Whether experienced in property dealings or a first time buyer, the process of selling your property or buying a new one can be daunting at the best of time. In this article I hope to provide you with a quick and easy guide to the process so that you really know where you are in the process!
The Initial Stages
So, you’ve accepted your offer/had an offer accepted and instructed your solicitor. What happens now? Your solicitor will send you an initial pack of Client Care documents and forms to fill in. They will need these to be returned together with original identity documents to enable them to start work! Do not be afraid to call them if you get stuck! It is far easier for you to deal with queries before returning the forms rather than have to deal with them after the event.
The Conveyancing Begins
Once your solicitor has your forms the process begins to diverge depending on whether you are selling or buying. For the remainder of this article I will deal with each process separately although given that conveyancing is a back and forth process between Seller and Buyer both sections will be relevant. This should help in understanding not only what your solicitor is doing but what the other side are doing also.
Now that your solicitor has your forms they are able to prepare a draft Contract pack to send to the Buyer’s solicitors. This will include some of the forms you completed along with any relevant accompanying documents, the Title documents (which your solicitor will obtain direct from Land Registry) and, of course, a draft Contract. Do not be concerned that you have not seen the Contract at this point! Conveyancing Contracts are standard form and your solicitor will explain it to you when you sign. The Buyer’s solicitor will then be able to commence the step below.
Once your solicitor has received your completed forms and the draft Contract pack from the Seller’s solicitor as detailed above they will be able to commence the searches. The searches are a series of reports carried out by a search provider to give you a better understanding of the property you are buying. At Bryan and Mercer, our standard set includes five searches: Chancel, Flood, Drainage & Water, Environmental and Local Authority. The exact nature of these searches will be explained to during the course of the transaction. Typically the searches take between two and three weeks to be completed, but the timescale may vary depending on the location of the property. If you are buying the Property for a specific reason, such as the view, always inform your solicitor, so that they can advise you on any additional specialist searches that may be useful.
The Legal Bit
Once the search results are returned the real legal work begins. Your solicitor will review the draft Contract pack received previously along with the search results. There will inevitably be a number of questions to ask in respect of this paperwork to complete the necessary knowledge to proceed. Your solicitor will raise them at this point which is called ‘raising enquiries’. The enquiries will stem from the search results, title documents, survey and will also include any questions of practical nature that you might have. They will also prepare a preliminary/pre-exchange report to you along with all of the documentation received and a copy of the enquiries which have been raised. Don’t be daunted. The report will go a long way to explaining the documentation and your solicitor will always be happy to answer any questions you have.
Once your solicitor has received the enquiries raised by the buyer’s solicitor they will proceed to deal with those that they can. It is almost guaranteed that there will be some questions for you to answer and your solicitor will be happy to offer any required guidance. Once your solicitor has been able to reply to all of the enquiries they will invite you to sign the paperwork relevant to the sale.
Similarly, once your solicitor has received all of the replies and is satisfied with the answers they will report to you on them. If there are a number of enquiries they may report to you on the replies as they arrive to keep you to date.
At this point the processes merge somewhat with completion dates being agreed and the transaction being formalised to legally complete on that date by way of exchange of contracts. This can only occur if authority is obtained from you on the day. This happens to ensure that your personal circumstance have not changed in a way that would not allow you to proceed with your sale or purchase (illness, bereavement, sudden change of mind etc.)
The myth of the ‘exchange date’ is something to avoid. A date for exchange is not something which is ever set. Rather exchange will occur once all parties are ready and a completion date is agreed. There can of course be a target date that parties have chosen to exchange contracts by, however it is important to bear in mind that such target dates (even when they appear under the guise of a deadline) are not binding and really, exchange of contracts, can only take place once all parties are ready i.e. all pre-exchange legal formalities have been concluded.
Once exchange of contracts has taken place, you will be formally notified by your solicitor and provided with the information you need to ensure a successful completion.
The day has finally arrived. So, how does completion work? The Buyer’s solicitors will send the funds to the Seller’s solicitors who will then confirm receipt and advise the estate agent that the keys may be released to the Buyer. The timing of this on the day will largely be dictated by the length of chain of transactions involved. So, that is it, the transaction has completed and you have either sold or bought. The Seller’s solicitor will also redeem any mortgages and forward the executed Transfer (the document used to register the new owners) to the Buyer’s solicitor. The Buyer’s solicitor will then register the change of ownership with Land Registry.
I hope that this guide has gone some way to aiding in your understanding of the process you are embarking upon. Naturally, a large amount of detail is omitted so as to avoid making it an unintelligible novel but this is a general overview after all! Remember, your solicitor can always provide you with more information as the process progresses. Here’s to a smooth transaction!
Christopher Weeks -Bryan and Mercer Solicitors
DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article