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Residential Conveyancing

Essential Reading For First-Time Buyers

How long it takes to buy (and how to speed it up), searches, surveys, pitfalls, hidden costs, saving (Lifetime ISAs) and how we can help. Read more...

Essential Reading For First-Time Buyers

First-Time Buyers Like You Are Vital To The Property Market

If you’re a first-time buyer, you may feel a bit like a small fish venturing out into a very large and scary ocean. But actually, new buyers like you are absolutely crucial to the success of the property market as a whole.

Without new investment at the base of the market, the previous newcomers can’t move up the chain to larger properties. And neither can many other buyers. Stagnation at the base of the ladder makes it very hard for everyone else to move up a rung.

So first-time buyers, hold your head up with pride – because everyone else depends on you: vendors, buyers, estate agents, mortgage lenders, solicitors and even the government (if not for Stamp Duty, then for all the other tax involved in buying and kitting out a new home).

FAQ: What Do First-Time Buyers Often Ask Our Conveyancing Solicitors?

Q: What are the steps involved in the buying process?
A: Find out here.

Q: How long will it take me to buy my property?
A: Generally, it takes around 12 to 14 weeks to purchase a freehold property. In theory, first-time buyers like you should be able to move faster because you don’t have a property to sell. But in reality, it can take much longer for first-timers because – without expert advice – you won’t know the best ways to save time and money. Consequently, six, seven or eight months is not unknown. And remember, if you’re buying a flat, you’ll need to think about the lease – it’s a complex area of the law which requires specialist legal advice.

Q: What searches would we recommend?
A: Our expert team of residential property lawyers can carry out a whole series of checks on your behalf:

  • Local authority search – is the council planning to enforce regulations that you may unwittingly be about to take on with the property?
  • Environmental search – are there any contamination threats or other potential health risks? (This can be especially important when purchasing property built on a brownfield site.)
  • Water authority search – is your water supply secure? And are the drains to the property maintained by the water authority, or will they be your responsibility after completion?
  • Land Registry search – what rights and reservations are recorded on the title and what conditions do you need to be aware of? What do the plans show? Are there any other pitfalls?

Q: Can we recommend a good chartered surveyor?
A: As highly experienced conveyancing solicitors, we have excellent working relationships with a wide range of property professionals and can advise you accordingly.

What Can I Do As A First-Time Buyer To Help You To Help Me?

Please read what is sent through carefully at each stage and complete any forms fully. Check them carefully before sending them back to us.

Please respond to us in a timely manner when we ask for feedback and/or the authority to undertake searches and other work along the way.

You should also seek independent mortgage advice at the earliest opportunity – especially in the current financial environment. Mortgage rates are very volatile; the base rate has been increasing every time the Bank of England meets.

How Do You See The Current Market For First-Time Buyers Like Me?

Timing is everything when buying property – particularly when buying a first home, because you may not have much leeway in your budget. But it can be tricky to identify precisely the best moment to buy, especially when the market has boomed then suddenly been subject to downward pressure caused by major global events.

As with all industries, the housing market ebbs and flows. Prices rise and fall so you need to watch the market like a hawk if you’re to pick the right moment. Above all, don’t overstretch yourself, no matter how wonderful your prospective dream home may be. Make sure you’ll still be able afford the repayments on your mortgage and outgoings when rates go up.

What Are The Legal Pitfalls That Most First-Time Buyers Fail To Spot?

Watch out for hidden costs such as:

  • Disbursements – including searches or Land Registry fees.
  • VAT – some solicitors or conveyancers may charge VAT on their fees. This adds 20% to the cost of their services.
  • Additional fees for services involving leasehold, shared ownership or new-build properties.
  • Bank transfer fees, telegraphing fees.

Ask our conveyancing solicitors for a complete breakdown of all potential charges so you can budget accordingly.

Also, it is important to understand any conditions attached to the land – what you can and cannot do at the property after completion, and when you need to seek permission from a third party (such as a freeholder, if you’re buying a leasehold property).

Any property may be subject to covenants (rules) – especially if you buy it on a leasehold basis.

Furthermore, if you’re getting help from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ (or any other family members), you should know that solicitors are legally required to contact the donor to request evidence identifying them as the source of the funds and confirming how they came by the money.

What’s The Best Advice To Help Me To Get On The Property Ladder?

Save, save, save!

Start saving money as soon as you can. Save as much as you can. And keep full records of where your money is coming from so you can clearly show your solicitor when the time approaches.

Always get a survey when buying any property so you know what you’re getting.

Read any information your solicitor gives you. If you’re not 100% sure what it means, never be afraid to ask for further help or explanation.

Ask about Lifetime ISA savings accounts if you don’t have one already. They can be very useful for people buying their first home because the government adds a 25% bonus. Find out more here.

Important note: Coles Miller Solicitors LLP is a law firm, not a financial adviser. We recommend that you seek independent financial advice.

How Will Coles Miller Go The Extra Mile To Help Me?

Our conveyancing lawyers provide clear and understandable explanations of everything along the way – from procedural information sheets at the outset to full contract and lease reports (where relevant).

We also clearly explain the results of the searches we carry out. Our experienced team is happy to help explain everything – not just to you but also to the agents acting on your behalf.

We strive to offer a smooth transaction, keeping you and your agents informed of the progress at every step of the way towards exchange of contracts and completion.

We highlight and explain any potential complications, offering you options on how to solve them. And all the while, we keep costs under review with you to avoid nasty surprises.

Further Reading

  • How Much Money Will The Stamp Duty Changes Save Me? Read more…
  • What Leasehold Ground Rent Reform Means For You. Read more…
  • Why Must I Extend The Lease On My Flat If I’ve Bought The Freehold? Read more…

Get Expert Legal Help

Our experienced residential conveyancing team is led by Senior Partner Roger Leedham at our Poole town centre head office.

Coles Miller also has offices in Fleetsbridge, Broadstone, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Wimborne. For more information about residential conveyancing, contact:

For residential leasehold property matters, contact Associate Solicitor Nick Leedham at our Bournemouth office.

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