Step by Step Guide to buying / selling a property in Northern Ireland

A new initiative has been jointly launched by The Law Society of Northern Ireland, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (NI) and the National Association of Estate Agents (NI), which aims to make the process of buying and selling a home in Northern Ireland much smoother for consumers.

Often the Solicitor’s work in a residential conveyancing transaction goes unseen and is often misunderstood. The laws which apply to conveyancing can be complicated and so, to assist with this, we have set out a step by step guide to selling and buying a residential property in Northern Ireland.

Selling a residential property in Northern Ireland

Stage one – Sale Agreed

Once the sale has been agreed, your solicitor will:

  • Obtain your title deeds and ask you to fill in a detailed questionnaire called Vendor’s Replies to Pre-Contract Enquiries
  • Carry out various searches and obtain property certificates to provide evidence that no third parties have any adverse rights to your property and that you have the legal title to be able to sell
  • Prepare and send out a package of legal information and a draft contract for sale to the solicitor acting on behalf of the purchaser
  • Respond to queries that are raised by the Purchaser’s Solicitor
  • Liaise with all relevant parties and negotiate a date for moving (‘proposed completion date’)


Stage two – Replies to Enquiries and Contract

Once the Offer to Purchase has been received, your solicitor will:

  • Arrange a meeting with you
  • Deal with/advise you in relation to any special conditions added to the contact
  • Organise final accounts and prepare a final settlement for your approval
  • Collect any balance of funds required request a settlement figure for your mortgage and any other secured loans (if required)
  • Approve the deed of transfer


Stage three – Completion

Upon completion, your solicitor will:

  • Receive Monies
  • Agree completion undertakings with the other Solicitor
  • Pay off the mortgage and notify lender
  • Quite often settle any invoice to the Estate Agents or balance monies to management companies if instructed to do so
  • Send the transfer deed to the other solicitor
  • Send any balance of money to you


Buying a residential property in Northern Ireland

Stage one –Sale Agreed and Title Review

Once the sale is agreed and once you instruct your solicitor he or she will:

  • Write to you to confirm instructions, send you a fee quote and terms of business
  • Write to the Vendor’s solicitor to request the draft contract and title deeds
  • Receive the search results and communicate any problems
  • Check the title documentation and raise enquiries to clarify any information in the initial title pack
  • Review various search from the local authorities to determine whether there are flood risks, financial liabilities, boundary disputes or any other adverse matters which affect the property or land and which could impact your use or enjoyment of the lands
  • Prepar and send you a detailed report on the legal title, contract and supporting documents provided by the seller
  • Liaise with your mortgage lender to ensure the funds will be made available when necessary and deal with the formal mortgage offer and all the conditions attached to same


Stage two – Enquiries and Offer to Purchase

Once in a position to do so your solicitor will arrange for you to attend the office to sign the Offer to purchase. Your solicitor will:

  • Arrange a meeting with you to discuss the transaction in full and advise you on the report on title
  • Discuss completion dates
  • Discuss the mortgage offer of financial arrangements
  • Prepare the deed of transfer and mortgage deed and arrange for you to sign them
  • Prepare a final completion statement for your approval
  • Collect any balance of funds required
  • Organise final searches to check for debts and bankruptcy orders against you (mortgage lender requirements)


Stage three – completion

On completion, your solicitor will:

  • Confirm to you the acceptance of the contract, you will become legally obliged to buy the property on the agreed date and your seller will be legally obliged to sell to you. If either party cannot or will not complete the consequences will be serious and expensive
  • Collect the funds for the purchase and deal with the finance arrangements on completion This process relies heavily on the system of Solicitors’ undertakings
  • From the day of completion the property is legally yours and your solicitor will contact you to confirm completion and let you know that the keys can be collected, usually from the estate agents
  • Submit a SDLT return and arrange for payment of any Stamp Duty to Revenue & Customs
  • Prepare and send off application to Land Registry to register your ownership
  • Send the title deeds to the lender (if the property is mortgaged)

The above is not by any means an exhaustive list. Each sale or purchase is different and brings its own set of challenges. Conveyancing is not an administrative exercise. Land law is complex and conveyancing requires technical skills, legal knowledge, attention to detail and pro-active solution-driven problem-solving.

If you require advice on any conveyancing matter, please contact one of our specialist team today.