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BUYING A NEW HOME - Guide to the Legal Process

It is generally helpful to consult us well in advance before agreeing to buy or sell a property. We will be able to give you information on the procedures involved, mortgages and surveys as well as general advice on negotiating your sale and purchase. Of course, by instructing us early, the process may well be speeded up.

Negotiating Let us assume you have found the house you wish to buy. You will now be negotiating terms for the purchase and unless you are a first time buyer, you may also be negotiating terms for the sale of your present home. It is important to remember that when putting anything in writing it includes the expression “Subject to Contract” and also make it clear to the seller that the offer is “Subject to a satisfactory survey”. If the survey is not satisfactory, we are often able to renegotiate the purchase price on your behalf.

Getting the best mortgage deal We recommend that you consult an independent financial adviser who will be able to provide detailed advice and search the market for the best products or products that meet your needs. Independent Financial Advisors are not tied to any particular company and can offer advice on most products on the market.

See our factsheet - BUYING YOUR HOME – Getting the best mortgage deal

Draft Contract When all the terms have been agreed with the seller or his agent, solicitors for both parties will be instructed.

The sellers’ solicitor will prepare a draft contract setting out the terms and conditions relating to the sale. They will normally incorporate the standard conditions of sale which are commonly used by most solicitors in England and Wales.

Searches As part of our service, we currently include the searches which are deemed compulsory when you are taking out a mortgage. These include:

Local authority search Mining report Environmental search Drainage search Land registry search Land charges search. For details of these searches, see our factsheet BUYING A NEW HOME - Guide to compulsory searches

There are also other searches available, which may be advisable to commission in certain areas - after all the purchase of your property will most likely be one of the biggest purchases you ever make. See our factsheet BUYING A NEW HOME - Guide to optional searches

Preliminary Enquiries Nearly all solicitors have now adopted a standard form of conveyancing known as the “Conveyancing Protocol”. Under this scheme a standard form, the seller’s property information form, is supplied with the draft contract. This gives details about the property and lists the fixtures and fittings included in the sale price.

Mortgage Offer If you are obtaining a mortgage this needs to be in place with a formal offer from the lender before you exchange contracts. Your lender will send a copy of this offer to us and we will check it through carefully for you and send you a full detailed report.

We would advise you to check with your proposed lender on a regular basis as a delayed mortgage offer could delay the whole transaction.

Exchange of Contracts Until contracts are exchanged the seller or the buyer may withdraw without penalty. If the result of your survey and the enquiries we make on your behalf are not satisfactory, you may wish to withdraw unless a new agreement can be reached with the seller. The seller may also withdraw for any reason. He may simply have changed his mind, be unable to find another house to purchase, or have received a higher offer from another buyer.

You may also be involved in a chain in which nobody wants to exchange contracts on the house they are buying before they exchange on the one they are selling.

We will ask you to sign the contract and authorise us to exchange contracts on your behalf. The contract will specify the completion date, which will have been agreed in advance. When agreeing a completion date it is best to be as flexible and accommodating as possible as the whole of the chain will have to be in agreement with the chosen date.

The completion date, is the date on which you must vacate your existing property (if you are not a first time buyer) and move into your new home. On exchange of contracts you become legally committed to purchase the property.

At exchange of contracts you will be required to pay a deposit. This is normally 10% of the purchase price, but this can be subject to negotiation, especially if the purchase money is tied up in your existing property, or if you are obtaining a mortgage of more than 90% of the purchase price.

Neither side can withdraw from the transaction once contracts are exchanged without incurring substantial financial penalties.

We will do our best to keep you informed of the timescale involved throughout your matter. Do please bear in mind the difficulties mentioned in this report. In particular please do not make any firm arrangements regarding a moving date without first checking with us whether it is sensible and safe to do so.

Insurance Insurance of the property becomes the buyer’s responsibility normally once contracts are exchanged. For further information, see our factsheet MOVING HOME – Money Matters

Completion Where there is a chain and progress is dependant upon the actions of others, then there are numerous circumstances, which can make a timescale estimate difficult to predict.

The date for completion is fixed on exchange of contracts. It is usually one to four weeks from the date of exchange, but is subject to negotiation and can take place a very short time after exchange of contracts or even on the day contracts are exchanged, if this is desired by both parties. However, where a mortgage is involved usually a minimum of five to seven days are required to ensure adequate notice is given to request the mortgage advance.

At completion your seller must give vacant possession of the property you are buying, which includes all belongings, people and rubbish that may have been at the property. The money due is paid over and the keys are exchanged.

Keys The keys to the property will be handed over once completion has taken place. The seller will usually leave the keys with the estate agents or you may make your own arrangements to hand the keys over directly. Whichever way you decide to deal with the keys, it is very important that you decide well in advance of completion to prevent any problems on the day of completion.

Please note that the estate agents or the seller will only release the keys once the seller’s solicitors have received the purchase monies in full. If there is a particularly long chain, this may not happen until the afternoon of the completion day.

After Completion We will arrange for the payment of any stamp duty, then register your title at the Land Registry. When the registration of the title is complete, we will send the title deeds to your lender. If you do not have a mortgage, we will gladly store your deeds for you in our strong room at no cost to you. In either event we will send you copies of the deeds for your records.

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