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Buying a Home - Guide to the Legal Process

Once you have found the new home you wish to buy and all the terms have been agreed with the Seller either directly or through an Estate Agent, the Seller will instruct their solicitor.

The Seller or Agent will provide a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate for the property and the Seller's solicitor will prepare a contract pack to send to us. This will include the contract itself setting out standard terms, the price and any special conditions. The pack will also include evidence of the Seller's ownership (their "title to the property") and any other title documents referred to which may impose obligations or restrictions upon you as an owner of that property. We will receive property information forms and schedule of fixtures, fittings and contents together with copies of any guarantees, permissions or certificates relating to works carried out at the property.

We will contact you with our initial details, Terms and Conditions of Business, guidance as to searches (see our other Resources) and will ask you to make a payment on account so we can commission the necessary searches as soon as possible.

We will review the contract pack and your search results and check your mortgage offer. Once we have done this, we will raise any enquiries we have for the Seller's solicitors and submit draft transfer documentation to them. We will ensure that we are able to comply with the terms of your mortgage and will let you know whether there is anything we need to tell your lender about. If you have commissioned a Homebuyers' Survey or similar and let us have a copy, we will address any matters raised for the Legal Adviser and let you know if there is any information we have that contradicts the Surveyor's assumptions in the Legal Matters section or which should be referred back to your Surveyor for further advice.

Once we have replies to our enquiries, search results and your mortgage offer, we will prepare for you our Property Report summarising the information we have relating to your property. We will send this to you or, if you prefer, arrange a meeting to go through all of the information with you. At the same time, we will provide you with all of the documentation that needs to be signed.

When you have reviewed the Report, we will answer any further enquiries you may have and discuss with you your preferred completion dates or discuss completion preferences that have been expressed by other parties in the chain (unless preferences have been expressed from the outset). Once dates have been agreed, we will request from you your deposit monies or full balance so that we can exchange contracts.

Once contracts are exchanged the completion date becomes binding so we will ensure that we have submitted our Report or Certificate to your mortgage lender and made arrangements to obtain your mortgage advance in plenty time for the completion date. It is our policy to request your mortgage monies for one working day before the completion date in the hope of avoiding delays on the completion day. We will ask you to ensure that you have made your insurance arrangements and will ask you for a copy of the details as we need these prior to using your mortgage advance.

On the day of completion, we will send the monies due to the Seller's solicitors and let you know as soon as we receive confirmation that the monies have been received and keys have been released for your collection from the agent (or from the seller direct if you have agreed to do this).

Once monies have changed hands, completion takes place and the Seller's solicitors will send to us the transfer of ownership form and any original documentation they hold. We will then ensure that you are registered as the new owner of the property as soon as possible at the Land Registry. We will also ensure that your Stamp Duty Land Tax Return is submitted and any land tax duly paid within the deadlines set down.

When the Land Registry confirms that you are the registered owner of the property, we will write to you with a copy for your own records and, unless you request otherwise, will place any important documents in our Strong Room for safe keeping.

Matters will now be concluded and we will close our file accordingly.

Important Considerations in the buying process

The Chain:

Where there are numerous buyers and sellers in the chain, it can sometimes  be difficult to secure a completion date in the early stages as each transaction may be progressing at a different speed or may have some aspects to resolve which may cause delay. Likewise, some party to the chain may need to fix a deadline which, if not met, means they can't proceed with the transaction. Factors in the chain can lead to delays or a requirement to speed things up or meet a deadline. We will do our best to let you know should such factors arise and do what we can to ensure that we meet any deadlines imposed or keep you advised as to reasons for delays.

Similarly, where there is a lengthy chain, completion can take a while as money needs to move between each firm of solicitors acting for each party. This means that the last party in the chain may not get keys until very late in the afternoon.

Exchange of Contracts:

Contracts can be exchanged once we have your mortgage offer, all necessary title documentation, satisfactory search results and replies to enquiries. The transaction becomes binding on the buyer and seller when contracts are exchanged and neither party can then back out without consequence. However, before contracts are exchanged, either party can change their mind and withdraw from the transaction without consequence.

Where there is a chain, contracts won't be exchanged until every party to the chain is ready to do so. To protect the transaction, when everyone is ready, contracts will be "released". This is a formal pre-exchange method of binding the parties in the chain to an exchange of contracts and to ensure that we don't end up with a situation where some of the parties in the chain are contractually bound and others are not.

The Property:

As we are not Surveyors and don't get to see the property or to inspect it, we rely upon you to let us know if there are any aspects that require some further enquiry or investigation. You should therefore tell us if you think the property has been altered or extended or it appears that boundaries have been changed/moved or if there are any unusual features nearby.

Survey:

The purchase of property is entirely at your own risk as a buyer, therefore, you should satisfy yourself as to the state and condition of the property. If you proceed without a survey you will have no recourse to the Seller should you discover problems once you move in. The most common Survey carried out is a Homebuyer's Survey and the Estate Agent may be able to recommend a Surveyor to do this for you. Your mortgage lender will send a Surveyor to value the property but you should not rely on this as a survey of the property. The objective of the mortgage lender is to ensure the value is correct and not to survey the property from an occupier's point of view and, furthermore, if the Surveyor makes a mistake, only the mortgage lender would be able to take action against them.

Searches:

Your mortgage lender requires us to carry out all prudent searches relevant to the property and the area it is in. Therefore, in the Sunderland and North East England area, the required searches are the Local Authority, Drainage, Mining and Environmental Searches. If you have advised us that there are any unusual features or we can see from other title information we have received that additional searches would be prudent, we will let you know. You will see the main searches that are available in our "Searches Guidance".

Fixtures and Fittings:

Fixed items such as internal doors, baths, kitchen units etc are usually included within the sale price as they are integral to the property. However, Sellers sometimes wish to remove items and both parties should know exactly what is staying in the property and what is to be removed. The Schedule of Fixtures and Fittings will be attached to and form part of the sale contract so both parties should be sure that what is noted in the Schedule reflects what has been agreed between them. Any additional items to be bought should also be noted in the contract. Therefore, you should let us know if you have agreed to buy separately any items from the Seller over and above the items set out in the Schedule.

Your Mortgage:

We cannot advise you on the financial aspects of your mortgage and you should ensure that you liaise with your Financial Adviser in this regard. You should also make sure that you tell your mortgage lender about all aspects of the transaction, such as additional adult occupiers who are not party to the mortgage or family loans/gift towards the purchase price balance. As we are required to act for your lender also, we are obliged to let them know about anything that is not referred to in their offer but which is relevant to the transaction. The obligations upon us in these circumstances are strict and if information comes to light that must be reported to your lender but which you would prefer us not to disclose, we will not be able to continue acting in the transaction and will not be able to conclude matters for you.

Your mortgage lender will not keep up advised of progress with your application and in most cases we will not receive a copy of your mortgage valuation. Therefore, we ask that you let us know should you be experiencing any delays with your application or if there are any special requirements your lender is intending to grant or impose which may affect the transaction.

Contact our specialist residential property and conveyancing solicitors today on 0191 5666 500 or complete our short online enquiry form.

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