How to buy a house – A summary
The timeframe for buying a house normally takes approximately 8 – 12 weeks to complete. This can vary dependant on numerous factors. The process which is followed is detailed below for your information.
The Initial Stages
Once the seller has accepted your offer on a property, you appoint a conveyancer/solicitor to carry out your conveyancing work. Following on from this your solicitor will get in touch with the seller’s solicitor and request a copy of the draft contract and any supporting documents. After going through these documents, they will discuss any concerns with you, their client and then raise any which may arise with the seller’s solicitor.
Legal Checks & Searches
A number of property searches will be carried out by your solicitor to ensure there are no other factors related to the property that you should be aware of:
Land Registry Checks – this check will be carried out to ensure that the person you are buying a property from legally owns the property. This is a legal requirement of sale and the checks cost just a few pounds each.
Local Authority Searches – For these searches your solicitor liaises with the local authority of the property, and the surrounding area. The searches can include investigations into conservation, development and pollution issues which may affect the property or surrounding area. It could also highlight any future developments which could be built nearby which may affect the value of the property over time in either a negative or positive way. These searches can take between 2 – 6 weeks and can vary in price dependant on the number of searches carried out.
Chancel Repair Search – This search is a legal requirement based on medieval church land rights. It examines whether the property has any obligation to pay for local church repairs. The report costs £18 or alternatively you can take out a specialist insurance policy for around £20 against any possible future church claims.
Water Authority Search – The search confirms where the water for the property comes from and whether there are any public drains on the property which could hinder any development plans.
Environmental Search – This report provides information on any environmental factors that might affect the property which might include flood risk, land contamination, local landfill sites, issues with harmful gases and ground stability.
Additional Searches – You may require extra searches that are specific to your property or the location of it, such as Mining Searches for ex-mining areas.
It is your responsibility to get your mortgage offer in place (if you are buying a house via a this method) and a mortgage valuation. You will also need to get all necessary house surveys completed before the contracts are exchanged. Whilst you are getting the necessary surveys completed your solicitor will go through your mortgage offer and any survey recommendations and how to go about dealing with that part of the process.
Contracts – Signing, Exchanging & Completion
Once you sign and exchange contracts for buying a property, you are then committed to buying. It is unlikely at this point if you were to change your mind that you would be able to keep your deposit and/ or incur further penalties. On this basis it is essential to ensure that all the necessary work leading up to this stage has been completed adequately. This includes:
Completion of searches and all enquiries, including any further negotiation based on the outcomes;
Making sure you have in writing everything that’s included in the offer (e.g. fixtures and fittings);
Purchasing buildings insurance;
Agreement of exchange and completion date by both parties;
Transferring your deposit to your solicitors account in time for the exchange.
Your solicitor will complete the exchange of contracts on your behalf at the previously agreed date and time. This is usually done over the phone with the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors reading out the contract over the phone to make sure that they are identical. This reading is recorded so that nothing can be under dispute. As soon as the conveyancers have finished doing the contract readings, they will immediately post the contracts to each other.
After exchange but before completion, your conveyancer will put in an application to transfer the ownership of the property to you with the land registry. At this point the deposit should be in the solicitors account and at the very latest one day before completion. Your mortgage provider should also have provided the money you have borrowed if purchasing through a mortgage into your solicitors’ account.
On the date that you have agreed for completion, the seller’s solicitor will confirm that they have received the full amount due for the property. The seller will then release the keys and you can begin to unpack and enjoy your new home!
After completion, your solicitor will pay stamp duty on the property on your behalf, and notify the freeholder of the change of ownership, if the property is leasehold. They will also send you an invoice for their services. You will receive your legal documents from the land registry, about 20 days after your solicitor put in the application and you will need to send a copy of the deeds to your mortgage company, if you have bought the property with a mortgage.