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Penmans Conveyancing Solicitors - FAQ's

This page answers the questions we are most often asked. It may also help to read our page entitled Understanding the Moving Process.


Search or Survey?
Stamp Duty Land Tax
What do I have to pay up front?
Exchange of contracts
When does exchange happen?
How long does it take?


Some clients are confused by these terms. A survey requires a physical inspection of the property being purchased and is carried out either by your own surveyor, whom we can assist you in instructing, or one appointed by your mortgage lender, if you are obtaining a mortgage. There are various types of survey available. Please contact us to discuss the options suitable for your particular property.

A search on the other hand is a set of questions that are put to various Authorities, such as the local authority, water authority and coal authority, and involves no physical inspection of the property. Please link to details on available searches for more information.



An odd word, but it means payments that we make out on your behalf to other people, such as the Search fees referred to above. The other payments to be made in relation to a purchase are Land Registration fees (for registering you as the new owner) and Stamp Duty Land Tax.

Other disbursements on purchases may include Land Registry search fees of around £5, Bankruptcy Search fees of around £2 per owner, and bank/administration telegraphic transfer fees of £35 for sending the monies to the seller's solicitors on completion of the purchase.

On a sale only a small Land Registry copy document fee of around £8 is usually payable.

VAT is payable on some disbursements. Please click here to obtain a quotation including VAT



Stamp Duty Land Tax is a property tax payable by a purchaser to the Government based on the purchase price of the property. Stamp Duty Land Tax was revised with effect from 4th December 2014. The rates payable are as follows:

Up to £125,000


Above £125,000 and up to £250,000 2%
Above £250,000 and up to £925,000 5%
Above £925,000 and up to £1,500,000 10%
£1,500,000 + 12%

There is a useful calculator on the Revenues website. Please click on this link:


If you are buying a property we will ask you to provide us with funds to cover the search fees which we will have to pay at the outset of the transaction. This will be the total of the cost of the Local Authority Search and any other necessary searches. Cheques should be made payable to "Penmans Solicitors LLP".

If any deposit is payable against the purchase price (see below) then this will be required shortly before exchange of contracts. Any further balance that is due will be payable shortly before completion.

Except for the initial payment for searches, all payments should be made in the form of a Banker's Draft, Building Society cheque or a direct credit payment to our account (we can provide you with these details) which will normally either be what is known as a CHAPS or BACS payment. We also accept Maestro and credit card payments subject to certain limits.


Perhaps the most pertinent question.

The legal process in this Country means that once you have entered into a contract you cannot back out without running the real risk of being sued for breach of contract. Therefore if your survey proves to be poor, or your mortgage offer contains onerous conditions that you hadn't expected then you will be unable to change your mind if contracts have already been exchanged.

Therefore the following factors have to be in place before you can consider exchanging contracts, unless you are in exceptional circumstances:-

· You have an offer of mortgage from your mortgage provider, if appropriate, and you are happy with all of its many conditions;
· We have received replies to all of the searches that will be necessary including those referred to above;
· We have received and approved the contract and documents of title from the sellers' solicitors. This is the most important part of a solicitor's job. We need to ensure that the sellers have a legal right to sell the property to you and that what you thought you were buying (or selling) is indeed what the deeds suggest is the case!
· All other parties in the 'chain' of transactions below your buyers (if any) and above your sellers (if any) have also completed the above steps.

The advantage to this system is that once contracts have been exchanged completion can happen very rapidly.



When contracts are exchanged a part of the purchase price is paid by the buyer and held by the seller's solicitors. The contract normally provides for this to be 10% of the total price. However there are circumstances where this is not possible particularly where you are selling a house at a lower price than that which you are buying. This requirement for 10% can normally be overcome and therefore unless you have no property to sell it is very rare that you will be required to find a deposit.

Once contracts have been exchanged, the buyer may lose the deposit paid if he or she fails to complete the purchase on the completion date, and furthermore you are quite likely to be required to find the balance of a 10% deposit if this has not been paid originally. We will discuss fully with you the implications of failing to complete, although thankfully these situations are very rare.



Please read through the section above entitled "WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG TO REACH EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS?".

If you are local to our offices you are invited in to see us to discuss and sign contracts. However, we provide a national conveyancing service and provide just as detailed and professional a job for you when dealing with you by post or email. Don't worry about not being local!

The signing of the contract is not the important part. A signed contract simply enables us to exchange contracts when the time is right, which will usually be very shortly after signing. The procedure is nowadays normally dealt with by telephone and can be very rapid, although where a long "chain" is involved, since the process requires the relevant party's solicitor to be in the office at the appropriate time, this can often take 1 or 2 working days to conclude.



This is the magical date you have been waiting for! On this date you will:-

· Take up occupation, or give up occupation;
· We pay over, or receive, the balance of the price of the property;
· You become liable for, or we repay, your mortgage;
· The deeds of the property change hands between solicitors.

It will depend on how many parties there are in the "chain" and a number of other factors, including your mortgage arrangements, as to when you will get the keys to your new property. Most contracts require the seller to be out of the property by no later than 2.00 p.m. and consequently you cannot expect to be able to move in before that time. You should work on the basis that you move out (if appropriate) during the morning of the completion date, and move in (if appropriate) during the afternoon.

Please note that completion must take place on a working day (Monday to Friday), principally because money transfer cannot take place at the weekend. However if you wish to actually move at the weekend, (this may be necessary depending on other parties in the chain), we may be able to arrange this for you if you ask us to.

One final thing! You won't need to visit us on the day of completion - you're far too busy moving!!



This cannot be answered accurately without the full facts. However, typically the period between acceptance of the offer and exchange of contracts is about 6 weeks. Completion is usually very shortly (often seven days or less) after exchange of contracts. As part of Penmans quality service, we aim to:

· Reply to all telephone calls and e mails received before 4.00 p.m. (Monday to Friday) the same day;
· Reply to all letters and faxes within one working day of receipt, except where a lack of information from a third party prevents that;
· Make ourselves available to you for an appointment within two working days;
· We are proactive, not reactive, in progress chasing your transaction and regularly carry out file reviews to ensure nothing further can be done.

By setting ourselves these goals, we aim to maintain a high level of service and ensure any delays are not on our part.


At Penmans we endeavour to provide a high quality service conducted by experienced and qualified conveyancers. It is hoped that the above summary will assist you in your move and remove some of the confusion that surrounds the Legal process.

Please do not hesitate to contact the person dealing with your Conveyancing (or his or her Secretary) if you have any queries which have not been answered by the above information. It would assist considerably if calls could be made after 11.00 a.m. as this will give us time to deal with incoming post, which of course may include