Your guide to the legal process of buying your new home

You’ve found the home of your dreams and your offer has been accepted, but it’s not simply a matter of handing over the money and getting the keys in return!  There’s the small matter of the legal process of making your dream a reality.  All the talk of contracts and searches can be quite daunting, but with the expert assistance of your solicitor, it doesn’t need to be a complicated chore…

Step One – Finding a Solicitor

Buying a property can involve a lot of detective work, in order to find out exactly what you are buying and to ensure that you won’t have any nasty surprises later on! A good Conveyancing Solicitor will aim to do this as quickly and thoroughly as possible in order to make the process as stress-free for you as possible.  Here at Prince Evans we pride ourselves on being both professional and approachable and we would be delighted to assist you in your purchase – contact us for a quote for our legal fees.

Step Two – Initial Information

Once you have instructed a solicitor, make sure that you give their details to your estate agent and also to your mortgage lender. This will ensure that all of the parties can get in touch with each other to begin your purchase process.

First of all, the seller’s solicitor will provide your solicitor with a package of papers, which will contain most of the information about the property.  They will also provide a contract and details of any service charges, guarantees and any other matters specifically affecting the particular property that you are buying.  Once these papers have been received your solicitor can carry out the standard conveyancing searches, which include a Local Authority search to show any proposed changes to the area and also a Water & Drainage Search to show the sewers and drains connected to the property.

Your solicitor will also receive a copy of your mortgage offer and instructions from your lender to act for them in the transaction.  The lender may also set out certain conditions that your solicitor must comply with in order to have the funds released when needed.

Once your solicitor has received all of the information from both the seller’s solicitor and the mortgage lender, they will be able to prepare a report on the property for you.  This is a document which goes through all of the provided information, copy documents, searches and your mortgage offer in order to fully advise you about the property.  Using this information, you can then make your decision about whether to proceed with your purchase.

If you are happy with everything, your solicitor will then arrange with you to sign the contract and other documents in readiness for exchange.

Step Three – Exchange of Contracts

Exchange of contracts is when both parties become legally bound to the transaction and the completion date is fixed.  At this stage you will also have to pay a deposit to the seller’s solicitors, as you would on a car or a holiday.  This is usually 10% of the purchase price, although a reduced deposit (eg 5%) can be negotiated between the parties in advance.  Remember that a deposit is always payable and you must be prepared with this sum to transfer to your solicitor when you are getting close to exchange of contracts.

Exchange happens in a telephone conversation between the two parties’ solicitors and the process is governed by rules laid down by the Law Society.

Step Four – Between Exchange and Completion

There is usually a period of 1-2 weeks between exchange and completion to allow both parties to prepare for completion. During this interim period, your solicitor will ensure that all necessary documents are signed in readiness for completion.  They’ll carry out a final search of the land register and, most importantly, will make sure that all funds are in place to complete the transaction on the agreed date. This includes obtaining the funds from your mortgage lender and letting you know how much is needed from you.

Step Five – Completion

This is the most exciting stage!  On the day of completion, your solicitor will send the completion money to the seller’s solicitor and then the property is yours! You can collect the keys from the estate agent and move in straightaway.

Step Six – After Completion

You’ve moved into your new home, but your solicitor’s job isn’t quite finished yet.  The seller’s solicitors will send the legal transfer documents to your solicitor, who will then arrange payment of Stamp Duty if any is due and arrange for the legal ownership of the property to be put into your name at the Land Registry.

Once these final documents have been dealt with, your solicitor’s work is done, and you are the proud owner of your very own home.

Rachel Turner, Solicitor