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UK Conveyancing – Property Sale & Purchase – Frequently Asked Questions



How long does the whole process take?

The process of property transfer starts as soon as a residential conveyancing quote is accepted however there is no clear-cut answer to this question due to the complexity of the process. Different factors come into play, which make the length of the process unpredictable. Many of these factors are out of a solicitors control. With this consideration in mind, it is not advisable to make arrangements regarding moving until an exchange of contracts has taken place and a date has been contractually fixed for completion of the purchase or sale. In addition, there are cases where problems occur at the last moment often in regard to financial arrangements for completion money. As a very rough guide, on average, transfer of property from one owner to another may take anywhere from 6 weeks to 10 weeks from start to finish.


What does an exchange of contracts entail?

A contract is a written agreement entered into by two or more parties regarding the sale and purchase of land or property. Two copies of the contract are produced and each party signs one copy which is then exchanged on a pre-arranged date with the other party to form a legally binding contract. Exchange can take place by physical transfer of the documents personally by hand, by post or informally by telephone. Once contracts have been exchanged the transaction is binding and irreversible without potentially incurring financial penalties for breach of contract if legal action is taken in the courts by the wronged party.


When does the seller receive the payment?

The seller’s solicitor usually receives a 10% deposit on exchange of contracts with the balance purchase money being paid on completion however on many occasions contracts are exchanged with a nil deposit. The completion date is normally between two weeks and four weeks after the contracts are exchanged, though this may vary depending on the circumstances. The money from the sale can be wired to the seller’s personal bank account or a cheque can be sent by post. On most occasions however sale monies received by a solicitor are utilised for the purchase of other land or property on behalf of that client.


Where do I get the keys to my new property from?

The keys to the purchased property are usually in the possession of the sellers estate agent. Once they get word from the sellers solicitor that the sale has been completed, the sellers estate agent will release the keys. Completion of the sale occurs when the full balance purchase money has been received by the seller.


Can I change my mind at any point in the process?

You can back out from the transaction at any time up to the exchange of contracts. Before this point, you may, for any reason, decide to pull out without incurring any penalties. Once your home conveyancing lawyer has exchanged contracts, you are required by law to complete the transaction failing which the other party has the right to take you to court for breach of contract. This could result in you being forced to complete the transaction in accordance with the contract or paying damages to the other party.


Why do I need to make a deposit?

The deposit is usually 10% of the total purchase price and is paid to the solicitor when contracts are exchanged. The deposit is an act of faith that the buyer is going to fulfil his end of the bargain. If the buyer backs out of the sale after the exchange of contracts, then the seller has the right to keep the deposit and also has the right to take legal action for breach of contract. It is not unusual for contracts to be exchanged with a nil deposit if the circumstances warrant that course of action.

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