The five-step legal process to buying a house

12 July 2012

1 Pre-contractual stage

Once an offer is accepted, the seller draws up a contract, including details such as the selling price, what fixtures and fittings will be left in the property and the date for completing the purchase, known as ‘completion’. The buyer's conveyancer then checks everything is correct. This is when surveys and valuations will be completed and buildings insurance arranged.

2 Exchange of contracts

When the buyer and seller are happy with the contract, they sign final copies and send them to each other. The agreement is legally binding and neither party can pull out without paying compensation.

Buyers usually pay the seller a deposit of about 10% of the purchase price at this point, usually held by the solicitors until completion.

3 Between exchange and completion

A few more checks will be done by the conveyancers at this stage, such as making sure they have all the necessary funds, and they will then arrange for the transfer of funds to the seller.

4 Completion

The money for the property is transferred from buyer to seller and the keys and legal documents are handed over. The property now belongs to the buyer.

5 After completion

The buyer's conveyancer registers the change of ownership with Land Registry, the buyer pays stamp duty and has to inform their insurer that completion has taken place.

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