The 3 most popular misconceptions about the house buying process

By Lauren Burns

Over our many years of doing residential property conveyancing in Northern Ireland we have found that clients regularly have the same misconceptions about the house buying process in Northern Ireland. Here is what we think are the 3 most common:

'I've just bought a house' - The legal position

Many clients will ring us up enquiring about our conveyancing service and tell us that they have 'just bought a house' and need a solicitor to do the legal work for them. They of course understand that no money has exchanged hands yet, but many are understandably confused about when they are in a legally binding contract to purchase the property. They are often surprised to hear that either party can pull out of the sale up until the point that both their respective solicitors have a copy of the contract signed by both the seller and the purchaser.

Our tip: Do not book removal vans or incur any unnecessary expense until you have been advised by your solicitor that you are in a legally binding contract and a completion date has been confirmed.


'The empty house' - Opening the door on the day of completion

Some purchasers are surprised to find just how empty the house they have bought is when they turn the key in the front door on the day of completion. The house they viewed, and fell in love with was carefully decorated with eye-catching fixtures and furnishings. Sellers are entitled to remove just about everything from the property, including carpets, curtain poles, toilet roll holders, wheelie bins and more. During the conveyancing process the seller will complete a fixtures and fittings list indicating what they intend to leave at the property, what they are taking with them, and any items they are willing to sell. The purchaser will be provided a copy of this and it is important that they review it carefully and raise any issues with their solicitor prior to completion.

Our tip: When you are viewing a property that you are interested in buying be sure to ask what exactly is being left behind in each room. Never assume that something will be left at the property.


'Mortgage Lender says no' - when the purchaser is happy to proceed but the lender isn't

Often an issue will arise in respect of the property that the client has to be made aware of and consider whether or not they are willing to proceed. What purchasers are often unaware of is that if they are buying with a mortgage their Lender also has to be made aware of any issues and also has to decide if they are happy to proceed with the mortgage in spite of the issue.

The purchaser's solicitor is acting for the Lender as well as their client, except for on the rare occasions that the Lender has instructed a separate firm of solicitors. The Lender wants to be satisfied that the property is good security for the money they are lending, and are always imagining a worse case scenario where they have to repossess the property and one day sell it. They want to ensure that there are no issues with the property that would affect their ability to sell it quickly. It is therefore a fairly regular occurrence that the client will be made aware of an issue but decides they are not overly concerned about it and want to proceed, only to be told by the Lender that they are withdrawing their mortgage offer unless it is resolved.


Our tip: If you are purchasing with a mortgage be aware that your Lender is as interested in the quality and value of the property as you are. They are an important stakeholder and have the overriding right to say whether an issue is acceptable or not.


If you are buying a house in Northern Ireland and require a property conveyancing solicitor to handle the legal process for you contact Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by clicking here.