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As a conveyancer it is sometimes easy to forget that people who buy or sell property may only do this once in their lifetime. The conveyancing process can therefore be alien to clients who have limited experience in the property market. This week I was asked what it is that I actually do. This question was asked by a first time buyer who thought that estate agents dealt with the actual purchase of the property. It was not until I explained the whole conveyancing process that they understood what was involved and why.
Estate agents are the gatekeeper to property transactions. They market and present the properties for sale and are the first point of contact for any prospective buyer. The estate agent will go between the seller and the buyer to discuss offers, negotiations and proposed completion deadlines. Throughout the transaction an estate agent will be in regular contact with the sellers’ solicitor to check how matters are progressing. They can also talk to the buyers solicitor to see if they can help move matters forward. The estate agents’ role is to encourage the smooth progression of the sale from start to finish by checking the progress of both parties’ solicitors.
The solicitor’s job is very different to that of the estate agent. To give an overview of the process I have highlighted the key stages in a standard residential transaction.
1. Both parties instruct separate solicitors. Each firm will have certain due diligence that must be carried out at this stage.
2. The seller will complete a number of documents that give information about the property. Their solicitor will look through all of the information provided and will compile a contract pack. The contract pack is then sent to the buyer’s solicitor for their consideration.
3. When the buyer’s solicitor receives the contract pack it is their job to go through all of the information provided and advise their client accordingly. On a standard conveyancing matter it advisable to have a survey carried out and is highly likely that the buyer’s solicitor will also commission searches on the property. The results of the survey and searches will provide the buyer’s solicitor with even more information regarding the property. It is also the responsibility.
4. The buyer’s solicitor not only advises the client on the information already provided but also asks the seller to answer specific questions regarding the property to ensure that there are no unknown issues that may reduce the value of the property are that may become an issue at a later stage.
5. The buyer’s solicitor drafts the legal transfer deed. This is the legal deed that transfer the property from the seller to the buyer. This is sent to the seller’s solicitor for their approval before it is signed by the client.
6. The seller’s solicitor considers all of the enquiries raised by the buyer’s solicitor. It is likely that the solicitor will need to speak to the seller to obtain any missing information required to provide satisfactory replies to these enquiries. Once the seller has provided all of the replies these are sent back to the buyer’s solicitor.
7. Once the buyer’s solicitor is satisfied with all of the replies to enquiries and information regarding the property they report back to the buyer and prepare their file for exchange. There are pre-exchange searches that are also undertaken at this stage and deposit funds are sent to the buyer’s solicitor.
8. Once the seller and buyer are both ready to proceed, a completion date is agreed and contracts are exchanged. The exchanging of contracts is not the day that you move. By exchanging contracts you are entering in to a legally binding contract to sell/buy the property in question.
9. In advance of completion both sets of solicitors prepare their files for completion. The seller should have arranged removals for the day of completion to ensure that the property is vacated in line with the contract.
10. On the day of completion the buyer’s solicitor sends the completion funds to the seller’s solicitor. The purchase has completed once the funds have been received by the seller’s solicitor. The seller’s solicitor contacts the estate agent and tells them to release the keys to the new buyer. The buyer’s solicitor contacts the buyer to confirm that the purchase has completed and that they can collect their keys. On the day of completion the seller’s solicitor will deal with paying off any existing mortgage and paying estate agent fees.
11. Both the buyer’s and seller’s solicitor have post completion requirements. It is the buyer’s solicitor that will pay any necessary stamp duty land tax with HMRC and who will deal with the registration of the property in to the buyer’s name.
This is by no means an in-depth explanation of all that is required by a solicitor acting on a sale/purchase transaction. Moving house is never a stress free time but solicitors are there to help you throughout the process. At Sousa Law we understand that selling/buying property is not something that you are likely to do every day. We are a high street firm that is client focused and are happy to help you throughout this new and exciting time by providing a clear explanation of the processes involved through every stage of the transaction. Should you have any queries regarding a new property transaction please do not hesitate to contact our offices for assistance.
Bernitta Shrapnell, Trainee Solicitor
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