Guide to conveyancing

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the process of transferring the ownership of a property (or a piece of land) from one person (or persons) to another (or others). Typically it involves the preparation of legal documents, carrying out searches, dealing with the Land Registry and transferring money.

Who needs conveyancing?

If you are buying or selling a house (or both), you will require the services of a conveyancing solicitor.

Who carries out conveyancing?

You’ll need a conveyancing solicitor who is qualified to handle the various legal matters to do with conveyancing.

What are the steps to conveyancing?

The steps to conveyancing may vary depending on whether you are buying or selling a property, and whether the property is freehold or leasehold. However, a general overview of the steps is as follows.

Instruct a conveyancing solicitor

Use a conveyancer to act on your behalf and handle the legal work. You should compare quotes and reviews from different firms before choosing one.

Draft contract and raising enquiries

The seller’s conveyancer will prepare a draft contract and send it to the buyer’s conveyancer, along with the title deeds, property information form, fittings and contents form, and any other relevant documents. The buyer’s conveyancer will check these documents and raise any questions or issues with the seller’s conveyancer.

Arranging a property survey

The buyer would usually arrange for a surveyor to inspect the property and report on its condition, value, and any defects or problems. There are different types of surveys available, ranging from basic to comprehensive. The buyer should choose a survey that suits their needs and budget. Naturally an older or more complicated property may require a more in depth survey to uncover potential problems.

Conducting property searches

The buyer’s conveyancer will carry out various searches with local authorities, utility companies, environmental agencies, and other bodies to find out more information about the property and its surroundings. These searches may reveal any planning issues, flood risks, drainage problems, restrictive covenants, or other matters that may affect the buyer’s decision or rights.

Conveyancing for your mortgage

If the buyer is taking out a mortgage to finance the purchase, they will need to apply for a mortgage offer from a lender and provide all the necessary documents and information. The buyer’s conveyancer will also liaise with the lender and ensure that they have all the details they need to proceed with the loan.

Arrange buildings insurance

The buyer should arrange for buildings insurance to cover the property from the date of exchange of contracts, as this is when they become legally responsible for it. The seller should also keep their buildings insurance in place until completion. Although it’s not a legal requirement, naturally it’s something you should take out and mortgage lenders will insist on it.

Signing contracts

Once both parties are satisfied with the contract and supporting documents, they will sign their copies of the contract and agree on a completion date. The completion date is usually a few weeks after exchange of contracts, but it can be sooner or later depending on the circumstances.

Exchanging contracts

This is when both parties swap their signed contracts through their conveyancers and pay a deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price). This is also when the transaction becomes legally binding and neither party can back out without facing penalties.

Between exchange and completion

During this period, both parties will prepare for completion by finalising their arrangements for moving out or in, transferring utilities, notifying relevant parties of their change of address, etc. The buyer’s conveyancer will also draft a transfer deed and send it to the seller’s conveyancer for approval and signature. The seller’s conveyancer will also obtain a settlement figure from the seller’s mortgage lender (if applicable) and send it to the buyer’s conveyancer.

Completion day

This is when the buyer pays the remaining balance of the purchase price to the seller’s conveyancer and receives the keys to the property. The seller must vacate the property by an agreed time and hand over the keys, usually through the estate agent. The seller’s conveyancer will use the proceeds of sale to repay any existing mortgage on the property and pay any fees or costs due to them or other parties. The buyer’s conveyancer will register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry and pay any stamp duty due (if applicable).

After completion

Both parties should receive confirmation from their conveyancers that everything has been done and settled. The buyer should also receive copies of all relevant documents, such as the title deeds, transfer deed, mortgage deed, etc. The seller should also receive confirmation that their mortgage has been paid off (if applicable) and that they have no further liability for the property.

These steps may take several weeks or months to complete depending on various factors such as availability of documents, speed of communication, complexity of issues, etc. It is important to keep in touch with your conveyancer throughout the process and provide them with any information or documents they request as soon as possible. You should also be prepared for any delays or problems that may arise along the way and be flexible with your plans if necessary.

How much does conveyancing cost?

Conveyancing costs vary depending on a variety of factors such as (but not limited to) the complexity of the transaction, the value of the property and your location. Most people will pay in the region of £1,000 to £2,000. The best way to know how much it will cost for your circumstances is to compare quotes.

How long does conveyancing take?

Usually around 3 – 4 months. It is possible to do it quicker in some cases. Equally, complex transactions or delays in the process can cause the process to go on for longer.

So that gives you a basic outline of the process and roughly what to expect as part of the process of buying or selling a house. Although your conveyancer will guide you through the process, it’s worth reading up on some of the more complicated aspects to deepen your knowledge of the process.

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