The Conveyancing Process for Buyers
Typically, the conveyancing process will take around eight to twelve weeks to complete (although it can be quicker or longer). The various tasks and processes involved are listed below:
The Initial Stages
Once the seller has accepted your offer on a property, you will appoint a conveyancer/lawyer to carry out your conveyancing work. They will immediately get in touch with the seller’s lawyer and request a copy of the draft contract and any supporting documents. Your conveyancer will go through these documents and highlight any concerns, etc, such as the length of the lease if the property is leasehold. Your conveyancer will then raise any concerns with the seller’s solicitor.
Legal Checks & Searches
Your conveyancing professional will carry out a number of property searches on your behalf in order to make sure there are no other factors related to the property that you should be aware of:
- Land Registry Checks – Your conveyancer will check that the vendor legally owns the property you are buying by checking the title deeds and title plan at the land registry. This is a legal requirement of sale and the checks cost just a few pounds each.
- Local Authority Searches – For these searches, your solicitor liaises with the local authority to the property, who conducts local area searches on the property and surrounding area. The searches are fairly wide-ranging and include things like investigating any conservation, development and pollution issues which may affect the property or surrounding area. The time taken to complete these search and costs can vary. They are usually completed within 2 weeks, but can take up to 5/6 weeks. Costs can be anything from £100 to £400.
- Environmental Search – This report provides information on any environmental factors that might affect the property which might include flood risk, land contamination, local landfill sites, issues with harmful gases and ground stability. This search costs in the region of £50.
- Chancel Repair Search – This search is a legal requirement based on medieval church land rights. It examines whether the property has any obligation to pay for local church repairs. The report costs £18 or alternatively you can take out a specialist insurance policy for around £20 against any possible future church claims.
- Water Authority Search – The water authority search establishes where the water for the property comes from and whether there are any public drains on the property (that could affect future renovation work). This search cost around £50-£75.
- Additional Searches – You may require extra searches that are specific to your property or the location of it, such as Mining Searches for ex-mining areas.
It is your responsibility to get your mortgage offer in place (if you are buying a house via a mortgage) and mortgage valuation. You will need to get all necessary house surveys completed before the contracts are exchanged. Your solicitor will go through your mortgage offer and any survey recommendations and legally advise you on them.
Contracts – Signing, Exchanging & Completion
Once you sign and exchange contracts for buying a property, you are then committed to buying that property and cannot walk away without incurring penalties, therefore it’s essential to ensure that all the necessary work leading up to this stage has been completed adequately. This includes:
- Completion of searches and all enquiries, including any further negotiation based on the outcomes;
- Agreement of exchange and completion date by both parties;
- Make sure you have in writing everything that’s included in the offer (e.g. fixtures and fittings);
- Purchasing buildings insurance;
- Transferring your deposit to your solicitors account in time for the exchange.
Your solicitor or conveyancing professional will complete the exchange of contracts on your behalf at the previously agreed date and time. This is usually done over the phone with the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors reading out the contract over the phone to make sure that they are identical. This reading is recorded so that nothing can be under dispute. As soon as the conveyancers have finished doing the contract readings, they will immediately post the contracts to each other.
Once this process has been completed, you are then legally bound to buy the property and cannot withdraw from it without losing your deposit. Similarly, the seller cannot withdraw from selling you the property and nor can they sell it to anyone else.
After exchange but before completion, your conveyancer will freeze the deeds of the property and lodge an application to transfer the ownership of the property to you with the land registry. You should arrange for the amount that you owe for the property to be in your solicitors account no less than one day before completion.
On the date that you have agreed for completion, the seller’s solicitor will confirm that they have received the full amount due for the property. The seller will then release the keys and you can move in!
After completion, your solicitor will pay stamp duty on the property on your behalf, and notify the freeholder of the change of ownership, if the property is leasehold. They will also send you a bill for their services. You will receive your legal documents from the land registry, about 20 days after your solicitor lodged them. You will need to send a copy of the deeds to your mortgage company, if you have bought the property with a mortgage.