The first question we usually get asked is ‘how long will the process take’? The honest answer is we don’t know! There are multiple factors that influence how long a transaction might take, such as;
- Freehold or Leasehold? A Leasehold transaction will usually take longer as there will be a Lease to review, and third parties such as freeholders and managing agents to deal with.
- Size of the chain? If there is a long chain, with multiple transactions all trying to complete together, the chances are increased of a delay somewhere along the line.
- Performance of other parties involved: While we will always do our best to expedite your transaction as much as we can, there will be times during your transaction when we are waiting on others. How quickly other solicitors, your seller/buyer, local authorities etc take, can have a large impact on the speed at which we can push matters along.
The general advice given is that a leasehold transaction is likely to take 2 months or more to complete, with a freehold transaction more along the lines of 6 weeks.
This timeline only begins on a purchase once we have received the draft contract and initial documents (referred to as a ‘draft contract pack’) in from the seller’s solicitor, and on a sale when we have received all your completed property information forms and initial payment, and sent the draft contract pack out to the buyer’s solicitors.
Sale Transaction Timeline
Using standard information forms we send out for you to complete, and title information and deeds requested from the Land Registry, we draft a sale contract, and put all the information together in a ‘draft contract pack’, which is then sent out to the buyer’s solicitor.
We then wait to receive any enquiries the buyer’s solicitor may raise once they have checked through this. There is then a back and forth between the two solicitors as enquiries and replies are exchanged. Some enquiries regarding non-legal matters may well need to be referred to you for your responses.
When the buyer’s solicitors are satisfied with all the responses provided then we will arrange for all necessary documents to be signed, potential moving dates will be negotiated, and we can then look to move towards an exchange of contracts…
Purchase Transaction Timeline:
Once we receive the initial draft contract pack from the seller’s solicitor, searches will need to be ordered. These are compulsory if you are having a mortgage, and highly recommended even if you are a cash buyer. You will need to pay up front for these, and the searches ordered will be:
Drainage Search – this confirms whether the property is connected to public sewerage systems, who the water provider is, and if there are any public drains running close to or within the property boundaries.
Environmental Search – this identifies whether the land the property on is classified as ‘contaminated’. It will also provide information regarding ground subsidence, flood risk, and other environmental factors.
Local Search – this is the slowest search to come back (although it shouldn’t usually take any longer than 2 weeks) as it is provided by the Local Authority. It will let us know whether there are any planning permissions or building regulations entries listed against the property, as well as providing information on roads, rights of way and various other data held by the Local Authority.
After ordering searches we will review the initial information received, and raise any enquiries with the seller’s solicitor that may be necessary. These can relate to various issues such as rights/obligations in the property’s title, matters regarding alterations of the property, lack of clarity regarding boundaries/access rights, etc
This is typically the longest and most uncertain part of the process as enquiries and replies go back and forth between solicitors. When search results come back these will be checked, and further enquiries may need to be raised based on these.
Once we have received satisfactory replies from the Seller’s solicitor, we can then issue our Final Report, which will summarise the legal situation regarding the property for you. At this stage we will also send you all the documents you need to sign, and ask you to transfer deposit funds (generally 10% of the purchase price) to us.
Once you have returned all of that, if you are happy, we can move to an exchange of contracts…
What is ‘exchange of contracts’?
Exchange of contracts is the point when the transaction becomes legally agreed, and both parties are bound to complete. It is also when the Completion Date (the day when the monies and keys will actually change hands) is set.
A deposit will be paid from the buying solicitor to the selling solicitor, usually 10% of the purchase price. If you have both a sale and purchase in a chain transaction, we can pass the deposit received on your sale along the chain and use it as your purchase deposit. (Even if your sale deposit is lower than 10% of the purchase price, this is commonly accepted).
The actual process is simply a phone conversation between the selling and buying solicitors. We run through the contract making sure that all details, figures, and dates correspond, and when all agreed, the contract is then ‘exchanged’, and the completion date becomes binding.
Please note that before contracts are exchanged, neither party is legally bound to go through with the transaction, and can walk away at any point. Therefore we never recommend you make any binding arrangements before exchange, such as handing in notice in your current rental property, or booking a removals truck, as you risk being left seriously inconvenienced and out of pocket.
Congratulations you have exchanged contracts and the completion date has arrived!
On the day, the purchasing solicitors will apply for a CHAPS (instant) bank transfer for funds to be sent to the selling solicitors. When this arrives in the selling solicitors account, they will inform all parties that the funds are received, and that keys can be released to the new buyers.
Sounds simple… but please remember that we have no control over the banking system!
Generally completions will go through in the late morning/early afternoon, but in certain scenarios, (often involving longer chains where each solicitor has to wait to receive monies from the previous one before they can send their own), there may be delays in funds reaching selling solicitor’s accounts.
Even if funds do reach the other solicitor first thing in the morning, please be aware that the seller will have until 2pm on the day to vacate the property (NB; this is often varied to 1pm – please check your contract’s special conditions, or ask us to clarify if in doubt).
Please don't hesitate to leave a comment with any doubts you can think about and we will answer them for you.