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Residential Property Lawyers

Buying or selling a residential property, or completing any other related transaction, is always an exciting venture. That being said, property transactions are likely to be among the most significant and costly investments you’ll make during your lifetime, which means getting the right legal advice and support is essential. That’s where our residential property team can help.

Whether you are buying, selling, mortgaging, dealing with shared ownership or equity release, our residential property experts in Canterbury have a wealth of combined expertise and experience which they use to ensure your transaction goes ahead as smoothly as possible.

Gardner Croft’s expert residential conveyancing team has gained a strong reputation for providing a carefully tailored, accessible service, that is designed to navigate all the potential pitfalls and stumbling blocks which may otherwise delay the conveyancing process.

We offer a highly personal conveyancing service for the sale and purchase of all types of property. Our team are local, experienced advisers who will keep you informed and up to date throughout the transaction.

With property being such a significant asset in wealth planning, we will, where appropriate, work closely with your financial advisers and our Private Client team to offer you a broad and holistic service.

Our conveyancing experts in Canterbury can provide assistance in relation to various matters, including:

  • Buying and Selling Property
  • Leasehold Property
  • Equity Release
  • Shared Ownership
  • Remortgaging
  • Residential Property Disputes

Speak to our Residential Property Experts in Canterbury Today

To get in touch with our residential property experts in Canterbury, please call us on 01227 813400, email enquiries@gardnercroft.co.uk or fill in our simple online enquiry form on the right-hand side of the page to request a call back.

Why Work with Our Residential Property Experts in Canterbury?

At Gardner Croft, our conveyancers in Canterbury have many years of combined experience in supporting people from all walks of life with buying and selling residential property, as well as a range of other types of transactions. Our residential property expertise not only applies to Canterbury, but also to the wider Kent area and beyond, allowing us to support with a wide variety of different transactions.

Our high level of experience and expertise in the local property market ensures that we can provide reliable conveyancing, while also minimising the potential for any issues that may otherwise delay the transaction, or cause complications further down the line. Our aim is to make your conveyancing as straightforward and stress-free as possible, ensuring that everything goes ahead exactly as intended.

As a firm, we hold the Law Society’s accreditation for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme. This provides assurance of the high standard we provide our clients, as well as our specialist expertise. We are also Lexcel accredited by the Law Society in recognition of our strong practice management and client care.

Our Residential Property Services

Buying and Selling Property

No matter what your circumstances may be, buying or selling a residential property is a huge step. Whether you are buying your very first home, you are looking to upsize to accommodate your growing family or you are downsizing ahead of your retirement, the various steps involved in the conveyancing process remain largely the same.

When you are buying or selling a residential property, our conveyancing team will work alongside you to handle all of the legal aspects of the transaction on your behalf. This may include:

  • Drafting and Reviewing Contacts of Sale
  • Raising Queries with the Other Party’s Conveyancing
  • Undertaking Checks and Searches on the Property
  • Liaising with Other Stakeholders
  • Exchanging Contracts
  • Dealing with Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and any Other r=Relevant Taxes
  • Ensuring the Transaction is Completed Accurately at the Land Registry

Our main priority is to make sure that the conveyancing process is straightforward and accessible. We will work efficiently and always keep you updated on the progress of your transaction, ensuring that you are always kept in the loop.

Leasehold Property

There are several key differences between freehold and leasehold properties. While the process of buying and selling freehold properties is relatively straightforward, as you own the property outright, leasehold properties are not so simple, as there are a range of other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

When you own a leasehold property, you do not own the property outright. Rather, you own what is specified in a lease and only for the term of that lease. When this lease ends, the ownership of the property and the land on which is sits reverts back to the freeholder. Anyone who owns a leasehold property is also required to pay an annual ground rent, as well as paying to extend the lease when necessary.

Our residential property experts in Canterbury have specialist expertise with leasehold properties and will be on hand to lend their expertise on a range of associated issues. This includes buying and selling a leasehold, extending the lease on a leasehold, or buying the freehold of a leasehold.

Equity Release

Equity release is a transaction often favoured by our older clients where they use their home as security to release cash. Essentially, it is a method of releasing some of the available equity in a property, allowing you to pay for other expenses, such as household bills and care – without having to sell the property and move out. The majority of lenders only accept applications for equity release from people over the age of 55.

There are two types of equity release which can be used:

  • Lifetime Mortgage – This is a mortgage which is taken out on a property, in a similar way to a standard mortgage. You can then make regular payments or choose to have the interest rolled into the loan amount.
  • Home Reversion - This is where you sell a share or the entirety of your property to an equity release provider. This is subject to you being allowed to continue living in the home rent-free until you move permanently.

Our expert residential conveyancers in Canterbury can guide you through the process of equity release, advising you on whether it is right for your individual circumstances, which option you should take and what steps need to be addressed to protect you and your family’s interests in the long term.

Shared Ownership

The Shared Ownership Scheme is one of the Government’s affordable home ownership schemes, with the intention being to help people buy their first home. However, instead of supporting people to buy their home outright, the scheme allows them to buy a share of their property (between 25 and 75%) through a housing association, paying rent on the remainder.

It is then possible for someone to continue buying shares in a property until they own 100%. You will be eligible for the Shared Ownership Scheme if your household earns £80,000 or less (£90,000 in London).

There are a number of important differences between Shared Ownership conveyancing and traditional conveyancing, which is why specialist advice and support is essential for you to make a confident decision about buying and/or selling a Shared Ownership property.

Remortgaging

There are a number of potential reasons why you might elect to remortgage. For instance, you may remortage to cut your monthly payments, increase your borrowing and unlock capital from your home. However, the decision to remortgage should not be taken lightly, which means carefully tailored legal advice is essential before you agree to terms that may not necessarily suit your circumstances.

We are increasingly advising clients who wish to improve their mortgage package and we can act for you in the re-mortgage process. We are on the panel of most High Street and specialist lenders, which means we will be able to support your transaction, no matter who you file an application with.

Residential Property Disputes

Residential property disputes, whether they are related to boundaries, rights over access to land, or breach of covenants, can be very difficult to navigate. While you will naturally want to reach a solution that matches your best interests, you will also want to ensure that you do not sever any ties or relations with your neighbours.

No matter what your circumstances may be, we aim to take the pressure off you and assist you with making key decisions that result in a positive outcome. We have strong negotiation skills, which we use to help resolve a claim outside of court. That being said, if litigation is necessary, we can provide robust representation to help you achieve the right outcome.

See more about our residential property dispute expertise.

Our Residential Property Fees

We are committed to being as transparent as possible with regards to our fees for residential property work. Please see below to get a quote for some of our conveyancing services.

Speak to our Residential Property Experts in Canterbury Today

To get in touch with our residential property experts in Canterbury, please call us on 01227 813400, email enquiries@gardnercroft.co.uk or fill in our simple online enquiry form on the right hand side of the page to request a call back.

Residential Property Frequently Asked Questions

In the majority of cases we can act for both you and your mortgage lender. The exception to this is where we act for the buyer and seller or where your lender is a private or non high street lender and we are not on their panel of solicitors. Gardner Croft are on the majority of high street lenders panels and are also panel solicitors for some less popular and specialist lenders such as those specialising in buy to let properties only.

Again the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Law Society have strict rules in place to avoid what they call ‘conflicts of interest’ with lenders and clients. This tends to happen where a client may have not fully disclosed their personal circumstances to their lender and ask the solicitor not to disclose those. Common examples include where the lender is not aware you are borrowing money from a third party for the deposit or the deposit is being gifted to you by parents, grandparents etc or where you have been declared bankrupt. The solicitor is under an obligation to your lender to disclose to them anything which they feel may have impact on the lenders willingness to grant the loan and any request to withhold potentially relevant information will create a conflict of interest for the solicitor and they will have to cease to act for both you and the lender.

The general answer is no. The Solicitors Regulation Authority and Law Society have strict rules in place to avoid what they call ‘conflicts of interest’. This is to ensure that the solicitor acting for you always acts in your best interests and puts you first. In very exceptional circumstances however the solicitor will be permitted to act for the buyer and seller but only when this will be for the benefit of both parties. This tends to be where the buyer does not need a mortgage and where the solicitor can show that both parties are aware of the potential conflict but will agree that they wish the firm to act for them both. The regulations require that this can only be considered where the seller and buyer are already long standing existing clients of the firm and where it can be clear that both parties are aware of the risks. The same solicitor will not be permitted to act for both parties and each solicitor will have to be separately supervised to ensure that they are not privy to personal information about the other client which they would not normally have access to if the client was represented by a solicitor outside of the firm. In addition the solicitors are not permitted to negotiate on behalf of their clients. Therefore any issues regarding price, surveys, fittings and contents, completion dates and timescales etc must be dealt with by the estate agents and the agents must be aware of the potential conflict of interest. Conflicts can also occur where clients ask their solicitor to withhold information which may have a detrimental effect on the transaction. In the event that a conflict occurs the solicitors for both parties will have to cease acting and new solicitors will have to be found.

Freehold means that you own the property and the land upon which it is built outright. There is no time limit as to your ownership. The property remains yours until you sell it or transfer it to someone else.

Leasehold means that you own the property but not the land upon which it is built. The land is owned by the Landlord or freeholder. You will be granted a lease of the property for a set period of time after which time the property reverts to the Landlord. Leases vary in length but are usually 99 years or 125 years from the date they are granted. They can be transferred from person to person (this is called assignment) and can also be extended either by agreement or by law.

Where more than one person is purchasing a property, you need to consider how you wish to own the property. There are two types of ownership:

(a) Joint Tenants – where you are Joint Tenants , in the event of the death of one owner, the remaining owner or owners receive the deceased’s share automatically. Thus if a husband and wife own the property as Joint Tenants, as is normally the case, and one of them dies, then the survivor automatically becomes the sole owner of the property.

(b) Tenants in Common – this arrangement differs in that if one joint owner dies that owner can leave his or her interest or share in the property to whoever they wish. If joint owners are unmarried or if either of both joint owners have been married before or have commitments to a child of a previous relationship then it is advisable to create a Tenancy in Common. It will also be very important that you review the provisions of any Wills that have been made or if none have been made then consideration must be given to the making of Wills.

Unless the property is leasehold (in which case it is likely to be insured by the landlord) you must insure the property when you exchange contracts. You should ensure that you have obtained suitable quotations from insurers prior to this date and on the day of exchange your solicitor will call you to confirm that the exchange has taken place and that you have now entered into a binding contract to complete the purchase on a specified date. You then need to contact your insurers to put the policy in place immediately.

You are not obliged to get a survey though it is always prudent to do so. Properties in England are purchased under the edict of Buyer Beware. This means that if you find anything wrong with a property once exchange of contracts has taken place, the seller is not liable and you will have to pay for any necessary repairs. It is therefore advisable to have some form of survey completed on a property you wish to purchase. There are 3 types of survey: 1. A Lenders Valuation Report – If you are using a mortgage to fund your purchase then the Lender will always carry out a valuation of the property. This is for your mortgage lenders purposes only and merely confirms that the property you are purchasing is worth what you are paying for it. It is unusual for the surveyor to advise you on the condition of the property and it is inadvisable to rely only on the terms of this report particularly because if a matter later comes to light that could have been revealed by the report you will have no recourse to the surveyor as they are employed by the lender only, not you, despite you having paid for the report! 2. A Homebuyers Report- This is a more detailed survey and will look at some structural issues. However this report has limitations as the surveyor may have limited access to the property. The limitations will be detailed at the beginning of the report. This is the most common survey report and is likely to highlight issues where further investigation may be needed. If repairs are required the report will point this out and this can then be used to negotiate further terms of the transaction i.e. that the seller carries out the repairs or reduces the price of the property to cover the cost (the latter is the most common outcome) 3. A Full Structural Survey Report – This is the most expensive of the surveys and will be a very detailed report focusing on all aspects both structural and non-structural. These reports tend to be advisable for older properties and those where it is obvious that works of repair are required. A survey might seem expensive, but you may regret not having one if you have to pay out thousands of pounds later on for major repairs of faults you didn’t know about when you bought the property. If major defects are uncovered you might even think again about your purchase, or you could be in a position to renegotiate the price. A home is a massive investment and it is worth paying a few hundred pounds for a survey at this stage as it could save you much bigger sums, and lots of hassle, later on. If problems do appear later on which the surveyor did not point out, you may be able to claim compensation from them.

Here at Gardner Croft, The Canterbury Law Firm, our aim is to always be on hand to guide you in the right direction. With legal services so readily available over the internet and conveyancing factory firms tied in to several of the national and regional chains of estate agents, prospective clients of ours often ask whether they would benefit from being represented by a firm local to where they live or the property they are hoping to buy or sell. We answer by saying that while our fees may appear to be a little more expensive than a volume conveyancer in, say, Cardiff, Leeds or Milton Keynes, there are many positive advantages in instructing us.

Advantages in Instructing Locally

Personal Knowledge

We are likely to have personal knowledge of the area where the property is located; we may even have dealt with the very property before or others in the same road or development. This can definitely be an advantage especially if, for example, there are complex arrangements for maintenance of blocks of flats and other parts of an estate and we have come across these particular arrangements before.

Personal Service

We offer a personal service. Your transaction will be handled by a qualified lawyer and their assistant and not just by a.n.other case handler who may be one of several having input to your case but not taking ownership of it. We offer face-to-face meetings as a matter of course. Our clients can put a face to a name and start to build a relationship with their lawyer. Also, our clients can drop into our offices if they have a question to ask or need to collect or return papers at short notice. It’s more difficult to do any of that if the conveyancers are a number of miles away.

Full-Service Firm

The benefits of instructing a firm like Gardner Croft LLP, which offers a comprehensive range of legal services to individuals cannot be overstated. Not only will our experienced property lawyers recognise when a client might need additional services, such as a new Will, a cohabitation agreement, or a declaration of trust, but we also have the skills in the office to provide expert advice on those matters in a timely way. All of this provides reassurance that comes with dealing with professionals who can either deal with your questions quickly or can introduce you to another lawyer in-house who will be able to assist.

Security

Another advantage of using a local firm is in combating the risk of property fraud or cybercrime. Face-to-face meetings can mitigate these risks and are invaluable in verifying identification.

Are we really more expensive?

Finally, when considering whether to instruct a local firm or a volume conveyancer bear in mind two further thoughts; Firstly make sure you compare the costs estimates carefully and like-for-like. The local firm’s headline fee may appear to be a bit more expensive than the volume conveyancer but you must check whether there are any additional costs which are included in one estimate but shown as extras in another. Also, some firms have a reputation for limiting the number of contacts a client may have with their conveyancer before they start charging extra fees. At Gardner Croft we don’t do that. Secondly, if you are buying or selling through one of the national or regional estate agents who are tied to certain firms of conveyancers many miles away, do not feel pressured into instructing that firm just because they appear to be a bit less expensive. You are perfectly free to instruct the solicitors of your choice.

For specialist advice on moving home or buying or selling an investment property, please contact any member of the Property team.

The average timescale for a transaction is around 4-8 weeks. This can be shorter or longer depending on several factors such as whether there is a chain i.e. is the property you are buying empty or do the owners need to find somewhere to live, whether you or your buyer need a mortgage, whether there are any management companies involved if the property is on a development or leasehold. The time of year also has an impact on timescales with school holidays and Christmas being the busiest periods which can also add to delays. Your solicitor will keep you advised of progress as it is made and discuss any requirements you may have for completion dates when appropriate.

As the law stands it is for the buyer of a property to ensure that they make full investigation of all records at their disposal and of all matters which may affect the property. By not carrying out searches you are leaving yourself open to the risk that there may be matters contained within a search (were it to be carried out) which would have an impact on your decision to buy the property and also on the value and marketability of the property in the future.

The most common searches and those which will be required by your lender if you are using a mortgage to fund your purchase are:

  • Drainage Search – This shows the location of the main public sewer (but not necessarily the shared and lateral drains which might form part of the public sewer) and confirms that the necessary legal rights to mains drainage are in place. In the case of a property which has been extended it is particularly important that we ascertain that the extension has not been built over the mains sewers, where this runs directly behind the property. If it has then specific building over agreement would have needed to have been sought from the drainage authority and the search will confirm whether this is the case. If not then the breach can have a detrimental effect on the market value of the property because if the authority cannot gain access to the sewer pipe then they have the power to demolish any part of the un-consented building to do so and they are not obliged by law to replace it. In fact they can order that it be demolished at your cost and it is unlikely that further agreement to reinstate the building would be granted.
  • Environmental Search – This is a search of various historical land usage environmental records carried out on our behalf by a search agency. This confirms whether there are any environmental matters of concern particularly if notices have been served to clean up contaminated land. Clean up costs can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and are borne by the current owner of the land regardless of whether they were the cause of the contamination or not.
  • Local Authority Search – This is a questionnaire that is submitted to the Local Authority to enable us to ascertain if there are any matters that may adversely affect the property that are revealed in Local Authority records e.g. breaches of planning permissions and any breaches of regulations which may incur costs for you as the future owner to rectify. This search relates only to the property itself and not to adjoining properties.

It is always sensible for you to instruct your solicitor as soon as possible.

For the sale of a property instructing your solicitor as soon as the property is placed on the market (and before a buyer is found), allows time for the solicitor and client to work together to complete all the necessary forms that will become part of the final contract package and to collate all the necessary paperwork to accompany that information. It also gives the solicitor a chance to go through the title to the property and ensure there are no issues which may delay the transaction once it has started. The additional preparation time allows the solicitor to have a contract package which is exchange ready once the sale is agreed. This should also reduce the number of enquiries the buyers solicitors will need to make once they have received the pack and hopefully reduce the overall time the transaction takes to complete (subject to the constraints of the chain).

For the purchase of a property it is vital that you contact a solicitor as soon as your purchase offer has been accepted.

Is buying for investment different to purchasing a property to live in?
Your considerations on buying an investment property will be slightly different from buying a home. There are various matters to bear in mind:

  • If the property is leasehold or part of a development then you are likely to have restrictions on the use of the property and this need to be checked early on. Some landlords and management companies do not allow letting to students, some do not allow lettings at all. Make sure you advise your solicitor if you are planning to buy as an investment so they can check this for you at the outset.
  • If there are regulations or restrictions on use and day to day activities you should attach a copy of these to your tenancy agreement to ensure that the tenant is contracting to abide by these restrictions and that you have a means of enforcement against the tenant for any breaches. These are usually contained in your lease for a flat.
  • An independent survey is particularly important in such a transaction as there are many stringent regulations imposed on residential landlords. Your surveyor should be advised that the property is being purchased with the intention of letting it out and he will then advise as to whether the property is compliant with current regulations and draw your attention to any potential problems. Many of these regulations carry a criminal sanction and if you are not confident that you have sufficient expertise in this area you are strongly advised to appoint an experienced managing agent to act on your behalf when letting.
  • If you are purchasing using a mortgage it is likely that your lender will have strict requirements in relation to the letting of the property. You will need to read your offer letter very carefully. If you already have a tenancy agreement in place to start at completion then you need to provide this to your solicitor so they can verify with your lender that their requirements have been complied with. If not, you must ensure that any future tenancy complies with these conditions otherwise you will be in breach of your mortgage conditions and the lender reserves the right to call in the mortgage i.e. end the agreement and ask you to repay the full sum owed.
  • If you are purchasing a property to let to students then bear in mind there are strict regulations in place by each local authority regarding what is accepted as a HMO (house in multiple occupation) and the process to be applied to each property. You need to check carefully with the local authority concerned. In particular in the urban area of the City of Canterbury and some adjacent areas the local authority has made an Article 4 Direction restricting the permitted development rights in relation to changes of use from residential use to homes in multiple occupation accommodating 3 or more unrelated people. In those areas covered by the Article 4 Direction planning permission for the use of a property as a home in multiple occupation will be required. If you are intending to let the property to 3 or more tenants who will be unrelated then planning permission will be required and you will need to contact the local authority planning department as soon as possible.