By Probate Property Conveyancer Theresa Arkless
A house sale is only final in England & Wales after the sale ‘completes’. So once you have a ‘sold’ sign on the board outside your house you still have a way to go before you will see any money.
The sale process can take around 6 to 8 weeks and it’s only on ‘completion’ of the sale that the seller will receive the buyer’s money and the keys are handed over.
As a seller, your Conveyancer will usually provide you with a ‘Completion Statement’ before completion takes place. This statement will detail anything that will be paid out of the sale proceeds, for example mortgage payments, loan payments, estate agent costs, legal fees and anything else that may be required to sell your house. The Completion Statement will confirm what will be left over to be sent to you.
There are different ways for completion to take place, but usually this will follow the Law Society’s Code for Completion by post. This is the most common way to complete because most Conveyancers are not located physically near each other so cannot physically hand over money, documents and keys.
Basically, the Code sets out the process. Completion funds are sent to the seller’s Conveyancer by the buyer’s Conveyancer before a set time on the day of completion. On receipt of the full amount, the seller’s Conveyancer confirms completion with the seller, and asks for authorisation to release the property keys to the buyer and post the signed transfer paperwork to the buyer’s Conveyancer. At that point the money from the buyer is with your Conveyancer.
When a Conveyancer is acting for you in your sale, they will usually ask for payment instructions from you upfront and during the Conveyancing process. The Conveyancer will need your bank details and written confirmation of who the funds are to be paid to. If, for example, there are two or more owners, the Conveyancer may ask if the funds are to be paid to one of you or split between all of you. The Conveyancer will ask you all to sign to confirm your agreement to this. This may be different if there is a Trust in place protected by a restriction on the title, as a second Trustee may need to be appointed, but your Conveyancer will advise you if this is the case.
Your Conveyancer is highly unlikely to contact you by email to request your bank details or send you their bank details. There have been instances of property fraud where emails between Conveyancers and their clients have been intercepted and bank details have been altered so that funds are paid elsewhere. If you are contacted by email for bank details make sure you call your Conveyancer on a number that you know belongs to them. Check that your Conveyancer genuinely sent the email and double check the details.
Your Conveyancer may also ask if you would prefer payment by cheque or if you want an instant bank transfer. Once all completion funds have been received from the buyer and the sale has ‘completed’, your Conveyancer will arrange for payment to be made to you in accordance with your instructions.
If completion fails to take place, your Conveyancer will normally advise you about what happens next. If one party is ready to complete and the other isn’t, the party that is ready and able to complete may serve a ‘Notice to Complete’. If this happens there may be additional costs payable and this may change the amount on the Completion Statement. This will delay a payment being made to you.