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Guide to Buying and Selling Property

According to statistics we all move house on average once every 7 years, an experience that can be one of the most stressful and frustrating that life has to offer.

The Residential Property Department at Dutton Gregory has been taking the stress out of buying and selling property for over 60 years.  We would be happy to discuss with you any aspect of the process and explain the steps involved. 

We hope that the basic guide below will help you in the process of buying and selling.  In addition, we have a number of fact sheets that give more in-depth detail on specific matters.  If you are interested in more information, or would like to talk to a member of the team, please call us on 01962 844333 or 023 8022 1344.

Buying – the process

What should you do first?

Find a property you wish to purchase!   We have good relationships with many estate agents around the south and would be happy to recommend agents to help you.

Once you have found a property to buy, make an offer.   If the offer is accepted you need to consider instructing solicitors to help you with the purchase (and with the sale of any property you already own). If you are dealing with an estate agent, they will ask you for details of your solicitors at this stage, so that they can contact them on the seller’s behalf and start the ball rolling!

If you are buying the property with the aid of a mortgage, you need to start thinking about arranging this now (if you have not already done so).


Before committing yourself to buying any property, however much you have set your heart on it, you need to be sure that there are no hidden problems, which could in the future cause you heartache or major expense, or both!

Make sure you obtain a survey on the property you are interested in purchasing.   There are various different levels of survey.   You should consider not relying solely on the valuation report which is prepared on behalf of the organisation you have secured your mortgage with.   There are two levels of survey that you can choose between:

  • A full structural survey – suitable for a property which is large, old or in a doubtful condition; and
  • An intermediate or ‘house / flat buyers report’.   This looks at the condition of the parts of the house that are easy to see (and to get to) and may recommend further tests or investigations (eg tests on damp areas).

If the survey shows problems or issues with the house, you may decide not to go ahead with the purchase or alternatively you may be able to negotiate a reduction in price with the seller.

Buying the property with someone else

If you are buying the property with someone else (spouse, civic partner, relative etc) Dutton Gregory solicitors can advise you fully on the best ways to do this. There are two forms of ownership, either:

  • As beneficial joint tenants; or
  • Tenants in common

Buying as beneficial joint tenants means that you own the property jointly.   One party cannot re-mortgage or sell the property without the agreement of the other owner.    You cannot pass your interest in the property to a third party in a will and if you die, your interest in the property automatically passes to the other owner.

If you own the property as tenants in common not only do you own the property jointly, but you own a specific share of its value.   You can sell or give away your share and if you die, your share of the property will transfer to whoever you identify in your will.  

At Dutton Gregory, we would be happy to talk to you about tax planning and preparation of wills in connection with your house purchase.

The paperwork

Your solicitor will receive a contract from the seller’s solicitors. This will set out the terms and conditions of sale and we will check to ensure that it is fair and does not impose any unreasonable restrictions upon you or the property.

In addition the seller will provide you with general information on the property. Once we have looked through the information you may wish us to raise further questions on your behalf.

We will request information (‘searches’) from the local authority to confirm details of any planned developments, disputes or roadworks that may affect the property you are buying. The local authority will also be asked to confirm whether the property is likely to have been built on land previously used for mining or has a history of flooding.

The seller must also provide you with an Energy Performance Certificate relating to the property.   The Certificate will include information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs. The Certificate will include the property’s energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).

The process

Once any additional questions regarding the house have been answered, funds are in place, contracts have been agreed and signed and all search results have been deemed satisfactory, you are almost ready to ‘exchange’ contracts.    Usually one of the most frustrating points in the buying process is trying to agree with other buyers/sellers in the ‘chain’ on a completion date. Until all parties involved in the chain can agree on a completion date (the date people usually move into their new home) then exchange of contracts can be delayed.

On exchange of contracts we will send your deposit payment and the contract signed by you to the seller’s solicitors.   Once contracts are exchanged the purchase is legally binding – you are no longer able to renegotiate the property’s price, nor are you free to withdraw from the purchase.

Between exchange of contracts and completion, we will send you a completion statement giving a breakdown of the costs and disbursements involved in buying your property and details of any money we require from you to complete the purchase.

Completion (moving!) day is a busy time.   As soon as we are able, we will forward the seller’s solicitors the funds to complete your purchase.  

Following completion we will pay any stamp duty due and register your purchase (and any mortgage) at the Land Registry.

Selling – the process

If you have decided to sell your house you need to consider whether you wish to market it through an estate agent, or whether you are going to find a buyer yourself.    Using an estate agent might seem the more expensive option, but they will advertise your property for you, show potential buyers around, negotiate the price for you and liaise with us and the buyer’s solicitor once an agreement has been reached.

Once an offer has been received, and you have accepted, you need to inform us as soon as possible.   We will apply for details of the title to your property and this information will enable us to prepare a contract for the buyer’s solicitors.

Energy Performance Certificate

You must provide to the buyer an Energy Performance Certificate (free of charge) outlining the energy efficiency of your property.   The EPC will show the energy rating of your house and from 9 January 2013 all sales advertising for properties, whether in the form of written materials or on the internet, have had to display the property’s energy rating.

Answering enquiries

Once your buyer’s solicitors have received our draft contract they will send us pre-contract enquiries about your property.   We will contact you for any information we require in order to be able to complete these on your behalf.

Exchange of contracts

This takes place when the buyer’s solicitors send us the deposit and the contract signed by their client, in return for the contract signed by you.   The agreed completion (moving) date is inserted and the contract becomes legally binding. Neither you, nor the buyer are free to withdraw from the process or renegotiate the price of the property.

What needs to be done before completion

There are a number of matters for you to deal with between exchange of contracts and completion.   These will include:

  • arranging for removal men
  • arranging for meters to be read
  • notifying people of your new address
  • arranging for the Post Office to redirect your mail to your new address

On the day of completion

On the date agreed for completion, your buyer’s solicitors will send to us the purchase money, less the deposit paid on exchange of contracts. We will tell you once our bank has received this money – it is very important that you do not hand over the keys to your property until you have heard from us.

Following receipt of the money we will pay off your mortgage (if applicable) and settle the agreed estate agent’s commission.

We will then send you the remainder of the purchase money, unless of course it is needed for an associated property that you are purchasing.