Step-by-step guide to selling a house

Date Added 10.08.17

Selling your home can be complex and daunting, so finding the right conveyancing team to work with is vital to ensure the process is as stress-free as possible. At Tollers, our Conveyancing teams assist their clients through every stage of the process to ensure the journey to completion is as smooth as possible.

An average sale transaction takes approximately 10 -12 weeks based on a standard freehold sale. If the property being sold is leasehold the transaction will take longer due to the involvement of additional third parties, such as a Landlord and/or managing agents.

Tollers Conveyancing team have produced this step-by-step guide to selling a house to assist you in understanding the steps involved in a standard freehold sale transaction and what they do at each stage for you and what you need to do.

Stage 1 – Instructing your Conveyancer/Solicitor

To ensure a smooth and legally compliant property transaction, it is essential to engage the services of a Solicitor or a Conveyancer who possesses the expertise to handle the intricate legal aspects of the sale, safeguarding your interests, whilst adhering to the relevant regulations. You should instruct your conveyancer or solicitor as soon as you place your property on the market so that they can start working on your sale even before you have sold your property.

Such preparation includes:

  1. Sending you an instruction pack;
  2. Opening your file and dealing with the relevant identification formalities;
  3. Obtaining a copy of the title to your property;
  4. Obtaining a redemption figure from your existing mortgage lender.

Carrying out these steps before you have sold the property means that, once you have agreed a sale, your conveyancing team can issue contracts to your buyer’s nominated Conveyancer speedily.

Once you have agreed a sale on your property it is important to inform your Conveyancing team who will confirm if they have received the sales details from your estate agent. If not, they can chase the estate agents as they are unable to prepare the necessary contract papers and issue these to your Buyer’s Conveyancer until they have received the sales details from them -which confirms the sale price and details on which firm the Buyer has chosen to instruct to act for them.

Stage 2 – Preparation of the Contract Papers

Your Conveyancing team will prepare the contract papers for your buyers’ solicitor which will contain the sale contract along with any associated documentation such as warranties, disclosures, inspection reports and any other relevant information specific to the transaction.

Stage 3 – Dealing with Pre-Contract Enquiries

Once the contract pack has been received by your Buyer’s Solicitor they should undertake their searches and review the draft contract pack in order that they can raise any enquiries. These enquiries may encompass queries about the property, its condition and legal or regulatory concerns.

The enquiries which may be raised could cover:

  1. Enquiries on the title to your property;
  2. Enquiries on the search results;
  3. Enquiries raised from the Buyer’s survey;
  4. Enquiries which the Buyer has raised.

Your conveyancing team will review the enquiries and deal with any they can answer and will forward any enquiries on to you which require your involvement.

Your responses to any enquiries are required in writing and once received these will be sent, by your conveyancer/solicitor to your Buyer’s Solicitor.

The Buyer’s Solicitors will then review the replies and forward a copy to the Buyer, this can sometimes lead to further enquiries being raised.

Sellers can find these steps frustrating but the Buyers and their Conveyancers are entitled to raise enquiries up to the point of exchange of contracts.

It is helpful if you, as the seller, deal with any enquiries promptly and provide as much information as possible, as well as any paperwork which you may hold in relation to the enquiry in order that your conveyancer can reply to the enquiries as comprehensively as possible. This may prevent further enquiries from being raised.

Once confirmed the sale contract can be prepared and sent to you for signing. The contract must also be signed by any adult occupiers that live in the property but who are not legal owners.

The second document that requires your signature is the transfer. This is prepared by the Buyer’s Solicitors and your conveyancer will approve it on your behalf. Your signature/s on the transfer need to be witnessed by someone that is independent and not related to you.

Both the signed contract and the transfer should be returned to your conveyancing team in order that they are in a position to exchange contracts.

We are not always advised when the Buyer’s mortgage offer is in place. The estate agent will have more information regarding the position of the Buyer’s mortgage offer as they are contacted by the Surveyor to arrange access to the property to carry out the Buyer’s survey and/or valuation report. The agents will also have the contact details for the Buyer’s mortgage broker or financial adviser. We would therefore suggest that you keep in contact with the estate agent who will be able to keep you updated on how the Buyer’s mortgage offer is progressing.

Once the Buyer’s solicitor has received the mortgage offer they need to comply with the mortgage lenders requirements and any conditions of the mortgage offer and valuation report before they are in a position to proceed to exchange of contracts.

Once the Buyer’s Solicitors are in receipt of satisfactory replies to enquiries, the search results, their client’s mortgage offer, source of deposit from the Buyer and they are holding signed papers from the Buyer, they will be in a position to exchange.

When the Buyer and any others in the chain (if there is one) are in a position to exchange contracts, all of the parties in the chain will need to agree a completion date. This completion date must be a working day.

Stage 4 – Exchange of Contracts

Exchange of contracts is the process when the contract becomes legally binding and the buyer and seller have formally committed to the sale and the completion date is set. Exchanging contracts involves the execution of contracts by both parties, typically accompanied by the buyer paying a deposit.

Once the contracts have been exchanged, the sale assumes legal enforceability, the contract becomes ‘legally binding’, and both parties are obligated to complete the transaction in accordance with the terms outlined in the contract.

Financial penalties will be incurred by the defaulting party if either party wishes to withdraw from the sale once contracts have been exchanged.

Your conveyancing team will need to speak to you on the day of the exchange to obtain your authority to exchange. This is a simple telephone call in which the price of the property and the completion date are confirmed.

The conveyancers in the chain will then exchange contracts and you will be advised once the exchange has taken place.

If you are also purchasing a property, the exchange of contracts on your sale and purchase would take place at the same time for the same completion date unless you have given specific instructions and your sale and purchase are to be exchanged and/or completed on different dates. Your Solicitor/Conveyancer will provide you with relevant advice on doing this before you exchange contracts.

Before contracts have been exchanged the sale is not legally binding and so therefore it is not advisable to commit yourself to securing rental accommodation or book removals or storage until the exchange had taken place.

Stage 5 – Completion

Completion is the final part of the process. On the day of completion, you vacate the property, the buyers’ solicitors transfer the outstanding balance to your solicitors and the transfer of the ownership to the buyer is affected, which means that the buyer officially becomes the new owner.

Once your conveyancer/solicitor receives the sale proceeds they will redeem any mortgage that you have on the property, pay the estate agents, settle their bill and account to you the balance of the sale proceeds.

There is no control over what time your sale completes on the completion date as it is subject to the Buyer’s solicitors transmitting funds to your solicitors’ practice and the banking system on the day.

On the completion date you need to vacate the property by midday and on receipt of the Buyer’s completion money, your conveyancing team will let you know the funds have been received, as well as telephone the estate agents and ask them to release the keys of the property to the new owners.

Completion takes place once your solicitor’s practice has received the funds, not when the balance of the sale proceeds are received by you.

Talk to Tollers

The successful sale of a property requires attention to detail and thorough preparation, as well as Collaboration with experienced professionals, from solicitors to real estate agents who provide invaluable support and expertise.

If you are uncertain about where to begin or have any queries regarding selling your HomeTalk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our Residential Property teams are on hand to provide up to date legal advice and guidance and support you throughout the process.

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