19 February 2016 by

Buying or selling a house – what happens on completion?

Completion day is a very exciting time – when the buyer collects the keys to their new home and the seller moves on to their next property or venture.  Our residential conveyancing team routinely deal with dozens of completions each week. However, we still find there is a considerable amount of mystery surrounding exactly what happens on completion day and afterwards.

The most common questions following exchange of contracts are:”What’s next?” and “What do I do on the day of completion?”. In order to try and de-mystify the completion process, we have set out below a summary of the key events in the run up to completion and afterwards, from the point of view of both the seller and the buyer.

If you are selling:-

  • If your property is being sold with vacant possession, then you must make sure that arrangements are put in place for your property to be vacated by the time specified in the contract, which is normally 1:00pm (at the latest) on the day of completion.
  • Your solicitor or conveyancer will give you a call, once they have received the completion funds from the buyer’s lawyers, to double-check with you that you have removed all of your belongings and moved out. Assuming that you have, your conveyancer will then contact your estate agents to release the keys to the buyer.
  • On the day of completion, your conveyancer will also arrange to discharge your mortgage, and settle the estate agents’ fees and any other amounts that you might be contractually required to pay (for example, any outstanding service charges).  Once all of these liabilities have been paid, the remaining sale proceeds will be transferred to your chosen bank account (for which there is usually a nominal bank charge).
  • The Form TR1 or ‘Transfer’, and any other documents required to formally transfer the property to the buyer, will be sent to the buyer’s lawyers who will then arrange to register the property in the buyer’s name at the Land Registry.
  • Once all the above steps are completed, your file will be normally closed.  However, there are some exceptions –  for example, if you have agreed a retention with the buyer. This is a clause in the contract that provides for either the seller’s or buyer’s lawyer to hold some funds aside pending resolution of a specific matter e.g. receipt of the final invoice for a liability affecting the property that you as the seller may have incurred prior to completion.

If you are buying:-

  • On the day of completion your conveyancer will transfer your purchase funds to the seller’s conveyancer.
  • On receipt of those funds, the seller’s conveyancer will call the estate agents to authorise the release of the keys to you, and your conveyancer will give you a call when this is done.
  • Your conveyancer will then apply to the Land Registry to register your ownership of the property, and also register your mortgage (assuming you have one) against the title to your property. The registration process can take several weeks (or sometimes a few months e.g. if the property is newly-built and is being occupied for the first time). Once the property is registered at the Land Registry, your conveyancer should send you the Official Copies of your title, on the register, showing you as the new owner.
  • In addition, your conveyancer will pay the amount of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for which you are liable (as a result of buying the property) directly to HM Revenue & Customs.
  • You will need to arrange the transfer of all the relevant utility accounts (i.e. for gas, electricity, water, telephone etc.), and the Council Tax account, into your name.
  • If you have bought a leasehold property, your conveyancer may have to serve notice of the transfer (and your mortgage, if you have one) on the landlord or the relevant management company.  Also, if you bought a share in the freehold company at the same time as buying your leasehold property, your conveyancer should confirm your membership of the company (shortly after completion).
  • As described above, your file may then remain open, for a specified period of time, if you have agreed a retention with the seller. Otherwise, your file should be closed.

At Bolt Burdon, we will always try to prepare you for what you can expect on the day of completion, and the steps that need to be taken post-completion.  And, of course, we are always very happy to answer any other queries you may have about your sale or purchase.

For help with buying or selling your home, or for a fixed fee quotation, please contact Kasia Grygorczuk on 020 7288 4776 or by email at: kasiagrygorczuk@boltburdon.co.uk.

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