The House Buying Process: Your Questions Answered


Everyone knows purchasing a property can be a bewildering and stressful process. Our friendly and experienced residential property team will guide you through every step of the way, from your initial call to us right through to collecting the keys for your new property and beyond. Here we answer some of the most common questions our clients ask us.


What is a deposit and when do I need to pay it?

Usually, the exchange deposit is ten per cent of the purchase price. If you are buying for the first time, or purchasing without a related sale, you’ll need to transfer this deposit to your solicitor’s client account just before the exchange of contracts. You will need to transfer the outstanding balance just before the completion date – but remember, this sum will also need to include all costs, disbursements and fees you agreed to pay at the start of your matter. Don’t worry about remembering all these figures as your solicitor will send you a completion statement on exchange showing the outstanding balance you’ll need to pay.


Do I really need a survey?

We always recommend obtaining a survey from a suitably qualified professional before exchange of contracts. A survey isn’t a legal requirement but it will highlight areas of concern such as roofing issues or signs of subsidence, damp or timber infestations. If, for example, the survey reveals the roof needs to be completely overhauled, you may decide to offer a reduced purchase price to offset the cost of the works, or ask the sellers to fix the issue ahead of exchange. You will be responsible for organising a survey rather than your solicitor.


How soon will it be before I can get the keys to my house?

Usually, if a purchase proceeds as expected, we allow between 6-8 weeks from your instruction to completion – the day when you can finally move in. However, sometimes matters become more complex than we can initially predict and this can add time to the process. For example, we may discover you don’t have any legal right of way to access your front door, or that the property is built on contaminated land. There are ways we can guide you through these issues with a suitable solution, keeping any delays to a minimum as much as possible.


I want to do some minor works to the property between exchange and completion – is this allowed?

You’re not normally permitted to enter the property until the day of completion.  However, it’s possible - with the seller’s agreement - to carry out works by an agreement known as a Key Undertaking. This document will detail the precise works you intend to carry out, plus arrangements for handing the keys back to the seller or agent each day. Key undertakings tend to be for small scale works and typically require you to indemnify the seller against any damage you may cause to the property.


What if I change my mind after exchange and don’t want to proceed with the purchase?

It’s rare for a purchaser to pull out because the moment contracts are exchanged there is a legally binding agreement between the parties to complete on an agreed date (the ‘completion date’). If you subsequently decide to abandon the purchase after exchange, the seller may be able to keep your deposit monies and sue you for damages. You need to be completely certain you want to proceed before exchange; if you have any doubts whatsoever, talk to us first before making the legal commitment to complete.


What exactly happens on completion day?

If you are purchasing with a mortgage, we will have made sure your mortgage funds are drawn down into our client account on the day of completion. You’ll also need to send us the balance of funds, shown on your completion statement, before the completion date. We will then organise a same day payment to your seller’s solicitor’s client account for the purchase price, less any deposit already paid. Once they have received the money, the sellers’ solicitors contact us to confirm completion has happened – this is when they instruct the estate agents to release the keys to you, and you can start to move in.


What to do next

If you would like to talk to us about any aspect of purchasing or selling a residential property, please call us on 0161 941 4000, or contact us online.