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Purchase of a Residential Property

What is involved in a purchase?


The precise details of what is involved in the purchase of a property will vary according to the type of property being purchased, where it is located, who is involved, whether it is freehold or leasehold and whether or not there is a related sale. The following, however, provides an idea as to the main steps that will be carried out on your behalf.

There are three main stages to the legal process of purchasing a property.

These are:
  • The pre-contract stage – what we do before you commit to buying the property;
  • The post-contract stage – what we do to ensure the property is transferred to you; and
  • The post-completion stage – completing outstanding issues after you have moved in.

We will always make sure that you know what is happening and when things need to be done by you.

The pre-contract stage


During the pre-contract stage:

  • We will receive your instructions to act in connection with your purchase. This needs to be as soon as possible after you have found a house you want to buy. You will need to let us know not just who you are but also the details of the property that you are hoping to buy. We will also need to know how you are paying for it (e.g. from savings, from the sale of another property or with the assistance of a mortgage) and if you have another property to sell. Please note that we are also required by law to ask that you provide us with evidence of your identity so that we can comply with the strict money laundering duties that the law places upon us. This is essential and is not something that we can agree not to do.
  • Next, we will contact the solicitor/conveyancer acting for the person selling the house that you are purchasing. We will get from them various documents including a draft contract, evidence that the person selling the property is entitled to do so and various other documents and forms such as planning consents, proof of rights of way and details of works done to the property.
  • In addition, we will ask questions of any organisations or bodies who are likely to have information relating to the property you are buying. These are called searches and can deal with issues such as utilities, planning and potential problems such as mining, flooding or subsidence. We will also check that the person selling the property is not bankrupt. The searches we carry out will depend upon where the property is and what affects it. These searches need to be paid for so we will ask you for a payment to cover them the amount of which will depend upon which searches are needed.
  • Once we have the replies to these searches, we will check them and the other documents we were sent to see if there is anything with which we are not happy and to make sure that we have been supplied with enough information. Having done so, we will raise what are known as pre-contract enquiries of the sellers so that potential issues can be resolved before you commit to buying the property. Often basic replies will already have been sent to us so it may simply be the additional questions that we need to cover at this point.
  • If you are buying the property with the help of a mortgage, then we will check to make sure that it meets with your needs. In most cases we will also be acting for the company providing you with your mortgage – who will have an interest in making sure that the property you purchase provides adequate security for any loan you receive.
  • We will advise you where appropriate on joint purchases.
  • Where you are purchasing a leasehold property, we will advise you as to the implications of this, any conditions in the lease which you need to be aware of and how it differs from the purchase of a freehold.
  • When we are satisfied that the legal issues are resolved and you are ready to go ahead, you will sign the contract and we can “exchange contracts” (enter into a binding agreement for you to purchase the property). The timing for this will normally depend upon any sale you have or on the person you are buying from being able to exchange on their purchase. This is one of the things that can hold up the transaction.
  • When contracts are exchanged it is usual to agree the date upon which the purchase will be completed – that is when the property will become yours – known as the “completion date”.
  • Usually, you will need to pay a deposit of 10% of the purchase price when you exchange contracts. Sometimes a lesser sum can be agreed. The deposit shows you intend to proceed with the purchase, and you may lose it if you pull out of the transaction after exchange of contracts.

The post-contract stage


Once we have exchanged the contracts, we will begin the work leading to completion.

  • We will draft the purchase/transfer deed and have it approved by the seller’s solicitor/conveyancer. We will complete the mortgage documents if any, carry out any final searches – for example Land Registry searches – and then make sure that everyone else in the transaction is ready to go ahead. There is often a “chain” of transactions all of which need to happen on the same day if your purchase is to go ahead.
  • When the documents are all agreed we will get you to sign them in readiness for completion.
  • We will calculate the final details of the finances and get from you and the mortgage provider the money which we need to complete the purchase. This will include any other payments that still need to be made such as the land registration fee and any stamp duty land tax. We cannot go ahead unless we have all of the money needed.
  • On the day of completion we will, provided everything else is in order, transfer the balance of purchase money to the seller’s solicitor/conveyancer and receive from them the deeds and documents relating to the property. We will check with you about this so that you can make appropriate arrangements to get the keys to the property and move in.
  • Remember that you will not be able to move into the property until such time as the money is received by the seller’s solicitor/conveyancer.

Post-completion stage


Once completion has taken place,

  • We will then be able to finalise the paperwork and arrange for the payment of the stamp duty land tax.
  • We will arrange for your title to the property to be registered at the Land Registry.
  • We will then deal with the documents. If you have purchased the property with the help of a mortgage, then the documents will be sent to the mortgage provider as their security for the loan to you. If you purchased without a mortgage, then we will send the deeds or proof of title to you or retain them in our strong room on your behalf if you wish us to do so.
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