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Sally Cottam | Jan 20th, 2020

What is conveyancing?

For those looking to buy their first home, the conveyancing process can be overwhelming. There is a lot to organise and co-ordinate, including legal matters, financial arrangements and regulations to comply with. Our experience and knowledge has enabled us to streamline the conveyancing process so that all the above matters are dealt with smoothly and quickly.

To help you understand how it works, our conveyancing experts have answered the most common questions when buying or selling a property. Simply browse the guide below and you’ll understand more about what happens when selling or buying a house. 

What is conveyancing?

Choosing a conveyancer

The cost of conveyancing

The timescales of conveyancing

What is conveyancing?

What is the definition of the conveyancing process?

We define conveyancing as the legal transfer of property from one owner to another. The key stages are exchange of contracts when everyone knows the transaction will proceed and completion when everyone moves.

There is a lot of legal and administrative work to do before we can exchange contracts and complete.  While the conveyancing process is fairly similar for each transaction, each transaction will be different. So while all the conveyancing solicitors in the chain carry out those legal and administrative checks,  it can be quite stressful.

If you are obtaining a mortgage, a conveyancing solicitor acts on behalf of the buyer and the lender. All the lender’s conditions in the mortgage offer must be dealt with before funds can be requested from them. We therefore urge buyers to check their mortgage offer and ensure any conditions are dealt with as soon as possible. 

What is the usual conveyancing process when buying a house?

Every house purchase is different in its own way and often comes with its own challenges. The typical conveyancing process is as follows:

Instruct a conveyancing solicitor

Step 1 – Instruct a solicitor

As soon as you decide to sell or purchase a property you should instruct a conveyancer to help you sell or buy your house.  That way, once you find a buyer or a property to purchase, they will be in a position to proceed straight away. They’ll open a file, send out their initial client care pack, set out charges and confirm all the essential information they need.  

Step 2 – Enquiries and searches

Your solicitor will receive a contract and copies of the legal title. They will then raise enquiries to clarify points and check all is in order e.g request planning permission for alterations, check necessary rights are in place.

Searches will then be carried out to check there are no adverse matters that will affect the enjoyment of the property or affect your lender’s decision to lend on the property.  Some searches are essential, whilst others are optional. In some cases, a certain search may be required as a condition by your mortgage lender.

Step 3 – Securing your mortgage

You will then apply for a mortgage. It is essential your lender is provided with all information they request so that when your conveyancing solicitor confirms information to them, it all ties up and doesn’t cause the lender to reconsider their offer. For example, the source of the deposit may be called into question.

Your lender will carry out a valuation of the property, for their benefit. This is to ensure it is worth the agreed sum and that they can secure your mortgage against it. You can instruct a surveyor to carry out a homebuyer’s survey, which will involve more thorough checks.

The lender will usually instruct your conveyancer to act for them also and they will have to carry out certain checks on their behalf and comply with specific conditions which will be referred to in their offer. 

Your conveyancer will need your help in dealing with the conditions as they may require action on your part, e.g. to provide information/documentation. All conditions must be dealt with before the lender will release funds.

Step 4 – Signing contracts

In readiness for exchange of contracts, your conveyancer will send you a copy of key documents. These will likely include:

  • The Sellers Property Information Form
  • Fixtures, Fittings and Contents form
  • Title Information Document and Plan
  • A report confirming key points about the property and the contract
  • The Mortgage Deed and transfer for signing

Once enquiries have been satisfactorily answered and anti-money laundering checks completed, they will also request your deposit as this will be paid on exchange of contracts.

Step 5 – Exchanging contracts

Once all conveyancers in the chain have their searches and finances in place, replies to enquiries, signed documents and funds, all parties can agree a mutually convenient completion date and exchange contracts.

Step 6 – Completion 

Exchange of contracts is the penultimate stage in the conveyancing process

Between exchange of contracts and completion, your conveyancer will make arrangements to complete e.g. arrange funds and final searches. Funds will be transferred on the day of completion and the time of day will typically depend on the number of people in the chain. This could be anything between 10.30am and 5pm! Keys are then usually picked up at the estate agents.

Following completion your conveyancer will deal with the payment of Stamp Duty Land Tax and the registration of your ownership.

Choosing a conveyancer

How do I choose a solicitor for conveyancing?

You should appoint a conveyancing firm that is highly experienced and recommended by their former clients. 

A good way to check this is by looking at testimonial’s and reviews. Home Property Lawyers offer conveyancing services nationwide. Because there is no need to meet your conveyancer in person, the location of the conveyancer’s office is not often a factor for clients. 

However, face to face meetings can be arranged if you prefer, together with conference calls and meetings by skype.

What does a conveyancing solicitor do?

Your conveyancer will carry out a range of administrative and legal work to help your house purchase go smoothly. Their responsibilities include: 

  • Checking the house title and organising searches for the property
  • Understanding your requirements and timescales
  • Working with the seller’s solicitors to progress the transaction
  • Making enquiries on the buyer’s behalf to iron out any outstanding issues
  • Checking the mortgage offer and dealing with special conditions
  • Reporting to you and providing key information and documents
  • Arranging dates for exchange of contracts and completion
  • Preparing for completion
  • Preparing a financial statement so you know what funds your conveyancer needs for exchange and completion
  • Submitting a tax return and transferring funds for the required stamp duty
  • Registering your ownership with the land registry

The cost of conveyancing

How much does conveyancing cost?

The length of the conveyancing process

The cost of residential conveyancing services varies. Firstly, there will be the conveyancers legal fee, plus VAT. This will vary for example, depending on the price of the property and whether the property is freehold or leasehold. Secondly there will be disbursements, payments to third parties e.g. searches, SDLT, Land Registry fee.

Quotes can be requested to enable you to budget. It is important when comparing quotes you are comparing apples with apples. Not all firms set quotes out in the same way. Most firms will provide a list of other fees which may be payable depending on whether you require any other services during the transaction.

When do you pay conveyancing fees?

Most conveyancers will request funds to cover the cost of searches. This will be in the region of £300 - £400.  

A deposit for your conveyancing fees meanwhile may be requested and the balance paid in time to enable completion to take place. 

If exchange and completion are close together, you may be requested to pay the complete balance, including the deposit, in readiness for exchange of contracts.

What searches are involved in conveyancing?

Your conveyancer will outline the various searches that are mandatory and those which they recommend specifically for you. The following searches are mandatory:

  • Local authority – This will provide you with information on things like planning issues, road works and railway proximity, which may affect your use and enjoyment of the property.
  • Water and drainage – This search reveals matters such as whether the property is connected to public sewers and mains drainage.
  • Environmental – This will confirm lots of useful information including whether the land is contaminated and prone to flooding.

Property searches in the local area are part of the conveyancing process

Your conveyancer may also recommend other searches. For example:

  • Coal mining – this will confirm whether the property is affected by historic, existing or future coal mining activity.
  • Chancel Repair Liability - this will identify whether you are liable to contribute towards the maintenance of your local church after purchasing a certain piece of land.

The timescales of conveyancing

How long does conveyancing take on average?

On average, the conveyancing process takes 2-3 months between instructing a conveyancer and completion of the purchase. It’s important to note however that the length of the process depends on individual circumstances and the number of people involved in the chain.

There are often factors at play that are out of you and your conveyancer’s control. For example, there may be a lengthy onward chain of buyers that could slow the process down significantly. For example, one party in the chain may have trouble obtaining a mortgage, whilst another party may have an adverse survey and want further investigations before proceeding.

At Home Property Lawyers we have seen transactions completed within days, but some with more complexities and many people in the chain can take months.

Why does conveyancing take so long?

If you’ve just had an offer accepted on a house, you’ll naturally be wondering how quickly conveyancing can be done. You’ll no doubt be excited to get the keys and start the next chapter of your life and frustrated by anything that delays this.

As the purchase of a house is such a significant financial undertaking for all involved, there is a lot of administrative and legal work for conveyancers to complete prior to completion. On top of this, there are times when things may appear to go quiet while people in the chain progress their transaction and there may be delays which are out of your conveyancer’s control.

In addition to your conveyancer, other third parties such as the seller, mortgage lenders, the seller’s solicitors and surveyors will be involved in the transaction.

Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, the conveyancing process can also be delayed significantly by other external factors. These include:

  • A lengthy “chain” of buyers who are all selling and buying different properties and have different circumstances
  • Problems with a property title, such as missing documents (e.g a lack of necessary planning permissions)
  • Adverse search or survey results, which may mean further investigations or construction work are required
  • People simply changing their minds about moving home

What is a typical conveyancing timeline?

The timeline of your own house purchase may differ from the below but as a general rule of thumb, here’s an example timeline of the conveyancing process.

Weeks 1 and 2 – The buyer’s offer is accepted, and a conveyancer is instructed to oversee the purchase. The solicitor starts work by obtaining the draft contract pack from the seller’s representatives and raises pre-contract enquiries. Meanwhile, the buyer applies for their mortgage.

Weeks 3 and 4 – Searches are requested by the conveyancer. The seller’s solicitor advises on the contract enquiries. The buyer’s conveyancer then reviews all pre-contract enquiries and the result of searches.  Most lenders will issue an offer within 4 weeks of application as long as everything is to their satisfaction.

Weeks 5 and 6 –A property report and documents to sign will be sent to you.  Once the conveyancer can confirm all is in order and the buyer is happy to proceed, the conveyancer can discuss completion dates and establish whether other parties in the chain are ready to exchange contracts.

Getting the keys upon completion

Weeks 7 and 8 – Once a completion date is agreed between all parties and all parties’ conveyancers are ready, contracts are formally exchanged. This means both the buyer and seller are then legally committed to proceed.  While you arrange your removals, your conveyancer will prepare for completion.

Weeks 9 and 10 – Your conveyancer will send the funds to complete to the seller’s conveyancer. If you have a related sale, your conveyancer will need their funds first. The seller will vacate their property by the agreed time on completion day, which is usually around lunchtime. Your conveyancer will then deal with post completion formalities such as payment of SDLT and registration of your ownership.

How can I speed up conveyancing?

Your solicitor will progress your transaction as efficiently as possible. However, you will need to provide input at various stages of the process. If you are prompt to respond to your conveyancer’s requests, you can significantly speed up the conveyancing process.  For example:

  1. Provide acceptable evidence of your ID promptly.
  2. Provide acceptable evidence of funds if requested.
  3. Deal with your lender’s special conditions promptly. They won’t release funds until special conditions are dealt with.
  4. Sign documents in accordance with your conveyancer’s instructions.
  5. Provide funds and documents when requested.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Typically, searches are completed quickly. If the only thing holding up exchange of contracts is a search, we can consider search delay insurance. Subject to the policy conditions it covers the impact of adverse entries, which are revealed on the search.

If you have any further questions about the conveyancing process, please contact our friendly team. They’d be delighted to advise you on your purchase and provide a quote for our conveyancing services.

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