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Moving Home - The Legal Process

Buying or selling your home has been likened to death or divorce: It can be a stressful experience. But a problem shared is a problem halved. We will help you through the process. We will liaise with your solicitor to ensure as little hassle as possible. If you are selling, we will undertake the marketing and use our best endeavours to suit your requirements by introducing a suitable purchaser at the best possible price. If you are purchasing, we can match you to our wide range of properties on which we are instructed. In either case, your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will ensure that all the legal requirements are met and you are selling, or purchasing, in accordance with your instructions.

To the uninitiated, the legal process can be a minefield. First and foremost it is essential to understand that the sale or purchase of land is fundamentally different from buying or selling anything else. If you agree upon a price to buy or sell a motor vehicle, but then change your mind, you can be sued for breach of a verbal contract. This does not apply to land. For over three hundred years, since the Statute of Frauds in 1677, the law requires that the sale or purchase of land shall be in writing, signed and contain all the important terms. So any offer made, and any acceptance of that offer, which is in writing, should always be endorsed with the magic words “subject to contract”, to avoid either party being bound. If those words are not used, then an exchange of letters could be sufficient to bind both parties. To avoid that situation, it is better never to put anything in writing. Along with your conveyancer we will ensure you are not bound in contract by writing the necessary letter at the right time. If, for any reason, it is essential to put your verbal agreement in writing, the note should be worded “I confirm that, subject to contract and survey, I am prepared to buy (address of property) for a price of £XYZ”. The reason for adding ‘subject to survey’ is to further limit your offer to a survey which is satisfactory to you. If you are selling, the wording would be “I confirm that, subject to contract, I am prepared to accept your offer of £XYZ to buy (address of property)”.

At this stage there may still be negotiations to be concluded. For example, does the agreement include, or exclude, furnishings and fittings? By this is meant any of the moveables that may be taken from the property without damage to the structure - “chattels” in legal terminology. Misunderstandings are very common and should be dealt with at the outset. Carpets and curtains are the most common chattels. They can be excluded, or included, in the price. And so can other items. It should be remembered that the legal definition of “chattels” is “personal property”. Often, a description of the property will include (or exclude) “fixtures and fittings”. This can be a trap for the unwary buyer or seller. As stated, in law, a “fixture” is something adherent to the property which cannot be removed without damage to the structure. For example, a hob which is part of a fitted kitchen. As such, it is part of the property and the seller has no right to remove it. Unless the contract expressly makes reference to this item being excluded from the sale, it cannot be removed. It adheres to the property and is, in law, an immovable. The same can be said for plants and shrubs in the garden, although light fittings may generally be removed without damage to the ceiling.

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