Making an offer and transferring ownership of a house

TRUST CREATION iStock_000006643307XSmallOur article about moving home looked at the stress caused by the property chain, but searching for a new house is also an incredibly exciting process, as is the process of choosing a new home, making an offer and buying the house.

Once you have found a property that you like you need to make the offer to the estate agent selling the property, or to the seller directly in the case of a private sell. This can be done in person, over the phone, or in writing, and it should be subject to being able to get a mortgage and to the results of a survey on the property. Estate agents are legally obliged to pass on any offers to the person selling the house right up until the point when contracts are exchanged, regardless of the value of the offer.

When making an offer on a house, you do not need to offer the asking price. In fact, sellers will generally expect you to offer a lower price and will have factored this in to their decision about what price to put their house on the market for. However, it is a good idea to justify why you are offering below the asking price – for example, similar properties in the area are selling for less, you will need to spend money improving it, you are a first time buyer with no chain behind you, or you are a cash buyer. Sellers can negotiate with buyers – they don’t just have to accept or reject the offer on the table. Sellers should also consider the full offer on the table, not just the price. For example, one offer might be £2000 less than another offer, but they might be a cash buyer or not have a property chain behind them, so the overall offer might be more attractive.

Once the initial offer has been accepted, the buyer must arrange their mortgage and get surveys carried out of the property. Both the buyer and the seller must then get a conveyancing solicitor to deal with the legal aspects of buying the property. Conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal ownership of property or land from one person to another, and is very time consuming and complicated. Although you can choose your solicitor before agreeing an offer, you can only instruct them after agreeing an offer.

The seller’s conveyancing solicitors are responsible for drawing up a legal contract to transfer ownership. They will draft an initial contract and then negotiate any details and answer any questions from the buyer’s solicitors. Once both sides are happy with the contract and it has been finalised, the buyer and the seller sign the final copies and send them to each other. This is called exchanging contracts. Only now is the agreement legally binding. Up until this point either side can change their mind – the buyer can pull out, and the seller can accept a different offer from someone else.

The contract details the sale price, when it will complete, the property’s boundaries, planning restrictions, fixtures and fittings to be included, any rights of access, and services to the property such as drains.

After the contract has been signed, a date for completion is set, which can be up to a month after the exchange of contracts but is usually 2 to 3 days. The buyer then pays the money to the seller, the legal documents are transferred, and the seller moves out of the property leaving it in the state agreed in the contract. The keys are then given to the buyer, who is now the owner of the property.

For more information about buying or selling your house, please visit the conveyancing section of our website - http://www.cooks-solicitors.co.uk/articles/what-to-expect-when-moving-home.aspx

Agree? Disagree? Do let Cooks Solicitors know what you think by commenting below.

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