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Mortgages

Solicitors and the steps of buying a property

What part does the solicitor have when you buy or remortgage your home?

The process of legally transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer is called conveyancing. This is what the solicitor does;

Conveyancing for a buyer –¬†5 step plan

  1. Pre-contractual stage.
  2. Exchange of contracts.
  3. What happens between exchange and completion?
  4. Completion.
  5. After completion.

It can take between two to three months to buy your new home.

1. Pre-Contractual stage

You have made an offer and it is accepted. The seller’s solicitors draw up the contract allowing the transfer of ownership to take place.

The contract includes:-

  • The selling price
  • The property’s boundaries
  • Fixtures and fitting to be included in the sale, for example, carpets and curtains
  • A decription of the services to the property, say gas and drainage
  • Any planning restrictions
  • The date for completing the purchase, known as Completion

Please note you can negotiate the terms of the contract and specify what stays in the property and what goes. You may well have agreed this already with the estate agent.

Researching the property

It is vital that you and your solicitor find out as much about the property as possible because the seller does not have to volunteer this information.

As part of this process the solicitor will carry out a number of searches and checks which include:-

  • Checking the title. The title is the legal document which confirms that the seller currently owns the property.
  • Asking the local authority about any planned works due to take place in the surrounding area of your property. This is vital as it may highlight plans which you were unaware of that might affect the value of your new home going forward.
  • Any enquiries you or the solicitor may raise with the sellers solicitor.

N.B. Although the seller does not have to volunteer any information they should reply truthfully to enquiries.

While the above is taking place you will have had a valuation on your property and the mortgage offer should have been produced.

2. Exchange of Contracts

Once you and your solicitor are happy that the mortgage offer is in place and that all the enquiries have been dealt with then exchange of contracts can take place. This is when the final copies of the contracts are signed by the buyer and the seller and then exchanged with each other.

Exchange of contracts is legally binding and usually neither party can pull out without paying compensation.

It is at this stage that the buyer pays the deposit. If you are reliant of the sale of a property please speak to your solicitor about how this works for you.

Due to exchange of contracts being binding at this stage you will need to have your buildings insurance in place and we strongly recommended that any associated life assurances are put in place at this time too.

3. What happens between Exchange and Completion?

The solicitor will:-

  • Prepare the legal paperwork required to transfer the ownership of the property to you.
  • Check your mortgage offer.
  • Ensue that the necessary funds are in place, including taking receipt of the Stamp Duty.
  • Arrange for the transfer of funds to the seller.
  • Land registry checks.
  • Make certain that all agreed terms in the contract have been met including the fixtures and fittings.

4. Completion

Completion is the day when the money to buy the property is transferred from the buyer to the seller. The keys are handed over and you now own the property.

The solicitor will ensure:-

  • You are able to take receipt of the keys.
  • That the monies have been received from the mortgage lender and paid to the seller.

You will need:-

  • To ensure that you have paid your solicitor.
  • Received the documentation confirming your now on the property.

At completion any Contents Insurance should be put in place because this is the day you can move into your new home.

5. After Completion

Once you have completed and taken receipt of the keys your part is done.

The solicitor will still need to:-

  • Pay your Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty)
  • Register the change of ownership with the Land Registry.
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