Some commonly asked questions answered and points to note about your property sale transaction
Information given by you about the property you are selling and its contents must be accurate. A buyer can claim compensation if the information is false. All the items you have agreed to include in the property sale must be left in the property on the completion day. All other items including rubbish must be cleared from the property, garage and garden.
You must continue payments on your current mortgage and other loans secured on the property you are selling until the completion day.
All mortgages and loans secured on the property you are selling must be paid off on the completion day.
Do not confirm the completion day with your removal company, until contracts have been exchanged, as the completion date for your sale can change at any point up until exchange of contracts for your property sale.
We advise you not to treat the anticipated completion date as fixed until you have exchanged contracts for your property sale. No one can guarantee you will move on your “hoped for” completion day. The shorter the time between exchange and completion day, the more likely it is you will suffer inconvenience and wasted costs if your preferred dates are not achieved. This is why it is often not desirable to try to exchange contracts and complete your purchase on the same day – while it can be done if you are lucky it can also inconvenience you considerably if it turns out not to be possible.
Once contracts have been exchanged there is no turning back.
On exchange of contracts the completion day is fixed.
On the completion day you must move out, leaving your sale property in the same condition as when you agreed the property sale, and making good any damage caused by moving out.
On completion we will pay the net sale proceeds over to you.
How long will it take to complete the sale of my property?
The truthful answer is we generally don’t know.
If the buyer does not need a mortgage to buy your property, you are not buying another property, and there is no chain, then it is possible for the transaction to move relatively quickly. Occasionally we deal with property sales were completion takes place within a few days of the sale being agreed – and if there are special circumstances in your property sale we will always try to achieve the earliest completion date for you – but generally you won’t be able to exchange contracts for your property sale until the buyer and any other people in the chain (if there is a chain of transactions) are all ready to proceed.
Delays can happen due to incomplete information, or late arrangement of a mortgage, or long chains of sellers and buyers who cannot agree on a date for completion, or people saying one thing and doing something else, or just changing their minds.
We can only speak to other lawyers in the chain and to your Estate Agent. We are not allowed to speak directly to other sellers and buyers in the chain. Information about progress or problems in other parts of the chain can sometimes be more easily obtained by you from the estate agent, sometimes by us from the other lawyers. Remember to keep us informed of what you find out, and we will do the same with a view to progressing your property sale transaction for you as smoothly as possible.
Keep us informed of your wishes, and we will keep you updated on progress and delays. At the start of your property sale, neither Slee Blackwell , nor estate agents, or anyone else can guarantee a fixed date for completion. Making firm plans in reliance on “hoped for” dates may lead to your time and money being wasted.
What is my anticipated completion date?
The anticipated completion date is a target date for the completion of your property sale. At the start of your property sale there may not be an anticipated completion date. We will actively work on your behalf to make the anticipated completion date your actual completion day when you will move out of the property.
We will keep you informed when the circumstances of your sale, or events beyond our control, mean that the target will not be achieved, and needs to be moved.
The completion day, when you will actually move out of the property, is not fixed until contracts have been exchanged. You can make provisional arrangements with your removal company, keeping them informed of the anticipated completion date, but do not confirm your arrangements with them until we have told you that contracts have been exchanged.
State and condition
What do I have to tell the buyer about the property?
We will ask you a standard set of questions about things you will know from living in the property. Information given by you about the property must be accurate. This is part of the National Conveyancing Protocol for property sales. The same forms are used for virtually every residential property sale.
A buyer can take you to court to claim compensation if the information given is false so it is very important that you give careful thought to your answers. We can help you deal with any questions in the course of your property sale so as to give you the best chance of a successful property sale outcome It is your responsibility to tell us if any of the information changes in the course of your property sale transaction.
What do I have to leave behind in the property?
We will ask you to complete a list of what is included, what is excluded, or for sale separately.
Tell us if the details change after you have completed the list – generally once you have exchanged the fittings and contents list will become part of the contract and you will be obliged to leave the items you have shown as included in your property sale.
When should I cancel my buildings insurance cover?
You should continue your current buildings insurance cover until the completion day.
What if I have tenants in my property?
Contracts will not normally be exchanged until your tenants have moved out of the property. Buyers will be reluctant to commit themselves to an exchange of contracts until they know that the property will definitely be vacant on the completion date and equally it might be inadvisable for you to commit to a firm completion date on your property sale until you know that you can give vacant possession i.e. after the tenants have left the property.
When should I release my keys?
Keys should not be released to the buyer until we have received all the purchase money from the buyer’s lawyers. We will normally release the keys via your Estate Agent once your property sale has completed on the completion date.
Why does an ‘adult occupier form’ have to be signed?
The buyer will want to be certain that all non-owner occupiers in the property have agreed to leave on the completion day. Being asked to sign the form does not mean that an occupier has any interest in the property.
What is the contract?
The contract, also called the sale agreement, describes what is being sold by you, at what price, and who is to buy. It also contains many standard terms to regulate the position should any dispute arise between you and the buyer.
Under the property sale contract, a deposit of 10% of the sale price is due, but not always paid, on exchange by the buyer. If you want to insist that the buyer pays the full 10% deposit, then you must tell us, but this should be balanced with the possibility that exchange
of contracts may be delayed whilst the buyer finds the full deposit.
Tell us if any of the details in the contract are incorrect.
What is the effect of signing the property sale contract?
You will be asked to sign the property sale contract in readiness for exchange of contracts. Signing the property sale contract does not mean that exchange of contracts will happen, or that you have sold the property – it is simply convenient to have the signed contract on file so that we can proceed to exchange contracts as soon as all parties in the property sale chain are ready without you physically having to sign the contract on the day that exchange actually takes place..
What is the transfer?
The transfer confirms the details in the property sale contract. It describes what is being sold by you, and at what price.
What is the effect of signing the transfer?
You will be asked to sign the transfer in readiness for the completion day. Signing the transfer before exchange of contracts does not mean that exchange of contracts will happen, or that you have sold the property.
Is there a special way of signing the transfer?
The transfer has to be signed in a particular way. You need to sign the transfer in front of a witness. The witness should not be a member of your family. A neighbour or work colleague would be an ideal witness.
After you have signed the transfer, your witness should then sign, and also write in their name and address.
How much money do you need from me to complete my sale?
In most cases, we will not need any money from you to complete your sale.
If however, on a linked sale and purchase of properties, we do need money from you to complete the sale of your property, we will let you know.
We will ask you to send to us the money which must be cleared, and so be able to be used, in time for the completion day. Depending on how much time is available you will be able to pay us by cheque, banker’s draft or bank transfer. We will advise as to the most appropriate method as necessary. Your bank may charge you for sending the money to us.
You can contact us at any time for an estimated figure of how much money, if any, we will need from you to complete the sale of your property. This estimated figure will become more accurate as your sale gets nearer to the completion day.
How much money will my lender want to pay off the mortgage?
We will send you a statement from your lender showing the amount to pay off your mortgage.
You should always check the lender’s statement for errors and any penalties for early repayment. Tell your lender and ourselves if you think the statement is wrong. If the statement is wrong, we may need you to get a corrected statement from your lender before the completion day.
If the interest rate on your mortgage was fixed for a period of time, then redemption penalties may have to be paid if you pay off your mortgage early.
When should I stop paying my mortgage?
You must continue payments on your current mortgage and other loans until the property sale completion day. Any overpayments will be refunded by your lender.
Can I transfer my existing mortgage to my new property?
No. You will need to make a new mortgage application, even if you are staying with the same lender. Often however you will get a new mortgage on exactly the same terms as your existing mortgage if that is what you want – this is usually called “porting” the mortgage product.
Can I transfer existing loans to my new property?
All loans on a property (such as a business overdraft facility, Legal Aid charge, or personal loan) must be paid off out of the sale proceeds, unless the lender concerned agrees to transfer the loan to your new property.
This may take some time for the lender to organise, and if you want to do this you should contact the lender for consent as quickly as possible. If the lender gives their approval, they will send written instructions to us. This will involve additional legal fees which we will confirm with you if necessary.
What is negative equity?
This is where, on a property sale , paying off your mortgage and the costs of selling your property are more than the property sale price. We will not be able to exchange contracts until you pay to us the difference between that amount and the sale price. We will try to let you know the exact amount we need from you as early as possible before exchange of contracts.
The money which you need to send to us must be cleared, and so be able to be used, in time for exchange of contracts. We will let you know the methods of providing us with cleared funds.
I am selling a leasehold property – will there be any additional expenses?
If you are selling a flat, you may have to make a payment to cover ground rent and service charge up to the property sale completion day. The buyer’s lawyer will need to see the last three years management accounts and up to date financial information – if you have managing agents the managing agents will usually make a charge for supplying this to us.
How is the estate agent’s account paid?
We will usually pay the estate agent’s account on completion using your money, unless you tell us not to do so. We treat the estate agent’s account as correct unless you tell us that it is not.
How will I receive any balance money?
If there is any money left over after legal costs, and all other sale expenses have been paid, we pay it to you – normally by cheque but by bank transfer if you require it (a fee is payable).
What does exchange of contracts mean?
From the moment of exchange of contracts, you have sold the property.
Exchange of contracts is usually carried out on the telephone. The contract to sell and buy the property is binding from the moment telephone exchange happens between solicitors – you will not normally be present but will have authorized us to exchange contracts in advance.
There is no turning back once contracts have been exchanged. Neither you or the buyer can change your mind about selling or buying the property without having to pay compensation.
On exchange of contracts the completion day is fixed.
We will contact you once contracts have been exchanged. Now is the time to confirm the completion day with your removal company, and arrange final bills for household services and council tax.
We will not exchange contracts unless you agree that we can do this.
What is the completion day?
On this day we complete your sale when we receive the money from the buyer’s lawyers. You must move out of the property, and the buyer can move in.
Why can’t the completion day be at a weekend?
The completion day must be between Monday and Friday because the banks will not transfer money at weekends.
Where possible pick a completion day to allow at least one week between exchange of contracts and completion. This will give you more time to finalise moving arrangements. It will also help us carry out all the tasks that can only be done after exchange of contracts, but must be finished before the completion day.
What time should I leave the property on the completion day?
On the completion day, you should try to be out of your property by 12 noon. You must leave it in a clean and tidy condition, and free of rubbish. Any damage caused by moving out must be repaired. All the items you agreed to sell with the property, must be left behind.
What if I fail to move out?
If you fail to move out of your property on the completion day, you will have to pay substantial compensation.
What if the buyer delays completion?
You can claim compensation from the buyer if completion is delayed or does not happen at all. We will advise you about which expenses you are entitled to claim. If necessary we will refer you to our litigation department for assistance.