This note is to provide guidance to clients who are selling properties with our assistance. It is intended to be a guide not as to the legal aspects but as an outline of the procedure. We stress that it is only a guide and there can be significant differences on particular transactions.
We are normally informed of a transaction by the client or the estate agent. Once a buyer has been found we will give you an estimate of the costs, VAT and disbursements that will be payable. This estimate is a guide and if a transaction is unusually complicated or there is an abortive sale our fees will be higher than the estimate - as and when this becomes apparent we will give you a revised estimate. We will charge for abortive work on the basis of the time spent on the matter but capped to our overall estimate. Details of our hourly rates are set out in our terms and conditions which will be provided to you at the outset.
At this stage, we request a payment of £500 on account of our fees and the disbursements.
When you have confirmed your instructions to us we will write to the buyer’s solicitors to confirm that we are acting for you. We will need to provide to them a draft contract, together with information about the property and your ownership, or "title", to it. We will require from you a copy of your title deeds (if you have them) and send you some forms for you to complete and return to us. The forms relate to your use of the property and those items of furniture you intend to sell with it. If you are selling a leasehold property, we will need to contact your landlord for information regarding the service charges, buildings insurance and any planned building works; there is usually a fee payable by you to the landlord to obtain that information.
Once the buyer’s solicitors have the relevant information there is likely to be a delay whilst they review the documents and whilst the buyer finalises his or her mortgage arrangements. The buyer’s solicitors may raise additional enquiries about the property, some of which we will need to refer to you.
Once the buyer’s solicitors have approved the draft contract we will send to you a copy of the contract to sign and return to us.
This part of the process should be completed within 4 – 6 weeks of receiving the initial instructions. However this does depend on factors outside our control, for example how quickly the title deeds and forms are provided to us, how long it takes the buyer’s solicitors to review the papers and the buyer to arrange finance. If you have a specific time frame in mind for your sale, please let us know at the earliest opportunity and ensure that the sale’s agent is aware of your requirements.
Exchange of contracts
When you instruct us to proceed we will require from you the signed contract and instructions as to when you want to complete your sale. We recommend that you discuss with the buyer, either directly or through the estate agents, the date on which it will be convenient to complete the transaction and that all the parties inform their solicitors of the preferred date(s). We will then exchange contracts on your behalf and the actual completion date is agreed upon exchange.
Once contracts have been exchanged you will be contractually bound to complete the sale. If you withdraw you will be liable to pay the penalties specified in the contract. It is therefore of fundamental importance that contracts are not exchanged unless you are certain that you are in a position to complete the sale and move out of the property (with those items of furniture and belongings that do not form part of the sale) on the agreed completion date. If you are also buying a property we may need to synchronise the exchange of contracts on the two transactions so that you can move directly from one property to the other.
Before completion we will arrange for you to sign various documents and provide to you a financial statement setting out the calculation of the funds that will be available to you on the completion of your sale, after the redemption of your mortgage and payment of our fees, the agent’s fees and disbursements. We will require your bank details for the account into which you want us to transfer those monies. Please note that if the property is being sold by more than one person, we will require your joint instructions. Some of the bills such as ground rent and service charges on leasehold properties may have been paid by you in advance and if that is the case we will have to obtain from the buyer a refund of the appropriate, pre-paid proportion.
On the completion date the money will be paid to us by the buyer’s solicitors. You will not be involved in that aspect of the transaction as the money is generally sent to us through the bank transfer system and it can take several hours for the money to pass from one bank to another. We do not advise you or authorise the agent to handover the keys to the buyer until the purchase money has cleared our account. Once the sale has been completed we will arrange to redeem your mortgage, pay our legal and the agent’s fees and then transfer the balance to your nominated account.
You should make arrangements with the gas, electricity and telephone companies for the supplies to be changed from your name on completion. You should also notify the local and water authorities when completion has taken place so that the council tax and water charge accounts can be transferred to the buyer.
[Correct as at March 2014]