Sellers Guide to Conveyancing and the sales process once an offer has been accepted
As soon as a sale has been agreed, we (your estate agents) will send your conveyancing solicitor (conveyancer) a copy of the Memorandum of Sale, giving them the details of the offer and the buyer. If you have already completed your conveyancer’s starter pack, they will obtain a copy of the title and send a draft contract to the buyer’s conveyancer. They will then also send a copy of the draft contract for you to sign.
You need to sign this copy of the draft contract and return it to your conveyancer. If there is anybody else living with you who isn’t named on the title, they will need to sign the contract too. This is to show that they agree to move out on completion.
If you have a mortgage on your existing property, your conveyancer will contact the lender to obtain a redemption statement. And if you have any additional loans secured on your existing property, your conveyancer will also need to contact those lenders.
Once the buyer’s conveyancer has checked through the draft contract, and the associated paperwork, they will contact your conveyancer to raise enquiries. Your conveyancer will answer their questions from the information you provide in the starter pack. But your conveyancer might need to give you a ring to discuss some of the questions.
When all the details are sorted your conveyancer will agree a completion date and will exchange contracts with the buyer’s conveyancer. This is when it all becomes legally binding. Once contracts are exchanged both seller and buyer are legally obliged to complete on the date set.
If your buyer has paid a deposit this can’t be released to you until completion. Depending on how the contract was negotiated, this deposit will be held by your conveyancer or by the buyer’s conveyancer.
Now that we have a completion date, your conveyancer can get an exact final redemption statement from your existing mortgage lender (and for any other loans you might have secured on the property).
On the completion date, the buyer’s conveyancer will send you conveyancer the balance of the sale price by telegraphic transfer. As soon as the funds reach your conveyancer’s account, the transaction has completed and you will need to be out of the property. Your conveyancer will send your signed transfer and title deeds (if there are any) to your buyer’s conveyancer.
Your conveyancer will pay the balance outstanding on your existing mortgage (and repay any other loans you might have secured on the property). At this point, your conveyancer will take their fees out of the proceeds and also pay our estate agent’s fees. The next working day, your conveyancer will send the balance (whatever’s left from the sale price after redeeming loans and mortgages, and paying the fees) by telegraphic transfer to your designated account.
On return of the starter pack your conveyancer will request from the Land Registry the additional documents needed by the buyer’s lawyer.
Provided you have supplied your conveyancer with all the necessary information they require when a sale is confirmed, your conveyancer will do the following within 24 hours of receipt of the sales memorandum from us (your estate agent):
- Issue Contract documents for the buyer’s lawyer(registered property)
- Issue Contract documentation to you(registered property)
- Request an up to date redemption statement from your lender
- Request title deeds from your lender
- Request your landlord/managing agent to provide them with the replies to certain leasehold questions commonly raised by the buyers’ lawyer (Leasehold properties only)
What should you do as a seller?
- Answer all questions honestly and carefully: if you don’t know the answers please just say – remember, it’s not a test!
- Continue to keep the property fully insured.
- Avoid creating any further mortgages on the property (which also includes ‘secured loans’) as this may affect your ability to complete on the agreed day. Let your conveyancer know if you have made any applications in the last few months.
- Continue to pay your mortgage in full and do not stop doing so until AFTER the sale completes. If you overpay the lender will refund the difference. THIS IS CRITICAL.
- Ensure that by mid-day at the latest on the Completion day you have moved out and removed all of your belongings, bric-a-brac and any rubbish.
- Ensure that your conveyancer has a forwarding address and a contact number in case they receive any communications for you, in particular any refund of overpaid mortgage.
- Let your conveyancer know if you receive any notices that affect the Property from any Authority, neighbours or the like. You are required to disclose them even if contracts have been exchanged.
- Make no firm plans to move in or have items set-up for delivery to a new property until contracts have been exchanged and the Completion date is fixed. You are taking a risk if you make any firm decisions before this time.
- Return anything your conveyancer requires from you as quickly as possible.
- Take meter readings on the day of completion to ensure your utilities are correctly calculated and all accounts resolved. Otherwise, you may over-pay!
- Leave keys with us (your Estate Agents) for collection by the buyer no later than 2pm on the Completion Day.
- Do not disclose details of security systems or codes until Completion.
You will almost certainly have to pay extra money if your property is leasehold. Apart from the extra legal work this entails (details will have already been given to you about extra fees chargeable by your conveyancer for dealing with leasehold properties), Landlords and their Managing Agents are likely to charge further fees for the work they have to do. Regrettably, these charges can vary considerably, so your conveyancer cannot give you a precise amount at this stage, but as a best guess, we suggest you budget for about £200. This has to be paid early on in the transaction, so that your conveyancer can get all of the information required. Your conveyancer will let you know as soon as they have found out what payments are needed.
If the property has, within the last five years or so, been renovated with the aid of a grant from the Local Authority then that grant may have to be repaid upon the sale. Please let your conveyancer know if you have obtained such a grant.
A chain is a series of linked sales and purchases. A chain will usually start with a first-time buyer, or an investor looking to buy a property for rental. And it will end with a property that has no onward chain: this might be a new-build home, a home sold by someone moving into a retirement home, or a home being sold by the estate of someone who has died.
The shorter the chain, the less likely you are to risk delays or risk the transaction falling through. Remember that everybody in the chain has to agree to proposed completion dates. If someone were to go on holiday during the transaction, everyone else would have to wait for their return before the transaction could go ahead. The more links there are in the chain, the greater the potential for delay.
Damage to the Property between Exchange of Contracts and Completion
The seller remains liable for the property until completion and should keep it insured. The Seller must transfer the property in the same physical state as it was at the date of the exchange of Contracts (except for fair wear and tear).
Targeting a Completion Date
If you have a preference for a completion date please let your conveyancer know – they will try to aim for this, but obviously, no guarantees can be given until such time as contracts are exchanged. In our experience, those clients who insist on particular dates have the greatest anxiety and experience the most stress.
Other than for viewing, the normal rule is that buyers cannot have access to the property prior to completion, not even for cleaning or decorating. If the buyer desperately wants access and you are happy to allow them in (and you are not living there) let your conveyancer know and they can approach their conveyancers to discuss getting some paperwork in place setting out some ground rules etc. Contact your conveyancer if you want to know more. However, as your estate agents, we highly recommend against arrangements like this as they can be very complicated and risky.
At completion, the property should be in the same state as when contracts were exchanged, except for fair wear and tear.
It is possible that your transaction will involve taxation issues that could be very important to you and potentially costly. If you have an Accountant or Tax Adviser it is prudent that you discuss the matter with him/her for appropriate guidance.
Below is some basic tax advice that may be applicable to your transaction:
Capital Gains Tax
If the property is your main private home then no Capital Gains Tax need be paid if it is sold at a price that realises an overall gain. If, however, the property has been used other than as a residence or if you have owned more than one property at any one time, there may be Capital Gains Tax to pay. If these facts are pertinent to you, you will need to take appropriate advice from your Accountant or Tax Adviser.
Value Added Tax
If this transaction involves a dwelling no VAT (value added tax) should apply. In other circumstances where a Company, Firm or Sole Trader is selling a property in the course of its business, the issue of VAT is pertinent and ought to be carefully considered with your tax adviser or accountant.