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Guide to Buying & Selling

“I'll never do this again!” So many people say this at some stage when they are buying and selling a house, which is why we have prepared this guide to assist you. It outlines how the transaction should proceed and is part of our commitment to making your move as painless and as smooth as possible …. we’re here to get you moving.

1. What’s Involved?

‘Conveyancing’ is the name given to the legal process involved in transferring home ownership from a seller to a buyer. It is one of the most time consuming parts of any home move and the level of work involved has increased over the years. Some of the tasks we undertake on your behalf include: -

  • Preparing the legal documentation for sale and transfer of ownership.
  • Checking the contract and raising enquiries
  • Arrange Searches with the appropriate authorities.
  • Liaise with your mortgage lender, broker and estate agent.
  • Work towards exchange of contracts.
  • Complete your transaction and register the change of legal ownership.

2. Time Scales

There are many stages to selling and buying a property. We find the key to a successful move is allowing sufficient time to complete all of these stages. In order to make advance plans we suggest that nine weeks are allowed from the date an offer is accepted/made for a property until Contracts are exchanged. It is not until Contracts have been exchanged that a legally binding agreement is in place to sell/buy a property. This average period may of course vary depending upon the length of a chain, or whether information needs to be obtained from third parties such as from a management company for a leasehold apartment.

We recommend a minimum of one week is allowed between Contracts being exchanged and the completion date. This allows time for removal arrangements to be made and to make other arrangements with certainty. Until contracts have been exchanged, there is no legally binding requirement for either party to complete on a fixed date and it can be costly to cancel removals at short notice, if, for whatever reason, the matter does not proceed as planned. Under no circumstances will Ramsdens be held liable for costs incurred as a result of removals having to be re-arranged due to the matter not completing when the completion date cannot be guaranteed.

The above are merely guidelines and are obviously subject to change, depending on the particular circumstances of each transaction. We do ask you to bear in mind that the less time you give yourself to move, the more stressful your move will become.

We strongly recommend that completion dates are not arranged until we inform you that we are satisfied with the title to the property you are buying and satisfactory replies to all our enquiries and searches have been received. Similarly, if you are selling a property, do not agree completion dates until we have received confirmation from the buyers’ solicitors that they, and anyone else in the chain below them are in a position to proceed. We do not advise that you book removal until contracts have been exchanged. Please do not agree any fixed completion dates with your Buyer or Seller or with any estate agent without consulting with us first.

3. The Sale

1. Contact us as soon as the property goes on the market, or you are optimistic that an offer will shortly be made, so that:-

We can obtain a copy of your title deeds so as to ensure that there is no delay in issuing a Contract once negotiations have been finalised.

We can give you a breakdown of the costs involved.

You can complete a Property Information Form and Fittings and Contents List and provide us with other relevant documents to enable us to issue the required information promptly to the buyer’s legal advisers. Research shows that completing the legal paperwork at this stage can speed up your home move by up to 14 days.

2. A draft Contract will be issued to the buyer's solicitors, together with all the necessary supporting documents. When the Contract has been approved, we will ask you to sign this in readiness for exchange of Contracts.

3. When the buyers have received searches and mortgage offer (where applicable) and their solicitor is satisfied as to the title, we will negotiate a completion date and Contracts can then be exchanged. Only when all parties in the chain are ready can this step be achieved.

4. On the day of completion you must clear and vacate the property by no later than 1p.m., leaving the keys with the Estate Agents. We will attend to the redemption of your existing mortgage and settle the Estate Agents account on your behalf (if applicable). If you are not leaving the keys with the Estate Agents, please advise us of any alternative arrangements.

4. The Purchase

When you have agreed to purchase a property, the Estate Agent may require you to pay a small reservation fee. This commonly occurs when buying a new build property. If this should happen, an allowance will be made at completion. Please let us know if you have paid such a reservation fee. We would suggest that any offer for a property is made "subject to survey". This puts the seller on notice that you may wish to re-negotiate the price should your survey reveal any problems or down-valuation.

When you let us know you have found a property to buy, we will ask you for monies on

account, so that we can carry out the required searches.

1. When we receive the Contract from the seller's solicitors, we will: -

  • Apply for the searches we consider appropriate.
  • Approve the Contract and title.

We may feel it necessary to raise additional enquiries of the seller's solicitor. When we are satisfied that all is in order, we will return one copy of the Contract to the seller's solicitor for signature in readiness for exchange of Contracts.

2. If the property is leasehold (particularly common when buying a flat) there will be detailed lease terms and conditions. We will need to check these carefully and will also make further enquiries with the seller's solicitor and/or the managing agents of the property about what service charges and management costs you will have to pay. In our experience, this is likely to cause some delay.

3. If you require a mortgage, the written offer has to be received by us from the lender and the original mortgage deed signed by you before exchange of Contracts can take place.

4. If you are applying for a mortgage, your mortgage lender will need an independent valuation of the property. Usually, they will appoint their own surveyor to do this, but you will have to pay for it. Remember this is a valuation and not a survey.

You should consider appointing your own surveyor (possibly the same person as the valuer) to carry out a survey on the property, as it is up to you to satisfy yourself that the property is structurally sound before you buy it. If the survey reveals that building work is needed, you should tell us as this may enable you to re-negotiate the price. Where there is an Estate Agent involved, any negotiations should be carried out with them and not us.

5. If you are arranging any new life insurance/assurance, acceptance of risk must be received from the insurance company before exchange of Contracts.

6. When we have received the searches and offer of mortgage and have satisfied ourselves as to the title, we will report to you, either in writing or in person and ask you to sign the Contract and mortgage deed (if applicable).

We will also ask you for the deposit to be used on exchange of Contracts (usually 10% of the purchase price). If you have a related sale, we will usually be able to arrange that the deposit received from your buyers is used for your purchase and passed up the chain.

7. It is usually the buyers’ responsibility to arrange buildings insurance from the date Contracts are exchanged. It is important that any insurance arranged complies with the requirements of any mortgage lender involved.

5. The Exchange

1. At this stage, we are ready to arrange an exchange of Contracts once a completion date has been agreed. It is at this stage that stress levels rise! The majority of people buying and selling are involved in a CHAIN! This means that there is a linked series of transactions and EVERYBODY wants to sell and buy on the same day so that they do not have to pay for bridging finance or move into rented accommodation. We therefore have to wait until all parties in the chain have:-

  • A mortgage
  • The relevant search results
  • Approved title
  • Received satisfactory replies to any enquiries raised
  • Agreed a completion date. We will liaise with your Estate Agents and other solicitors until the exchange has been achieved.
  • Arranged buildings insurance

2. When exchange has taken place, the completion date is legally binding and you can now organise your move. Please be advised that there are penalties on a party who does not go ahead at this stage. Until Contracts have been exchanged either party may withdraw from the transaction without any redress against the other for any financial costs others have incurred.

The following are just a few reminders of the things you should deal with:-

  • Contact Gas, Electricity, Water and Telephone Services. Arrange for meters to be read and accounts to be transferred.
  • Book the removal van.
  • Cancel Banker's Order for Mortgage payments, after completion.
  • Notify Local Authority of move and arrange apportioned account for council tax.
  • Notify the following - insurance companies, premium bonds office, employer, doctor, dentist, schools, church, utility suppliers, banks, building societies, DVLA and relatives and friends.
  • Arrange for family/friends to look after the children and pets on moving day!
  • Arrange for mail to be re-directed.
  • Give notice on any rented accommodation (we strongly recommend that this is not done until such time as Contracts are exchanged).

6. The Completion

We will let you have a statement showing all the costs and disbursements due and will provide this in a timely manner, so that you can arrange to let us have cleared funds in sufficient time for completion.

On the completion day, if you have a sale, we must wait for the buyer's solicitor to send us the sale monies by bank transfer before we can send out any money by the same method on your purchase. This means it is unlikely you will get the keys to your new house before lunchtime on the day of completion. We would suggest that you do not leave your old house before you have checked with us that it is in order for you to do so. If you just have a purchase, we can usually send the money quite early on the morning of completion, but you are unlikely to get the keys before midday, as you must allow the seller time to vacate the property.


Many delays are out of the control of your conveyancer or estate agent and are typically caused by the property chain or waiting for information from other parties involved in the transaction.

Common causes of delay are:

  • Longer mortgage affordability interviews
  • Time taken to undertake the mortgage valuation
  • Incorrect information supplied on Mortgage Application Forms
  • Not providing correct information as to where funds are coming from
  • Not instructing a solicitor as soon as the property is put on the market
  • Transferring funds to the Solicitors either for disbursements (payment to third parties) which have to be paid for up front or for deposit monies
  • Obtaining information from the Landlord or Management Company for leasehold properties
  • Other parties in the chain having different timescales or requirements for completion dates
  • Lack of planning permissions or building regulation approvals for works carried out to properties
  • Receiving responses to enquiries and legal documents from other conveyancers in the chain
    • Not signing and returning required legal documents or questionnaires in time
    • Loss of title deeds or other missing documents
    • Parties being on holiday
    • Mortgage offers expiring
  • Someone in the chain pulling out

8. Fend off the Conveyancing Conmen - Nine Tips to Keep Your Money Safe

    • Do not mention your plans to move house or obtain a mortgage on social media – you do not know who is looking at your posts.
      • Keep the antivirus software on your computers, smartphones and tablets up to date. Use strong passwords (Action Fraud suggests a combination of three random words) and change them regularly.
      • Do not e-mail your solicitor if using Wi-Fi in a public place.
      • Never send your bank account details to your solicitor by e-mail. Either write a letter or take your details to the solicitor’s office in person. If you call your solicitor, use a telephone number you know belongs to the firm and do not rely on one sent to you by e-mail.
      • If your solicitor uses e-mail to send the firm’s bank details, look carefully at the e-mail address to check for any anomalies, such as a slight change in spelling or that the wording of the message is different from previous e-mails. Ramsdens will never send out their bank details by email.
      • Do not be afraid to call your solicitor to check anything that seems odd. Trust your instincts.
      • Do not send any money until you have double-checked the account number and sort code. One solution would be to send £1 and then call your solicitor to make sure the payment has arrived at the intended destination.
      • Act quickly if you think your money has been stolen. Contact your bank immediately and ask it to notify the receiving bank so that fraudster’s account can be frozen to prevent any money in it being moved on.

Notify Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or via its website at


You can help us to do our best for you by telling us what we need to know and providing documents when we ask for them.

      • Please let us have all relevant papers. If you are not sure what to deliver, then provide all your papers.
      • Please tell us if you have any special needs relating to the service you want to receive.
      • Please tell us at the start what you expect of us so that we can agree with you what it is possible to achieve.
      • Please tell us immediately if your expectations change.
      • Please tell us immediately if any of your arrangements change. Although we shall speak together from time to time we rely upon you to inform us if your instructions change at any time.
      • Please tell us if you have personal time limits or targets, which may not be obvious to us.
      • Please make sure that you always understand what we have discussed. If you're not sure, please tell us because we always want you to be fully aware of the current situation.
      • Please get in touch quickly if we ask for instructions, documents or information.
      • Please tell us if you change your address or telephone number or email address, or if your circumstances change in a way that may affect the way we deal with your case.
      • Please be aware that the fee earner handling your case may not always be available but they are supported by a team of assistants any of whom will be able to help.

10. Additional Information to be considered

      • Please be aware that we are often waiting for information from third parties over whom we have no control and that a chain of transactions will only proceed as fast as the slowest party will allow. Please be patient with us in these circumstances.
      • Buying a property may introduce other related legal matters. For example: -
      • If you are buying a home as Tenants in Common with someone you are not married to, you may need to enter into a "Deed of Trust" to set out what share of the property each person owns;
      • You should consider making a Will , which we believe is essential if you are buying as Tenants in Common; and
      • If you already have a Will, you may need to update it. In particular, if the value of your total estate (including that of your spouse if you are married) exceeds the inheritance tax `nil rate band' then you should consider taking inheritance tax planning advice.
      • You should consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing a trusted friend or family member to look after your financial affairs for you in the event that you suffer an accident or illness in the future, which leaves you incapable of managing your own affairs. If you do not make provision for this whilst you are able to do so, then your family would have to apply to the Court of Protection for permission to look after your affairs, which can be a lengthy and costly procedure.

    For further information about our Wills and Inheritance Tax planning service, call free 0800 988 3650.

    Finally, we hope this guide will be of some assistance and remove some of the uncertainty associated with moving house. However, if at any time you do have a problem or are not happy with our service, please ring – we are here to help you.