What happens after you've had an offer accepted on a house purchase?
Congratulations, you've found your dream home and the seller has accepted the price you’ve offered to pay.
So, what happens after an offer is accepted on a house?
Keep reading and we'll drill down into the nitty gritty...
Buying a house is different to buying most other things...
and not just because it's more expensive.
If you want to buy a TV, then you might shop around to see which one you like the look of, that has the functions that you want and that you can afford. Once you’ve decided which one you want, then you go to the shop, buy it and take it home with you.
However, once you’ve had your offer accepted to buy a house, you can’t just pick up the keys and move in. In fact, you probably wouldn’t want to as there are a lot of practical things to think about, like packing up your belongings, changing doctors and dentists, and moving your furniture.
But even more importantly, the research into a property is done after the offer has been accepted.
Whilst you may have looked at the area, the size of the house and even the layout, you will need to appoint a conveyancer to help with checking things that affect the property, how to pay for it and all the legal requirements.
It’s important to note, that having an offer accepted on a house doesn’t commit you to buying it or commit the seller to selling it. Both parties can change their minds until a point called ‘exchange of contracts’.
More on that later.
Who do you need to speak to?
So, after your offer is accepted, then you need to appoint the people who will help you get to the point where you are ready to commit to buying the property.
These people are:
A mortgage broker will help you find a mortgage that you can afford and from a bank or building society that lends money against the type of property you are buying. If you have the cash to buy the property, then you won’t need a mortgage or a broker.
A surveyor is someone who does a detailed inspection of the property’s condition. A survey is really important. Don’t get this confused with the valuation for your mortgage. That only confirms to the bank that the property is worth what you want to borrow. This means that based on the number of rooms, the size of the property and where it is, that it is worth what you’ve agreed to pay for it.
What a mortgage valuation doesn’t look at is the structure or condition of the property. That is what a survey does. You don’t have to get a survey, but it would be best to do it, so you get as much information about the property as you can.
This can be a solicitor, licenced conveyancer or legal executive. All of these people are authorised to help you deal with the legal side of buying a house. They will check the title deeds and carry out searches on the property to look at things like planning permissions, whether the property is in an area that has restrictions on it like a conservation area, or whether it is likely to flood. They will also work for your bank or building society if you are having a mortgage and will liaise with them to get your mortgage funds ready for the day you buy the house.
Remember, if you are buying a house, then the estate agent doesn’t work for you. They work for the seller and get paid by them, but they will help with the process and answer questions about things like the moving date.
The stages after a house offer is accepted
The process of buying a house and the work that your conveyancer will do can be broken down into phases:
- Exchange of contracts
Step 1: Instruction
This is the stage where you find your conveyancer and ask them to work for you, i.e. you “instruct” them. You will need to provide identification and sign a letter confirming what they will do and how they will charge you. At Eden you can do all this via our website.
It is a good idea to have chosen your conveyancer as soon as you decide to buy a house, even before you have an offer accepted. Some people are worried that they will end up with a large bill for a property that they might not end up buying but at Eden we will only charge you for the work we have done. Once you’ve asked Eden to help you buy your house you will have a virtual meeting with your conveyancer so you can meet them and you can talk about the property, the next stages and ask them any questions.
Step 2: Pre-exchange
This is the longest part of the process. All the people who are helping you have to work together at this stage. It will start with your mortgage broker arranging your mortgage (if you need one) and your surveyor doing your survey (if you choose to have one).
Your conveyancer can start their work as soon as the seller’s conveyancer sends them information about the property you are buying, but you might ask them not to start their work until you know you have a mortgage offer and your survey results. If you do choose to do that, then that might add more time to the process, as they aren’t doing their work at the same time as the mortgage broker and the surveyor are doing theirs. If you choose to ask them to start straight away, then you might incur some costs for a property that you don’t ultimately buy.
The information that your conveyancer gets from the seller’s conveyancer enables your conveyancer to look at the title deeds and check that you can use the property as you want to. For example, if you need to cross another piece of land to get to the house you are buying, there would need to be a right of way in the title deeds.
They will also order searches on the property that you will need to pay for.
Local authority search
This search is done with the local council and tells you about planning permissions, building regulations, conservation areas and listed buildings. It will also tell you if the council has done any work to the property or lent someone money to do work to the property that needs to be paid back. For example, if a previous owner had the house adapted for an occupier with a special need or disability and the council paid for that, then they might need to be paid back.
Water and drainage search
It is important to know if the property is connected to mains water and sewerage. If it isn’t then there is probably private water supply or sewerage and your conveyancer will need to find out who owns it and what rights the property has to use it.
This will tell you if the property is likely to flood, or if there is any contaminated land nearby.
Some areas need other specific searches done. For example, Cornwall has a history of tin mining and a search will be done to check that there are no old mines near the property.
Your conveyancer goes through all the information they collect and asks the seller’s conveyancer lots of questions about it. The questions are called “enquiries” and as the questions are answered your Eden conveyancer will keep you updated until they have all been answered satisfactorily. They will also send you a full report on the property with all the information that they have gathered about it.
Your conveyancer will also receive a copy of your mortgage offer and have to report to the lender on all the information that they have received.
Once you, your conveyancer and your mortgage company are happy with the information about the property then you can sign a contract that details who you are, who the seller is, what property you are buying and how much you are paying for it.
You will also sign paperwork for your mortgage and documentation that will be used to tell the Land Registry, after you’ve bought the house, that you now own it.
Your conveyancer will also help you with paying any stamp duty (called SDLT in England and LTT in Wales) that you need to pay when you buy the property. Our Guide to Stamp Duty details more
information on this.
The estate agent will have helped agree what date everyone wants to move house and will help chase any outstanding enquiries throughout the process too.
Before you exchange contracts, you should make arrangements with a removal firm and confirm with them that they can move you on the date that you want. You might want to start packing up some parts of the house. However, you should remember that until the next stage, neither you nor the seller are legally committed, so there is no guarantee that the date will be as agreed or that it will actually happen.
Step 3: Exchange of contracts
A duplicate copy of the contract that you signed will also have been signed by the seller. When everyone is ready to become legally committed to buy and sell the property, and they have agreed on a date to move, then the seller’s conveyancer and buyer’s conveyancer swap the signed agreements.
It is at this stage that a buyer pays the seller a deposit, which is normally 10% of the price being paid for the property. If you are having a mortgage of more than 90% of the mortgage, then you would pay a smaller deposit.
At this point, even though you haven’t moved in, you need to insure the building at the new property in case anything happens to it between this point and when you move in. This is to make sure that a seller doesn’t stop insuring it once contracts are exchanged. It also means that if anything were to happen to the property before you move in then (as you would still have to buy it) you want the insurance claim and any money paid to be yours.
The period of uncertainty is over and everyone is legally committed. If anyone can’t move on the agreed day, there are legal steps that can be taken. The contracts usually state that you need to be able to move in around 1-2pm.
Step 4: Pre-completion
You now need to make sure that your house is packed up and ready for the day you move.
Between exchange and completion, your conveyancer will arrange to get your mortgage money from your bank or building society, and you will give them any balance that you need to pay. At Eden, we make sure we ask for your mortgage money to arrive with us on the day before you move, so we don’t have to wait for it on the day you move.
Your conveyancer will also do checks with the Land Registry to make sure that no-one can do anything to the title deeds until they have been updated to reflect that you now own the property.
Step 5: Completion 🎉
It’s moving day! Your conveyancer will send the money to buy the house to the seller’s conveyancer.
Your conveyancer won’t know exactly what time the bank system gets the money to the seller’s conveyancer, so there is often a difference between what is happening with the physical move and the legal processes. As soon as the seller’s conveyancer has received the money and the seller has moved out, you will be able to move in.
Step 6: Post-completion
You’ve moved in and are settling into your new home, but your conveyancer’s work continues. They will pay any stamp duty you owe and will get the signed paperwork in from the seller’s conveyancer so that they can update the Land Registry.
Now that all might sound quite complicated, as it is, but it is also important to remember that properties are not typically bought without there being other properties involved. Imagine if you
couldn’t buy that TV you wanted until the person selling it had bought one to replace it, and they hadn’t found one yet. Or perhaps it wasn’t their TV, but it was their grandparents' TV, who have sadly passed away, and they are selling it on their behalf, so they don’t actually own it.
It is very common for there to be a chain of properties. That means there are lots of interconnected property sales and purchases that all need to go through the above stages and get to a point where everyone is happy to become legally committed and move on the same day. And they all have mortgage brokers, estate agents, surveyors, and conveyancers too. However, appointing an
experienced conveyancer will take the stress away from you as they will handle this and keep you updated along the way.
Frequently asked questions
If you still have questions on the process after an offer is accepted on a house, take a look at our FAQs below. But also, the conveyancers at Eden are on hand to answer your questions throughout the process.
How long does it take from an offer being accepted on a house to moving in?
It’s generally expected that once you have an offer accepted, it will take 12 weeks to 6 months to complete and move in. This can vary depending on how many searches are needed, how long they take to come back and how if any issues arise. Your conveyancer will be able to provide an estimated date for completion.
Can I withdraw my offer on a house?
The sale of a house is not legally binding until the contracts have been signed and exchanged, meaning either party can pull out up until this stage. This also means that someone can also offer the sellers more money, and they can go with their offer instead, this is called gazumping.
When do I need to get home insurance?
Once you exchange contracts, although you won’t receive the keys for a few days, you will need to take out home insurance. This is in case anything happens to the property in these few days your money is protected, and you will receive any insurance money if the property is damaged. Your Eden conveyancer will indicate when you need to do this.
Can you view a property after your offer has been accepted?
You can view a property after your offer has been accepted and is often recommended. Common reasons to visit a property after your offer has been accepted include:
- Measure up for furniture, carpets, flooring, curtains etc.
- Check spacing of rooms and gaps for things such as fridges and washing machines.
- To take a builder and quote up any work you require.
- To take anyone else to visit who may be living with you.
- To discuss things with the seller such as good broadband, how the boiler works, bin
collection days, who gas and electricity is set up with, etc.
What does SSTC mean?
SSTC means Sold Subject to Contract, which is where the seller has agreed to sell the property for a specific price but are waiting for legal contracts to be signed. Whilst a house is under SSTC, other buyers can try to gazump the price and both the seller and buyer can pull out of the sale.
What does an estate agent do after an offer has been accepted?
Once an offer has been accepted on a house, the estate agent will issue a Memorandum of Sale to the vendor, buyer, and their conveyancers. An estate agent will also help the sale to progress by sorting any issues and chasing key information.
Why choose Eden
Whether you’ve started looking at buying a home, you’ve already placed an offer, or you’ve had an offer accepted, it’s time to instruct a conveyancer.
Eden has a team of conveyancers who are ready to help. Our conveyancers are all in-house, and you’ll receive a dedicated person to help you through the process.
You’ll also receive regular updates and can track the progress with your own personalised logins to the online MyEden platform.
Find out more about the benefits of our online conveyancing service, or get an instant quote from us today.