Once the parties have agreed a price through the estate agent, the matter is entirely subject to contract which means that neither party can legally insist on the transaction proceeding as the contracts have not, at this stage, been exchanged.
The sellers’ solicitor will prepare a contract for the sale of the property and will send the buyers’ solicitors a comprehensive bundle of information about the property, comprising proof of ownership, a list of contents to be included in the sale and a host of other points relating to boundaries, neighbours, planning, rights of way etc. In the meantime, the buyers will be arranging their survey. You can read more about the different types of survey options by visiting Which? House Surveys.
It is important that you return the papers to your solicitor in a timely fashion.
If the buyers are having a mortgage, the lender will insist on a valuation being carried out for their own purposes. A valuation doesn’t determine whether the property is satisfactory, if the valuer misses important items or defects, it is most unlikely that the buyers will be able to take any action against the valuer at a later date. The valuation is purely for the lender’s satisfaction.
It is therefore essential that as a buyer you consider arranging a more detailed survey of the property, either a Home Buyers’ Survey or in some cases a Building Survey. When the buyers apply for a mortgage they will usually be able to ask the Lender's surveyor to carry out a Home Buyers’ Survey at the same time as the valuation, although this can be arranged independently if the buyers so wish.
While the buyers are applying for their mortgage and having a survey done, the buyers’ solicitors will be checking the information provided by the sellers’ solicitors and will also be carrying out searches on the property, usually Local, Water, Drainage, Mining, and Environmental Searches. The buyers will need to make a payment to the solicitors in order for searches to be commenced.
As a buyer you must ensure you inspect the property, at this point. If you have any questions about the property, for example about whether the plumbing, heating and electrics all work. It is too late after exchange of contracts. As a buyer your solicitor will not be involved in physical inspection of a property, they are only concerned with the legal transfer of the property.