Buying and selling a property can be a stressful life event. Having an understanding of the legal processes involved can help you feel more in control and prepared about what is to come. The guide below sets out a brief summary of the legal procedure for a typical sale and purchase to help you have a better understanding as you go along.
1. Offering on the Property
The conveyancing process begins when an offer on a property has been made by the proposed buyer and accepted by the owner of the property. Buyers and sellers should instruct a solicitor as soon as an offer is agreed. If an estate agent has been involved with the marketing of the property, once they have the details of the chosen solicitors, they will issue a memorandum of sale to the solicitors confirming the agreed purchase price and each parties’ details together with details of their solicitors.
2. Initial Lending Arrangements and Financing
If the buyer is buying with a mortgage and already have an agreement in principle from the mortgage lender, they will need to pass the details of their chosen lender onto their solicitor, who will likely also act for their mortgage lender.
There are some occasions where the solicitor’s firm may not be on the panel of the lender which would mean that they cannot act for the lender so it is best to check this with the solicitor or mortgage broker as early as possible.
In an ideal world, the buyer should already have a mortgage offer but if not, this could add an extra few weeks to the timeline to account for the time it takes to secure a mortgage offer.
When the formal mortgage offer has been issued, the buyer’s solicitor will receive a copy of this and will report to the buyer on the main terms and arrange for the mortgage deed to be signed.
To comply with the anti-money laundering regulations, the buyer’s solicitor will also need to satisfy themselves as to the source of the balance of the funds to be used in the purchase and will likely ask the buyer to supply information and supporting evidence as to where the funds are coming from.
3. The Contract Pack
The seller’s solicitor will prepare the draft contract and obtain title information from the Land Registry to provide to the buyer’s solicitor.
The seller will complete a fittings and contents form confirming what is intended to be left at the property and what is excluded in the sale. The seller will also complete a property information form which provides various information about the property which the buyer and their solicitor will want to know about. These will also be sent to the buyer’s solicitor for review.
If the property is a leasehold property or is freehold but has shared areas managed by a management company, there will be additional information the seller’s solicitor will need to gather for the buyer’s solicitor from the seller and the landlord and/or management company which will provide details of how the shared areas are managed and what additional service charges the property is subject to.
4. Due Diligence on the Property
The buyer’s solicitor will order property searches. They are carried out by specialist search companies and the local authority to acquire information about the property’s water and drainage system, environmental matters and any planning or local information that may adversely affect the property. This process can take some time.
It can take as little as 2 weeks, but local authorities are often overrun and this can cause significant delays of several weeks. A full set of property searches can cost around £450 so expect your solicitor to request this payment upfront from you.
The buyer may also wish to obtain a property survey from a surveyor would inspect the condition of the property and advise of any repairs or maintenance that should be made. Issues for your solicitor may also be flagged in the survey.
While the searches and survey are being carried out, the buyer’s solicitor will review the contract pack and title documentation received from the seller’s solicitor. The buyer’s solicitor will make any necessary amendments to the draft contract and prepare a draft transfer deed to be agreed with the seller’s solicitor.
The buyer’s solicitor will also check that the seller actually owns the property and has the legal right to sell it and they will look for any responsibilities and liabilities the buyer will need to take on when they buy the property and whether the property is subject to any restrictions that may affect the buyer’s use and enjoyment of the property.
Following the review of their contract and title documentation, the buyer’s solicitor will raise enquiries to the seller’s solicitor. These could include questions regarding the title to the property, questions arising from the seller’s answers in the property information form or property searches and questions regarding maintenance of shared areas and costs the property is subject to.
The seller’s solicitor will likely require the input of the seller and any landlord or management company to answer the buyer’s solicitor’s enquiries.
The buyer’s solicitor will also prepare a report on the title and property for the buyer which provides a summary of the property the buyer is purchasing.
If the buyer is purchasing with a mortgage and the buyer’s solicitor also acts for the lender, the buyer’s solicitor will be checking that the property has a good and marketable title for the lender. There may be matters that their solicitor will need to report to the lender and obtain their approval to proceed before they can draw down the mortgage funds.
5. Signing of Documents
Once all enquiries and any lender requirements are dealt with and the contract and transfer deed are agreed, the solicitors will issue the final contract and transfer deed together with any other relevant documents for signing by the seller and buyer. The two parties will agree a completion date and look to exchange contracts which will make the completion date legally binding.
6. Exchange of Contracts
Prior to the exchange of contracts, the buyer will need to transfer their deposit to their solicitor which is usually 10% of the purchase price, although a lesser deposit may be agreed, especially when there is a chain below. Assuming there is no chain involved, the buyer’s solicitor will confirm to the seller’s solicitor when they are holding the deposit and signed documents.
The two parties will now exchange contracts which is most often carried out by telephone by the buyer and seller’s solicitors. Once the contracts have been exchanged, neither party can pull out of the transaction without being subject to a financial penalty.
The completion date is the day the purchase monies are sent to the seller’s solicitor, when the seller will need to provide vacant possession of the property and the buyer will receive the keys to the property.
The buyer’s solicitor will request the balance of funds needed from the buyer and will request the lender to release the mortgage funds in advance of completion.
The lender will send the mortgage funds to direct the buyer’s solicitor, who will then transfer purchase monies to the seller’s solicitor on completion day.
Once funds are received from the buyer’s solicitor, the seller’s solicitor will confirm that the sale is complete and the buyer will receive the keys, usually from the estate agent.
The seller’s solicitor will immediately pay off any existing mortgage the seller has on the property.
The buyer’s solicitor will submit a stamp duty/land transaction tax return on behalf of the buyer and arrange for any stamp duty/land transaction tax to be paid.
The seller’s solicitor will send the original transfer deed signed by the seller to the buyer’s solicitors and the buyer’s solicitor can then submit an application to the Land Registry to register the property in the buyer’s name and deal with the registration of any lender’s charge.
The average timescale for the conveyancing process to reach completion can take between 8-12 weeks. However, this can take longer depending on any chain involved, how complex the property and title is, and the length of time it takes for solicitors to deal with enquiries and searches.
At Myerson Solicitors, we always try to adhere to any timescales you may have but this is dependent on all other parties also being able to work to that timescale