A Guide For First-Time Buyers

Category: Residential Property

During a conversation with a client the inevitable question came up “So what do you do?”. Many first-time buyers are unsure what the role of the Solicitor is when it comes to buying a property. With so many tasks involved in the process it is often difficult to know who does what. The process can be (more or less) broken into stages from start to finish to let you know who deals with which part.

Stage 1

Viewing the property and making an offer – this is dealt with via the estate agents before any solicitors get involved. Once the sale has been agreed with the estate agents, they will send the sales memo to the solicitors. You should also instruct your solicitor at this stage.

Mortgage offer – many people will instruct a mortgage broker for this, others will arrange this themselves or go direct to their bank. Any questions relating to the mortgage, the broker or lender will usually be able to answer in the first instance, but they may refer you back to your solicitor.

Surveys – Whilst the mortgage lender will instruct a surveyor to carry out a valuation, you may be asked whether you want any additional surveys. These are dealt with by Surveyors and you would need to instruct these separately. If you feel the need to renegotiate the price this would usually be done through the Estate Agents in the first instance and confirmed via the solicitors.

Stage 2

Contract Documents – The seller’s solicitors will issue the contract papers to the buyer’s solicitors. The solicitor will then check the documents submit searches and prepare the report on title for you. If you have any questions about the report or the property, raise them with your solicitor. They may be able to answer them based on the information provided or they will forward them to the seller’s solicitor for them to answer. Once the contracts have been agreed and the questions resolved the matter will proceed to exchange and completion.

Stage 3

Exchange – Once all parties are satisfied that everything has been dealt with (including the mortgage offer being in place, all enquiries adequately answered, deposit received, and signed documents returned to the respective solicitors) completion dates will be agreed and the Solicitors will exchange the contracts. The completion date is often negotiated via the estate agent, especially if there is a chain with several parties involved.  

Stage 4

Completion – On the day of completion the Solicitors will have requested your mortgage funds in readiness from the Lender. They will send the funds over to the seller’s solicitors and once receipt of funds is confirmed you will be able to collect the keys. The keys are usually with the Estate Agents and the seller’s solicitors will authorise the estate agent to release them.

The most important thing to do is if you are not sure, ask the question. If we cannot answer your question, we will point you in the right direction for who would be best to deal with it.  We have heard most questions before, and nothing is too trivial when it comes to you being sure about your purchase.