Offer accepted - what happens now?
When you’ve reached an agreement on price and the property is under offer, it may be tempting to think the hard part is over. While in some respects that's true, it's important to understand that now the real work begins.
By following Martin & Co’s step-by-step process means you can tick off the various stages of the sales process as you go, keeping everything firmly on track until completion day.
Finalise your mortgage
As a buyer, you should have an agreement in principle in place with a mortgage lender already. If so, now is the time to complete your application for peace of mind that your funding is in place.
Your mortgage company will also undertake a valuation of the property to ensure their loan is covered by the property’s value.
Choose a solicitor
Arguably the most important decision both buyers and sellers make post-offer is choosing a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the sale / purchase process.
Most of the time, family or friends can recommend a firm they have used but your local Martin & Co branch can also help.
Organise a survey
As a buyer, we would always advise that you arrange a survey of the property you are purchasing. Peace of mind is priceless during the often stressful purchase process and nasty surprises only add fuel to that fire.
Arrange a Homebuyers Report with a recommended surveyor or, if the property you are buying is an older home, it may be worth engaging a full structural report.
Get removals quotes
It pays to enquire about removals services early in the process as these companies can become busy very quickly in a buoyant market. Again, speak to family and friends and compile a shortlist of companies to approach. Get some quotes and then get your chosen firm on standby ready for when you have a completion date locked in.
The legal side
Now it’s over to the solicitors or conveyancers to take the sale process on to the next step. However, given this is a legal process and in ‘signing off’ the sale they accept a certain degree of liability, solicitors and conveyancers are somewhat resistant to being rushed.
The process does take time and patience is required on all sides, but buyers and sellers can ensure things remain on track by providing the correct information quickly when requested.
Title deeds and office copy entries
As part of the legal process, the solicitors on both sides must establish that the seller is the rightful owner of the property being sold. They do this in one of two ways, depending on whether the property sits on registered or unregistered land.
Unregistered land is becoming less common these days, so the seller’s solicitor will generally apply to the Land Registry for the office copy entries regarding the property.
These entries show beyond all doubt who the owner of the property is. In the case of unregistered land, ownership can be established through the title deeds, which are usually held by the mortgage company or the seller.
The solicitor acting for the seller will now draw up a draft contract for the sale, usually in duplicate from a standard contract. If the property is mortgaged, they will ask the lender for a redemption figure and ensure the sale price is enough to cover the mortgage. Once the contract is complete, the seller’s solicitor will send key documents to the buyer’s side. These could include:
- The draft contract
- Proof of ownership
- Property information and fixtures and fittings forms
- Title plan
- Leasehold information form if the property is a flat
- Land charges search if the property is unregistered
Further ownership proof
Once the buyer’s solicitor has received the draft contract, they will seek further clarification that the seller does indeed own the property. This can be done by inspecting the property register, proprietorship register or charges register.
The buyer’s solicitor will provide questions for the local authority regarding issues such as planning decisions, tree preservation orders and new roads – essentially anything which could affect the area in and around the sale property. This is generally done electronically, vastly speeding up the process from years ago.
This is where the seller can really step up and help the process along. On almost every sale, the buyer’s solicitor will raise a host of enquiries about the property, which could range from boundaries and leases to breaches of covenants.
The seller’s solicitor should be able to answer many of these queries themselves, but in some cases, the seller will be asked to provide more information. If this is done in full and at speed, it can help keep the sale process on track.
Once the buyer’s solicitor has received acceptable responses to the enquiries, as well as established proof of ownership, received a mortgage redemption statement and completed searches, they will then ‘approve’ the draft contract and send a copy back to the seller’s side. Once both solicitors have approved the contract, they will prepare for exchange and ask the buyer and seller to sign.
Preparing for exchange
In order to exchange contracts, the buyer’s solicitor will need the following:
- The agreed deposit from their client
- Signed contract
- All other parties in the chain to be in the same position and to agree on a completion date
Both solicitors will now exchange contracts, usually over the phone with both agreeing the contents of the contracts as identical and signing, timing and dating. This is a huge step as the sale is now legally binding.
The seller’s solicitor will solidify redemption figures for the mortgage and the buyer’s side will check that funds for the purchase will be available on the scheduled completion date. This is the time for buyers and sellers to finalise details with their removals companies and get them booked in for moving day.
This document officially changes the property’s ownership to the buyer, but doesn’t become official until registered at the Land Registry. Once this is received by the seller’s solicitor, they will provide any amendments and send back to the buyer’s solicitor before asking the seller to sign.
Preparing for completion
The buyer’s solicitor will now arrange for the mortgage deed to be signed, perform a series of further checks, including applying for Land Registry searches, and prepare a completion statement and bill, collecting outstanding funds from the buyer.
You did it! You are now on the next step in your property journey! On the day of completion, both the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors have key roles to play.
The seller’s solicitor will:
- Hand over title deeds
- Collect bank transfer of funds
- Redeem the seller’s mortgage
- Give permission for keys to be released
- Pay the estate agent
The buyer’s solicitor will:
- Perform a final check of the deeds
- Provide bank transfer of funds
- Date mortgage deed and transfer with completion date
If you have any questions on buying a property, or what happens next, speak to your local Martin & Co office who will be happy to help.