Please find answers to some common questions we receive regarding conveyancing matters.

If your answer is not here, call one of our friendly John M Lewis &Co advisors who will be more than happy to answer your questions.


What is Conveyancing?
-This is the legal term given to the process of buying and selling property.

Do your Conveyancing services apply to the whole of the UK?
-No, we can only convey properties within England and Wales.

Will I need to go into the Conveyancers’ office to sign all the relevant documentation?
-No, all of the procedure can be done by email and/or post.

Will I be able to speak to my Conveyancer whenever I need to?
-Yes. Details of your personal conveyancer and their assistant will be given to you.

How long does a normal conveyancing transaction take?
-There is no way of saying how long the transaction will take. It depends on many factors such as if you are in a chain of transactions or how soon your mortgage is available. We will deal with your transaction as quickly as possible and keep you informed of progress.

Why is conveyancing for leasehold properties more expensive?
-There is additional work involved when dealing with leasehold property. The lease has to be checked which is usually a lengthy document, queries raised to ensure that the covenants and conditions have been observed. If it is a flat there will be a management company in existence and the accounts of this will need to be checked and enquiries raised to ensure it is operating efficiently and that all the monies due have been paid by the Seller to the company and if not ensuring that money is paid up to date or the appropriate undertakings obtained.

What is a bankruptcy search?
-If you are having a mortgage to assist in the purchase of your property your lender will require a bankruptcy search against your name to make sure you have no bankruptcy orders or county court judgements against you.

Do I need to pay anything upfront?
-We will ask for a small sum up front to cover initial disbursements such as search fees and land registry documents.

What are office copies?
-These are an official copy of the legal title to your property registered at the Government Land Registry.

What is a coal mining search?
-This is a search done against your property to make sure there are no coal mines under or near your property and that there have been no subsidence in the past affecting the property or any actions which has resulted in compensation being paid.

What is a Local search?
-A Local search is a search at the Local Authority against the specific property you are buying. It shows such matters as if the roads are adopted, if there is extension to the property for which planning permission has been obtained and many other matters relevant to the property.

What is an environmental search?
-This is a desktop survey of land to establish whether it is likely to be contaminated due to waste use.

What is an EPC?
-This is an Energy Performance Certificate performed by an assessor after a house visit to examine such things as loft insulation, boiler, hot water tank, radiators, double glazing etc. A single rating for the energy efficiency of the house is produced together with a recommended value of the potential for improvement.

What is a Land Registry fee?
-This is the money paid to the Land Registry after the purchase of your property to register the property in your name at the Government Land Registry.

What is a drainage/water search?
-This search shows you in detail about your property and its drainage and water supply. It tells you whether your property is connected to mains, shows the location of the nearest mains and up to date water quality analysis.

What does leasehold mean?
-Leasehold title is where you do not own the land on which the property is built. It is leased for a period of years on certain terms and conditions.

What is a lease?
-When the legal title to a property is leasehold this is the document which sets out the terms and conditions subject to which you will own the property. It will have numerous covenants between the lessor who owns the land and lessee (the owner of the property by lease).

What is a mortgage deed?
-The documentation which acknowledges the debt to the Bank or Building Society who has lent you the money to assist in the purchase of the property.

What is Stamp Duty?
-This is a Government tax paid to the Inland Revenue when you have purchased a property. For residential purchases you pay nothing on the first £125,000 of the property price, 2% on the next £125,000, 5% on the next £675,000, 10% on the next £575,000 with 12% on the rest (above £1.5 million). For more information click here.

Can I withdraw from my property transaction?
-Clients may wish to withdraw for several reasons. Examples include an adverse survey, or a problem with the legal title to the property. Provided contracts have not been exchanged i.e. you have not entered into a legally binding commitment to sell or purchase a property you can normally withdraw at any time without incurring any of the other side’s fees. Each transaction will depend on their own circumstances but at John M Lewis we can advise you on your proposed course of action.

Can I rent my property out?
-This will depend on the type of your mortgage you have, but lenders should be notified at the outset. Beware that sometimes other consents will also be required if there are covenants or restrictions prohibiting this in the title deeds and provided any proposed Tenancy Agreement has been properly vetted by John M Lewis and is acceptable to your lender.

When should I set up building and life insurance when purchasing a property?
-The normal rule is that risk in a property passes upon exchange of contracts. Therefore upon exchange you have an insurable interest and that’s when building insurance for the property’s full reinstatement value must be taken out not on completion. Similarly any new or existing life insurance which needs to be increased should also be placed on risk at exchange not completion because in the event of any purchaser dying their estate will still be liable to complete the purchase.

Searches? Do I need them?
-Definitely. Searches like surveys should not be seen as an unnecessary extra in the property purchase process. Searches are designed to flush out any problems or potential problems on what is to most people the most important and expensive purchase of their lives.
Generally searches are site specific and do not extend beyond the boundaries of the property. Here at John M Lewis we have access to all the necessary searches relevant to the area in which you are buying.

Do I need to make a will?
-Every person should make a will and review it regularly to take into account their personal and financial circumstances. Property prices, second homes and changed personal circumstances e.g. divorce may place people in unwary and unwanted traps. John M Lewis will be happy to guide you through the process.