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Posted on 28 June 2021
Ask The Solicitor - Maeve Corrigan Associate at Carson McDowell
As part of our 'Ask The Expert' series, Maeve Corrigan an associate in the real estate team in Carson McDowell answered your questions for solicitors...

1. When should I instruct a solicitor when buying or selling?

When selling you should instruct a solicitor when the property is going on the market. Instructing a solicitor at an early stage allows more time for your solicitor to obtain your title deeds, deal with any issues and request the various property certificates and searches required in connection with the sale, which should avoid delays when the sale is agreed. When buying a property you should instruct a solicitor when your offer is accepted.

2. How does the conveyancing process work?

The seller and purchaser each instruct a solicitor. The seller’s solicitor will obtain the seller’s title deeds and prepare a draft contract. The seller’s solicitor will request the various property certificates and searches which will be required in relation to the sale and will assist the seller in completing Replies to Pre Contract Enquiries.

3. What can I do to keep things going efficiently?

Keep in touch with your solicitor, estate agent and mortgage broker and respond promptly to any requests for information or documentation.

4. What do I need to do after I have chosen my solicitor?

You should confirm your solicitor’s details with the estate agent and mortgage lender/broker. You will also need to provide your solicitor with your ID documents and any other information/documentation requested by your solicitor.

5. How long will the conveyancing process take?

On average the conveyancing process takes around 8-10 weeks (from agreeing the sale to completion) but it varies depending on the circumstances. If there is a chain of transactions then the process may take longer but if it is a chain free, cash purchase then it may be possible to complete within a shorter timescale.

6. How much does conveyancing cost? What is the professional fee and outlays? What are outlays?

Professional fees vary between solicitors firms but most firms charge on the basis of the value of the property (usually somewhere between 0.5-0.75% of the sale or purchase price). Outlays are expenses payable to third parties such as Land Registry fees, search fees and Stamp Duty.

7. How will you update me and how often?

We update clients whatever way works best for them and with whatever frequency they want. We normally keep in touch with clients via email and phone as we reach certain milestones in the conveyancing process.

8. What is the difference between exchange and completion?

‘Exchange’ is the term used in England and Wales which is the point at which the contract has been signed by both parties and becomes binding. In Northern Ireland, the process is slightly different in that the purchaser signs the contract first and this is then sent to the seller’s solicitor for ‘acceptance’ by the seller. A binding contract is formed when the ‘accepted’ contract is sent to the purchaser’s solicitor. This usually happens in advance of completion but in some transactions, entry into a binding contract and completion happens in quick succession. Completion is the date on which the purchaser’s solicitor transfers the purchase money to the seller’s solicitor and keys are released to the purchaser.

9. When do I get the deeds to my property?

Following completion, the purchaser’s solicitor deals with registration of the purchaser’s ownership (and mortgage, if applicable) in the Land Registry. Following completion of registration, the title deeds are sent to the mortgage lender (if applicable) to be held until the mortgage is repaid and the purchaser will receive a copy of the title deeds from their solicitor. If a property is purchased without a mortgage, the title deeds are usually held by the purchaser’s solicitor in a fire proof strong room.

10. Who contacts the utility providers after the sale has completed A seller should take meter readings and inform the utility providers when completion takes place?

A purchaser should then contact the utility providers to open their own account following completion. It is also important to notify Land and Property Services (LPS) to close the existing rates account following completion of a sale and a purchaser should also contact LPS to open their new rates account.

11. Can I complete a sale and remain in occupation because my new house in not ready?

This is pretty unusual however it may be possible in some circumstances if the purchaser is willing to allow the seller to remain in occupation of the property following completion, either under a Tenancy Agreement or a Licence to Occupy (which is usually referred to as a ‘Caretaker’s Agreement). However, if the new owner of the property has obtained a mortgage in connection with the purchase then the mortgage lender would need to provide consent for the previous owner to remain in occupation (which is not usually feasible as mortgage lenders require the purchaser to obtain vacant possession of the property on completion).

12. Can I sign contracts by email?

The contract is usually signed in wet ink but this may be scanned and sent via email and this is a valid method of forming a contract in accordance with the Law Society’s standard form of contract which is used for residential conveyancing transactions. It is necessary to sign the Transfer Deed (ie. the legal document that transfers legal title) in person and witnessed in accordance with Land Registry’s requirements.

13. How will the sale of my own property tie in with the timing of the sale of my new property?

At the outset it is important that all parties involved in the chain are aware of the proposed timeframe for completion. Throughout the process, communication between the various solicitors and estate agents is important because if there is an issue causing delay on one transaction, this has a knock effect for all parties in the chain.

14. Where do I collect keys from after the sale has complete?

Usually from the Estate Agent or, if the property is a new build, the site foreman will usually arrange to meet a purchaser on site to hand over keys.

15. How early can I collect the keys on the day of completion?

Keys are released when the seller’s solicitor receives the purchase money from the purchaser’s solicitor, so it really depends on what time funds arrive in the seller’s solicitors account. When funds are transferred from one solicitor’s account to another, the bank have to process the payment so it can sometimes take a couple of hours for funds to arrive. When there is a chain involved, completion often takes place quite late in the day so it is a good idea not to book removal vans too early in the day to avoid waiting around and incurring additional fees.

16. Who arranges for the mortgage money to be sent to my solicitor? Do I have to do anything?

The purchaser’s solicitor requests the mortgage funds from the lender prior to completion and the purchaser arranges to transfer their contribution to the purchase price to their solicitor’s client account prior to completion. The entirety of the purchase money is then transferred to the seller’s solicitor’s account on completion.

The purchaser’s solicitor reviews all of this documentation to ensure that everything is in order and raises any necessary queries with the seller’s solicitor. The solicitors will also liaise in relation to a suitable completion date. Once all of the due diligence has been completed, the purchaser signs the contract for acceptance by the seller. The purchaser’s solicitor then requests the purchase money from the purchaser and their lender and sends the money to the seller’s solicitor on the completion date. Keys are released to the purchaser on completion.

17. How do I pay stamp duty?

Stamp Duty is payable to HMRC within 14 days of completion. Your solicitor will deal with this on your behalf and will usually request payment of Stamp Duty in the Completion Statement which will be provided prior to completion.

For more information or to contact Carson McDowell directly on +44 (0)28 9024 4951 /

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