Freehold and Leasehold Sale – What is Involved?

What is involved in selling a freehold or leasehold property?
What does a sale involve?

Whilst the precise details of a sale can vary according to the type of property being sold and where it is located, the following provides an idea as to the main steps that will be carried out on your behalf.

There are three main stages to the legal process of selling a property:

  • Pre-contract stage – what we do before you commit to selling the property
  • Post-contract stage – what we need to do in order to transfer ownership from you to the buyer.
  • Post-completion stage – finalising the transaction after the property has been sold.

The time taken in relation to each stage is dependent upon a number of factors (see also Buying and Selling a House – How Long Will it Take).  The pre-contract stage will be dependent upon how quickly third parties raise their enquiries and how quickly others involved in any chain of transactions wish to proceed.  The post-contract stage will be determined by what the parties want – with everyone in a chain of transactions often needing to agree the same completion date. The post completion stage will normally be fairly quick and will depend mainly upon how quickly any lender processes the discharge of a mortgage on the property.

We will, however, always make sure that you know what is happening and when things need to be done by you.

Pre-contract stage
  • Take your instructions. We will need to know where your property documents are, whether you have a mortgage to be paid off and whether there is a related purchase. We are also obliged by law to ask for evidence of your identity so that we can comply with the strict money laundering duties the law places upon us.
  • Once we have your documents, we will prepare a contract and send it, together with any accompanying documents, to the solicitor/conveyancer for the buyer. The contract sets out details of the property being sold and the terms upon which you are selling it.
  • The buyer’s solicitor/conveyancer will go through the contract and documents, carry out searches and ask questions – called pre-contract enquiries – about the property which we may need you to help us to answer. Unless they are answered satisfactorily the sale might not go ahead.
  • When the buyer’s solicitor/conveyancer is happy that your property is satisfactory from a legal standpoint and is ready to go ahead, we will get you to sign one copy of the contract. We will then “exchange contracts” – in other words enter into a binding agreement on your behalf to sell the property. The timing of this might be dependent upon any related purchase that you have or on the ability of the person buying from you to exchange on their related sale.
  • The contract will include the date upon which the sale will be completed – i.e. when the property ceases to be yours – known as the “completion date”.
  • It is also usual for a deposit to be paid by the buyer on exchange of contracts. This will usually be 10% of the sale price, but may be less if, for example, the purchaser is getting a 95% mortgage or has had to accept a reduced deposit from his or her buyer. The deposit is a way of showing that the buyer intends to go ahead with the purchase and will be forfeited if they pull out of the transaction after contracts have been exchanged. For that reason, you may want to insist on the full 10% – but do bear in mind this could prejudice the transaction.
Post-contract stage
  • When contracts are exchanged, we will move towards completion of the sale including approving the transfer document and finding out how much you owe on your mortgage.
  • We will get you to sign the transfer document in readiness for completion and work out the finances to let you know how much you will be get on the sale. If there is also a purchase, we will work out how much we need over and above the sale price and get that balance of money from you.  If you are purchasing a property that sum will include any other payments we still need to make such as the land registration fee and any stamp duty land tax.
  • On completion day we will receive the balance of money from the buyer’s solicitor/conveyancer, send them any deeds and documents relating to the property and, if necessary, sort out any practical issues.
Post-completion stage
  • Once the matter has been completed, we will pay off any outstanding mortgage and send you the balance due. If you are purchasing another property, we will deal with any finances as part of that.