Once your offer has been accepted, it’s time to get the ball rolling on legally transferring ownership – also known as the process of conveyancing. Here are the steps your conveyancing solicitor will usually go through…
(If you run into any legal jargon, you can check out our conveyancing jargon buster to get some clarity)
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The Conveyancing Process:
• Complete your details
First off, your estate agents will send a copy of the Memorandum of Sale, which has all the key info about the property, such as the amount offered, the name of the sellers and buyers and details of their solicitors. You will be asked by your solicitor to provide ID such as a passport or driving licence, plus proof of residence such as a bank statement or utility bill.
• If you’re buying, ensure you have a mortgage in place
If you have a mortgage offer in principle (a statement to say how much you can borrow) now is the time to contact your lender. Tell them that you have made an offer, the amount and pass on the property details. For more information read our guide to the mortgage process.
• Provide instructions
You will be asked by your conveyancing solicitor for more information and for permission to continue the conveyancing process – this is known as ‘providing instructions’.
If you’re selling, you will also complete a fixtures, fittings and contents form – plus an information form providing specific details about the property. Your solicitor will obtain details of any mortgages on the property and will ask lenders how much is outstanding so that this can be paid out of the sale proceeds on completion.
• If you’re buying, arrange a surveyor
Once your lender has received all your details, they will arrange for a surveyor to value the property. Now is a good time to consider the survey choices. Remember that the valuation report issued by the lender’s surveyor is very basic and not for your benefit. How much a survey costs will vary on whether you opt for a basic survey – also known as a Homebuyer’s Report – or a full structural survey. The latter is strongly recommended if you are looking at an old or listed property. If you’re not sure which level of survey to choose, your house surveyor should be able to advise.
• Property searches
If you’re buying, your conveyancing solicitor will request the contract pack from the seller’s conveyancer. This includes:
- The contract
- The seller’s property information forms
- The Land Registry documents of title
Once received, your conveyancing solicitor will order any relevant searches such as Local Authority, Drainage, Environmental or locality searches (to check that there isn’t a coal mine under the garden, and things like that). These searches and surveys don’t apply if you are selling.
• Issue of contract
Your solicitor will examine the documents provided and raise enquiries with the seller’s conveyancer – you’ll then be sent a legal report. This contains information about the title to the property and a preliminary draft of the contract and transfer for you to sign. You should read the contract carefully, sign and return it. The transfer, is the legal document which both seller and buyer sign to transfer the ownership of the property. This must be signed in the presence of an independent witness over the age of 18. The original should be sent back to your conveyancer.
• Sign the mortgage deed (if buying)
When your mortgage lender makes a firm offer, they’ll ask your conveyancer to check through any special conditions and verify whether the details are correct. Your conveyancing solicitor will send you a report and a mortgage deed to sign. The mortgage deed should be signed in the presence of an independent witness over the age of 18 – then sent back to your conveyancer. You will also receive a financial statement showing the money required to complete the sale, or the money you will be due if you’re selling.
• Provide the deposit
If you’re buying, once any outstanding issues with the searches, mortgage and enquiries are resolved, your conveyancing solicitor will need your deposit. This is 10% of the purchase price payable under the contract (but don’t worry – your conveyancer will take care of the maths behind it all)
• Buying and selling at the same time?
If you are buying and selling simultaneously, your conveyancer would normally use the deposit received from your purchaser to pass on to your seller, and the same will happen all the way along the chain.
- At this point the chain will begin the process of agreeing a completion date in readiness for exchange of contracts. Your conveyancing solicitors will do a final check of all the documents and the seller’s conveyancer will obtain final redemption statements for any mortgages on the property.
- Even if a reduced deposit is paid on exchange, the 10% deposit becomes immediately payable under the terms of the contract in the unlikely event of completion being delayed.
JARGON BUSTER Deposit
Deposit can mean two things to house movers. It commonly means the difference between the mortgage amount and the house price. It’s the cash you have to pay on top of whatever you are borrowing. However, in the legal language of conveyancing, it means the amount that a buyer pays at exchange of contracts and could lose if the sale does not happen because they pull out. It’s nearly always 10% of the total price. The two meanings are completely different so be careful not to confuse them.
• Protect your investment if you’re a buyer
It’s important to have buildings insurance in place from the exchange date. This will be a condition of your mortgage lender and protects your investment in the property.
• Exchange of contracts
When the contracts have been exchanged, both seller and buyer are contractually bound to complete on the agreed completion date. The solicitors usually exchange contracts over the telephone and then send the completed signed contracts by post. Exchanging contracts legally binds both parties to transferring the property – so you can rest assured that the seller must have moved on or before the day of completion. Mortgage monies will be requested from your lender and the paperwork will be prepared.
• Completion day has arrived
On the agreed day of completion, if you’re buying, your conveyancer will send the outstanding balance of the purchase price, including the funds received from your mortgage lender, to the seller’s conveyancing solicitors by telegraphic transfer. As soon as they receive the monies, they will let your conveyancing solicitor and estate agent know and keys can be released. The property will then be legally yours!
If you’re selling, you simply need to sit back and wait for the call to let you know it’s time to leave the property. The proceeds of your sale should be sent to you by telegraphic transfer the same day, although this could be the next working day if completion happens after an agreed time.
• Informing the Land Registry
Following completion, your conveyancer will pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf (if you’re buying). They will also let the Land Registry know that you are the new owner of the property and that the mortgage lender has an interest in your property.
• Deed of title
You will receive a copy of the title information document showing you as the owner a few weeks later, or confirmation that you have sold the property. Congratulations!
It may sound like a complicated process however your conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor is there to guide you through each stage. They’ll let you know how things are progressing and what to expect next.
Knowing what a conveyancer does was revealed as the second most confusing thing people found when moving home. We’ve therefore provided answers to what a conveyancing solicitor does along with various other questions about the conveyancing process below.
What is the difference between a conveyancer and a solicitor?
A conveyancer can act in a legal capacity for all home moves and property transactions. They specialise in this area of the law, whereas a solicitor can act in all areas of the law. Either will technically be able to go through the process of conveyancing, however a specialist conveyancing firm won’t have a range of other responsibilities (such as court appearances) to juggle.
When should I hire (instruct) a conveyancer when buying a house?
It might be handy to have a conveyancing solicitor in mind when viewing properties; that way you can instruct them as soon as your offer is accepted (if buying) or accepting an offer (if selling). This is the point you would need to officially ‘instruct’ a firm to act on your behalf, so that the Memorandum of Sale can be sent through from the estate agent and the process of conveyancing can begin.
Is it better to use the same solicitor for buying and selling?
Buying or selling a home can be a complex business. The more people or companies that are involved, the greater the chance of delays. That’s why it makes sense to use the same conveyancer when buying and selling – it means everything should tie up neatly when exchanging and completing, and could lead to fewer delays.
Learn more about using the same conveyancer for buying and selling.