Completing the Purchase

Completing the Purchase

February 13, 2017

Buying Your First Home in 2017 – Completing the Purchase       

Throughout the course of purchasing your new home you’ve been through the lengthy process of planning, budgeting, hunting and negotiating. You’ll have gone through all the steps to find a home which suits your situation, and put in an offer that’s accepted – now, you might imagine, the hard work has all been done. However, as all experienced buyers and real estate agents know, bringing a sale to completion is where the most effort is required, and where buyers need to remain patient. There’s a great deal which needs to be taken care of when transferring ownership of a property, and the process that both parties must go through can take several months.

When is a Purchase Complete?

                A purchase is only final when contracts are exchanged and signed by both the buyer and the seller. This is the point at which a deal is legally struck; up to this point, there’s nothing actually binding either party to the agreement, and they can walk away without any real repercussions. Once contracts are exchanged, though, the deal is agreed and neither party can back out without severe liabilities and the potential to be sued by the other.

The process of escalating a purchase until you can collect the keys is neither simple nor straightforward. However, understanding what the process entails and what you’ll need to watch out for will allow you to avoid some of the problems which befall first time buyers, and make sure that owning your own home goes as smoothly as possible.

How to Reach Completion

So, what do you have to do in order to reach a completion? The major points you’ll need to arrange are for a contract to be drawn up by a conveyancer or solicitor, for all the necessary surveys to be carried out, and for a date to be set. The nitty-gritty of actually carrying out these processes is usually handled by legal specialists, but you’ll need to keep track of what’s happening and how the sale is progressing in order to ensure everything happens according to plan.

Let’s start at the beginning: your offer has been accepted. What’s your next step?

Finding a Solicitor or Conveyancer

Once your bid has been accepted, you’ll need to find someone to draw up a contract. They will handle the legal aspect of the property purchase, and will be responsible for checking that the property is as it was described to you; ensuring, for instance, that the deeds do cover the full extent of the property, and arranging for survey to be carried out. There are three main options available to you when selecting a legal specialist:

Solicitors: A solicitor is a fully-trained lawyer who specialises in property law. They have a great deal of experience and expertise in the field, and can handle any and all transactions. Their knowledge comes at a cost, though, and solicitors are often the most expensive choice available. Usually, their specialist knowledge isn’t required for standard purchases, and they’re mostly employed when the property is a bit out of the ordinary.

Conveyancers: A conveyancer is a fully accredited property expert, trained in the handling of property transactions. Their knowledge is restricted to the main elements of property law, which is perfectly sufficient for the majority of property purchases. In most cases, first time buyers will want to contract a conveyancer rather than a solicitor, since their services are generally more affordable.

Online Conveyancing: Because conveyancing is mostly confined to paperwork, it doesn’t necessarily have to be handled by a single specialist in a high street office. With the advent of online technology, there are more and more conveyancing firms setting up internet-only services, where buyers can benefit from economies of scale. The advantage to online conveyancing is that it’s cheaper; however, you might find it hard to find someone to talk to, and may run into problems if you have questions about your purchase.

Whichever professional you choose, you should check up on their background before time. If they come recommended by a friend, so much the better; a solicitor who works hard to make sure your purchase goes through quickly and smoothly is worth their weight in gold.

Working With Your Solicitor or Conveyancer

When you contract your solicitor, you’ll need to tell them what the broad strokes of the deal are; how much you intend to pay, what the property is and when you want to buy. They’ll then liaise with the seller’s solicitor to draw up a contract which covers every aspect of the deal, and ensure that these two match exactly. Often, this process requires a lot of checking back and forth with records and registry offices to make sure that all the appropriate permissions are in place. This process takes time, and there are often documents which one party or the other needs to produce or sign in order for things to move forward.

This can be a frustrating time for buyers, because there’s a lot of waiting. A document might only need signing, or a form might simply need filling in, but you could be waiting for days whilst the seller or their solicitor sits on it. That’s why it’s important to stay pro-active throughout this process; if you’re waiting for something to be sorted, contact your solicitor every few days to check up on its progress.

It’s also a good idea to develop a relationship with the seller themselves at this point. You’ll be communicating via proxy a lot of the time, and it’s very easy for messages to become muddled or misrepresented. Instead, if you run into issues, try calling the seller to talk to them; don’t be confrontational, but it might make things easier to resolve if you speak to them directly. Sometimes, for example, your solicitor might be telling you that they’re waiting for the seller, but when you talk to the seller, they say their solicitor has told them the same thing! In this case, putting yourself in contact with the seller can help resolve an issue quickly and easily.

Moving Day

As the sale progresses, you should start coming closer and closer to moving day. This is where you’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort to make sure that the actual move goes as smoothly as possible; although there’s always a certain amount of difficulty involved when relocating to a new home, this can often be minimised with a certain amount of planning ahead.

Utilities:

You’ll want to check that both your old utilities accounts are closed, and that your new ones will be opened. In some cases, it’s possible to “inherit” the account from the outgoing owner, meaning that the time it takes for services to come back online is minimised. With service switch times as low as 7 days now, it’s often a good idea just to continue with the existing provider and look for the best deal afterwards; in the first few days, you’ll just want to know that electricity, water and gas are going to be there, not that you’re getting the very best deal.

Some services might not be essential for the first few days, such as TV and internet, but these can sometimes take weeks to arrange if your new home isn’t in their standard service network. It’s best to check ahead of time if you intend to subscribe to a specific service, to find out if they can serve your new home.

Should You Use a Removal Company?

There are two options for transporting your goods to a new home; either rent a van and do it yourself, or hire a team of professionals to do it. If you’re moving from a small one-bed or two-bed flat, it might well be a good idea simply to hire a van for a weekend, since there won’t be too much to carry and it could work out cheaper. However, if you’re moving a lot of belongings, it might be better to enlist some professionals to make the job a bit easier – this is a more expensive option, but ensures that everything will be handled with minimum stress on your part.

Packing and Unpacking

Before you move, you should have a complete clear-out of your home. Make a big pile of everything you don’t need in your new place, then take it to a car boot, donate it to charity or give it away – there’s no sense in spending time and effort packing, moving and unpacking something if you don’t really need it.

When you pack, it’s important to pack in a somewhat systematic way. However, if you try to over-organise everything you’re likely to go mad putting everything in exactly the right place; a better idea is to simply box up everything from a specific room together. Pack each shelf into its own box, empty drawers into bags in the same container, and so on. This makes it easier to keep track of what is in which box, and lets you pack (and unpack) relatively quickly.

There are a few essential things you’ll need once you arrive, to make the job of unpacking that bit easier. This includes torches, a kettle, mugs, tea and biscuits, phone chargers and jumpers – anything that you might need in the first few hours that you don’t want to be digging out of crates. You should also have an idea of the order in which you’ll unpack things, based on how urgently you’ll need them. Things like clothes, bedding and food should be first out of the boxes, and TVs, games and paintings can wait. This means your first few days in your new home won’t be too uncomfortable, and you shouldn’t find it too hard to unpack.

What Can Go Wrong?

So far, we’ve talked about what to expect when a purchase goes smoothly. In most cases, this is what you’ll find; however, every now and again problems will crop up. As a first time buyer, you avoid one of the major issues which confront most property purchases, which is the “housing chain”. Because you’re paying for your new home with a mortgage, the seller will also be able to complete the purchase of their new home once they receive your payment. This means there’s no waiting around while they arrange their affairs; you should be able to move things along relatively quickly. However, you should be aware that the seller can potentially run into problems with the purchase of their own property, and if they do they might back out of their deal with you. There’s not a lot that can be done about this, but if you’ve built up a relationship with them you can likely find out about this early, and potentially work with them to resolve it.

A common problem for buyers is “gazumping”, which is where another buyer outbids you for the property. This is perfectly legal to do before contracts are exchanged, since the seller technically has no responsibility to you until they’ve put pen to paper. Your only real move here is to outbid the gazumper, but if the seller has accepted one higher offer already it’s not a good sign that they’re committed to the deal.

During the course of the many surveys which are carried out before buying a home, something might be turned up which the seller failed to mention; a leaky roof, a lack of planning permission, or a history of structural faults. In these cases, you’ll need to negotiate with the seller to reflect the property’s condition in its price, as you’ll be liable for the cost of repairs once you’re the owner.

Completion and Ownership

Congratulations – you’ve picked up the keys, unpacked the boxes and settled in. You’re now the owner of your own property, and free to do with it as you wish. Being a homeowner comes with many responsibilities, though, so we’ll discuss what to expect as a homeowner in further blog articles.