Our eminent residential property expert, Ross Ward, answers your questions about moving home. This month, Ross discusses that tricky period between exchange and completion and some of the issues that can arise.
My solicitor is carrying out pre-completion searches, even though searches were done before exchange of contracts. Can you explain why this is necessary?
The bulk of searches, including local authority, mining and environment searches, are carried out before contracts are exchanged. Buying a house is a binding commitment and you need to be confident there are no detrimental matters that would affect your decision to purchase.
Between exchange of contracts and completion (moving day) your solicitor will carry out a few final checks to make sure the information obtained about the property is still correct. This usually includes a Land Registry search, to ensure nothing has changed on the deeds and a bankruptcy search on you, as your lender would not be prepared to continue with the mortgage if you were having financial difficulties.
Local and mining searches normally have a shelf life of about three months, so unless your transaction has taken longer than normal, these should not need to be renewed prior to completion.
Although we have exchanged contracts on the property I am selling, we have not yet completed. My buyer has to leave his rented accommodation soon and wants to move into my house. Should I agree to this?
It is extremely rare for a buyer to be allowed to move into a property before the sale is complete, mainly because he may change his mind about buying once he has lived there and try to renege on the contract (although he would have to forfeit his deposit).
A buyer is sometimes granted permission to enter a property prior to completion to carry out certain repairs that may be required by the lender, but this does not include staying overnight.
If you do allow your buyer to move into the property before completion, you need to make your solicitor aware of the situation. We would want to impose a number of conditions – perhaps including payment of another instalment of the purchase price, restricting who may occupy the house and making sure your buyer has insured it – as a precondition of occupation.
Allowing your buyer to move in before completion is normally regarded as a licence not a tenancy and your solicitor will make it clear he will face eviction if he does not complete the purchase.
We would normally actively discourage clients from allowing a buyer access prior to completion and in my experience, it is something that happens very rarely. It would be best all round if he could stay with friends or family temporarily until the sale is finalised.