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The selling process

Once your home is on the market, you should start to receive notes of interest from potential buyers. You can then set a closing date and start the selling process.

The closing date

Once you have put your home on the market, hopefully you will start to receive offers of notes of interest from potential buyers.

If buyers are interested, they will instruct their solicitors either to make an offer straight away or put in a note of interest. You can then set a closing date, when all interested parties must make their offers. Bids are in sealed envelopes, which means the buyers won't know how much anyone else is offering.

Receive an offer

What does an offer include?

Offers should include:

  • brief details of the property
  • the price the buyer is offering
  • the date of entry (this is the day the buyer will pay you the money for the property)
  • any other conditions.

Read the page on making an offer to find out more about the offer and any conditions it may include.

Offers 'subject to survey'

Some buyers may put in an offer 'subject to survey'. This means that they are agreeing to buy your home but only after a satisfactory survey has been carried out.

If you are anxious for a quick sale, you may prefer to reject an offer subject to survey in favour of a slightly lower offer from a buyer who has had a survey carried out already, because this offer is more secure. If the 'subject to survey' buyer is then not satisfied with the results of the survey, they may withdraw their offer.

Accepting an offer

Once all the offers are in, you and your solicitor will open them and you can decide which you want to accept. This may be:

  • the highest offer, or
  • the most secure offer, or
  • the offer with the most convenient entry date.

Do I have to accept an offer?

You don't have to accept any offers if you think they aren't suitable - you can reject them all and start the process again.

Alternatively, your solicitor may be able to negotiate with the solicitor of the buyer with the most suitable offer, to see if they will raise their price or change their entry date.

Can I delay accepting an offer?

If someone makes an offer, you should accept or reject it straight away. You may wish to hold back on rejecting a lower offer if you are waiting for a higher offer to be confirmed (for example, if you are waiting for a buyer to get a survey done). However, the buyer's solicitor can withdraw the offer if you don't accept or reject it immediately.

If I accept, is the sale now binding?

You will usually accept the offer on the condition that your solicitors can reach an agreement on all the details. This is known as qualified acceptance. At this point the sale is not yet legally binding, which means that either you or the buyer can still back out, although you may have to pay the other party compensation. Speak to your solicitor if you are in this position.

Finalise the sale

Before the sale can be finalised, the solicitors must sort out any conditions of the acceptance (for example, what fittings and fixtures are included). They will exchange formal letters (called missives) until all these details are ironed out. Once both parties are satisfied, the missives will be signed and the offer will be finalised. This process is called concluding the missives and can take any length of time from two weeks to a few months, depending on how complicated the sale is.

Once the missives are concluded, the contract (or bargain) becomes legally binding. Now neither you nor the buyer can withdraw or vary the terms at all, unless the other party agrees. If the buyer does ask you if they can withdraw or change the terms, don't agree to anything until you've spoken to your solicitor.

Can I back out of the sale?

If you want to back out of the sale after the missives have been concluded, the buyer can:

  • take you to court and force you to sell the home
  • take you to court and force you pay compensation for the inconvenience and costs incurred.

Speak to your solicitor if you are in this situation.

What happens next?

Next, your solicitor must give the title deeds of the property to the buyer's solicitor. The title deeds are the documents that prove ownership of the property. The buyer's solicitor will check the deeds to make sure there aren't any problems. If there are any serious problems with the deeds, the buyer may be able to back out of the sale, despite the binding contract.

The buyer's solicitor will then draw up the disposition, which transfers ownership of the property to the buyer. On the date of entry, the buyer's solicitor will arrange for payment for the property to be transferred to your solicitor. If you have a mortgage on the property, your solicitor will then transfer this money to your mortgage lender, to pay off the mortgage. Once this is done, any money left over will be sent to you, usually after the deduction of any fees and other outlays.

I haven't sold my old home

When you are moving home, you may find that you need to come up with the money for your new home before the sale on your old home is completed. Unless you have enough ready cash to pay for your new home outright, you'll probably need to take out a bridging loan to cover the overlap.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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