Once a sale has been agreed, conveyancing solicitors or licensed conveyancers will be instructed by the buyer and seller. It is usual for the seller’s solicitor at this point to:

  • Raise a contract for sale of the property
  • Provide answers to what are called ‘pre contract enquiries’
  • Offer proof of title (ownership)
  • Set out a schedule for what is included in the sale
  • Suggest a date when the sale will take place.

The buyer’s solicitor will act on the buyer’s behalf to:

  • Make sure the title to the property is not faulty
  • Check that the terms of the sale are reasonable and lawful
  • Arrange for all monies to be made available both from the buyer (the deposit) and the buyer’s selected mortgage lender

Once the buyer’s solicitor is happy that all the legal issues have been resolved, the mortgage offer has been received along with the other monies required to pay the deposit, legal fees, and stamp duty, etc, then a date can be agreed to complete the sale. Once agreed, the buyer pays over their deposit and contracts can be “exchanged,” this is the legal point of no return. Completion is the date the seller will move out, the buyer will pay over all remaining monies for the purchase and collect the keys from the seller. This is legal completion

The completion date can be at any time and date agreed between all parties but given the need to arrange the transfer of utilities and to organise a moving company, etc, it’s normal for completion to be at least a week after the date that the contract is exchanged. Sometimes, solicitors agree to exchange contracts and complete on the same day. There is nothing wrong with this practice, but if the sale falls through at the last minute, before contracts have been exchanged, you could end up with removal lorries parked outside a home you do not own and with a great deal of expense incurred which you have no legal right to recover!

The benefit of exchanging contracts a couple of weeks before the completion date is that, if either party does not then stick to their obligations under the terms of the contract, they can be either sued by the other party and ask the courts to make the property sale proceed in accordance with the contract terms, or alternatively, sue for damages.

Usually, the seller would retain the buyer’s deposit and instruct his agent to remarket the property.

Next article: What does Completion Mean?

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