Opening the door of your first home is one of life’s key milestones. However, the actual process of buying your property can be a daunting experience, with first-time buyers frequently finding themselves overwhelmed by the mass of information provided by the estate agent, lender, and solicitor.
Therefore, McPartland & Sons, have put together a step-by-step guide on the legal steps that are involved in securing that dream home. Our aim is to make the move as seamless and stress-free as possible.
Selecting a solicitor
At the very beginning, you will have got your mortgage approved, put an offer in on a property that fits your needs, and have that offer accepted. Next, the estate agent will ask you for the name of the solicitor that is going to represent you in conveyance. When buying or selling a house in Northern Ireland, a solicitor oversees the legal process of the transfer of land into your name. This is called Conveyancing.
What does my solicitor do when in the process of buying a house?
When you have selected a solicitor, the estate agent will send a Memorandum of Sale to your solicitor. This will provide the solicitor with confirmation of the following points.
The full address of the property,
The name of the vendor,
The vendor’s solicitor,
The purchase price,
Any other conditions that have been stipulated.
Your solicitor then sends a letter of engagement with terms to accept and return. You will be asked for a copy of identification and proof of address to comply with their regulatory obligations. Your solicitor will discuss whether you are funding the purchase with a mortgage or with cash and will confirm the source of any funds that you are providing yourself, including whether you will be drawing down from a Help to Buy ISA or a Lifetime ISA.
Title Deeds, Certificates, and Searches
It is the responsibility of the vendor’s solicitor to provide certain documentation. The most obvious of which is the title documentation (deeds) relating to the property to be purchased. The length of time it can take for your solicitor to receive the deeds can vary depending on whether the vendor has their mortgage in place.
Along with the deeds, the vendor’s solicitor will send a draft contract, which will incorporate the Law Society’s General Conditions of Sale, and any special conditions deemed relevant at that time.
The vendor’s solicitor is obliged to obtain two-property certificates. One is sought from the local council and one from the DOE. The wait times are two to three weeks typically. Solicitors are increasingly encouraged to order these as soon as possible in the process to avoid delay later.
The vendor’s solicitor is obliged to obtain Bankruptcy and Enforcement of Judgment Office Searches against the vendor. This will inform your solicitor whether there may be any restrictions on the vendor selling the property.
Another necessary search is in the Statutory Charges Register. This search is against the property rather than the vendor and may indicate issues regarding planning, sewerage, roads, etc. Your solicitor will assess all these documents and advise you before you proceed with the purchase.
Pre-Contract Enquiries and Fixtures and Fittings List
Completed by the vendor and his/her solicitor, this key document is a questionnaire that covers almost every conceivable aspect of the property. Depending on the answers your solicitor may have to enquire further before he/she can be satisfied that everything is in order. Examples include making sure the ground rent is paid and up to date, and if the property has gas mains, they will request a gas safety certificate.
In the run-up to completion, your solicitor will confirm with the bank that there are no issues with the property and will confirm the date of completion. The bank will then arrange for the mortgage funds to be paid to your solicitor usually the day before completion.
Your solicitor will draft up a cash statement for you so that you know the exact amount of money that you are required to send him/her in advance of completion. This will cover their fee, stamp duty, and the balance of the purchase price.
Once the Solicitor pays the cheque or bank transfer and this has been received, the vendor’s solicitor will contact the estate agent to inform them that they may give you the keys. They will also contact your solicitor.
The vendor’s solicitor will subsequently send the transfer deed to your solicitor who will proceed to register the change of ownership and your mortgage. You, on the other hand, can enjoy your new home!
To speak to one of our expert property solicitors about buying and/or selling property, please contact McPartland & Sons for advice and guidance on the process.