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EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS
of contracts - This is where legally binding contracts are signed
and exchanged between seller and purchaser. On exchange of contracts
the vendor (seller) is legally obliged
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EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS IN THE UK
One of the most critical stages in the long process of house buying and selling is the point at which the buyer's solicitor or conveyancer sends the seller's solicitor or conveyancer an agreed deposit (usually about 10 percent of the purchase price) and a copy of the contract signed by the buyer.
When the seller's representative receives these, he sends the buyer's representative the copy of the contract signed by the seller. This is the exchange. Sale conditions frequently provide that it takes place when the copy signed by the seller is put in the post.
When both contracts have been exchanged, the deal between buyer and seller is legally binding. Until that moment, either side can decide to withdraw from the transaction, no matter what oral or, even written promises, had been given.
A written promise to exchange contracts, might, however, give a claim for damages if broken.
A recent development with the problem of dealing with buyers and sellers engaged in a chain of deals, is for each representative to agree by telephone to hold the contract signed by his client to the order of the other. This is then treated as equivalent to actual exchange, but actual exchange should follow. There are dangers in the procedure which should only be used if essential.
In times of property shortage, when prices are rapidly rising, a house buyer may commit himself in principle to buying a property at an agreed price and then find the seller refuses to go ahead with the sale unless the price is increased. He may threaten to sell elsewhere.
Such a breach of their agreement -- popularly known as gazumping - is morally wrong but not illegal. A legal obligation to sell is made only when signed contracts have been exchanged.
The buyer can do little to prevent gazumping, even though he may have spent money on initial legal costs. If he cannot agree with the seller on a price he must drop the transaction.
The best protection against being gazumped is to try an ensure that when an offer is made, there is no unnecessary delay before contracts are exchanged and the seller is bound to sell at the agreed price.
When property for sale is plentiful and there is a shortage of buyers, the seller may be gazumped by a prospective buyer.
After an initial agreement has been reached, but before a binding contract has been made, the buyer may demand a reduction in price before proceeding with the purchase.