Selling a Residential Property
The key to a smooth sale is to supply your buyers with all of the relevant information about your property as early as possible. It is therefore a good idea to instruct a solicitor early on in the process so that you can start to pull together all of the information you are going to need to supply.
You will be asked to complete a Property Information Form and a Fittings and Contents Form, which is a list of items that are either included in the sale price or that you are taking with you. If your property is leasehold then a Leasehold Information Form will also need to be completed.
Some of the questions in these forms can be quite daunting but most are straightforward. The questions cover everything from who is responsible for maintaining the boundaries of the property, to whether there have been any disputes, what works have been carried out to the property, whether there has been any instances of flooding or environmental issues, and who currently lives at the property. If there’s anyone over the age of 17 who lives at the property and who is not a registered owner then they will be asked to sign the Contract to confirm that they will move out of the property on the day of completion. It’s important that you answer the questions truthfully and to the best of your knowledge and understanding. You should ask your solicitor if you are not sure about anything.
You will need any documents relating to work that has been carried out on your property. These may be planning permissions, building regulation approvals and completion certificates, covenant consents and guarantees. If your property has had work carried out such as an extension, loft conversion, conservatory added, replacement double glazing, replacement boiler, electrical works, and cavity wall insulation all of these works will have need either planning permission, building regulation approval or both.
If your property is in a conservation area or is a listed building, then further documents will be needed.
If your property is leasehold (i.e. most flats are leasehold) then your solicitor will need to obtain replies to leasehold enquiries from your freeholder or your management company (or their managing agents, the ones who send you invoices for ground rent and service charges). Please note that with leasehold properties, there are often fees payable to the freeholder or management company for supplying their replies to leasehold enquiries and your solicitor will let you know the amount payable once they find out this information.
You can negotiate with your buyer for items of furniture or white goods to be left at the property for an agreed price (on top of the sale price) and it is best to let your solicitor know about any such agreements so that details of the items and prices agreed can be added to the Contract. This makes the agreed prices part of the legally binding contract so both you and your buyer know exactly what items are to be left at the property on completion and the price which is to be paid for the items.
Most properties are registered with HM Land Registry which means that your solicitor will be able to obtain copies of the Register, Title Plan and any other relevant documents directly from the Land Registry. If your property is unregistered, then you will need to find the title deeds for the property (which may be stored with a solicitor or with a mortgage lender).
Your solicitor will send what is known as the “contract documentation” to the buyer’s solicitors, which includes a draft Contract, the registered or unregistered title documents, and your completed Forms together with all of the documents you have supplied.
Once your buyer’s solicitors have seen the contract documentation, they may have some more questions to ask and they will raise some “enquiries”. Your solicitor will work through these enquiries with you so that they can be dealt with as quickly as possible. If there are any legal issues then your solicitor may be able to deal with these on your behalf, but if the enquiries relate to the property itself then you will need to reply to them.
Your solicitor will send you the Contract and Transfer for signature. You will need to sign the Transfer before an independent witness, who has to be someone who is not related to you or involved with the transaction. Once you have signed these documents and returned them to your solicitor, it does not mean that you have entered into a legal contract as of yet. Your solicitor will hold these signed documents on file until everything is ready and a date has been agreed, and will then ask for your authority to exchange contracts in readiness for completion. Only give your authority to exchange contracts when you are happy with everything and you know that you are definitely able to move out of your property on the day of completion (i.e. you have removals booked and you have somewhere to move to) as once contracts have been exchanged you are legally bound to complete on the agreed date and if you can’t do this you will incur financial penalties.
If you have a mortgage secured over your property, it is important that you provide your solicitor with the name of your mortgage lender and your mortgage account details early in the process as your solicitor will need to obtain a redemption statement from your lender to ensure that there is sufficient equity to redeem the mortgage. Your solicitor will get an initial statement at the start of the process for information purposes and then, once a completion date has been agreed, they will get a statement which is calculated to the completion date so they know the exact figure required by your lender to repay your mortgage on the day of completion.
Finally, on the day of completion, you will need to ensure that you have cleared everything out of the property which is not included in the sale. You must remove all rubbish and leave the property in a clean and tidy condition by 2pm at the latest. Everyone who lives at the property must move out on so that you can give vacant possession (unless the sale is subject to an ongoing tenancy). It’s a good idea to take meter readings for the gas and electricity. You can then either leave your keys with the estate agents or hand them over directly to the buyer, but please don’t have any keys directly to the buyer until your solicitor has confirmed that the monies have arrived safely from the buyer’s solicitors.