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This simple, step-by-step guide has been prepared to explain the legal process involved in buying a property.

Request draft contract from seller's solicitors
As soon as you have chosen your solicitor, they will write to the seller's solicitors requesting;

  • a draft contract
  • replies to standard pre-contract enquiries
  • a fixtures and fittings list
  • office copy entries from the Land Registry, or copies of the title deeds.

When dealing with a leasehold property they will also ask for a copy of the lease, 3 years management accounts (if applicable) and a current buildings insurance policy.

Receive draft contract and supporting papers
As soon as your solicitor receives the draft contract and other documents, they will go through them to confirm everything is in order.
In some cases the information received may not be detailed enough or may in fact prompt further questions.

Pay local search fee
An important part of the enquiries involves your solicitor obtaining detailed information from the local authority about planning issues which are relevant to the property. You will have to pay the fees for this. The results of the local search may prompt the need for additional questions to be asked, most commonly the need for copies of any planning permissions.

Receive replies from seller's solicitor
Once all of the information is received from the seller's solicitors, your solicitor can send an approved contract to the seller's solicitor.

Approve draft contract and send to the seller's solicitor
The approved contract will be sent to the seller's solicitor for the seller to sign in readiness for exchange of contracts.

Receive mortgage offer from lender

As well as acting for you, your solicitor will also act on behalf of the building society if you are taking out a mortgage. Your solicitor will need instructions from the building society before they can proceed to exchange of contracts.

Make appointment to sign contract
Your solicitor will need to explain to you all of the information that has been received and the responsibilities that you will have as an owner and a borrower from the building society. When this is done you will be asked to sign the contract.

Receive deposit 

A deposit will be required from you by the seller's solicitor. This is usually between 5% and 10% of the purchase price. If you are also selling a property, the deposit paid to you by your buyers can sometimes be used.

Propose completion date
Completion date is the point at which you pay for the property and it changes hands. The date needs to be agreed before exchange of contracts takes place.

Inform seller's solicitor that you're ready to exchange
When your solicitor has a signed contract, mortgage offer, and agreed completion date, they will inform the seller's solicitor that you are ready to exchange.

Exchange contracts 
Once contracts have been exchanged you and the seller are legally committed to buy/sell the property in question.

Completion Date 
The completion date agreed with the seller on exchange of contracts is the date upon which the seller must give vacant possession and you can take up occupation, But first you must pay the balance of the purchase price. Failure to complete on the agreed date will result in the party at fault being in breach of contract.


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