Q&A - As first time buyers what should we do when we find a house we like?

Q: As young first time buyers we are nervous about doing the right things in the right order. Please can you explain the legal process so that we know what to do and what to expect when we find a house?

A: Once you have made, and had accepted, an offer on a property you should appoint a solicitor to do the conveyancing work. You must inform the estate agent (if there is one) who your solicitors are and they will send a memorandum of sale to your solicitor who will request from you information pertinent to the transaction including your preferred timescale for completion.

If necessary you should apply for a mortgage, or if you have a mortgage in principle you should confirm details of the proposed purchase to your lender and inform your solicitor of the lender’s details and the loan amount.

On receipt of instructions your solicitor will send you a ‘Client Care’ letter setting out the full terms on which they will act for you, including an estimate of costs and disbursements. They will request a draft contract and other supporting paperwork from the seller’s solicitors and on receipt will check the ‘legal title’ to the property to ensure the seller has a legal right to sell it and that the draft contract contains accurate and correct information about the property.

Extensive searches will then be carried out by your solicitor, including local authority, environmental, drainage and water searches as well as investigations into more locality specific matters such as coal mining. Your solicitor will liaise with your mortgage lender.  You will be required to provide proof of identity and address and proof of where monies you will provide for the purchase will come from.  When all the pre-contract work is complete, your solicitor should go through all the information with you before discussing exchange of contracts.