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The Legal Process of Buying a Home in England and Wales


You've had your offer accepted on your new home.  

So what happens between agreeing a sale and being handed the keys to your new front door?


Engaging the Services of Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer

The legal process involved in transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another is called conveying.   Though it is perfectly legal to do this yourself, most mortgage lenders and even sellers will prevent you from doing so. 

It is advisable to engage the services of a Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer.  If you don’t have a lawyer in mind our staff at Andrew Grant will be able to help you.   

Andrew Grant has excellent connections with both established local lawyers and the largest on line conveying company PPL who offer the latest innovative technology designed to speed up the moving process. 


What happens next?

The process of buying a property can be broken down into four key phases:-

  • Prior to Exchange of Contracts
  • Exchange of Contracts
  • Completion
  • Post Completion


How long will the process take?

It is impossible to give a precise idea of how long the legal work involved in buying a property will take.  A rough guide is up to 7 weeks from an accepted offer to an exchange of contract and up to 4 weeks from exchange to completion.  However, there may be issues with the searches and enquiries that may delay the process.


Prior to Exchange of Contracts

Your lawyer and the seller’s representative are in touch with one another to confirm outline details of your intended purchase eg names, details of price, fixtures and fittings that are included in the sale, details of the title deeds on the property that you intend buying etc.  Your solicitor will receive a copy of the draft contract that will outline this and will check the terms on your behalf.

This next stage for your lawyer is to make “enquiries and searches” regarding the property. At this stage you may be required to make an interim payment to your lawyer as some searches will be chargeable.



Your lawyer will contact the local authority to find out certain matters that may affect the property such as:-

Is the property architecturally listed?

Is the property in a conservation area?

Is the property subject to a compulsory purchase order?

Are there any tree preservation orders on land belonging to the property?

Is there any planning decision or application affecting the property or land adjacent to the property?


Environmental searches that may appertain to the property (eg. Flood risk etc)



Your solicitor will ask the seller’s lawyer a number of questions regarding the property such as:-

  • What are the boundaries of the property?
  • Who is responsible for fences and hedges that border the property?
  • Is there a restrictive covenant?  (this will be detailed in the deeds)
  • Has the property been extended?
  • If so, when was the work carried out, was it subject to planning permission?
  • Is the property freehold or leasehold?  Are ground rent payments up todate?
  • Are there any rights of way/public footpaths running across land belonging to the property? 
  • Are there any ongoing disputes regarding the property?
  • Is the property under guarantee from an authority eg National Housebuilding Council?
  • Are there certificates for work carried out on the property by the current owner? Eg damp proof, electrical work, wood burner installation etc
  • Are any rights of way, access to utilities shared by any neighbours?


Once your lawyer is happy with everything if you have applied for a mortgage to part fund your purchase then they may send you a mortgage deed to sign. 


Exchange of Contracts

When both the buyer and seller are happy with the contract of sale they each sign their respective copy - following which the lawyers send them to one another.  Once this so called act of “exchanging contracts” has been executed both buyer and seller will be legally bound to the transaction and if one party were to pull out at this point, there would be liability for compensation.


Exchange is normally done by telephone with the lawyers exchanging by phone call and sending the signed contract in the post.


However before exchanging contracts, a “Completion date” (the date when the transaction is completed when you become the legal owner of the property) has to be agreed by both parties. Such a date may be a long while after “exchanging contracts”, or it can be done the same day.  


If you are buying and selling or if there are other inter-dependent property transactions involved with your own transaction, then such proposed transactions are referred to as a “chain”.  Everyone involved in a chain then has to agree dates which are suitable to all concerned. Doing so can be the source of much to-ing and fro-ing in order to find a date acceptable to everyone.


To exchange contracts you will need:

  • Cleared funds to pay the deposit (normally 10% of purchase price)
  • Mortgage Offer (if necessary)
  • Property Insurance – you can become responsible for the building from exchange of contracts
  • Your lawyers satisfaction with enquiries/searches/contract terms
  • An agreed completion date


Your lawyer will:-

Draft the transfer document and when approved by the seller’s solicitor it is signed by both the seller and the buyer and will transfer the ownership of the property

Finalise any mortgage arrangements so the full funds can be transferred to the buyer’s lawyer on completion.

After contracts have been exchanged your lawyer will ask you for funds so he/she has monies in place ready for the completion date. 

Prior to completion you will need to ensure that all required utilities will be connected to your new home and ask the seller to read the meters on their departure from the property.



On the date of completion, funds are sent by your lawyer to the seller’s lawyer and the sale of the house is completed.

You receive the keys and may move in; the buyer must have vacated at a pre-arranged time.  On arriving at your new home it is important to read the utility meters. 


Post Completion

Your lawyer will then pay the Stamp Duty Land Tax and will register the change of ownership with Land Registry and pay their fees. You will need to inform your insurance company that completion has taken place.

Your lawyer will send you a statement of account showing exactly what monies have been spent and what is outstanding.

Transfer deed and title deed will be sent to the buyer where they must be stored securely.


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