Sales Process – What happens once an offer is accepted on a property

House selling

Whether you’re buying or selling a property it is safe to say that the jargon used and the steps needed can be mind-boggling. When you take into consideration that the average buyer/seller only moves once every 7-8 years, it’s no wonder that this can be one of the most stressful times of your life.

To help you through the sales process, we’ve written this guide – covering everything that happens once a sale is agreed…

You’ve accepted an offer, now what?

Now What

So, a buyer has made an offer on your property and you’ve agreed to accept that offer. Your estate agent will now say that the property is “under offer” and will tell you that they will instruct your solicitor by sending out the memorandum of sale.  All sounds good!  But what does this actually mean, and what happens next?

Once an estate agent receives an offer on a property and the homeowner accepts, the first step is to qualify that buyer. This means that the estate agent qualifies the offer to be sure it is in a position to proceed.

If it is a pure cash (in the bank) offer, we will ask the buyer to show us proof of funds. There are two reasons for this – 

  • One is to show that the buyer can literally put his money where his mouth is and prove they have the money to buy the property.  
  • The second reason is to satisfy the Anti Money Laundering (AML) rules and regulations.  These are the due diligence rules that all estate agents are bound by law to carry out.

If the buyer is a mortgage buyer (usually part cash/part mortgage) we will again ask to see proof of the cash element, but we will also need to see a “mortgage agreement in principal” document (also known as an API or MAIP) which is provided by the lender or mortgage broker.  

This shows that the buyer can borrow the amount they need to purchase the property. If you are a buyer, we recommend having an API in place before you offer on a property.  We can help with this if you do not already have a mortgage arranged, please talk to us about it.

If the offer is made in cash from the sale of a property, or subject to the sale of a property, we will speak to the estate agent selling that house to obtain full details of the ‘chain’. We then speak to all of the estate agents in the chain and ensure that the chain is complete and that all parties are able to move forward to buy. 

We also, as part of the AML rules, need to see proof of ID for all buyers and conduct our due diligence to ensure all parties buying are who they say they are. (We already do this for all of our sellers before we even start marketing the property).

Once we have received all the paperwork from the buyer and we are satisfied that they can proceed with the purchase, we will send out a memorandum of sale, or notification of sale letter to all parties (that is the buyer, seller and both parties’ solicitors) and that will start the sales process.

Solicitor’s process


Once your solicitor receives this letter, they will contact you to confirm your instructions to act on your behalf with the sale/purchase. It’s worth noting that if you are able to instruct a solicitor when you first put your property on the market, rather than waiting until you have found a buyer, this could save you weeks on the sales process. 

Your solicitor will request some information from you and will carry out their own due diligence on your proof of funds, proof of ID and so on.  Every party in this process is responsible for providing these details for themselves, so while it may seem tedious it is a legal requirement, so it’s worth completing the forms and providing all of the information promptly to keep the process moving.

Once all solicitors receive their forms back, the sellers’ solicitor will start the “conveyancing” process and prepare the contract pack, as well as sending out the “Draft Contract” to the buyer’s solicitor.

The buyer’s solicitor will ask the buyer to pay an initial amount so that they are able to request the “searches” on the property as soon as they receive the draft contract from the seller’s solicitor.

They may also advise the buyer to instruct a surveyor to do a survey on the property so that they know the condition of the property. It is up to the buyer if they wish to have a survey done or not. Sometimes buyers choose not to have a survey as they may be a builder or know a good builder who will go with them to have a look over the property.  Sometimes they will have a survey done as part of their mortgage application.  Please talk to us about this as we can help you find a local surveyor who will be happy to discuss your needs and advise on the best course of action.

Searches, what are these and what are they for. 

Property searches

Searches are what all buyers’ solicitors will do on a property to ensure that all is well with the property and the surrounding areas.  They are normally, but not always the following:

Local authority searches

The Local Authority Searches are the most important searches your solicitor will make. They look at all of the information that the local authority holds involving the property you are buying. This includes prospective planning permission or restrictions and will also show who is responsible for maintaining roads and paths adjoining the property. They will advise you of the cost of this.

Land Registry searches

Solicitors will need to prove that the seller of the property is the legal owner of that property.  They check the title register and title plan at the Land Registry to do this.  Again, they will discuss the costs of this with you, but these are legally required in order for the sale to go ahead.

Environmental searches

The Environmental Search is very important and is used to establish whether a property is built on or near any contaminated land or water, or an old landfill site.  If you need a mortgage your lender may insist that this search is carried out before they will issue you with a mortgage. The reason this type of search is so important is to safeguard you against issues in the future when you are selling – for example, if the property had been built near an old industrial site there could be a risk of toxic substances remaining in the ground.  If this is not uncovered before you take over ownership of the property there could be issues in selling on, or you could have a health hazard on your hands.  This search should also show you if the property is at risk of flooding.

Water authority searches

This is another essential search and will establish where your water comes from and if there are any public drains on the property.  It is important to know this, especially if you plan on doing any development or extension work on the property once you own it.

Location-specific searches

Depending on the area you are buying in, your solicitor may advise doing a location-specific search.  For example, in a mining area, these can show up underground mines, which could run the risk of the ground being unstable and at risk of subsidence.  For this reason it is advisable, although not essential, to use a solicitor local to the area you are buying in.

Chancel repair search

This is one that crops up from time to time in West Wales. This search will establish whether a property has a liability attached to it for the cost of repairs to a parish church.  In the Middle Ages, property owners, rather than the monasteries, became responsible for repairing church chancels.  There was a law change in October 2013 which means that the church must now establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry. However, in some cases, the church can still insist a property owner is liable for repairs, even if the liability has not been registered.  A chancel repair search does not cost that much and can save you thousands!  If it is found that a property has this liability against it your solicitor will advise you to take out an indemnity or Chancel repair insurance policy to protect you.

All of the searches will take around two to three weeks, depending on the local authority.  Once the searches are back, these may prompt the solicitors to raise enquiries with the sellers’ solicitors based on their findings from the results. There are ways to fast-track searches if speed is of the essence and your solicitors can advise you about this and the extra costs involved.

What happens in the background?

While the searches are underway, the buyers’ solicitor will be looking through the contract pack and asking questions (also known as “raising enquiries”) with the sellers’ solicitor. 

It is important that the seller makes sure that they reply to all questions that the buyer’s solicitor sends over as fast as possible.

There may be a lot of questions asked, and these can seem annoying and frustrating – and in some cases seem pointless or irrelevant – but it is still very important to answer them all in full. Any missed questions will cause unnecessary delays in what can be a lengthy process.  All solicitors are there to safeguard their clients’ best interests, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

Surveys and Mortgage Valuations

If you need a mortgage, the mortgage valuer will call us to gain access to the property and book an appointment to visit the property to carry this out. If you want – or need – a survey, it is up to you to arrange this with a surveyor and ask them to call us to arrange access and book the appointment.

They will then write up their report and send this back to their client (for a mortgage valuer this will go back to the lender who will then report to the buyer or mortgage broker). When you get the results of a survey and have read through the report, you may want to speak to us again to run through the results.  We read many survey reports each month and can help you understand them. 

If a mortgage is needed and the mortgage valuer has sent his report back to the mortgage company, and providing there are no issues, it is at this point that the mortgage company will issue the buyer with a mortgage (up until this point it has all just been in principal, meaning that in principle you can afford the repayments on the amount you want to borrow and in principle they are happy to lend on a property. It is only when they have had the valuer’s findings that they will be ready to lend) and send the “mortgage offer” to the buyer’s solicitor.

Are we nearly there yet?

Are we nearly there yet

At this point all of the searches should be back and the solicitors should have asked all of the queries they have to satisfy themselves that the property being bought is as it should be.  They will now be ready to “report to their client”. This means they will send the buyer all of the paperwork and their findings and ask the buyer to confirm that they are happy to proceed to the exchange of contracts.

Booking removals

You can also now start to look at removal companies and provisionally book one. You may do this sooner if you live somewhere where removal companies are in high demand, but it is advisable not to fully confirm or pay any deposits until the exchange of contracts has taken place, or you have been advised it is safe to do so by your solicitor. 

It is worth remembering that it is your solicitor who will be able to give you the most accurate timescales for moving as it is they who are doing the hard work at this point, so please ensure you keep in touch with them and ask them the question before you arrange your removals.

Signing the contracts

At this point both parties will receive a copy of the contract and the transfer form to sign and send back to their solicitors – again it is important this is done as soon as they are received and sent back promptly.

Once the solicitors on both sides have received the signed contract paperwork back they will discuss with their clients the dates for exchange and completion.

Exchange of Contracts

“Exchange of contracts” means that the contracts have been signed and the completion date has been set. It also means that the 10% non-refundable deposit is paid by the buyer.  

It is only at this point that the transaction becomes a legally binding agreement between the two parties – whereby the buyer agrees to buy, and the seller agrees to sell  Up until this point there is nothing stopping anyone pulling out of the purchase and there is also nothing stopping a seller from accepting another offer from someone else (known as gazumping). It is usually at the point of exchange that you confirm your booking with your removal company and pay them a deposit.

It’s also worth thinking about money tied up in investments. If you need to give notice to release these funds for your purchase or property plans, make sure you do so with ample time.


Key day

Typically, properties seem to exchange on a Friday one week and complete the following Friday. The “completion day” is the date you actually all move home. It is the date that the final money for the purchase is paid.

This final payment is done via the solicitors, and they ask you to deposit the money into their account the night before, so it is there safe and ready to prevent delays on completion day.  If you are taking a mortgage, your solicitor will have requested that the lender draw down the money and this typically takes five working days.

On completion day the solicitors will need to speak to you to confirm you are happy to complete, so make sure you are available to take that call otherwise it will delay things! The solicitors will then talk to each other to transfer the money and complete the purchase transaction. Once the money has been safely received by the seller’s solicitor, they will then call their client to update them, and they will also call the estate agent and advise us that we can now “release the keys” on the property – we can not do this until we have had this call.

We then arrange to meet with the new homeowner to deliver the keys to their new home!

So how long does it all take?

Happy Buyers and Sellers

All in all, this whole process can take anything from 8 to 18 weeks. UK-wide this is currently taking on average 19 weeks, however, we are managing to get our sales through in an average of 12 weeks. We have even had some go through in four weeks.  

This is down to the good working relationship we have with the solicitors we work with and that we work with Prime Progression, who help with the sales progression and talk to other agents in the chain to keep things moving forward.  

It can not be stressed enough the importance of having an estate agent or a dedicated sales progressor, who has good experience in progressing sales forward to help ensure everything moves at a realistic timescale.

So, there you have it, an in-depth look at the sales process.  Hopefully, it will give you some valuable insight and information when you make your next move.