At Wolferstans, we have a well known and highly regarded team of conveyancing solicitors in Plymouth.
Our specialist solicitors and conveyancers are on hand to deal with all elements of residential property including leasehold and freehold sales and purchases as well as equity transfers and remortgages.
We are able to offer:-
- A free initial discussion and fee quote
- Fixed fees offering cost certainty
- Direct line services to the team
- Plain English advice
- Accredited performance standards
For more information please contact
To read some of the success stories and testimonials from our clients, please click here.
For practical information relevant to your circumstances, please see the links below.
More Buying and Selling a Home services:
Buying a home is always an exciting prospect especially if you are a first time buyer, but without the help of a solicitor it can be a legal minefield. Our experienced property lawyers have the skill to guide you through the process.
We are a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme. By choosing a member you can be sure that your solicitor meets high standards set by the Law Society.
What your solicitor will need from you:
- Personal identification
- Price of the property
- A copy of the energy performance certificate
- Influences that may effect the time you want to buy the property
- And how you are planning to pay for the property
Your solicitor may also need to know:
- If you have applied for a mortgage
- Plan to carry out work on the property
- Buying with someone else
- Whether the seller is buying another property
- And if you have a property to sell
The process of buying a home
Your solicitor will write to the seller’s solicitor requesting the contract papers and will also ask you to provide evidence of the source of the monies you will be contributing towards the purchase.
You may also at this stage wish to instruct a Survey of the property.
On receipt of the contract papers your solicitor will apply for any required searches, such as the local authority search, the environmental search and the drainage and water search.
Your solicitor will also review the contract papers and assess whether any enquiries need raising with the sellers. An example of such an enquiry is asking whether the seller has carried out or is aware of any structural alterations to the property and whether the necessary consents were obtained for the work.
If you commissioned a survey, you should supply a copy of the report to your solicitor as the surveyor may also recommend that your solicitor investigates certain matters.
On receipt of satisfactory replies to enquiries from the sellers and search results (and a mortgage offer, if applicable), your solicitor will advise you on any matters which you should be made aware of prior to exchange of contracts.
Your solicitor will also advise you on the options available to ensure you do not inherit any risks in connection with the property.
If applicable, your solicitor will also review your mortgage offer and advise you on the terms and conditions.
You will usually meet with your solicitor to sign the relevant paperwork in connection with the purchase.
You will then be asked to provide your deposit, which is usually 10% of the purchase price. You will also be advised to obtain quotes for buildings insurance for the property, as you will normally be required to set up cover with effect from the date of exchange of contracts. A notable exception to this is if you are purchasing a leasehold property, in which case the freeholder or management company will usually insure the whole of the building.
You will also discuss what date you would like as your moving date (“completion date”) during the meeting.
Once a completion date is agreed, exchange of contracts can take place.
When exchanging, the buyer’s and seller’s solicitor agree over the telephone to insert the final terms of the contract. Once exchange takes place, the contract becomes legally binding. Your solicitor will usually apply for your mortgage money at this stage. You will also be required to let your solicitor have the balance of any money you are contributing towards the purchase price at this stage.
On the completion date, your solicitor will electronically transfer the purchase monies (less any deposit paid on exchange of contracts) to the seller’s solicitor who will telephone your solicitor and the estate agent (if applicable) when that money is received to confirm that the keys to the property may be released to you.
You will need to collect the keys from the estate agents or, if there is none, the seller’s solicitor.
Shortly after completion, your solicitor will deal with any Inland revenue formalities (submitting a Land Tax return and paying stamp duty land tax if applicable) and will then register the change of ownership of the property with the Land Registry.
After the Land Registry has completed the registration, your solicitor will forward to you the Land Registry’s confirmation and any relevant title deeds or documents for the property to you and your mortgage lender (if applicable).
If you are considering buying a property and would like advice on the procedure and costs involved, Wolferstans can help you. Please contact
We are a member of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme. By choosing a member you can be sure that your solicitor meets high standards set by the Law Society.
The process of selling a home is:
Once a buyer has been found and a sale price agreed, you will need to formally instruct your chosen solicitor.
You will need to complete a pack of forms which your solicitor will provide you with and pass them any guarantees/reports you have for work at the property. If the works involved obtaining planning permission and or buildings regulations approval, you should hand these documents to your solicitor along with any land owner’s consent which you may have had to obtain to comply with restrictions in your title deeds.
Your solicitor will obtain your title deeds and / or copies of them from the land registry (if the property is registered) and will also obtain a redemption (settlement) figure from your lender to give them an idea how much is currently owing to your lender (if applicable).
If your property is leasehold, your solicitor will need the Lease and will also contact your freeholder or management company (if applicable) to obtain certain information. This information will include buildings insurance, copies of the last 3 years’ service charge figures, details of the current service charges payable, whether there are any arrears and indication of whether any large expenditure is anticipated in the next few years.
Your solicitor will draft the contract and compile a contract pack which will be sent to the buyer’s solicitor.
Your buyer’s solicitor will raise searches against the property.
After reviewing the contract papers, the buyer’s solicitor may also raise enquiries for you to respond to. If your property is leasehold, the buyer’s solicitor may also have some enquiries for the landlord or management company to deal with.
The buyer’s solicitor will also await receipt of the buyer’s mortgage offer (if applicable) which will confirm that adequate mortgage monies will be available to complete the buyer’s purchase of your property.
Once the buyer’s solicitor has received satisfactory searches, replies to enquiries and a mortgage offer, or, if the buyer is a cash buyer, evidence of the buyer’s source of funds, a target completion date will be negotiated between you and the buyer (and the rest of the chain if applicable).
You will then meet with your solicitor to go through the sale contract and sign it in readiness for exchange of contracts.
You may also sign a Transfer Deed at this stage, which is the document which the buyer’s solicitor will send to the Land Registry following completion, so that the title to the property may be transferred from you to the new owner.
Your solicitor and the buyer’s solicitor will perform an exchange of contracts over the telephone, which will create a legally binding contract and fix the completion date.
The signed contracts will then be swapped by the solicitors with the buyer’s solicitor paying the agreed deposit to your solicitor to be held until completion takes place.
Your solicitor will obtain an up to date redemption statement (if applicable) from your lender, if the initial statement is no longer valid.
They will also obtain a commission account from your estate agent if you have one. They will then prepare a completion statement indicating how the sale proceeds are to be paid out.
The buyer’s solicitor will forward the rest of the sale proceeds to your solicitor.
From the proceeds, your solicitor will deduct the legal fees, pay off the mortgage (where applicable) and pay the estate agent if you have one. Any money left over will be forwarded to you. Please note that if the property you sell is not your main residence, you may be liable to pay Capital Gains Tax to the Revenue. Please refer to the Inland Revenue link below or seek advice from a financial adviser for further details in this respect.
If you are buying a property simultaneously, your solicitor will send sufficient monies to the solicitor acting for your seller to complete that matter.
If you have not already done so, you must deliver all of the property keys to the agent (if you have one) by no later than 1pm as the buyer will now be entitled to collect the keys to their new home.
Your solicitor will send the Transfer Deed and any title deeds to the property to the buyer’s solicitor.
If you are considering selling a property and would like advice on the procedure and costs involved, Wolferstans would be happy to help you. Please contact
It is a method of home ownership where the buyer purchases a share of the property and pays rent on the share not purchased.
It is mainly intended for buyers whose incomes would make it difficult for them to purchase a property outright. It can be used for both houses and flats and is available primarily from a Registered Social Landlord (RSL), usually a Housing Association.
The buyer is granted a Lease (usually 99 or 125 years) and the RSL retains ownership of the freehold.
The Lease contains provisions enabling the purchase of further shares (called “staircasing”), usually in multiples of 10% as and when the shared-owner is able to afford them. The price of the shares is determined by an independent value by reference to the market value of the property at that time. As further shares are purchased, there is a corresponding reduction in the rent payable to the RSL.
If the purchaser attains 100% ownership, the RSL will transfer the freehold title in the house to the shared-owner, the Lease is effectively cancelled and the owner has no further involvement with the RSL. There are some exceptions where the right to acquire the freehold title does not apply but these are quite rare.
In the case of a flat, it is not possible for the owner to acquire the freehold so the shared ownership Lease is converted into a normal Lease. In these cases, the RSL continues as the Landlord and will usually collect a nominal annual rent together with any service charges payable under the Lease in respect of maintenance, insurance etc of the building within which the flat is located.
It is a growing trend and almost all new housing developments are required under their planning permissions to provide a certain number of affordable housing units.
The market for “second hand” shared ownership properties is also growing; however, due to certain restrictions imposed by the Lease, these properties do not always come onto the open market immediately. It is usual for the RSL to have nomination rights which enables it to nominate a purchaser from its waiting list. If it fails to do so within a specified period (usually 6 weeks), the property can be marketed through an estate agent.
Shared ownership properties are acceptable to a large number of mortgage lenders, so mortgage finance is not usually a problem provided the buyer’s financial position satisfies the lender’s requirements.
One important distinction between properties held on shared ownership and those that are rented from either an RSL or local authority is that shared owners are responsible for their own maintenance and repairs.
This is a scheme where a buyer pays only a percentage of the full purchase price (e.g. 75%) but acquires ownership of 100% of the property.
The scheme can be used to buy both houses and flats.
The balance of the purchase monies (e.g. 25%) are provided by the equity sharing lender (normally the developer who is sharing the property) as an interest free loan which is secured by a second mortgage over the property.
The loan will be for a fixed period, usually 10 years, and provided all of the terms and conditions of the loan agreement are complied with, no interest will be charged.
The equity share loan is repayable at the end of the loan period, or earlier in the vent if the property being sold. There is usually a provision that, in certain cases of financial hardship, if the borrower is not able to repay the loan at the end of the period, the repayment period may be extended by up to a further 5 years.
The loan agreement will provide that any change in the value in the equity of the property at the time of the sale will be shared in the appropriate percentages (e.g. 75% for the borrower and 25% for the equity share lender). This would apply whether the value has risen or fallen.
Most schemes will allow the borrower to “buy out” the equity lender’s share (or part of it) during the repayment term if the borrower has the funds available. The amount payable would be determined by the market value of the property at that time. Any improvements to the property paid for by the borrower would be disregarded in the valuation.
Whether you are considering buying a property with your spouse, partner, a family member or friend, when two or more persons buy a property together, that property will be held in one of two ways, either as 'joint tenants' or as 'tenants in common'.
In a Joint Tenancy, the owners jointly own the property as a whole with no definable share. When one joint tenant dies, that person’s interest ends and the survivor then owns the whole of the property alone. This is simple and convenient but may only be appropriate within the context of a marriage, though there are exceptions to this. If you are in a same sex relationship and have entered into a formal civil partnership, the law sees you as a married couple at least where your joint property is concerned.
Parties in an unmarried relationship also often use a joint tenancy as a way of owning the property. However, if people come to a relationship with children by a previous marriage, a joint tenancy can disinherit the children of the partner who dies first. His or her interest will pass straight to the survivor, and the children will then be dependent upon gifts made by the surviving partner, who may remarry. As property held under a joint tenancy cannot be disposed of by a will, the partner dying first will not be able to rely on their Will to provide for their children.
In a joint tenancy, whatever the parties have actually contributed to the purchase price, and/or to the maintenance of the property or mortgage, the only safe working assumption is that any proceeds of sale will be divided equally.
If you have any doubt that Joint Tenancy would best meet your needs, we would recommend that you choose a Tenancy in Common.
Tenancy in Common
If you decide to own the property as Tenants in Common, you will each own a specified share of the property. When one owner dies, their share passes to their estate and is distributed according to their Will, or under the laws of intestacy if there is no Will. Owning as Tenants in Common can also help to reduce tax liabilities.
It is preferable to own property as Tenants in Common in all circumstances where a joint tenancy is not immediately and obviously appropriate. Whether you own on a 50/50 or 70/30 basis or any other denomination, a Tenancy in Common will recognise this.
The owners need to have a clear agreement on the proportions in which the property is owned, who can live in the house, who decides when the property is to be sold, and so on. We can advise you about the issues you should consider. The agreement is then best recorded in a formal trust deed, which we can also draw up for you.
For Tenants in Common, we would strongly recommend that each of the owners revises or makes a Will. Without a Will, your assets (including your share in the jointly owned property) will pass to your next of kin, which may not be as you would wish.
What if I already jointly own property?
If you already jointly own property and are not sure of the capacity in which you own it, check your Title Document. If you do not have this to hand, you can check online at the Land Registry website.
The Proprietorship Register will show the names of the people that own the property and, if you are tenants in common will also have the wording:
“No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court”.
If there is no such wording in the Title Document then you are almost certainly joint tenants.
What if I split with my partner or want to end a joint tenancy?
If a couple splits up, the owners will most likely not want their former partner to automatically inherit their interest in the property should they die. By ending the joint tenancy, the owners become Tenants in Common and each will then own specified shares in the property that they can do with as they like. If a Tenant in Common dies, their share of the property forms part of their estate. It does not automatically pass to the other owner.
Please note that a tenancy in common cannot be ended to form a joint tenancy. It only works to end a joint tenancy to create a tenancy in common.
How do I end a joint tenancy?
In order to send a joint tenancy and create a Tenancy in Common, a notice of severance needs to be served by one owner on the other owner of the property. You should also send them a ‘without prejudice’ letter which means that the letter cannot be used in court as evidence without the permission of both parties.
Once the tenancy has been severed, the person ending the joint tenancy must notify the Land Registry (assuming the Property is registered) of the severance. Your solicitor will be able to deal with this on your behalf.
Cohabitation – Does living with someone give me the same rights as a married couple?
If you have lived with your partner for several years, bought a house together, had children together and contributed equally to the family income, you may be of the belief that if you split, the law will give you the same status as a married couple. Unfortunately, this is not the case; there is no legal recognition of a “common law” husband or wife. If a cohabiting couple live in a home in only one partner’s name, the courts’ presumption or starting point is that the other partner is not entitled to a share at all.
What rights do non-owners have?
If you are in a relationship, no matter what sex you and your partner are, if you buy property in just one of the partner’s names, it will remain that person’s property on separation, unless the other party is able to establish that there was a common intention that they would be entitled to a share in the property. Following are some examples of how you might achieve this:-
- If the other party has directly contributed to the purchase price the courts are likely to accept that the other party has some interest in the property;
- If the parties have come to an arrangement that the non-owner will contribute to mortgage repayments, pay household bills or has perhaps sold their own property and the non-owner has acted to their detriment, the courts may agree they are entitled to a share in the property.
However, the preferable and most reliable way to establish a share in a property by a non-owner is to have a deed of trust drawn up by a solicitor at the time of purchase.
What happens if my relationship breaks down?
A cohabiting couple need to give careful thought as to what rights and obligations are expected from the relationship from the outset, in areas including property and financial support, children, pensions and inheritance.
If the relationship ends, very different rules apply for a couple which is married and one which is not. When a married couple divorce, a Court will share out assets and order maintenance in the way it considers fair. This is not the case for unmarried couples and the entitlement on the breakdown of the relationship or upon the death of one of the partners could be very different from what was expected.
Accordingly, if you intend that you should both have an equal share in your house should you split, you will need to get a solicitor to draw up a Trust Deed. Your solicitor may also discuss with you the merits of a Cohabitation Agreement. These are not yet fully tested in the Courts and are not always enforceable but they can help couples think about what is to happen if their relationship ends and can set down common intentions, particularly with regard to financial and property matters.
Another important consideration for unmarried couples is to make Wills to ensure that on death their wishes are taken into account. If no Will is in place, the rules that apply may not achieve what was intended.
What about same sex partnerships?
The Law governing same sex couples and their legal rights changed following the coming into force of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. It is now possible for same sex couples who are unable to marry to register their partnership.
In these instances, if the relationship breaks down and a financial agreement cannot be reached, either party will be able to make an application to the Court. The Judge will be able to make a range of financial orders which will be similar in nature to those orders made within matrimonial proceedings for married couples.
Essentially, the law relating to cohabitation for both same sex and different sex couples is complex; you should seek legal guidance, preferably, at the time you enter into the relationship to avoid the complications that can arise if things don’t work out.
Joint Ownership of Property and Inheritance Tax
Over the last few decades house prices have risen significantly and a larger proportion of properties are now above the threshold which attracts Inheritance Tax. However if the property is held as Tenants in Common only the percentage held by the owner who has died will be subject to Inheritance Tax. If this is below the current threshold then inheritance tax will not apply and the property will be passed to their chosen successor (such as a child of the owner). When the second owner dies, their percentage of the interest in the property can also be transferred to the same successor but only the percentage being transferred will be subject to inheritance tax and, again, if this percentage is less than the current threshold, Inheritance Tax will not apply.
It is important when there is more than one purchaser that each prospective purchaser carefully considers the impacts of both methods and makes an informed decision based on their solicitor’s advice on how best to own the property.