The Process of Buying a Property

There is a lot to buying a property (conveyancing). Here is a summary of some of the steps which should help you follow where your purchase is up to. Of course, you may at any time contact any member of your team for an update.

1. File opening or this is “how it starts"

Once we have received your instructions to proceed we will send you a client care letter which sets out the parameters under which you have instructed us to act. At this point,and in accordance with international rules on anti-money laundering we will need to see, and take copies of:-
a) Proof of identification such as passport or driving license.
b) Proof of address such as recent utility bill or bank statement.
c) Proof of your deposit e.g. bank statement and source of deposit.

Whilst this may seem a little intrusive, it is a requirement that all solicitors must comply with. We are unable to progress with your purchase until we have complied with these regulatory obligations. If your source of deposit is a gift we will need to know as soon as possible as there are further requirements for this and again any delay may cause a delay in the conveyancing process.

2. Pre Contract or “this is when the legal work begins”

If there is an estate agent, they will produce what is called a Memorandum of Sale, or what you may hear us refer to as a memo. The memo gives us information as to the purchase, the agreed price and both parties and their solicitors details. Each solicitor will then write to each other and confirm that they have been instructed. Again this is a procedural requirement that both solicitors confirm that they are acting, which they cannot do until they have complied with the file opening compliance stages above.

Once solicitors have confirmed their instructions and the seller has completed and provided property information to their conveyancer, a contract pack can be prepared. A contract pack contains the following: -
a) A draft contract of sale.
b) Copies of the title documents.
c) Fixtures and fittings form.
d) Property Information Form.
e) Leasehold property information forms (if applicable).
f) Planning documents.
g) Guarantees i.e. central heating, window installation.

It is at this point that your conveyancer starts what is called investigation of title and raising enquiries. Investigation of title is a review of the title documents to check what obligations or restrictions are attached to the property and whether any have been breached. Essentially we look for defects in title and ways to protect the buyer. Similarly, the property information form is reviewed to see if there are any problems. At this point searches are put in hand and the search results reviewed with any concerns raised with the seller’s solicitors. This part of the process can take anywhere between 2 and 4 weeks but much depends on the number and complexity of the enquiries raised or any delays encountered in obtaining search results.

See also – why do we do searches blog summary of search options.

3. Report on Title or “the report of all our findings”

Once we have all investigations completed we will compile our report to you. This is a comprehensive summary of all of our findings. This can be a lengthy document and where possible we will send it to you before we meet so that any questions or concerns can be raised by you. Once we have reported to you we will be ready to arrange signing of the documents. There will be several documents to be signed: -
a) Contract of sale.
b) Mortgage deed.
c) Transfer deed.
d) Joint ownership form/Declaration of Trust.
e) Stamp duty declaration.
f) Lease (if applicable).

Whilst we prefer to see you to sign (or “execute”) the documents, if necessary we can send them out to you with instructions.

4. Exchange or “this is the point of no return”

Once we hold signed documents we will be ready to exchange contracts. At this point we will need 10% of the purchase price which is the standard exchange consideration. If you are also selling a property, 10% will not be required. Similarly, if you have less than 10% the seller may agree to accepting a lesser sum, although if for any reason contracts are exchanged but completion does not happen any shortfall would need to be brought up to the 10%. Once exchange takes place you are legally bound to complete. If you fail to do so your deposit is forfeit for breach of contract.

5. Completion or “get the keys”

Completion is when the balance of the purchase price is paid and the property becomes legally yours. You get the keys! Before completion pre-completion searches will be undertaken, these are a priority search which blocks other dealings on the property and a bankruptcy search which is undertaken on behalf of your mortgage lender. We will also provide you a completion statement showing the balance of sums owed to complete. We will provide the completion statement to you with sufficient time for you to transfer funds to us.

You will know what day completion is to take effect. We cannot guarantee what time completion is to take effect as this depends on external factors including banking transfer times, i.e. the time between when we send the completion monies to the seller and when they receive them.

6. Post Completion.

Completion is not the end of the process. In the days (sometimes weeks) after completion we receive the sellers signed contract and transfer. We will make a stamp duty submission and where applicable pay any stamp duty payable on your behalf.

Once all stamping formalities are complete we will apply for a registration of your title at land registry. This will change the register into your name. This process can take anything from one week in exceptional cases to many many months. You may not hear from us during this time but rest assured a lot of work will be going on behind the scenes and once registration is complete we will send you a copy of your title information document, colloquially still known as “title deeds”.