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Conveyancing process explained: for buyers

So what is involved? How long does it all take?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring home ownership from a seller to a buyer.

It starts when your offer on a house/flat is accepted and finishes when you receive the keys, save for a few loose ends that are tied up afterwards.

Understanding what is involved will help ensure that there are fewer surprises along the way for both parties.

  • Send you a letter confirming who will be handling your conveyancing, our fees, any deposits/payments required, and our terms and conditions. There will be some forms to sign and you will need to provide us with two forms of identification to confirm who you are
  • Write to your seller’s solicitor to confirm that we are acting for you, and to request a copy of the draft contract and any other details, such as the property’s title and the standard forms
  • Once the draft contract has been sent to us, we will examine it. Thereafter, we will raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. It will be necessary for you to go through the forms that the seller has completed and let us know if you have any queries/concerns. Please be aware that your conveyancer will not have visited the property, so will be relying on you to raise any queries with regards to its condition, the boundaries, or what is to be included in the sale
  • Next, we will undertake 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. These searches include:
    • Local authority searches: Are there plans for a new housing development at the end of your new garden? What about radon gas? This usually takes 2-3 weeks, but can take up to 6 weeks
    • Water, drainage, and environmental searches: Find out how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works. In rare cases, an additional flood report may be required
    • Land Registry priority search: This search checks the ‘title register’. This is the legal document proving the seller’s ownership. We will also check the ‘title plan’, a map produced by the Land Registry to record the general position of the boundaries of a registered title
    • A bankruptcy search will be a prerequisite to any mortgage offer and must be carried out against each person taking out the mortgage. It provides confirmation to mortgage lenders that you have not been declared bankrupt
    • A ‘Chancel Repair Search’ is now very rare but ensures that there are no potential liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs. 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

You will need to get your mortgage in place. This will include ensuring that you have the finances available for a mortgage deposit. We will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions.

You will need to get a mortgage valuation. This is normally arranged by and carried out on behalf of the mortgage company so they know that the property provides sufficient security for the loan.

You may wish to have a structural survey done. This is an additional cost on top of the mortgage valuation if you have any concerns about the state of the property. You will need to arrange this with your mortgage company prior to the mortgage valuation so that both elements can be completed by the surveyor at the same time.

Prior to exchange of contracts taking place, your lender will require you to get buildings insurance for your new home and provide us with proof which we will pass on to your lender. You are responsible for the property as soon as contracts have been exchanged so it is in your interests to do so.

Your conveyancer will have been in correspondence with you about what is covered in the contract and will provide you with a final report outlining all the findings and elements of which you need to be aware. 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
  • That your deposit has been transferred into our account and is cleared in time for exchange
  • It is recommended that you visit the property with the estate agent together with the fixtures and fittings inventory list to ensure that everything you paid for is still there and that the property not been damaged
  • Once you are happy, we will agree a date and time to exchange contracts with the seller’s solicitors and then exchange contracts for you. This is done over the phone with the seller’s solicitors to ensure that the contracts are identical. These are then sent out immediately to one another in the post
  • If you are in a chain, we will do the same with the purchaser of your property but will only release it if 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 is 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 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 on the property
  • You should organise moving so that you are packed and ready to go on the day of completion
  • We will send you a completion statement showing the final figure to pay. This will need to be cleared into our bank account at least one working day before the date of completion

Completion is normally around midday on the specified date, although in practice, it will take 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 agent for your collection. You can then move in.

We will tie up all the registrations and payments including:

  • Paying Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf
  • Sending you your legal documents once they have been registered and returned from the Land Registry. This process can take several weeks as we rely on the Land Registry to complete this
  • Sending a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender, who will hold them until you pay your loan off
  • Notifying the freeholder if the property is leasehold

We would highly recommend that you keep all the paperwork from your purchase to file away and keep safe for when you move again.

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