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The Conveyancing Process Explained

Follow our simple guide to understanding the conveyancing Process

The following is our general guide to the conveyancing procedure when buying a property. If you are new to conveyancing or have any questions about any specific issue please contact us and we will arrange for one of our solicitors to call you and they can help you through the conveyancing process.

First Steps

1.Firstly  you need to “instruct” a conveyancer  to take on your purchase/sale. Use the helpful tools on this site to find the best conveyancer for you.      

2. Your conveyancer of choice will then draw up a draft contract , also known as terms of engagement, setting out their charges and deposits required.

3. Your conveyancer will write to your seller’s solicitor to confirm they are also instructed and request a copy of the draft contract plus any other details, such as the title  deeds and other standard forms.

Legal Work

Your conveyancer will examine the draft contract and supporting documents and raise enquiries with the seller’s conveyancer. You must to go through the forms the seller has completed and let the solicitor know if you have any queries or concerns. Check the tenure of your new home: is it leasehold or freehold? If  it is leasehold, you must check the length of the lease yourself. Leases below 80 are problematic and can be costly to extend. You need to have owned the property for 2 years before you are eligible to do so. It is best to avoid leases of under 60 years.

Property searches.  The conveyancer will do a set of legal searches to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of. Some searches will be recommended by the solicitor for all purchases and others will be required by the mortgage lender to protect them from any liabilities that the property may have. We have grouped these searches into a comprehensive search pack which covers England and Wales for a single all inclusive price which includes:

  • Local authority searches: This is to search the local area for any things such as plans for a motorway being built through your back garden and other such plans that will affect the value or condition of your property.  This costs between £70 and £400 depending on the Local Authority and usually takes 1-2 weeks, but can take up to 6 weeks
  • Checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry– these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership. The title register check costs £3 and the title plan check costs £3. Both are legally required to sell.
  • Checking flood risk – this can also done at the Land Registry. If you are getting an Environmental Search you might not need to get this particular search as it may be included.
  • Water authority searches – this investigates how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works. This will cost between £50 and £75.
  • Chancel repair search – Ensures there are no potential leftover medieval liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs. This is a necessity and costs £18. You may choose to take out Chancel repair insurance instead for £20 or so. The laws around Chancel repair changed in October 2013 so now the onus is on the Church to establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry.
  • Environmental Search – this report is nearly always made on property transactions. It is provided by either Landmark or Groundsure.  Depending which product your solicitor usually uses, the report will give information about contaminated land in or around the property, landfill sites, former and current industry, detailed flooding predictions, radon gas hazard, ground stability issues, and other related information.  This costs around £50 to £60 including VAT.
  • Optional and location specific searches – sometimes extra searches are required or recommended depending on the location or type of property or due to particular concerns raised by the buyer.  These could include:
    • Tin Mining searches in Cornwall
    • Mining searches in various parts of the UK and Cheshire Brine searches
    • Additional Local Authority Questions such as Public Paths, Pipelines, Noise Abatement Zones, Common Land, etc.
Your Mortgage

Ideally your mortgage offer will have been in place before an offer was made on the property. You must also ensure you have the financing available for a mortgage deposit. Your conveyancer will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions.

You will need to get a mortgage valuation. This is carried out on behalf of the mortgage company so they know that the property provides sufficient security for the loan. You normally have to pay for it, but a mortgage company might include it in the fee to attract business

You may have any other necessary surveys done depending on your specific circumstances.

Before exchange of contracts is made, your lender will require you to get Buildings Insurance for your new home. You are responsible for the property as soon as contracts have been exchanged so this is essential.

Signing Contracts

After receiving the draft contract from the sellers solicitor, your solicitor will have have been communicate with you about what is involved. Before you sign, your solicitor will need to ensure:

  • All enquiries have been returned satisfactorily .
  • All the fixtures and fittings included, are what was agreed.
  • A completion date has been agreed between both parties. This is usually 4 to 12 weeks after exchange of contracts
  • That you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit into your solicitors account so that it clears in time for exchange. Different mortgages require a different percentage of mortgage as a deposit. Though even if you pay less than 10% you are still liable for 10% of the value of the property if you later pull out of the agreement. Therefore if you pay a 5% deposit and pull out of buying the property you will not only lose your deposit but also legally owe an additional 5% of the value of the property.
Exchanging Contracts

You and the buyer/seller will agree on a date and time to exchange contracts at any time on any given day

Your conveyancer will exchange contracts for you. This is usually done by both solicitors/conveyancers reading out the contracts over the phone (which is recorded) to make sure they are identical,  then immediately sending them to one another in the post.

If you are in a chain your solicitor/conveyancer will do the same thing, but will only release it if the other people in the chain are all happy to go ahead. This means if one person pulls out or delays, then everyone in the chain gets held up.

Once you have exchanged contracts you will be in a legally binding contract to buy the property with a fixed date for moving. This means that:

  • If you do not complete the purchase, you will lose your deposit and if the deposit was less than 10% you will owe the seller more.
  • the seller has to sell or you can sue them
  • the seller can no longer accept another offer (you do not need to worry about being gazumped)
Between Exchange and Completion

Your solicitor will lodge an interest in the property which will mean that the deeds to the property are frozen for 30 working days to allow you to pay the seller and lodge your application to the Land Registry to transfer the deeds into your name.

The solicitor will send you a statement showing the final figure to pay, which will need to be cleared into your solicitor’s bank account at least one day before completion.

On completion day

Completion is normally set around midday on the specified date although in practice takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms that they have received all the money that is due. Once this happens the seller should drop the keys at the estate agents for your collection. You can then move in.

After Completion

Your solicitor will tie up some loose ends:

  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf.
  • You will receive your legal documents about 20 days after completion after your solicitor has sent them to the Land Registry
  • Send a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender, where they stay until you pay your loan off
  • Notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold
  • Send you a bill.

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