After finding a house the buyer must tell the estate agents which solicitors/conveyancers are to act. The agents then tell the buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer which solicitor conveyancer is acting for the seller. The two sets of solicitors/conveyancers then make contact.
The buyer’s solicitor will ask for some money from the buyer up front to cover the cost of the local and drainage searches.
The seller’s solicitor sends the buyer’s solicitor the draft contracts (see above), copies of the title deeds and the Property Information and Fixtures and Fittings Forms. The buyer’s solicitor reports to the buyer on these documents (usually sending copies). Local and drainage search requests are sent off.
The buyer must arrange finances at this stage. This will usually mean a mortgage. Surveys are done and any necessary life assurance proposals are made. The mortgage offer is then issued. Usually this goes directly to the buyer from the mortgage company. A copy is sent to the buyer’s solicitor together with instructions to the solicitor on any particular research the mortgage company wants.
Only when the mortgage is arranged and it is known that all conditions can be met, the searches are returned and clear, the life assurance and buildings insurance are in place can exchange of contracts take place.
The buyer signs the contract and gives the deposit to the solicitor. Deposits used to be 10% of the purchase price but commonly 5% is acceptable. It is important to understand the word “deposit” in the legal sense. Most people regard “deposit” as the difference between the purchase price and the mortgage i.e. the money that is being put into the purchase. In the legal sense it is an amount of money paid to the seller’s solicitor to guarantee performance of the contract. If the contract is broken, the seller can in some circumstances forfeit the deposit. Whatever is paid by deposit is deducted from the moneys paid over on completion; if a deposit of 5% is paid, the balance of 95% is paid on completion.
Each party signs an identical contract. Exchange of contracts takes place by the solicitors dating the contracts and swapping copies. Before exchange the completion date must be agreed and it is inserted in the contract at the time of exchange. The seller and buyer do not need to be present at exchange.
The buyer’s solicitor now requests the mortgage monies and sends a completion statement to the buyer showing how much more money is needed. Final searches are made. These are a bankruptcy search against the buyer and a Land Registry search to make sure that nothing has been added to the copy title deeds which the buyer’s solicitor has already seen.
On the morning of completion the buyer’s solicitor telegraphs money to the seller’s solicitor and on receipt the keys are released to the buyer.
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