The first step
It is never too early to appoint a solicitor to act for you in a property transaction, even if that property is still on the market.
Once you have instructed a solicitor, you will need to provide some form of identification so the solicitor can comply with the money laundering regulations. If you are selling you will also need to complete several forms relating to the transaction, including a property questionnaire and a fixtures and fittings form detailing which items you will be leaving at the property and which items you will be taking.
By appointing a solicitor early on we will be able to deal with all of the identity requirements and prepare the property questionnaires for completion at the outset to avoid any delays once an offer has been accepted on the property and all parties are keen to progress the transaction.
Once an offer has been accepted
As soon as an offer is made on a property, your estate agent will ask for your solicitor's details to pass onto the other party’s solicitors.
The next step is for the seller’s solicitor to prepare the draft contract and for the buyer’s solicitor to carry out all of the appropriate searches and investigate the legal aspects of the property.
If you are buying a property and need a mortgage, you should speak to your mortgage broker or lender to finalise the mortgage arrangements. Your lender will also require some legal work to be done on its behalf. Usually the same solicitor can also act for the lender, which should save you money. The lender’s solicitor will check that the property complies with the terms of the mortgage and will prepare the mortgage deed/legal charge for signing.
You should also consider at this stage whether or not you require a survey of the property. If you are obtaining a mortgage, your lender may have arranged its own mortgage valuation of the property but please note that this valuation is purely intended to establish whether the property will be sufficient security given the amount and terms of the loan. It will not necessarily tell you if the property is worth the price you are paying for it, nor will it necessarily reveal any structural defects. It is therefore recommended that you appoint a chartered surveyor to carry out a survey of the property before exchange of contracts. There are two main types of survey available, namely the “Homebuyer's Report” and the “Building Survey”. Your mortgage lender or estate agent may be able to recommend a surveyor. Alternatively, we should be able to recommend someone.
Exchange of contracts
Once all of the searches and investigations have been completed, the next step is to exchange contracts. The exchange date is the date when the contract becomes legally binding. This means that the seller must sell the property, and the buyer must buy the property, on the completion date.
Before exchange of contracts takes place, a mutually convenient completion date has to be agreed between the seller and the buyer. This will necessitate discussion with all other parties in the conveyancing chain. The completion date is the date when the buyer pays the agreed purchase price for the property and in return, takes possession of the property.
After completion, the buyer’s solicitor will need to arrange to pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax arising on the transaction and will need to attend to the registration of the transaction on Land Registry’s central database.