Selling a home is one of the most stressful experiences you will go through. While the process is straightforward, there are so many potential complications that even the most simple of purchases can have some challenges.
Once an offer has been accepted, there are a number of conveyancing process milestones to be aware of. If you have a basic understanding of these milestones it can make the legal process less stressful. We have created this helpful summary, scroll down for an overview of each of the stages.
1. First Steps
Making the decision to sell your home is a huge step for many people. Often, homes are much more than just an asset and a place to live; they are full of memories. Choosing to sell your home carries an emotional as well as a financial consideration and many of our clients spend months and even years thinking about selling before making that final decision to put their property on the market.
Before you decide to sell, you think about your next move, and the reasons for moving. Typically it is due to a change of circumstances; a new or growing family, a new job, getting married or just moving in together for the first time. There are so many factors to consider, we would always suggest sitting down and really thinking about the home that you have and the home that you want. Taking time to work out the most important criteria is choosing your next home will be as important and selling your current one.
Everyone has an idea of what their home is worth, either from speculative valuations over the years, or from online price guides. This is crucial in determining where you look for your next property and what your budget will be. Factor in the costs of moving and make sure that you have worked out your budget before you decide to sell. It’s always good to speak to a mortgage broker or your bank about your financial position and the many types of mortgages on offer, you may be in a better position than you thought.
2. Choose an Estate Agent
There are literally thousands of estate agents to choose from, from online only businesses to the local high street. The average high street has 14 estate agents offices, ranging from the local single office independent brands, to larger independents and the corporates.
Your choice of estate agent will be crucial in both marketing the property and achieving the best possible price. An often overlooked consideration is the ability of your estate agent to progress the sale through to a successful exchange and completion. The average ‘fall through’ rate is almost 33%. That means 1 in 3 sales won’t successfully exchange. Would you choose a Lawyer who lost 1 in 3 cases, or a Doctor who carried out an unsuccessful procedure every 1 in 3 times? You can read about our business and our performance statistics here…
Good estate agency is about getting the right combination of Presentation, Promotion and Price.
Any estate agent can put your property online, it takes zero skill or intelligence. Yet to make your home really stand out from the crowd you need to choose an agent who understands marketing as well as property. This is crucial to making sure your home launches to the market effectively, stands out from other similar properties and justifies its asking price. Some agents still don’t have floorplans or professional photography for example.
Promoting your property online and through various social channels is more important than ever before. Don’t just choose an agent because they are on rightmove or Zoopla. Choose an agent that understands the promotion of your home and has a clear strategy. Estate agency can be reactive, where agents simply put the property online and wait for inbound enquiries. Choose an agent that operates a ‘call out’ culture, where they actively call their applicants about your property, before it comes to the market as well as after.
An estate agent who over-values your property just to win your instruction won’t be doing you any favours; in fact they will be hindering your chances of a sale and your property will look stale and tired after several months stuck on the market. Buyers are much more savvy today than ever before. They can compare the price of your home with others, both on the market and sold, within a couple of minutes on their phone or tablet. You must choose an agent with an honest approach to pricing.
3. Property Launch
When you have chosen the right estate agent for you, it’s time to get the property on the market. Your property will generate the most interest within the first 24 hours of marketing. As soon as the property goes live on the website and internet portals, buyers who have registered both with us and with rightmove and Zoopla will get an email alert that your property is now available. Calls from prospective buyers will come in to us, and we will screen these buyers for their suitability and financial position.
4. Viewings and Offers
As marketing commences on your home, viewings will take place on your home and you will be provided with feedback. Some buyers may arrange for a ‘second viewing’, which is an indication of their interest and an opportunity for them to take a further, more detailed look at your home.
Once a suitable buyer has been found, they will come forward with an offer. The offer will be fully financially qualified in accordance with the recommendations of the The Property Ombudsman code of practice. Once the offer has been agreed, the conveyancing process begins.
5. Choose a Solicitor
Your choice of solicitor can be just as important as your choice of estate agent. There are many solicitors, both conventional and online. Be aware that like with any service, you get what you pay for. The cheapest solicitor may not be the best one if you are working to a deadline or your purchase is in a related chain.
As with any legal fees you are paying for a solicitors’ time and expertise. Most firms charging lower fees will require their staff to run more cases which means your purchase may take more time and be at more risk of falling through. You can see a summary of likely costs in our buying costs section.
6. Protocol forms
Before the conveyancing process can start, you must complete the protocol forms which your solicitor will send you. It is important that these are filled out as soon as you get them it can set the process back by weeks. The documents include a formal instruction letter and a request for proof of identification (passports and utility bills are best). There will also be a client care letter to confirm the solicitors duty of care to their client.
The most important documents are:
- Fixtures and contents form
- Leasehold information form
- Client care letter
- Property information form
7. Buyers surveys
We will be in touch once the buyers have arranged their survey. There are a variety of options which the purchaser and their lender can choose, from a basic mortgage valuation, to a home buyers report, and in some cases a full structural survey.
A mortgage valuation is simply a basic inspection by the surveyor to assertain the property’s value and to make sure that the price that is being offered is in line with the expectations of the lender. A home buyers report combines a formal valuation with a basic survey of the main structure of the property, such as lighting, heating, brickwork and guttering. The surveyor may provide their opinion on the condition of these parts of the property.
A full structural survey is a complete survey of all aspects of the home externally and internally. Once the survey has been booked the lender will make contact with the estate agent to arrange the survey. Once the lender has reviewed the details of the report, they will issue a mortgage offer based on the findings.
It is normal for buyers to arrange subsequent surveys by specialist contractors, should the initial survey report suggest that there are areas which require further investigation. We will arrange these with you and provide as much notice as possible.
The buyers solicitors will raise enquiries to your solicitor in response to the outcome of the property searches, the title or leasehold documents and other details from the draft contract.
Once both parties are happy with the contract and all outstanding enquiries have been answered by your solicitors, there are a number of documents which need to be reviewed, signed and sent to your solicitor. Please remember that if you are in a related chain of properties you may not be able to exchange until the other links in the chain are ready.
Once the final documents are ready, you will need to agree a completion date, which is the date when the move will actually take place. Once this is agreed, the following conditions must be met:
- Both sides have a copy of the mortgage offer (if applicable)
- You have returned your signed copy of the contract.
Your buyer will lodge their deposit with their solicitor (usually 10% of the purchase price although this can be reduced to 5% for higher value homes).
If everything is in order, exchange can take place. This is actioned via a telephone call from the solicitors.
On the day of completion, the final balance will be transferred to your solicitors holding account and then on to you. The property has now completed and legal ownership passes formally to the purchaser.
You will have already agreed a rough time for moving out, but you may need to be flexible as sometimes the balance of monies takes some time to transfer from the buyers solicitor. Once this has been confirmed, the solicitors will contact the estate agent to confirm that completion has occurred.