The following is a general guide to the conveyancing procedure when buying a property. If you are in doubt about any specific issue you should consult your solicitor directly. Please note: The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Conveyancing Activities
- Once you have told the solicitor that you wish to use their services you should receive a Letter of Engagement or Confirmation of Terms of Business. You should sign and return this as soon as possible so that they can start work. Funds will be requested to cover initial expenditure such as the cost of the searches.
- Your solicitor will write to the seller’s solicitor to confirm that they are instructed and request the draft contract. This should arrive with a pack that includes information on the property’s title and the standard forms completed by the seller. If the property is leasehold a copy of the lease will also be included.
- Many people buy houses in joint names and, as such, need to be aware of an important decision to be made in relation to joint ownership. There are two ways that you can jointly own a property:
- Joint tenants – this is where both parties have an equal interest in the property and if one of you dies the survivor automatically owns the property.
- Tenants in common – you each own a specific share of the property and can leave that share by Will, in the event of your death.
Before you commit to buying the property your solicitor will ask you your wishes regarding shared ownership
- You need to let your solicitor know from the outset if you are also selling a property and need the transactions to be tied together.
- You should inform your estate agent which solicitor you plan to use so that they can send a “Memorandum of Sale” to all the relevant parties together with a copy of the property particulars.
Legal Work prior to Contracting to Buy
- The solicitor will examine the draft contract documents and if necessary raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. You will be required to go through the standard forms that the seller has completed and let the solicitor know if everything is as you expected.
- If the property that you are buying is leasehold your solicitor will send a standard Managing Agents Questionnaire to the seller’s solicitors which will in turn be sent on to relevant Landlord/Managing Agents/Residents Association.
- If you are taking out a mortgage your solicitor will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions.
- Your solicitor will normally undertake legal work on behalf of your lender as well.
Signing your Contract
- Once answers to all the enquiries have been returned they will be examined by your solicitor and if they are satisfactory you will be invited in to sign the contract and any mortgage documents. You will need to make arrangements for the deposit to be transferred into your solicitor’s bank account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange.
Exchange of Contracts
- Before exchange of contracts can take place your lender (if you have one) will require you to have a Buildings Insurance policy in place.
- All the parties involved need to agree on a completion date.
- From the point at which contracts are exchanged you are legally bound to buy and the seller is legally bound to sell. Should either party back out the other will be entitled to claim compensation for losses arising.
- At the point that contracts are exchanged your solicitor will send your deposit to the seller’s solicitor. This acts as security for the seller in case you change your mind or for some reason are unable to pay the balance and complete the purchase. If that happens, the seller can keep your deposit, and may take you to court if the deposit is not enough compensation for breaking the contract. In the same way, if the seller exchanges contracts and then refuses to complete the sale, you could apply to the court for an order to force the seller to complete, or else get your deposit back and sue the seller for compensation. It is rare for a sale not to complete once contracts have been exchanged.
Between Exchange and completion
- Your solicitor will draw up the transfer deed so that the property can be registered in your name as soon as possible after completion. Your solicitor will also carry out some further searches of a technical nature.
- During this period you should receive a statement from your solicitor showing all your expenses and giving you a final figure which you will need to make sure is cleared in to your solicitor’s bank account before completion. If you are taking out a mortgage your solicitor will draw down the loan amount in time for completion.
- Completion is normally set for around lunchtime on the specified day although in practical terms completion takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms that they have received all the money that is due. Once this has happened the seller should drop the keys off to the estate agent ready for you to collect.
- Your solicitor will arrange for the title deeds to be registered in your name and if the property is leasehold ensure that your name is entered on to the lease. They will also get the transfer stamped to officially approve the sale
Finally, if you have taken out a mortgage, the deeds are sent to your lender for safe keeping until you either sell the property or pay off the loan.
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