The sale process from when you first place your property on the market, to when you complete and move out will typically take around 4 months. It can be done quicker then this, but in some circumstances, it could be a lot longer, for example if there is a long chain of house sales involved for example.
This is our simplified guide of the moving process, with all the key milestones and timescales for each section.
House goes on the market
At this point you would have selected the estate agent who you feel best represents your interests and appointed them as the agent to act for you. They will setup all the marketing for your property, agree terms with you and then start the process of placing your property on the market for sale. This part of the process from instructions given to the initial marketing should take no longer then 1 week in most scenarios.
Agents will often differ in their approach and beliefs to how viewings should be conducted. Some agents will insist on showing clients round themselves, whereas others will advise it is best for the owners to do conduct their own viewings. Typically, you will have either a standard viewing setup, where clients are booked over a period of time until an acceptable offer is received or have a block viewing/open house scheduled where all buyers are arranged for one fixed time. There are pros and cons to all methods but in this market place you should expect to have all viewings take place in the first 3 to 4 weeks of marketing your property.
When offers are submitted, your agent should present the buyer’s situation in detail to you. Three key points to understand are the buyer’s position, i.e., do they have a related sale, or are they in rented? How will they be financing the purchase – will it be with a mortgage or a full cash purchase, where are they with this process. Finally, what timescales are they working towards, and will this align with your situation. Offer negotiations should be dealt with swiftly and efficiently, realistically lasting 2 to 3 days at most.
When you reach an agreement on the price with your buyer and the offer is officially accepted, this is when viewings should stop on your property. Your estate agent will need to gather further information from the buyer, including their proof of deposit, ID, mortgage brokers details and all information on the chain below (if applicable). This part of the process should be super quick, and we would expect a buyer to have all requested information back within 2 days.
The solicitors you choose to work with are one of the most important decisions within the transaction process. It is really important you do your own research, don’t just go with the agents or brokers recommendation, or the person your friend used last year. Be sure to look at 2 or 3 firms, check out their google reviews, have a look through their website and compare costs.
The most expensive won’t always relate to being the best, but if a solicitor or conveyancer sounds really cheap when they quote, probably best to stay clear! Before you instruct, a couple of key questions to ask of your chosen solicitor is; do they offer a fixed cost and are they no sale no fee? Not the end of the world if they don’t, but good to be clear from the start. It is always a good idea to have your solicitor setup before selling as it makes this part of the process quicker. When selling, there is a lot of paperwork to go through and fill in, so make sure you get this done as soon as you can and return to your solicitor – the transaction literally can’t go anywhere without you doing this. This part of the process can be done within a few days.
Memorandum of Sale
Once the agent has all of the necessary information from both the buyer and you as the seller, including the solicitor details, they will then issue the memorandum of sale. Put simply, this is a document sent to all parties involved in the transaction – the buyer, and their solicitor, and the seller and their solicitor. It forms the introduction of the solicitors to start working on the transaction on your behalf. Normally the solicitors will send a courtesy email to one another to confirm they are acting for their clients and then they get started formally from there. From the point of the offer being verbally accepted to getting the memorandum of sales sent out, this part of the process should be within 1 week.
Alongside the paperwork from the solicitor it is important that a mortgage application is submitted as soon as possible. Most mortgage offers (which is the official confirmation of the amount of money the lender will give you for your purchase) will be issued around 1 month from application, and can be valid from 3-6 months once confirmed, fitting comfortably within the transaction timescales.
It is important to do this sooner rather then later, just in case there are additional bits of information required from the lender. Also the mortgage valuation conducted on behalf of the lender may be booked 3 or 4 weeks in advance which could also delay your purchase. The sooner it is done, the sooner the mortgage offer will be with your solicitor and the quicker the process can be concluded!
Once the buyer and seller’ solicitors have confirmed they’re both acting for their clients, the seller’ solicitors will issue, what is commonly referred to as the ‘Draft Contract Pack’ to the buyer’ solicitor. This pack will normally have in it, a Contract of Sale, the Title Plan and Land Registry details, a Property Information Form and Fixtures and Fittings Form (these are the forms we mentioned under the ‘Instructing Solicitors’ section) plus any relevant planning or leasehold documents if they are required. Once the buyer’s solicitor receives this, they will start working through the information and look at what questions they need to ask – more on this a bit later! Draft Contracts should be issued within the first 1-2 weeks of the transaction.
When buying a property, you will need to pay for a search pack. Typically around £300, this will be non-refundable as they are specific to the property you are buying, and only valid for 3 months or so. They are broken down into three key sections which are;
1. Local Authority – will look at the history of the house, planning documents and also future plans in the local area they may affect the property i.e. new road or housing development
2. Environmental – will look at the land around the house and has it been subject to any flooding, subsidence, or contamination, amongst other things
3. Water and Drainage – will look at if the property is connected to a water supply and drainage system, and information surrounding this
Once requested from the solicitor, the local authority search will normally take the longest to be returned and will vary from council to council. Maximum really should be 4 weeks but in extreme circumstances it can take longer.
Off the back of the draft contract and search results information, the buyer’ solicitor will now be in a position to ‘raise enquiries’ with the seller’ solicitors (basically, ask questions that they need a bit of clarification on). This could be to do with whole host of things, far too much to discuss here, but long story short, they will need all their questions answered, so they can confidently advise you as their client, that they have completed their checks and the property is good for you to buy!
In practical terms, enquiries could be dealt with in 1-2 weeks, but often can take a lot longer if paperwork is missing, questions cannot be answered, or solicitors disagree on one another’s responses (which unfortunately can happen sometimes!)
Once the solicitors are happy with everything, they will then send the client all of the research they have carried out over the previous months, plus issue documents for signing. Often referred to as ‘Reporting to the Client’, this is the final milestone to be completed before the transaction becomes legally binding. Both sellers and buyers will have to sign the sale contract, a TR1 form (this is the document required for registering the new buyer with Land Registry) and also the mortgage deeds (if required). Some documents require a witness to also sign, and some documents will require a ‘wet signature’, i.e. cannot be scanned and emailed, but will need to be posted. Always confirm with your solicitor exactly what you need to do, and where you need to sign! From having the documents sent to you and be returned to the solicitor, a reasonable timescale is 1 week.
Exchange of contracts
The moment you have been waiting for since first embarking on your journey to move home! Exchange of contracts is when paperwork is formally dealt with and where the process becomes legally binding! Once you exchange, there is no going back, and why would you want too!? You can now sit back and relax after the process has concluded, but not for long as you need to start packing with completion just around the corner!
In order to exchange contracts a few things will need to be in place. Firstly, all of the paperwork we mentioned in the section before must be with all solicitors involved in the transaction. A 10% deposit must be lodged with the buyers solicitor prior to the exchanging of contracts. Please note, this deposit is non-refundable once exchange takes place. If you are involved in a chain, a lot of clients deposits will be tied up in their property sale, so the deposit from the bottom of the chain will effectively move up the chain. This will all be agreed and dealt with via the solicitors so nothing for you to worry about having to deal with. When you exchange, part of the agreement will include confirming a completion date. This will be set in stone as outlined in the contracts, so everyone can then book removals and get themselves sorted. Normally there will be 1 week between exchange and completion.
Completion and moving day
Its been 3 to 4 long months to get to this point, but you made it! Amazing news, you will finally be getting the keys to your lovely new property! Completion day is where all of the remaining funds for the house purchase are received by the solicitor and distributed accordingly.
Completion typically happens anywhere from 10am to 2pm, depending on where you are in the chain, or how soon the lender sends the mortgage monies. When the selling solicitor receives the final funds for the sale, this is where completion officially happens. They will then let everyone know that keys can be released, and you can start unboxing and moving in. Normal expectations are to have the property you are moving out of, vacated by midday.
And that is the process, which is quite simple really. Overall buying and selling properties can be stressful, as it is one of the most emotional things you will deal with. For so much of it you must rely on other people. Therefore the best advice we can possibly give to you, is make sure you really trust and believe in the people you select to represent you. Your agent, your broker, your solicitor. Three people that can literally make or break your dreams.
Quick disclaimer, all of the information above can be used as a guide, but it is not legal advice. It is information developed from our knowledge dealing with 100s and 100s of transactions over the last 20 years.
If you would like some more info, or to discuss anything property related, please get in touch with us anytime!
If you're planning a move, make sure to book a valuation for your home here.