Contracts are exchanged. You hand over a deposit which is non-refundable if you pull out of the sale.
Once you and your solicitor are satisfied that everything is in order, the contracts can be exchanged. You sign a copy of the contract which is passed to the seller, and the seller signs a copy of the same contract which you receive. Once contracts have been exchanged (normally by the two solicitors) both parties are legally bound to follow through with the transaction. You can no longer change your mind - if you pull out it is likely that you will lose your deposit, and you could be sued for breach of contract. You also now have no need to worry about gazumping.
At this point you hand over a non-refundable deposit as security to the seller in case the contract is not carried out. This is normally 10% per cent of the purchase price, but it is usually negotiable. If you do not have the money for the deposit at hand immediately, you can arrange for a bridging loan from your bank.
Your solicitor draws up a transfer document and sends it to the seller's solicitor
Once contracts have been exchanged your solicitor prepares the draft transfer document (if the land is not registered it will require a special kind of transfer or 'conveyance'). This documents transfers the title of the property from the seller to the buyer. Once both parties have agreed on the draft, it is signed by the buyer and the seller.
Your solicitor arranges finalisation and signing of your mortgage documents
Your solicitor will also deal with the finalisation and signing of documentation relating to your mortgage, and will arrange for the money to be available on completion of the sale.
- Your solicitor carries out final searches and enquiries
Land Registry checks are carried out by your solicitor, to make sure that nothing is registered against the seller (or at the Land Charges Registry if the property is not registered). Problems such as undisclosed mortgages or disputes could be uncovered at this stage.
There will be various matters for you to deal with in the run-up to completion. There will be some documents to be signed and payments to be made: you must pay Land Registry fees and stamp duty. Before completion you need to make sure that all the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, such as any repairs.
You also need to be arranging all the practical matters related to moving house.
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