Buying and selling homes is well-regulated in this country and you should be well-protected if you use a competent Solicitor.
You do however have one advantage over your Solicitor. You have visited the property and have seen it with your own eyes. This can be a very useful addition to the routine legal checks.
Strange legal complications can arise because existing owners have entered into informal arrangements, do not understand the law or are maybe not as honest as you would hope.
Here are a few issues to look out for…
Who else is at the property?
Are there any people who might have a legal interest in it, as joint owners for example or married partners? It is important they are fully consulted and give their consent to any sale.
While the seller is legally obliged to disclose this it is always worth keeping an eye open when viewing.
Have the tenants vacated?
Any competent solicitor should verify this before exchanging contracts, but it is worth asking the question.
Again, look out for evidence of lodgers or tenants when you view. If you believe the property is fully or part-rented, tell your solicitor straightaway.
Is there a shared driveway or access?
Property boundaries and rights of way can be a surprisingly inexact science, as these things tend to evolve, especially with older homes.
When you view the property watch out for any issues. If, for example, access is via a driveway that passes across someone else’s land, tell your solicitor who can check the right of way.
New building works, windows or changes in use
When viewing a property, keep an eye out for extensions, replacement windows or any changes of use, such as floors divided into separate apartments.
These are the sort of issues that need to be checked with the planning office by your solicitor, who can raise any issues, attach conditions to the sale and get financial guarantees (indemnities).
Is the house in multiple occupation?
If you notice for example a house is divided into apartments, there are two rooms being used as kitchens or there seems to be more than one family around, you should tell your solicitor.
It could be that there is more than one owner or set of occupants with an interest in it and this needs to be thoroughly checked.
The vast majority of property purchases progress without any problem, but it is worth keeping your eyes open. All of the above issues can be resolved, but it is best to do before you buy.