conveyancing law solicitors

The Conveyancing Process – Selling your Home in Northern Ireland

Ben Wall

Part Two of our Guide to Conveyancing Focuses on Home Sellers

This is the second part to our guide to the conveyancing process. The first part can be read here. This part focuses on those selling their property.

Picking a Solicitor

It is best to appoint a solicitor before a bid is accepted on your property. This allows for the solicitor to make preparations in advance. If you currently have a mortgage on your property they will need to obtain your title deeds from your mortgage company. The time taken before the deeds are received from the mortgage company has increased significantly over time. This is due to various factors including bank job cuts resulting from the financial collapse and increasingly the mortgage lender will have sent the deeds to a third-party storage provider to hold them on their behalf. A wait of a month is not uncommon.

Once you have accepted an offer on your property your estate agent will ask you for the name of your solicitor.

Initial Engagement

When you have selected a solicitor and notified the estate agent, the agent will send a Memorandum of Sale to your solicitor. This will provide the solicitor with confirmation of the following items; the full address of the property, the name of the purchaser, the purchaser’s solicitor, the purchase price and any other conditions that have been stipulated.
Your solicitor will send you a letter of engagement with terms to accept and return. Your solicitor will ask for copy identification and proof of address to comply with their regulatory obligations.

Title Deeds, Certificates and Searches

The onus is on your solicitor to provide certain documentation to the purchaser’s solicitor. The most obvious of which is the title documentation (deeds) relating to the property to be sold. If these weren’t requested in advance from your mortgage company, as outlined above, they will have to be now. This is a frequent source of delay. If you are using your regular solicitor, and you have no mortgage on your property, then it is likely that your solicitor will already hold your title deeds. This should speed matters up.

Along with the deeds your solicitor will send a draft contract, which will incorporate the Law Society’s General Conditions of Sale, and any special conditions deemed relevant at that time.

Your solicitor is obliged to obtain two property certificates. One is sought from the local council and one from the DOE. The wait times are two to three weeks typically. Solicitors are increasingly encouraged to order these as soon as possible in the process to avoid delay later. However many solicitors still have a practice of not ordering these until they have received the deeds from the mortgage company or the purchaser’s solicitor has confirmed that a mortgage offer has been made. Depending on the contents of the DOE property certificate your solicitor may need to order a NI Water map to demonstrate the location of any sewers traversing the property. It takes a couple of days for this to come in.

Your solicitor is obliged to obtain Bankruptcy and Enforcement of Judgment Office Searches against you. This will inform the purchaser’s solicitor of whether there may be any restrictions on you selling the property.

Another necessary search is in the Statutory Charges Register. This search is against the property rather than you and may indicate issues regarding planning, sewerage, roads, etc.

The purchaser’s solicitor will assess all these documents and discuss them with the purchaser. Some issues may be raised and your solicitor will have to try deal with these as best as possible.

Replies to Pre-Contract Enquiries and Fixtures and Fittings List

This is a key document. Completed by you and your solicitor, it is a questionnaire which covers almost every conceivable aspect of the property. Depending on the answers the purchaser’s solicitor may have to enquire further before he/she can be satisfied that they can advise their client to purchase the property. The most common issues that arise are around planning permission and building control. If you have carried out any work without seeking consent then your solicitor will help you obtain retrospective consent. If the property is leasehold you should provide a copy of the up to date ground rent receipt to your solicitor. If you do not have one you should contact the ground rent holder to check the balance and discharge this prior to completion. The receipt can then be provided to the purchaser’s solicitor. If the property is serviced by gas then you should obtain a gas safety certificate from within the twelve months prior to the sale of the property.

Mortgage Application and Surveys

Whilst this exchange of documentation is ongoing the purchaser will be securing his/her mortgage offer. Their mortgage company will send a valuer to your property to assess whether it is worth the money that has been agreed. The purchaser also has the option to obtain a survey of the property. This survey will be a comprehensive review of the condition of the property. It will flag up any issues which the average layman may not be able to spot. These surveys are often used in negotiating a reduction in the sale price.

Contract

The time between the signing of the contract and completion has shortened over the years. There is no need to get too concerned if you are completing in a week and the contracts have not yet been signed, just speak to your solicitor.
The purchaser signs the contract first. It is then sent to your solicitor. You will sign it and once it is returned to the purchaser’s solicitor the contract is formed and binding. In practical terms, this is the point of no return. If you try to back out after this point the purchaser has options such as utilising the courts to ensure the contract goes ahead.

If there are matters outstanding and time is of the essence then the contract may be signed subject to special conditions.
At the same time the purchaser’s solicitor sends the contract to your solicitor he/she will send a draft deed. This is the document that will formally transfer the legal interest in the property from you to the purchaser. You will sign this prior to completion and your solicitor will send it to the purchaser’s solicitor after completion.

Completion

In the run up to completion your solicitor will confirm with your mortgage company the exact amount needed to redeem your mortgage.

Depending on the contract the purchaser’s solicitor will either send a cheque for the purchase price to arrive on the completion date, or they will send a bank transfer on the day itself. Once this has been received your solicitor will contact the estate agent to inform them that they may give the purchaser the keys.

Your solicitor will subsequently send the transfer deed to the purchaser’s solicitor. Your solicitor will pay the redemption money required to your mortgage company who will then send a “sealed vacate” to your solicitor. This sealed vacate is usually forwarded, along with the required fee, to the purchaser’s solicitor. The purchaser’s solicitor submits the transfer deed and the sealed vacate for registration and ownership of the property is transferred to the purchaser.

Your solicitor will draft up a cash statement for you showing the expenses and also the balance funds that are due to you which they will transfer to you by cheque or by bank transfer.

If you would like advice in relation to buying and/or selling property please give us a call on 02891 817715 or contact our property team by email at property@boydricesolicitors.com.