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The legal process of transferring ownership of a property is known as conveyancing. Below is a guide to the process. However, rest-assured, that Bothams’ experienced and knowledgeable team will guide you through the entire legal process, making your property purchase as seamless and hassle-free as possible.

There are three main stages when purchasing a property, these include:

  1. Initial negotiation stage
  2. Exchanging contracts (when you become committed to buy the property and a deposit is paid)
  3. Completion of the purchase (when you become the owner of the property and the balance of the purchase price must be paid).

Once we have agreed an acceptable price for a property, we will send out a document to both the vendor’s solicitors and the purchaser’s solicitors, known as a memorandum of sale. It has details of the vendor selling the property and of the purchaser buying the property, details of the price agreed and anything initially agreed to be included in the sale, and details of both parties’ solicitors.

The receipt of the memorandum will then trigger the next steps in the process. The vendor’s solicitors will begin to prepare a contract for the transfer of title to the property to the purchaser, ensuring all parties respective best interests are upheld.

The purchaser’s solicitors will begin to undertake searches and initial enquiries. It is necessary to carry out various searches of local authority records and other public records to find all factors which may affect the property purchase such as compulsory purchase orders, old mine shafts, covenants restrictive of development or use and a range of other potential problems. The searches usually carried out are Land charges, Commons Registry, Drainage Authority, Coal Authority and Land Registry. Further searches that may be requested are Environmental searches and Chancel Repair searches.

Once the contract has been drafted by the vendor’s solicitors, they will send it on to the purchaser’s solicitors for their consideration. They will then notify the purchaser of any significant terms along with negotiating changes to any terms of the agreement they may advise in the best interests of their client.

Further enquiries may also be raised at this point from terms in the contract, which will be answered by the vendor or the solicitor acting on their behalf. The vendor’s solicitor’s will also send title to the property to the purchaser’s solicitor at this stage, where they will check that the vendor has ‘good title’ to the property in question, meaning they are legally allowed and able to sell the property.

The purchaser’s solicitor must also have details of how the purchaser is financing the purchase, and where a mortgage is involved the solicitor must satisfy all the detailed requirements of the bank or mortgage lender.

Only when the following has been received will the final contract be prepared:

  • the purchaser’s solicitor has received the final outcome of all enquiries raised
  • the surveyor’s report and any necessary action taken
  • the formal mortgage offer from the lender
  • arrangements for payment of the deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price)
  • the date of completion agreed.

At this point, the seller and purchaser will then each sign a copy of the final contract, which are then exchanged. At the point of contract exchange the vendor and the purchaser become legally bound by the contract, and the sale of the property must go ahead. Completion will usually be set for around a week after the exchange of contracts.

It is therefore important for the purchaser to ensure the purchaser has arranged appropriate insurance as they are now legally responsible for the property. The purchaser should also make arrangements for the supply of gas, electricity and telephone service.

On the day of completion the remaining funds will be released from the solicitor if they hold the funds, or from the mortgage lender, and transferred to the vendor. Arrangement for any other payments required will often be made by the solicitor at this point, for example the estate agent’s fees. The deeds and title for the property will be handed over to the purchaser’s solicitors, who will then set about registering title with the Land Registry. The vendor will then vacate the property and hand over the keys to their estate agent, or in some cases directly to the new owner.

After completion the purchaser’s solicitors may have a few loose ends to tie up, such as obtaining a Stamp Duty Certificate, completing registration of your title to the property with the Land Registry and dealing with any remaining requirements of your mortgage lender if necessary. These items, however, generally require little if any correspondence, leaving you free to concentrate on enjoying your new home!