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Buying in England  - How it works

Once you have decided on a property, you will need to make an offer. Remember that properties do not have fixed price tags – you can make substantial savings with some skilled negotiation over the price.

Normally, the opening is offer is about 5%-10% lower than the asking price, and the parties take this as a starting point for further offers and reductions in asking price until an agreement is reached.

Once your offer has been accepted, it must be made formally, in writing, and subject to certain terms and conditions. Ensure that the seller’s agent and seller understand the terms of your offer.

Your offer must be “subject to contract and to survey“. This means that you are not legally bound to proceed until a survey has been satisfactorily completed and signed contracts have been exchanged.

Specify what fixtures and fittings you want to be included, and what work on the property you want to be undertaken before the sale has gone through.

It is a good idea to demand that the property be taken off the market as soon as your offer has been accepted, to avoid the danger of gazumping.

However, remember that until contracts have been exchanged the sale agreement is not legally binding. Once your offer has been accepted, either you or the seller can pull out at any time until the exchange of contracts.

Once the sellers have accepted your offer, you exchange solicitors’ details with them. Your solicitor will then contact the seller’s solicitor and receive the draft contract.

The draft contract contains details of prices, the two parties, other information about the transaction such as deposit and information from the seller’s title deeds.

It is the solicitor or conveyancer’s job to make all the necessary enquiries to ensure that there are no reasons to walk away from the property. The main standard searches are:

- check ownership and right of the seller to sell the property;

- Local Authority searches: checks with the local authority that there are no plans for building major roads nearby or other constructions for which you are not informed;

- check boundaries and rights of way, as well as existing restrictions (for example check whether the deeds specify that certain things are not allowed-like keeping pet – or painting the house in a different colour than the other buildings in the street);

- whether any additions or alterations that have been made to the property have planning permissions;

- check the lease of the property (read more about the difference between leasehold and freehold)

Once everything is checked and confirmed, the contract is signed and exchanged. You will hand over a deposit, usually around 10 per cent of the property price.

The exchange of the contracts is binding and therefore you will lose your deposit should you decide not to go ahead with the purchase of the property.

With the exchange it is also agreed the completion and handing over of the keys.

At this stage, if a mortgage is requested there will also be the mortgage deed for you to sign.

Once you complete, you obtain the keys to your new home and receive the title deeds. Stamp duty is paid and the transfer is arranged at the Land Registry.

It normally takes about two weeks from exchange of contracts to completion day, although it can be more or less. Some people arrange for exchange of contracts and completion to take place on the same day, but this is not always possible. Note that if you are part of a chain of sales (where the sellers or buyers need to buy or sell their property before being able to complete), the completion date will probably need to be agreed with more than two parties.



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