When buying and selling property, it is necessary to follow a series of steps determined by the law. This helps ensure that things are fair and transparent for both parties to the sale.
The legal process of transferring title (ownership) of the property from the seller to the buyer is called conveyancing. The first stage is for the parties to agree a price and sign a contract for sale. This can occur through a private treaty sale or a public auction.
Private Treaty Sale
This is the more common situation and is where the purchaser contacts the seller or their agent to make an offer for the property. Once negotiations are complete and the purchaser has obtained mortgage approval, the contract for sale will be prepared and signed and the deposit on the purchase price paid.
The seller publishes details of the auction and prepares a contract for sale. Those interested in purchasing the property will (normally through solicitors) review the contact for sale, make various checks including that the seller has legal title to the property, and if necessary get mortgage approval.
A reserve (minimum) price will be set for the auction although the seller retains the right to reject any bids made during the auctions. If the highest bidder is accepted they will pay the purchase price and sign the contract for sale on the day of the auction.
The contract for sale sets a completion date for the purchase and is subject to the purchaser making certain checks (some of which are known as “requisitions on title”). Some of these checks might be carried out before the contract is signed and even before the buyer makes an offer, particularly in the case of an auction sale. Examples of things that purchasers typically check include:
- The seller’s title to the property and any limitations to the title like mortgages
- Fittings and fixtures included with the property
- Surveyor and environmental reports
- Whether planning permission has been applied for anything that could affect the property, like a nearby road or airport
- If a Family Home Protection Act declaration is required to confirm that the seller’s partner consents to the sale
- That the property was built in accordance with regulations
The seller’s solicitor then instructs the bank financing the sale to issue the balance of the purchase price to the seller. The Deeds of Conveyance (a legal document showing the transfer of title to the seller) are sealed and signed. The Revenue Commissioner must then be notified of the purchase and stamp duty paid. Finally, the Deeds are registered with the Land Registry and the process is complete.
Property law is complex and the consequences of getting things wrong can be serious for buyers and sellers. It is strongly advisable to use a property solicitor for all stages of the process to ensure a smooth transaction with no unpleasant surprises.
Dominic Higgins graduated from UCA in 2005 with a degree in law. In the past Dominic has worked as a legal adviser in the South Africa and the United Kingdom; he currently works for Contact Law. If you are looking to learn more about property law visit Contact Law IE to find out how we can help you today.