The Conveyancing Process
1. The first step is to find a solicitor or conveyancer and “instruct them” to undertake the conveyancing for you. Avoid using the estate agent’s recommended conveyancer as it will likely be a commission-based recommendation and may cost you more. Get a quote and use it to shop around for the best price and service. We are transparent with our charges and include on this website a ready-reckoner in order that you can see the costs involved in your proposed transaction at the start.
2. If we are appointed as your conveyancer we will then draw up a terms of engagement with you, setting out our charges and deposits required.
3. We will email the seller’s solicitor to confirm we are instructed and request a copy of the draft contract and any other details, such as the property’s title and the standard forms.
4. We will examine the draft contract and supporting documents and raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. We will send you the forms the seller has completed showing contents lists and general questions about the property. You will need to let us know if you have any queries or concerns. In particular we will check the tenure of your new home: is it leasehold or freehold? If leasehold, leases below 80 years are a problem, can be costly to extend and you need to have owned the property for 2 years before you are eligible to extend or buy the freehold. Leases under 60 years are best avoided at all cost.
5. Property searches. There are things you may not know about the property just from viewing it with estate agents or even getting a survey. We will do a set of legal searches to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of:
- Local authority searches: are there plans for a motorway in your new garden? How about radon gas? This costs between £70 and £160 depending on the Local Authority and usually takes 1-2 weeks, but can take up to 4 weeks.
- Mining Searches: are there any past mine workings and are there any shafts in the garden! This does arise from time to time in the North East coalfield.
- Checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry – these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership. Both are legally required to sell.
- Water authority searches – find out how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works. The water authority search will cost between £40 and £75. In rare cases an additional flood report may be required.
6. You will need to get your mortgage in place. You should also ensure you have the deposit available for the exchange date. We will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions with you.
7. 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 some mortgage companies might throw it in for free to attract your business.
8. You will want to have any other necessary surveys done. What sort of survey you choose will depend on your specific circumstances.
9. Before exchange of contracts can take place 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 it is in your interests to do so.
10. Signing the contract. Since receiving the draft contract from the seller’s solicitor, we will have been in correspondence with you about what is covered. Before signing the contract we will need to ensure:
- that all enquiries have been returned and are satisfactory;
- that fixtures and fittings included in the purchase are what you expected;
- a completion date has been agreed between the two parties, which is usually one to two weeks after exchange of contracts;
- that you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit into our account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange. You may want to negotiate on the size of the deposit, which is normally 10% of the value of the property. However even if you agree to 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.
11. We normally request that you attend our offices to sign contracts. We are happy to see you after your working day by appointment if this is more convenient for you. This is for us to ensure that the documents are fully explained to you by a Solicitor and that you do understand them. It also helps to enable us to comply with the later Land Registry application requirements by checking your photo identity on file and then acting as a witness to your signatures.
12. We 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 the contracts are identical, and then immediately sending them to one another in the post.
13. 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.
14. 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 owe the seller more if the deposit was less than 10%;
- the seller has to sell or you can sue them;
- the seller can no longer accept another offer (you no longer need to worry about being gazumped).
Between exchange and completion
15. We 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.
16. The seller will move out (although they may leave this to the day of completion).
17. You should organise your removals.
18. We will send you a statement showing the final figure to pay, which will need to be cleared into our bank account at least one day before completion.
On completion day
19. 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.
20. We will tie up some loose ends:
- Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf. This will be on our first quote letter and in our standard terms of business so you will know about the amount for the earliest stages.
- You will receive your legal documents about 20 days after completion after we have dealt with the Land Registry.
- Send a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender, who will hold them until you pay your loan off.
- Notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold.
- Give you an itemised bill.
21. You may want to collect from ourselves all paperwork from the purchase of your new home, including any gas or electric certificate, any building regulations certificates etc. to file away and keep safe for when you move again.
Enjoy your new home!