Guide to Moving House in England and Wales



I have teamed up with Nicki Iliffe of Bolt Burdon Solicitors to give you an outline of the conveyancing process so that you understand what is happening every step of the way.

The memorandum of sale

Once the sale has been agreed, we, The Estate Agent, kick off the process by preparing the memorandum of sale which introduces the solicitors to each other and provides the key details of what has been agreed.

The draft contract

After the seller’s solicitor receives the memorandum of sale they prepare a draft contract. If you are holding any original deeds, such as the lease, you will be asked to provide them at this point. The seller's solicitor sends the draft contract along with relevant title documentation to the buyer's solicitor.  The seller's solicitor will ask the client to complete some forms at the outset of the transaction including a property information form and a fittings and contents form.  These forms are sent to the buyer’s solicitor along with the draft contract and provide the buyer with information about the property such as who is responsible for the maintenance of boundaries and fences. Whether the property has been altered by the seller in any way. And whether there have been any disputes with neighbours.  The fittings and contents form is an inventory of exactly what items are being left at the property on completion of the sale. With flat sales an additional form, the leasehold information form, has to be completed to deal with such matters as maintenance and insurance of the building. For larger blocks the management company will provide a management pack which gives specific information on how the service charge is spent and what major works are expected over the coming years.

Approval of the draft contract

This is the task of the buyer's solicitor. He checks the draft and makes any changes which he considers to be necessary and then returns this to the seller’s solicitors to agree the amendments and forward a clean copy for signature.

Additional enquiries

At this stage the buyer's solicitor will also raise any additional enquiries that he or his client may have about the property and the seller’s solicitor may have to take further instructions from his client. This is the point where the estate agent can facilitate the process. The transaction can slow down at this stage because the seller’s solicitor usually has to refer to the block’s management company to source the answers. The management company does not have quite the same sense of urgency as the buyer and seller so we endeavour to help get them answered by deploying some diplomacy and persuasion!

The local search

This is carried out by the buyer's solicitor upon receipt of contract papers. It is a search carried out with the local authority for the area in which the property is situated. It reveals details of such matters as…
Planning permissions on the property. Improvement grants which may have to be repaid. Road schemes in the immediate vicinity.
And such matters as compulsory purchase orders and notices under the Public Heath Act. The average turnaround period for a local search is normally less than two weeks. The search lasts for a period of three months from the date of issue. As a result some buyers will not apply for a search until they are absolutely surethat they are proceeding, which can be after they have received their survey result.

The mortgage offer

Unless the buyer is purchasing the property entirely with his owns funds then the buyer’s solicitor will wish to ensure that the buyer has a mortgage offer prior to exchange of contracts. Even if you think that securing a mortgage will be no problem, the application can take time so you really need to source a mortgage before you agree the sale. 
Once your lender has approved your mortgage application they will instruct the valuation survey ...and  once the lender has received the surveyor’s report a mortgage offer will be issued.

Exchange of contracts

• When all the terms have been agreed
• You have agreed the date that the sale will complete
• Additional enquiries answered
• A mortgage offer received 
• And a satisfactory local authority search has been obtained…
You are at last ready to exchange contracts! Your solicitor will send you the contract for signature together with the legal report about the property you are buying. At this stage you should raise any final queries you may have about the property before returning the signed contract and deposit to your solicitor in readiness for exchange. The deposit is usually 10% of the purchase price. The seller's solicitor also sends the seller's part of the agreed contract to his client for signature at this stage. Exchange of contracts takes place over the telephone. The solicitors for the buyer and the seller complete the necessary details in their respective parts of the contract including the completion date and they are "exchanged". The buyer's solicitor then sends the buyer's signed contract and deposit to the seller's solicitor and the seller's solicitor sends his part of the contract to the buyer's solicitor. 

From the point of exchange of contracts the deal becomes binding and if either one of the parties backs out he or she will incur penalties. The completion date is a mutually agreeable date agreed between seller and buyer. It can be within a few days of exchange or much longer if required. The buyer must ensure that all funds are available prior to the completion date as late completion will attract financial penalties.

Final formalities

After exchange of contracts the buyer's solicitor carries out a search at the Land Registry to check, for example, that no additional mortgages or other onerous matters have been entered on the title to the property since the "office copy entries" were issued. With unregistered land a similar type of search is carried out with the Land Charges Registry in Plymouth.

Completion day

At this stage the contract which has been exchanged is formally "completed". The buyer's solicitor sends the balance required to complete to the seller's solicitor by electronic bank transfer. 
Once this is received by the sellers solicitors the keys to the property are released to the buyer. All the buyer has to do now is move in.


After completion, the buyer’s solicitor will deal with registering the property into the buyer’s name at the Land Registry. The buyer will be sent an up to date copy of the register showing them as the new owner once registration has been completed. The buyer also has to pay their stamp duty land tax which is sent to HMRC with a transfer of ownership form.

I hope that you have found this helpful and we look forward to help you do this for real !