When deciding to sell your home you will need to engage the services of an estate agent to help you market the property.
At the same time, you will need to instruct a residential property lawyer to handle the conveyancing – the legal process of transferring ownership of the property from you to the prospective buyer. By instructing a solicitor at an early stage you will reduce any unnecessary delays once your house is on the market. Once you have chosen a solicitor you can instruct them to start work once you receive a formal offer.
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Your solicitor will meet with you to discuss the sale and take all necessary details. You will need to fill out a number of detailed questionnaires that provide information about the property. A general questionnaire provides information including the property’s boundaries, any building works, known proposed developments taking place nearby, utilities and council tax details. You will also be asked about the fixtures and fittings of the property, what you intend to include as part of the sale and what you intend to remove when you leave. Details about how and when you intend to complete the sale and the handing over of keys will also be sought, as well as confirmation that the house will be left free of any mortgages or other liabilities once it is sold. It is important to ensure the accuracy of this information to avoid any issues with the sale at a later stage.
In preparation for drafting a contract of sale, your solicitor will need to collect certain documents relating to the property. If there is an outstanding mortgage on the house your solicitor will contact your mortgage lender and apply for the title deeds for the property. At the same time, they will request a statement detailing how much of the mortgage is left to repay. Up to date copies of electronic deeds will then be obtained from the Land Registry by your solicitor.
The information provided in the questionnaires is used by your solicitor to draw up a draft contract for the sale of the house. Once completed, this will be forwarded to the buyer’s solicitor for consideration along with copies of all relevant documents. There will then be a period of negotiation regarding the terms of the contract, with matters such as the date of completion and the fixtures and fittings to be included in the sale being discussed. At this stage, the prospective buyer will often arrange for a survey of the property to be conducted to establish that there are no unreported issues with the property. Depending on the outcome of the survey, there may be further negotiations regarding repairs that require to be carried out, who will pay for these or if the sale price should be adjusted to reflect any previously undetected problems.
Agreement on completion date
Once negotiations have been completed, and the buyer’s solicitor is satisfied with the responses to any enquiries made on behalf of their client, a date can be set for signing the contract and completion. Once all parties are in agreement, the buyer will transfer the deposit to their solicitor at which point your solicitor will prepare for the exchanging of contracts.
Signing the contract
Your solicitor will provide you with the contract to sign following their negotiations with the buyer’s solicitor. During this period they will have made sure that any enquiries have been answered satisfactorily, that fixtures and fittings have been agreed and that a completion date has been settled upon.
You will need to reach agreement with the buyer on a date and time for the exchange of contracts. Once this has been confirmed, the exchange of contracts will be carried out by your solicitor on your behalf. Your solicitor will take receipt of the deposit from the buyer’s solicitor and will also contact your mortgage lender requesting a final redemption statement. It is important to note that once the contracts have been exchanged, you will be legally bound by the contract of sale. This means that if you pull out of the sale the buyer could sue you, and you can no longer accept another offer for the property. If the buyer pulls out after this stage you may be entitled to keep the deposit, and may also be able to sue them.
From exchange to completion
Once contracts have been exchanged, your solicitor will transfer the buyers deposit to you. The buyer’s solicitor will put a freeze on the deeds to the property for 30 days, allowing time for you to be paid and for the buyer’s solicitor to lodge the application with the Land Registry to transfer the deeds into the buyer’s name. Until the time of completion you will still be the owner of the house and will not be required to move out until then. Before completion you should carry out checks on the property to ensure that everything listed in the agreed inventory of fixtures and fittings remains in the property.
On the agreed completion date the buyer’s solicitor will pay the outstanding balance for the property to your solicitor. You will have to arrange to pass on keys, usually by giving them to the estate agent, to allow the buyer to move in. Your solicitor will arrange to pass on the legal documents used to prove ownership of the property. If there is still a mortgage outstanding on the property the proceeds from the sale can then be used to pay this off. This transaction will usually be carried out by your solicitor. The buyer’s solicitor will conclude any outstanding business by paying Stamp Duty Land Tax, arranging for documents to be sent to the Land Registry and ensuring that a copy of the title deeds are deposited with your mortgage provider.