The Legal Processes
This is the legal process of buying your house that the solicitor undertakes on your behalf. Your solicitor should carry out the following:
Request Draft Contract
The contract is a legal document that sets out the terms of the sale process. It is drawn up by the seller’s solicitor using information from the deeds of the property and sent to your solicitor.
The contract will contain details of the property and items that are to be included in the sale, the buyers and sellers, how much it will be sold for and the date on which the transaction will take place. However, it is not a standard contract and is likely to change or clarify in detail considerably over the course of the coming weeks, as a result of contract tennis between the two solicitors involved.
The contract has two parts: Particulars of Sale and Conditions of Sale. The Particulars describe the property and details of the lease or freehold. The Conditions have information about the proposed completion date and any deposit required when contracts are exchanged. Once results of the Land Registry Search and Local Authority Search have come back and any queries regarding the property have been answered, the draft contract is approved by your solicitor.
Whilst waiting for the draft contract, your solicitor will send a list of pre-contract enquiries to the seller’s solicitor, in order to uncover some basic information about the property. This enquiry will ask a standard set of questions, which amongst other things should include:
- What is to be included in the sale? Clarify what contents the vendor will be taking with them and what is being left behind.
- What are the boundaries of the property? Who owns and is responsible for any perimeter hedges or fences?
- Whether or not the property is connected to all the appropriate utilities.
In the case of a leasehold property:
- Who is the managing agent?
- Who is the freeholder?
- Is the current owner up to date with service charge bills and ground rent?
- After receiving the draft contract, your solicitor will check the documentation and raise any specific queries that arise from their study of the paperwork.
Local Authority Search
Your solicitor will submit a Local Authority Search to the local council that you will pay a fee for. This is important as it will highlight any potential issues regarding the property such as planning permission and any other local issues such as potential developments in the area. The local search will also tell you whether there are any planning restrictions that may affect your intentions to renovate or extend the property.
The search won’t tell you everything, however. It only covers those areas immediately next to the property and not everything in the surrounding area. If you want total peace of mind, then you should visit the planning department of your local town hall and make sure that the search has not overlooked anything.
The local searches can take anything from two or three weeks right up to ten weeks to complete, depending on the time of year, work backlog and overall efficiency of the local authority you are dealing with. To speed this process up, another option is to instruct a personal search. This is a manual search by a conveyancer or some other specialist, who manually undertakes the same activities as in a local search. These can be completed in a matter of days rather than weeks or months, though they are more expensive.
Land Charge & Registry Search
This involves obtaining the title deed for the property, along with the Land Registry certificate. Careful scrutiny by your solicitor will confirm that the seller actually owns the property, is free to sell it and that the sale includes any covenants associated with a property or its land.
Formal Mortgage Offer
This is important, without a formal mortgage offer you cannot proceed unless you are buying the property as a cash buyer. The offer will be sent to your solicitor for your signature and approval. Once signed you can move forward to exchanging contracts.
The sales contract is signed by both you and the vendor and the deposit is transferred or paid by your solicitor to the vendor’s solicitor. The date is then set for completion.
Once the exchange has taken place then completion generally happens a few days or a couple of weeks later. This is dependent on your circumstances and any other parties involved in the house buying chain. On the date set any monies owed are transferred from your solicitor’s account to the vendor’s account. Once the monies have been received you can collect the keys and you are the legal owner of your new house.