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When you are buying or selling a property, you will need someone to manage the legal side of the process. This is called the conveyancing process. It is usual to use a conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer to manage the process of conveyancing for you. Most first-time buyers do not know what to expect from […]
18 November 2022
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When you are buying or selling a property, you will need someone to manage the legal side of the process. This is called the conveyancing process. It is usual to use a conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer to manage the process of conveyancing for you. Most first-time buyers do not know what to expect from the conveyancing process, so we’ve broken it down in this in-depth guide.
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Conveyancing is the legal process that is undertaken for any property transaction. It is possible to use the same conveyancer if you are buying and selling at the same time. The process involves the legal transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer.
A conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer usually undertakes the legal work for you. It is a good idea to choose a conveyancer or solicitor early on in your search so that you are ready with their details when you are ready to make an offer. This means the property can be taken off the market by the estate agent. It is important to choose the right solicitor or conveyancer for you, so remember to ask if their quote is all inclusive so you don’t get any costly surprises and what their caseload is like, as this can influence the time taken to complete your purchase. Online conveyancing can be cheaper and can also speed up elements of the process.
Once you have chosen your conveyancer, you will receive a draft contract from them that you will need to sign.
The difference between a licensed conveyancer and a solicitor is that a solicitor can deal with more complex legal issues and is usually more expensive. It is common in the UK for people to use a licensed conveyancer for property transactions, although it is down to personal choice.
The conveyancing process can take as little as 4-6 weeks or it can take 6 months or more. As a rule of thumb, allow at least 3 months and be flexible around timescales. How long it takes depends on many factors, such as how many parties are in the chain or transaction. If you are a first-time buyer purchasing from a couple who are emigrating, the chain is small, but in other chains, there are multiple buyers and sellers. Another thing that can affect how long conveyancing takes is the caseload of the conveyancer, so this is worth checking before you instruct them, to ensure they are able to manage your caseload efficiently.
Conveyancing costs vary, but on average expect to pay around £1000-£2000. One thing it is worth checking is if the conveyancing quote is all-inclusive and additional costs won’t be added on at the end of the process.
Once you agree to a purchase price with the seller and receive your memorandum of sale from the estate agent, the agent will share your solicitor’s details with the seller’s solicitor and vice versa. The seller’s conveyancer will send your legal team the contract pack, property information form and the fixtures and fittings form. Your conveyancer will send you these forms to check over, but they will also check them. At this stage, your conveyancer will ask you for details of your mortgage lender and will receive a copy of your mortgage offer.
At the same time as instructing a conveyancer, it is a good idea to instruct your surveyor. Once you have the survey, you will be able to raise any concerns via the conveyancing process.
During the entire legal process, until the exchange of contracts, either you or the seller is able to pull out of the process without any legal penalty.
Your conveyancer will carry out searches to make sure there is nothing relating to the property that you need to be aware of. This includes local, environmental, mining and drainage searches. An example of things that can come back include information about proximity to former mining shafts and flood risk information. The searches usually take around 4 weeks to complete, however, if queries are raised as a result, this can delay the purchase process as your solicitor will have to raise any queries with the seller’s solicitor and await satisfactory responses. The cost of these searches is additional to your conveyancer fees, but many include them in their quote.
Caveat Emptor makes it the responsibility of the buyer to reasonably examine a property before buying. This means that is it not the seller’s responsibility to disclose any issues about the property and although the seller completes are property information form, the information on these documents is limited and there is no guarantee the seller will add everything they are aware of as they might put you off the purchase, so a good visual inspection, asking of questions and a survey is always recommended.
Once your conveyancer receives all of the searches back they will create a property report for you, which informs you of the contents of the contract pack, pre-contract enquiries, the result of the searches and the mortgage offer. This is your opportunity to ask questions on anything that is unclear.
Your mortgage application should now progress, with the lender instructing a valuer to value the property. This is not a survey and only provides assurance to the lender of the valuation of the property. It is recommended to get at least a Level 2 RICS survey on any property that is not a new build. For a new build property, a snagging survey can be commissioned instead. If there are any issues with the valuation or survey at this stage, you will need to address them with the lender or the seller. Any negotiation following a survey is usually done via the estate agent or conveyancer. If there are any issues with the valuation, you will have to deal directly with the lender and/or the seller. For example, in the event of a down valuation, where the property is worth less than you have offered, there may be the option to appeal the valuation or you may need to renegotiate the price paid. A mortgage application usually takes 4-6 weeks.
Once all enquiries are finalised you can now work with your conveyancer to arrange a completion date. Your conveyancer will then liaise with the seller’s solicitor to agree to a date.
The conveyancer will send you the final completion statement, transfer deed and mortgage deed to agree and sign. You will now know exactly how much money you need to send over to your solicitor ahead of completion to cover the deposit, stamp duty and conveyancing fees. Make sure you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit into your solicitor’s account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange.
The seller’s solicitor will be sent the signed transfer deed, contracts will be exchanged and the deposit sent to the seller’s solicitor. Once you have exchanged contracts you are in a legally binding agreement and will lose your deposit if you pull out. Before the exchange, the completion date can be moved, so be careful of booking removals before you have an agreed date.
Your conveyancer will now lodge an interest in the property, which will mean that the deeds to the property are frozen for 30 working days to allow payment and transfer of the deeds into your name. Now is a good time to make sure you have insurance for the property if you have not already done so. Also, you can now plan your move. It usually takes 1-2 weeks between exchange and completion, although it can be done on the same day if necessary.
This is the day the property ownership transfers to you. Your conveyancer will obtain the money from your lender and will pay the remaining balance and receive the transferred deed. The seller or estate agent acting upon their behalf, will not release the keys to the property until funds are received, so it is wise not to expect completion too early in the day.
While you are settling into your new home, your conveyancer will complete the payment of any stamp duty land tax and send your legal documents to HM Land Registry to register you as the owner of the property. They will also notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold. HM Land Registry will send the title deeds to your conveyancer and these will be passed onto your mortgage lender.
Average Conveyancing Process Timeline
Mortgage application: 4-6 weeks
Draft contract, enquiries: 4-8 weeks
Exchange to completion: 1-2 weeks
Total time from the offer being accepted to completion: 12-20 weeks on average
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Propertyable today. We’d love to hear from our community. For more information about buying a house as a first-time buyer, follow this link to learn more.
From mortgages and insurance to viewings, offers, exchange and completion, our Buyers’ Guide will take you through everything, step by step, from start to finish.
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