The prospect of buying your first home is an exciting one but venturing into the property market can be overwhelming.

Your home is likely to be the biggest purchase you will ever make, so it’s important to get it right.

There are so many decisions to make, and questions to answer, such as whether you are eligible for a mortgage, is the property structurally sound or opposite the site of a proposed new pub or social club, and are the property boundaries around your ‘do-er upper’ skewed by some ancient law?

Solicitor Gemma Butland, of Red Kite Law in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, said the process can be extremely daunting if you don’t have the right advice to hand.


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“It’s vital when buying a house that you instruct a conveyancing solicitor, once you have a written mortgage offer and you have had an offer accepted on a property,” she said.

“Your solicitor will carry out checks of the legal title for the property, conduct searches and raise enquiries and will then report to you with their findings. This will enable you to make an informed decision to proceed to exchange of contracts or decide that the house is not for you.

“If you decide to proceed, on completion your solicitor will complete and submit the Land Transaction Tax Return, if the property is in Wales, or the Stamp Duty Land Tax Return, in England.

“They will then make an application to Her Majesty’s Land Registry to register the property in your name and register any associated mortgage on behalf of the lender to protect their security.

"It can all seem very dull, but it’s a necessary process to buying a home.

When buying, you should:

• Ensure finances are in place, with a written mortgage offer

• Budget for legal, mortgage, surveyor and search fees, and land tax/stamp duty

• Instruct an experienced conveyancing solicitor

• Get a solicitor’s breakdown of fees, including third party fees

• Instruct an independent surveyor’s search

• Read and understand search results and solicitor’s advice

• Ask your solicitor questions

What are the risks when buying a property?

• Unregistered land – can prolong purchase process

• Leasehold – gives you ownership for a determinable period only. Freehold gives you outright ownership until you choose to sell

• Delays/breach of contract – it is possible for a buyer/seller to withdraw prior to exchange of contracts without a penalty. If pulling out afterwards, damages may be charged

• Auction purchases – at auction you are exchanging contracts when your bid has been successful on the day. If you pull out, you could lose your deposit

• Owner has died – if a seller is acting for a deceased person, they may have little knowledge, so the solicitor, whilst still carrying out checks, may have limited information to give you.”

For conveyancing advice, contact Gemma Butland on 01437 771923 or email her at

This Legal Expert column has been produced in conjunction with the Law Society.