What is the skeleton and timeline of a sale of a house or flat?
If you are looking to sell your property you may have heard from a friend or neighbour how quickly or slowly their transaction took. This does not necessarily mean yours will be the same! The length of time it takes to sell a property differs greatly between people. It is largely dependent on how well the parties to a sale are able to communicate through the various stages of a transaction.
If you are selling through an agent you will have to go through the viewing process and accept an offer. Once this stage is complete you will need to appoint a solicitor to represent you in your sale.
On a typical sale of a house the entire legal process usually takes between 3-4 weeks. You will initially be required to complete some paperwork. This will enable your solicitor to send ‘draft contracts’ to the purchaser’s solicitors. Draft contracts include a proposed contract for the sale, copies of title deeds, forms completed by you relating to what items will be left in the property and other documents such as guarantees, warranties and planning permissions.
Following receipt of the draft contracts the purchaser’s solicitors may raise enquiries. It will then be for you and your solicitor to answer any enquiries that they have. At this point you will be waiting for the purchaser to obtain finance approval and their search results. The search results include details of the property and its surrounding area, details regarding the water and drainage and environmental considerations such as any contamination or flood risks. Naturally the transaction will be quicker if the purchaser is completing the transaction without finance. It is not uncommon to see cash purchases complete within a week or even a matter of days!
The situation is different if you are selling a flat. In addition to the above, your solicitor will need to obtain details of how your flat is managed. Occasionally your flat may be managed by more than one party, including a landlord and managing agent. How quickly your transaction progresses will be based on how effectively the various additional parties to the sale are able to provide sufficient information for the purchasers solicitors. If they are able to provide the information in good time the sale of a flat should take no more than 4-6 weeks. However it can take as long as 2-4 months if your solicitor constantly has to chase everybody.
Once all parties are happy to proceed, your solicitor will look to ‘exchange contracts’. This is the point where the transaction becomes legally binding. It is also where a completion date will be set. Between exchange and completion you will need to arrange removal vans, cancel any direct debits you are making and inform the council that you are leaving, amongst other things. On completion you will hand over the keys and move out of the property.
On the day of completion, funds will be sent to your solicitor and your mortgage (if any) will be paid off together with the estate agents commission. Any remaining balance will be sent to you. From a seller’s point of view, this is the end of the transaction. A buyer will have other matters to attend to such as paying Stamp Duty Tax and registering the property in their name.
There are ways in which you can affect the timelines involved in your transaction. However, even if you and your solicitor are as pro-active as possible, factors out of your hands can affect the length of your transaction. Postal delays, holidays, banking delays, I.T issues and even broken fax machines have been known to cause problems in the past!
To ensure that your sale completes efficiently you should be contactable during working hours, have regular access to email and complete documentation sent by your solicitor at your earliest opportunity.
If you are looking to buy a property or sell your home and need expert advice, please call me 020 8899 7333 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.