properties vary in that the building which the flat is in is the Freehold, and the flat within the building which you are purchasing is the “leasehold” property. The property will be subject to a Lease which may include an obligation to pay a yearly ground rent to the landlord and service charge towards the upkeep of the building or communal areas.

“The landlord may appoint a managing agent, and they are normally responsible for insuring the building and arranging maintenance and repair of it.

“The Lease will contain “covenants” which are things you can or cannot do at the property, or things you must do. All leasehold properties require a Leasehold information pack to be provided by the Landlord or the Managing Agent which provides details of the accounts and service charges, insurance, and general information about the property. A fee is normally payable to the landlord to provide this, so if you are selling a property please account for these cost in your budget.

“You can speed up the process of the sale by making the enquiries with the landlord or management company when you agree a sale and making prompt payment for the pack. When you buy a leasehold property you will normally be required to enter into a covenant with the landlord to comply with the terms of the lease and take over payment of the rent/service charges.

“After completion takes place the account needs to be switched into your name and again the landlord/management company will normally charge for this to be done. Costs vary from £200-£500 for this process, and again this should be considered in your budget.

“Lenders have more stringent requirements on Leasehold properties and Leases have to be checked very carefully to ensure they meet the lender’s requirements. A leasehold property purchase will take longer than that of a freehold purchase given the additional works and checks that are required.”

Looking to find your family’s happy place? Explore our range of properties for sale today.

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