The property conveyancing process can be the trickiest part of buying a home. Often this is the stage where deals fall apart. Here’s what you need to know.
You need a top quality solicitor
As a buyer you’re only as effective as your solicitor so it’s strongly advised to pick a good one, not just the cheapest! Do your research and ask family and friends for a recommendation.
If you’re a first time buyer, much of the conveyancing process will be completely new to you. Even if you’ve bought a home previously it may still feel over-complicated and a lot of the documentation can be difficult to digest.
What is conveyancing?
Conveyancing, comes from the word ‘convey’ and is the name of the process where the property is transferred from one owner to another.
Who carries out the conveyancing?
Usually a buyer or a seller would ask a solicitor (or licensed conveyancer) to carry out the process on their behalf. It’s possible to do it yourself but we’d strongly advise against it. It’s often a very complex process and is often best left to the professionals. This will also mean you’re covered by their professional indemnity insurance should anything be missed.
What is the conveyancing process?
The steps may not always follow in this exact order but, generally speaking, this will help you understand how the process works as a whole:
What do you need to do at the start of your property search?
- Research and choose a solicitor to act on your behalf when an offer has been agreed – no need to sign anything just yet
- Find a good Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) to guide you through your mortgage options. If you can get an agreement in principle this will seriously benefit you
- Decide on your preferred timeline for moving
Making an offer
Great news, you’ve found a property and your offer has been accepted. What now?
- Inform the agent of what solicitor you’ll be using. You should also let the solicitor know and sign their terms of engagement
- Advise your IFA of the property you’ve found and the price agreed so they can start the mortgage application process
- The agent will prepare a memorandum of sale which will give details of the property, the agreed price, any special terms, the names of the parties and the details of their solicitors
Legal Stage One
Before you exchange contracts:
- Your solicitor contacts the seller’s solicitor
- You or your mortgage company choose a surveyor (or valuer) and instruct them to carry out a survey/valuation on the property.
- Your solicitor receives and negotiates the draft contract
- Your solicitor makes pre-contract enquiries
- Your solicitor sends you a property information form as well as a fixtures, fittings and contents form which has been completed by the seller for you to check
- You solicitor applies to the council for the local searches, checks the paperwork and raises enquiries to the seller’s solicitor:
- Local authority searches
- Environmental searches
- Preliminary enquiries
- Planning constraints and permissions
- Rights of way
- Restrictive covenants
- Insurance policies and guarantees
- Fixtures, fittings and contents list
- Leasehold information (where relevant)
- Additional enquiries
- The contract is negotiated and agreed
- A completion date is set
- You receive your formal mortgage offer in writing
- Your solicitor summarises the information gathered above into a ‘Report on Title’ for you to read
Legal Stage Two
This is the stage where the exchange of contracts takes place:
- Your solicitor will have provided you with the mortgage deed and Deed of Transfer to sign along with their earlier report. These will be sent to the seller’s solicitor – contracts will be deemed to have been exchanged
- Your deposit, typically 10%, is sent to the seller’s solicitor to hold on trust pending completion
- Your solicitor sends you a completion statement detailing all the monies that will be due on completion. This includes:
- Any mortgage borrowing or cash to cover the 90% balance (price minus 10% deposit)
- Money to cover legal costs and search fees
- Money to cover any Land Registry fees and other disbursements
- Funds to cover any Stamp Duty Land Tax that is due.
- Your solicitor carries out a final set of checks and enquiries
Legal Stage Three
This is the completion stage:
- Your solicitor draws down any mortgage and transfers the balance of the property price to the seller’s solicitor
- Your solicitor receives all of the final paperwork such as the title deeds and transfer documents. They can then forward these to you or you can ask them to be held on file for when you come to sell your property. If you are taking a mortgage then the mortgage company will probably request to hold them
- The completion monies you paid to your solicitor will be used to pay for all fees and costs incurred in the process. This includes any Stamp Duty Land Tax and Land Registry fees as well as any fees and costs outstanding to your solicitor
- Your solicitor will register your ownership of the property with the Land Registry
- Your solicitor will also confirm to your mortgage company and freeholder (where relevant) that completion has occurred.
Crack open the champagne, you have a new home!
This process can be stressful and laborious. This is why its really important to have a good, proactive solicitor to keep things moving and keep you up to date on progress. It will save you time, money and stress and reduce the risk of the deal falling through and you incurring abortive legal fees with nothing to show for it.
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