Moving home can be a stressful time!
Here’s a simple guide to the legal process, often referred to as ‘conveyancing’.
The ‘contract pack’
Once the sale has been agreed the first thing to happen is for the seller’s solicitor to put together a ‘contract pack’. This will include the sale contract itself, forms completed by the seller about the property (including what fixtures and fittings are staying), and any relevant guarantees, planning consents, and so on.
The buyer’s solicitor’s job is to make sure that all sides to the legal ‘title’ of the property is as it should be. The concept of buyer beware very much applies! To establish the legal title, the buyer’s solicitor will carefully consider everything contained in the contract pack, and will also undertake searches. These are formal enquiries normally raised with the local authority, the local water board, and perhaps also to establish any environmental issues to (eg contaminated land).
Queries may come out of those investigations. If they do, they will be sent to the seller’s solicitor to be clarified. This process is called ‘pre-contract enquiries’.
A full survey is always a good idea. This is to establish that the fabric of the building (as opposed to the legal side of things) is sound.
Buyers will often fund their purchase with a mortgage. This needs to be in place before they commit to the purchase (exchange of contracts). A lender will always have a surveyor value the property to be sure that they have adequate security. This is not a survey, it’s simply the lender protecting their interests!
Exchange of contracts
Once everything is in order, the exchange of contracts can take place. Once this has happened, the seller must sell, and the buyer must buy. A deposit is paid (normally 10% of the purchase price). And, the date for completion is fixed (this is the day you actually move).
There are often people above and below your own transaction who will want to move on the same day. This is called a ‘chain’. It’s something that can cause some frustration for buyers and sellers as everyone in the chain needs to agree the same date for completion.
This is the day you move! The balance of purchase money will be sent by the buyer’s solicitor to the seller’s solicitor (electronic bank transfer). Once it arrives with the solicitor, ‘completion’ happens. Normally, the seller will have a removal company emptying the property on the morning of completion, leaving the buyer’s removal firm to move them in once completion has happened.