Buying a house is an exciting time and a big moment in life. But it can take longer than you think, and things can go wrong. Sometimes things go wrong early in the process – for example, when you are trying to get a mortgage. But things can also go wrong further down the line. It’s worth knowing what to look out for.

The most common issues when buying a home are:

  • people not having the right paperwork
  • problems with rights of way
  • a chain breaking down.

The paperwork

One problem that comes up a lot is paperwork. If you are selling a house, it’s important to have building regulations approval for any works that have been done. If the work is still going on, then planning permission documents are important.

Properties can be subject to ‘restrictive covenants’. This limits what someone can do with the property. Sometimes people don’t realise their own home is affected by a covenant.

For example, a covenant might state that no major changes can be made to a house. If the seller has breached the covenant by building an extension or making another big change to the property, this can slow things down.

The HomeOwners Alliance gives practical advice to homeowners and those who want to be homeowners. You can find out more about restrictive covenants on the HomeOwners Alliance website.

Rights of way

One of the most important parts of conveyancing is making sure the property is ‘good and marketable’. This means the home must have a right of way. In short, you need to be able to get to the property and leave it again.

If the property is on a public adopted road, it will usually have rights over the road. This means access is not a problem. A conveyancing lawyer should check this before contracts are exchanged.

Issues can come up if there is a gap between the property and the road or if it’s on a private road with no right of way.

Indemnity insurance

Indemnity insurance is a policy that keeps you safe from a problem that might happen in the future. It’s a one-off payment that covers the costs of anyone making a claim.

Indemnity insurance covers things that would take a long time to fix. Instead of fixing the problem, the insurance protects you against any bills in the future.

The seller may still have indemnity insurance from when they bought the property. Your conveyancer can ask to see this. They will decide if that type of cover will still work.

Conveyancers may give the information to your mortgage lender.

Breakdown of a chain

A chain is when there are more than two properties, and their sales depend on each other. For example, a buyer must sell their own home to buy a home themselves.

One of the most common frustrations about conveyancing is being part of a chain.

If the chain breakdown involves your property, you need to think about remarketing to find a new buyer.

If the chain breakdown involves someone else’s property, there isn’t much you can do. You need to think about how long you want to wait. If you wait too long, your mortgage offer might run out.

Misrepresentation of the property

Misrepresentation happens when the seller makes an untrue statement about their property.

Most issues can be fixed before the exchange of contracts. If you find the seller has said something untrue on purpose, think about all the information in front of you. It might be worth questioning everything and getting as much clarity as you can.

If you have already exchanged contracts, things are more difficult. You are bound to buy the property. You may need litigation advice. You may need to see if the contract can be rescinded.

You may be able to fix the situation between exchange and completion.

If you have reached completion, it’s very likely you’ll need to resort to litigation. There are ways of overturning a transaction, but they can be very costly.

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