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Warners Property Jargon Buster: What Are Missives?

Buying and selling a property can be a stressful time for people, especially if it’s something that you haven’t done before. Adding to the stress is the fact that conveyancing – the legal work that’s done after you’ve agreed the key parts of an offer for a place you’re buying or selling – often features confusing jargon.

To help with this, Warners is producing a series of ‘jargon busting’ articles to answer the questions we are often asked and explain, in plain English, what some of these conveyancing terms mean.

To kick things off, we look at a word you’ll hear a lot of once you have an offer accepted - ‘missives’.

What Are Missives?

Missives are a series of letters between the buying and selling solicitor which ultimately make up the contract for sale – it’s that simple.

The point at which the contract is concluded and agreed by both parties is called the ‘conclusion of missives’. It is only once missives have been concluded that there is a binding contract in place between buyer and seller. Because of this, both parties tend to be very keen to conclude missives as quickly as possible. The buyer will want certainty that their new home is in fact theirs, and the seller will want to know that the offer that they have accepted is confirmed.

This leads us to the next obvious question.

How Long Does it Take to Conclude Missives?

This is probably the most common question that any conveyancing solicitor will be asked and unfortunately, the answer here is less simple.

In an ideal world an offer could be submitted by a buyer, the seller would agree to everything and missives would promptly be concluded. In practise though, there are a number of things that can delay missives being concluded.

As a buyer, one of the first things that your solicitor will tell you to do once an offer has been accepted is to go and get your mortgage finalised. Unfortunately some lenders can be less than prompt in getting all of the mortgage paperwork to you. This is one of the reasons it can be a really good idea to use a mortgage adviser. A good adviser will have established relationships with major lenders, be familiar with their applications and processes, and be able to get everything finalised more quickly.

Another issue that can delay the conclusion of missives is that not everything in an offer is always acceptable to the seller. In practise most offers tend to be subject to the survey in the Home Report being accepted by the buyer’s lender. There can also be negotiation over things like the date of entry or ‘extras’ to be included in the sale like curtains and white goods.

On top of this, the seller’s solicitor will also have to provide proof that there is nothing preventing their client from selling the property, and no outstanding bills from the council or Statutory Notices on the property. Again, this means that you are relying on a third party (in this case the council) providing the necessary paperwork, and this can sometimes take a little time.

All of this means that a process which could, in theory, take a couple of days, more commonly takes a few weeks. As a buyer, the main thing that you can do to help the process along is to make sure your mortgage application is finalised as quickly as possible and that you get all of the relevant paperwork to your solicitor.

As a seller it’s important to find out early on where the Title Deeds are for the property that you are selling. If you don’t hold them yourself, the solicitor that you used to buy the property should be able to point you in the right direction as either they or your lender will have them.

We are always on hand here at Warners Solicitors & Estate Agents to answer any questions for those seeking advice on buying a property. You can get in touch by emailing or by calling 0131 662 4747. 

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