First-time buyers often underestimate how complicated and tedious the conveyancing process can get, even with a solicitor present. While having access to online conveyancing calculators and the skills of talented professionals can help, it is still important to understand how it works. After all, there is rarely ever a perfect conveyancing process; you are likely to experience one or two issues along the way, whether minor or major.
The Basics of Conveyancing for Buyers
The legal definition of conveyancing in the UK is that it is the legal process of transferring ownership of a property from one person to another. It is carried out by one or more solicitors or licensed conveyancers representing each side of the transaction.
On the buyer’s end, the conveyancer’s role is to secure the title and all the rights to the property. It is also their responsibility to ensure that you are aware of any restrictions before you become legally committed to the purchase.
Conveyancing fees cost roughly £700 to £1,500, excluding the stamp duty land tax liabilities. In general, a straightforward purchase with a short-chain can take between 8–12 weeks.
How you should prepare for the Process
The conveyancing process begins with initial research and preparation. For example, there are plenty of online conveyancing calculators that can give you a rough estimate of what the process will cost you. From there, you can make enquiries about new mortgages, obtain quotes, and fill in application forms.
The next step is to find a conveyancer or solicitor even before you find a property to buy. This can speed up the process as you can provide your conveyancer’s details to the seller as soon as your offer is accepted.
The intricacies of Hiring a Conveyancer
Hiring a conveyancer normally begins with a Letter of Engagement or a Client Care Letter. This will outline their fees, terms of business, and confirmation that you have instructed them to act on your behalf. Proof of address and ID will be required, as well as up to £300 on account. This money will be used by your solicitor to make searches throughout the process.
In many cases, you will also need to provide proof that you have the capacity to proceed with a purchase. Bank statements, mortgage offer letters, and other similar documents may be requested.
It is important to remember that not all conveyancers are equal and some firms are more capable of expediting the process than others. The way solicitors handle different types of properties and their surrounding circumstances is also a crucial consideration. Before finalising an agreement with your solicitor, make sure that you’ve chosen the right one with skills and connections that fit your needs.
Once the offer has been accepted
The point where the offer has been accepted is where the conveyancing process truly begins. In most cases, the real estate agent will ask you for the contact details of your conveyancer, proof of deposit, and the Agreement in Principle (AIP) for a mortgage.
It helps to ask the estate agent representing the seller if the property can be taken off the market. The agent can then encourage their client to agree to this on condition that you show proactive efforts that you are committed to making this purchase. This involved instructing your conveyancer, booking a mortgage valuation survey, and so on.
Inform your solicitor if your offer has been accepted. They should receive a Memorandum of Sale (MOS) from the estate agent. Should you have any inquiries, make sure to provide a list of these in writing. This can be about access issues, parking, and so on.
It is also at this point in the process that a provisional target completion date is agreed upon by all parties involved.
Searches and paperwork
Your solicitor will request the seller’s solicitor to provide a copy of the draft contract and legal pack during this part of the process. After the contract pack has been received, your conveyancer will raise specific enquiries with the sellers’ conveyancer.
They will also order property searches, which will provide detailed information on planning, drainage, and environmental issues. These results will be checked and investigated. Should any concerns arise, additional enquiries will be forwarded to the sellers’ solicitors.
Finalising the Mortgage
On your end, the terms of and conditions of your mortgage need to be finalised. Make sure to consult with your solicitor throughout these negotiations so that they can advise you about the best options. Once this is done, the details must be forwarded to your legal company so they can examine the terms and conditions.
Reviewing the Legal Reports
Once all enquiries have been addressed, searches reviewed, and mortgage offers examined, your conveyancer will provide a report on all these matters. You will need to read and understand this report carefully to ensure that all the terms and conditions of your agreement are equitable and fair.
Make sure to read the fittings and fixtures settings and the property information forms carefully as well to ensure that the terms are agreeable to both you and the seller. It is in this section that you can determine what appliances, carpets, fittings, and other objects can be left behind.
The most important part of this step is to review the type of ownership. Is it a freehold or leasehold? It is not uncommon for conveyancers to miss this critical section of the step. This can cause expensive problems down the line. For example, should the lease have a shorter expiry date than expected, it may be expensive to renew it.
Signing the Documents
Once all the details have been ironed out and all the information provided by the seller, your conveyancer will submit the final contract and TR1 form to read and sign. Once signed, return these documents by registered next-day post or by hand to ensure the quick completion of the process. Just make sure to confirm that they have received the documents.
Sending the Deposit
Your conveyancer will need to hold your deposit as cleared funds before the exchange happens. This usually amounts to anywhere from 5 to 10% of the purchase price. If you’re part of the chain, this deposit may be passed upward along the chain and utilised by all properties before reaching the seller.
At this point, the conveyancers on both sides will negotiate a completion date, which will be written into the contract. All that is left before this date is to confirm that you have purchased building insurance cover for your new home.
The Exchange of Contracts
After contracts are signed, you have hit the point of no return. Before the exchange, one or both parties may choose to pull out of the deal at any time. This may leave you out of pocket if you are the buyer, which is why it is important to invest in Homebuyer’s Insurance. This formal exchange usually takes place through a recorded telephone call between the legal representatives of either side.
This can only occur if everyone in the chain is confirmed to be ready to proceed. Your conveyancer is likely to confirm your authorisation at a certain point in this process.
The two weeks before this day are busy. Preparations for moving, transferring, and removing things from the house may be made. You will also likely receive a completion statement from your conveyancer, which details the breakdown of all monies that need to be transferred to your conveyancer in time to clear before completion.
This includes Stamp Duty Land Tax, Land Registry Fee, search fees, and the remaining balance owed for the property. On the date itself, you will likely sign a mortgage deed, and any remaining funds owed to the seller will finally be transferred. You are also expected to receive a TR1 document signed by the seller, which will allow you to exchange keys and ownership.
At 1 pm, you will finally be allowed to enter your new home.
Beginning with online conveyancing calculators, and ending with the exchange, there is much that goes in the conveyancing process that you have to be familiar with. As such, it is important to do all the research needed and to enlist the right professionals—solicitors, brokers, and so on—to help you along the way.
If you’re still just at the start of your journey, why not consult Conveyancing Calculator? We can help give you an idea of where to get started on this process.