Help to Buy Schemes: An Overview


Saving to buy your first home can be a challenge for anyone, particularly as house prices continue to rise. 

Luckily, there are some schemes to help you get together the monies you need to purchase your property.

Help to Buy ISA

The most common is the Help To Buy ISA. This operates in much the same way as a regular savings ISA, with the bonus that the Government will provide you with a payment of 25% of the amount saved (subject to a maximum bonus of £3,000), as long as you meet the criteria of the scheme.

For example, if you have saved £6,000, your bonus will be £1,500. The solicitor acting for you in the purchase of your property can make the application for the bonus on your behalf.

The Help to Buy ISA is available for all types of properties, and isn’t restricted to newly built properties. You are also not restricted in the mortgage lender that you choose.

Armed Forces Help to Buy Scheme

Some employers now also assist their staff in the purchase of their first home, such as with the Armed Forces Help to Buy Scheme,  which assists with loans to help you with your deposit.  This scheme is also approved by many lenders, however you should alert your financial advisor that you intend to use this scheme so they may make your mortgage company aware of this when making your mortgage application.

If you would like any further information on Help to Buy Schemes, please do not hesitate to contact us here or leave your comments below.

Buying a new home? What exactly does your solicitor do?


So, you’ve spent the past few months with your nose deeply buried in property brochures. Your Google search list consists solely of property websites and viewing houses has almost become a hobby.  You’re even sick of the sight of Kirsty and Phil on ‘Location Location Location’

But, at long last, it has happened –you’ve finally found your ideal home!

That’s the hard part right?  Once the mortgage is through, surely all you need to do is arrange a date to pick up the keys and then you can get down to the important stuff, like where to put the sofa and what colour to paint the living room??

Unfortunately not…before keys can be placed in your hand and all your furniture packed up, the legal process of buying a house needs to be completed.  

It’s not a matter of just signing on the dotted line either – the entire legal process normally takes between 6-8 weeks before you can get moving.

What exactly does my solicitor do?

You may wonder what it is exactly that a solicitor does when dealing with buying a house for you.

Your solicitor’s main job is to protect your interests and make sure that all of the title deeds under which you will own the property are in order.

To do this, they have to check the following:-

  • They check all of the title deeds (which may consist of hundreds of pages!) to make sure there is nothing contained in them that may restrict your use of the property.
  • They check the maps of the property and make sure the boundary to the property is correct – after all, there’s no point in buying a house and realising when you go to sell it that you didn’t actually own part of your back garden!
  • They review any survey reports you or your mortgage company have to get to check if work has been done to the property which may to be queried with the seller.
  • They ensure that you are connected to a mains sewer, or that the necessary consents are in place for a septic tank, and that you have access to a public road.
  • They check through paperwork (such as searches and certificates) to make sure that any necessary planning permissions and building control documents are in place.
  • They liaise with you and your mortgage company throughout this process and highlight to you any issues which you should be aware of before you actually buy the house.
  • If there are any service charges or if ground rent is payable, they ensure that these are all paid up to date by the seller so that no unwanted bills arrive at your door once you’ve moved.

All checks and searches have been done – what now??

Once your solicitor is satisfied that everything is in order and any problems have been resolved, they will report to you on the property, and ask you to meet them so that you can sign the contract.

Your solicitor will also contact your mortgage company and ask them to forward mortgage monies through to them directly before you buy.

When can I move in?

Once the contracts are signed, a date is arranged between you and the seller for when money (and more importantly, keys!) will change hands.

On this date, once the financial transaction has gone through via your solicitor, you will officially be able to move into your new home!

Whilst you’re busy picking out wallpaper and getting the TV installed, your solicitor’s job is not finished yet! After completion,  they will deal with the registration of the property into your name.

To be done thoroughly and correctly this entire process will take time. A little time invested now should ensure that when it is your time to sell the property, everything proceeds smoothly.

When you are told the matter is ‘with your solicitor’, rest assured that your purchase is being well looked after and your solicitor will be in touch to allow you to get your keys as soon as possible.
 If you would like any further information on the legal process of buying or selling your house, or any other aspect of Property Law in NI, feel free to contact us here 

A Guide to Property Certificates

house for sale.jpgWhether you are in the process of buying a home for the first time or you are seasoned in the art of buying and selling property, you will no doubt have heard your solicitor mention the need to obtain ‘Property Certificates’ at an early stage in the conveyancing process. 

Like much of the legal jargon related to the process of buying and selling property, it is likely that many people have no idea what these certificates are and why they are necessary – some people may believe it is simply a further cost that is added onto their bill and that these certificates serve no real purpose in the process.

The truth of the matter is that obtaining and reviewing Property Certificates is an essential element in any conveyancing transaction.  Here we have set out for you the purpose of these certificates and why they are so important.

So what exactly are Property Certificates?

In any conveyancing transaction, the seller’s solicitors have to provide property certificates to the buyer’s solicitor. These certificates provide up to date information about the property.

There are two main property certificates:-

  • Regional Property Certificates
  • Council Property Certificates
What is a Regional Property Certificate?

A Regional Property Certificate contains information obtained from the Department of the Environment.  This certificate will confirm the following:-

  • That the road used to access your property is maintained by Transport NI and is not private.
  • That the sewers are either maintained by NI Water or the property is served by a septic tank and that the necessary statutory consent for this is in place.

This certificate will also show the planning history of your property.  Your solicitor will review this certificate along with the title deeds and your survey to make sure that any alterations there have been to the property over the years have the necessary consents in place.

What is a Council Property Certificate?

A Council Property Certificate contains information provided from the Council in which your property is built.   This certificate shows the Building Control history of your property.  This is important as it is the function of Building Control to make sure that any works carried out to your property are up to a required minimum standard.

The Council Property Certificate will also show the correct postal address of the property and confirm if the property is in a smoke control zone which can impact on the type of solid fuel you can use.

Why are Property Certificates important when buying or selling my house?

The information contained within Property Certificates is important when you are buying a property so that you are fully aware of what you are purchasing and the responsibilities and costs which go along with it.  Without these documents being obtained and properly reviewed, you may find yourself liable for the insurance and resurfacing of a private roadway, or the upkeep of a private septic tank or sewage treatment plant.   The buyer of a property that you are selling will also require these documents before they can complete on the transaction and without these being in order you may have difficulties selling your home.

RFlinnRuth Flinn is a Solicitor in the Property Law Department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. She is experienced in all areas of residential conveyancing. If you require any further information  on conveyancing matters, please contact us below or contact Ruth on

Property Surveys: To Invest or Not to Invest?

buildingwork.jpgBuying a new home can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience – exciting because it marks a new start in a new home, and nerve-wracking because buying a house is a big expense and commitment. 
It is important that you do your research before money changes hands to know as much as you can about the property you are buying.
Once the offer you place on your new property has been accepted, it is your solicitor’s job to ensure that the legal title of the property is in order.   Your solicitor will therefore carry out all of the necessary checks on the title to the property.

The one thing your solicitor is unable do for you is to inspect the property for physical defects.  Whilst you will of course have viewed the property a number of times yourself, unless you are a qualified surveyor there can be no guarantee that the property doesn’t have underlying physical defects that you are not aware of. 

In order to alleviate any fears in this regard, it is a sensible idea to obtain a survey of the property at an early stage in the conveyance process.

There are three main types of survey:

  1. Valuation Survey

If you are obtaining a mortgage to buy your property, a valuation survey will normally be carried out by the mortgage lender and this survey is solely for their benefit.  Valuation surveys are very basic and restrict themselves to comments of a very general nature only.

  1. Home Buyers Report (‘RICS Survey’)

This survey is carried out by a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and is a much more in-depth survey of your property. The property will be extensively assessed by a surveyor and any defects noted. An indication of the severity of the defect will be provided along with comments about the general upkeep and maintenance of the property.

  1. Structural Report

Occasionally, a defect will be found which is so concerning that you are advised to obtain a structural survey. This will generally look at one specific area of concern, such as problems with suspected cavity wall tie failure, or cracking which may be caused by a poorly constructed extension. Structural reports are also recommended should you be planning extensive renovation works upon buying the property.

All of the survey reports detailed can recommend the need for further specialist investigations, such as a damp proofing or timber report.  If you are buying with a mortgage, the mortgage company may insist that these reports are obtained before they release any monies to you to buy the property.  

The benefits of a thorough survey are hard to overstate as they frequently show hidden problems which may not have been apparent when you first viewed the property. It is therefore something that should be carefully considered by anyone thinking of buying a property.

RFlinnRuth Flinn is a Solicitor in the Property Law Department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. She is experienced in all areas of residential conveyancing. If you require any further information on conveyancing matters, please CONTACT US HERE or contact Ruth on


Top Tips for First Time Buyers


So, you’ve decided that now is the time to take the plunge and set your feet firmly on the property market by buying your first home.

Though buying property can be an exciting time for many, it can also be a daunting experience and will be one of the largest financial commitments you will make in life.

So what kind of issues should you be considering when house-hunting?

1. Know your budget

It is important before you get going to seek the advice of an independent financial adviser to find out how much of a mortgage you could be given by a lender and how much of a balance you will have to pay towards the property from your own savings.

A deposit of around 10% of the house price is normally required but the more you can put down to begin with, the better the mortgage deal you will be able to get.

Be realistic about your lifestyle after you move into the property and don’t overstretch yourself in your monthly mortgage commitments. Remember you will also have other outlays before you get your keys such as legal fees, additional surveys, mortgage product fees and stamp duty so be sure to figure them into your budget along with any costs for redecorating and furniture.

2. Research! Research! Research!

It’s a little odd that we make a commitment to spend a very large sum of money based on a quick walk round a property, possibly with other potential buyers present.  When you are viewing a property you like, ask as many questions as you can;  When was that sunroom built?  Does it have planning permission?  Is there a warranty?  Who are your neighbours?  Who owns that massive tree overhanging the garden and who is responsible for trimming it?

Get a second viewing of the property and consider commissioning your own survey – remember, a survey carried out for mortgage purposes is for the bank’s protection, not yours.

If you don’t already live in the area, then visit the location at several different times of the day and night, weekday and weekend.  The character of a neighbourhood can really change depending on the time of day. Check the amount of rates payable for that area. Check out local schools, transport routes and sports facilities. Ask yourself; “Is this somewhere I really want to live?”

3. Be aware of ‘common areas’

Many new developments and apartment blocks will have common areas containing stairs, lifts and common recreational space.

All apartments should have the benefit of a management company who look after the maintenance and insurance of common areas – this is also common in many new developments.

The weeding of all those flowerbeds isn’t cheap and so to maintain and insure the common areas of a development or apartment block, each resident is required to pay an annual service charge to the company managing the development or apartments.  This charge may be over £100.00 per month and in some developments substantially more. The estate agent showing you around the property should be able to give you an idea of the service charge before you place your offer. Ask yourself can you afford this as well as your other outgoings.

4. Make yourself an attractive purchaser

Demand for property is now strong and you want to have the competitive edge if you are bidding on a new home. The key to this is being prepared:-

  • Have a mortgage agreement in principle in place – this is a document from your chosen lender saying they are happy to lend to you.
  • Have proof that you have the deposit monies in your bank account.
  • Return calls to the estate agent promptly.

Showing that you are keen and engaged can go a long way to securing your property. Speak to a solicitor in advance and know who you are going to appoint to represent you in the purchase of the property

Above all else, don’t get caught up in the excitement and either over-commit yourself financially, or end up in a property you like, but don’t love. Take your time to make the right choices to ensure that in the end, there really is no place like home.
Happy house hunting!
RFlinnRuth Flinn is a solicitor in the Property Law department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors.                                                  If you require any further information on buying a house or if you would like a free no-obligation quote, please contact Ruth on