Conveyancing process explained: For Buyers

Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring home ownership from you, the seller, to the buyer. It starts from making an offer and finishes when the seller hands over the keys to the buyer. Understanding it will help ensure you don’t suffer any nasty surprises. This leaflet provides a brief understanding of a transaction and the routine work will undertake on your behalf.

Once you have chosen and informed the solicitors you would like to commence the conveyancing process when buying your property, you will receive a ‘Letter of Engagement’ or ‘Confirmation of Terms of Business. This should be signed and returned promptly so the work can begin.

Your solicitor will write to your seller’s solicitor to confirm they are instructed and request a copy of the draft contract and any other details, such as the property’s title and the standard forms.

Upon receipt, your solicitor will examine the draft contract and supporting documents and raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. This will include checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ from the Land Registry– these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership.

You will be expected to go through the forms the seller has completed and let the solicitor know if you have any queries or concerns.

Property searches. There are things you may not know about the property just from viewing it with estate agents or even getting a survey. Your solicitor will do a set of legal searches to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of. Some searches will be recommended by the solicitor for all purchases and others will be required by the mortgage lender to protect them from any liabilities that the property may have. Searches include:

  • Local authority searches: are there plans for a motorway in your new garden? How about radioactive gas? The Local Authority and usually takes 2-4 weeks, but can take up to 6 weeks.
  • Water authority searches – finding out how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works.
  • Chancel repair search – to ensure there are no potential leftover medieval liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs. The laws around Chancel repair changed in October 2013 so now the onus is on the Church to establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry.
  • Environmental Search – this report is used on the vast majority of transactions and is provided by either Landmark or Groundsure. The report will give information about contaminated land at or around the property, landfill sites, former and current industry, detailed flooding predictions, radon gas hazard, ground stability issues, and some other related information.

Your solicitor will receive a copy of your mortgage offer and go through the conditions.

Before exchange of contracts can take place your lender will require you to get Buildings Insurance for your new home. You are responsible for the property as soon as contracts have been exchanged so it is in your interests to do so.

Signing the contract. Before signing the contract your solicitor will need to ensure:

  • All enquiries have been returned and are satisfactory.
  • That fixtures and fittings included in the purchase are what you expected.
  • A completion date has been agreed between the two parties.
  • Arrangements to transfer the deposit into your solicitors account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange. The deposit is normally 10% of the value of the property.

Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you. This is usually done by both solicitors/conveyancers reading out the contracts over the phone (which is recorded) to make sure the contracts are identical, and then immediately sending them to one another in the post.

Once exchanged you will be in a legally binding contract to buy the property.

Your solicitor will lodge an interest in the property which will mean that the deeds to the property are frozen for 30 working days to allow you to pay the seller and lodge your application to the Land Registry to transfer the deeds into your name.

Your solicitor will send you a statement showing the final figure to pay, which will need to be cleared into your solicitors bank account at least one day before completion.

Completion is normally set around midday on the specified date although in practice takes place when the seller’s solicitor confirms that they have received all the money that is due. Once this happens the seller should drop the keys at the estate agents for your collection. You can then move in.

After completion your solicitor will:

  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf.
  • Register you as the new owner with the Land Registry.
  • Send a copy of the updated title deeds to you and your mortgage lender.