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How Do Solicitors Exchange Contracts?

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Buying a property can be a complex process, with several stages to complete before the exchange of contracts.

After contracts are exchanged, both the buyer and seller are legally bound to complete the sale and neither can pull out without incurring serious costs. Read on to learn more.

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What is the exchange process for solicitors?

At the exchange of contracts, the solicitors from both sides will be in touch, usually by phone. During this time, they will go over and finalize the agreement for your new home.

Now is the time to voice any concern you have or anything that you are not comfortable with. This could include any repairs that need to be done before you can get the keys.

Before you exchange contracts

Exchanging contracts is a legally binding process, so make sure you’re certain before signing anything. To help you stay on track, here’s a useful checklist:

  • Check that all searches are complete
  • Make sure you have your mortgage offer in writing
  • Ensure you have the funds for your mortgage deposit
  • Agree on a completion date for the sale
  • Before signing, review the contract your solicitor will send
  • Ask your solicitor to explain any terms or conditions you don’t understand
  • Keep in regular contact to avoid any delays in the paperwork processing
  • Make sure you know what’s included in the offer, such as fixtures and fittings, and get it in writing
  • If the seller requires one, check if you have funds for a holding or contract deposit (usually between £500 and £1,000)
  • If the seller pulls out before you exchange contracts, you don’t have a legal right to reclaim any costs from them, however, you can take out indemnity insurance to cover any wasted expenses – your solicitor can offer you advice on this
  • Check the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of your new home – this will rate the energy efficiency of the building
  • If the sellers attempt to renegotiate the purchase price at this stage, get advice from your solicitor and ask them to help you with the negotiations
  • Make sure to organise building insurance and ensure it’s valid from your exchange date.
How do solicitors exchange contracts
During the exchange of contracts, both solicitors and conveyancers will have a recorded conversation where they read out the contracts, to make sure they are the same.

Exchanging contracts

During the exchange of contracts, both solicitors and conveyancers will have a recorded conversation where they read out the contracts, to make sure they are the same.

Then they will post them to each other. Once contracts have been exchanged, you are legally obligated to buy the property.

The following steps should be taken: informing the freeholder (if it is a leasehold property) that you are the new owner; verifying that the solicitor/conveyancer has registered the transfer of ownership with the land registry; and, if it is a share of freehold purchase, arranging for a new share certificate to be issued.

What happens after the contracts are exchanged?

Once you’ve swapped contracts, the next stage is completion – the time when you can get the keys to the property and move in. Before that happens, ensure you do the following:

  1. Conduct final checks on the property. We recommend you and the estate agent go visit the property to make sure all fixtures and fittings agreed on are undamaged and present.
  2. Your solicitor should send a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender, who will keep them until you’ve paid off your loan.
  3. Your solicitor will also register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry and notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold.
  4. Take meter readings and inform utility companies that you’re the new owner of the property.
  5. Inform your bank of your new address, update your address on your driver’s license and arrange to have your post forwarded to your new address.
  6. Organise a removal company to help with the move if needed.

Completion date

The date is set for you to move into your new home. The estate agent will have the keys waiting for you to collect. On the day of completion, your solicitor will make sure the funds are sent to the seller’s solicitor.

It’s best if everybody in the property chain completes on the same day, otherwise, you may have to wait for the seller to move into their new place before you can move in. If you own any freehold, ask your solicitor or conveyancer how to add your name to the company register.

What is the exchange process for solicitors
If you own any freehold, ask your solicitor or conveyancer how to add your name to the company register.

Why do solicitors take so long to exchange contracts?

The most common cause of delays in the conveyancing process is slow responses from buyers, sellers or solicitors. Other frequent reasons for slow progress include issues with the property title or issues highlighted in the building survey.

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