When you buy a house, one of the time-consuming considerations is conveyancing. Luckily, you don’t have to do this, and there are trained conveyancers and solicitors who will do it for you. But this doesn’t mean you should sit back and relax – when you buy or sell a home, it’s crucial that you understand what your solicitor is doing at every stage so you can keep in communication with them. This is one of the best ways to keep a property purchase on track.
In this article, we will be going over the basics of conveyancing, the conveyancing process when buying a property, if there are any conveyancing process hacks and some conveyancing process FAQs.
If you are looking for something specific, check our interactive menu below:
- What Is Conveyancing?
- What Is The Conveyancing Process When Buying?
- What Conveyancing Hacks Are There?
- Conveyancing Process When Buying FAQs
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What Is Conveyancing?
Conveyancing is the transfer of legal property titles of ownership from one person to another. A conveyancer or a licensed solicitor usually carries it out, and it is the solicitor’s role to secure the land title and make you aware of any restrictions on the property before you legally commit to the purchase.
Expert conveyancing costs for your average freehold purchase are around £700-£1,500 (not including stamp duty land tax). The conveyancing process from acceptance to completion will take about two to three months for a straightforward purchase.
What Is The Conveyancing Process When Buying?
Below is our step by step guide to the conveyancing process with a conveyancer timeline and information:
One # Line Up Mortgage & Choose Your Conveyancer
Before making an offer, ensure your mortgage is lined up (if applicable). It would help if you enquired about new mortgages and obtained quotes and application forms from your lender.
It would help if you also choose your conveyancer or solicitor; we recommend selecting a solicitor based on their Google or Trustpilot reviews. Instead of using a solicitor advised by your estate agent or mortgage lender. These solicitors will pay them a higher referral fee and might not provide you with the best service.
To avoid unnecessary delays and to reduce your chances of being gazumped, it is essential that you choose your solicitor carefully before you buy a property so you can give the seller’s solicitor everything you need as soon as possible.
You may find it beneficial to take out a cheap home buyers insurance policy (costing less than £40), so you can claim back on any lost survey & search fees.
Two # Instruct Your Conveyancing Solicitor
Instructing is when you let a solicitor or conveyancer know you want them to do your conveyancing. The conveyancer will send you a Letter of Engagement which outlines their costs and terms of business and confirms you have recommended them to act on your behalf.
This process should take as little as two weeks and commence once you have made an offer on the house and both selling and buying parties have informed their solicitor of the transaction details and an estimate of costs.
You should read all the paperwork carefully that’s sent to you and ask any questions if you are unsure about anything. You will need proof of address and ID, and expect to provide around £300 on your account so the solicitor has funds to buy searches or third-party disbursements on your behalf as well as to provide evidence that you can proceed with the purchase — in either the form of bank statements or a mortgage offer in principle.
You should fill in, sign and return all the requested documents as fast as possible and follow up with your solicitor to ensure they have all been received, as this will allow the legal process to begin.
Three # Arrange A Property Survey & Production Of Contract Papers
The seller will be asked to provide you with a property information form, a fittings and contents form, and a leasehold information form (if it is a leasehold property). These will form part of the contract papers and provide vital information about the property.
The contract papers will also provide evidence from the Land Registry that the seller is the legal owner of the property. The sellers’ solicitor will draw a draft contract detailing the terms and conditions of the sale.
Following receipt of the contract papers, your conveyancer will examine the information given and raise any enquiries that need to be attended to by the seller. The seller’s solicitor will then reply before you should be happy to proceed with the sale.
Having a property survey of the property is not a legal requirement; however, we highly recommend that you complete one. The survey will report any significant faults with the property and inform you of any additional potentially costly repairs that may allow you to renegotiate the purchase price.
The survey must be carried out by a qualified chartered surveyor, who will raise any issues that arise from the report.
Depending on the survey results, you may withdraw or go ahead with the purchase if you deem the property’s issues manageable.
Four # Conduct Property Searches & Arrange Funding
On average, this process should take up to six weeks, but it can take longer, depending on your situation.
Your conveyancer will search for vital information on the property and any associated risks before exchanging contracts with the seller. The type of searches needed will depend mainly on the location of your property; here are the primary searches; Local Authority, Environmental, Water and Drainage, Flood Risk, Mining Searches, Planning Searches and Chancel Repair Liability.
Your conveyancer will review the search and survey results on your and your mortgage lenders’ behalf. This will ensure no hidden surprises later down the road and highlight any issues that should be of concern and how they can remedy them.
Based on the findings of the survey and the terms and conditions of sale, you must report to your mortgage lender for your mortgage offer. You should ensure your conveyancer is kept in the loop while you finalise your mortgage, so you can raise funds when needed.
Five # Conveyancing Report And Exchange Contracts
Once your solicitor is happy with the property searches and raising your mortgage, the seller’s solicitor will then liaise with your solicitor about the final details of the sale. This process is called reporting or the conveyancer report, and it is where they supply their legal expertise on the title that is offered.
If the property is leasehold, this may take slightly longer as the process is more complicated, but on the whole, it should take at most two weeks.
Your solicitor will work with you to identify and resolve any issues before you are legally bound to the purchase. You will also need to sign a completion statement, transfer deed and mortgage deed. Your solicitor will conduct a final inspection of the Land Register to confirm there have been no changes to the property since they initially checked.
It is recommended that you get building insurance for your new home, and you should supply your conveyancer with written building insurance coverage before the exchange of contracts can take place.
Both solicitors will then arrange for the buyer and seller to sign their contract and agree on a completion date. When the contracts are signed, you will supply the deposit (usually around 5-10% of the purchase price), and the contracts will be formally exchanged to complete on the agreed date. You are now legally required to purchase the property.
Six # Purchase Completion
In the run-up to completion day, you will be busy preparing to move house, organising removals, packing and informing utility providers of your change of address. Your solicitor will send you a completion statement – details all the money that needs to be with your solicitor before completion can commence. This detailed list will include the following:
- The remaining balance of the Conveyancer’s Bill.
- Stamp Duty Land Tax
- Land Registry Fee.
- Search Fees.
- Money owed to the new property.
Your mortgage lender will release the funds to your solicitor, usually a day before completion, and you will need to sign a legal document called the ‘mortgage deed’ so your solicitor can hand over your mortgage money to the seller. The seller’s conveyancer should hold a Transfer document (TR1) signed by the seller, which the seller will exchange on completion day for the remainder of the balance for the property.
The end of the transaction is signalled when the money for the property has been transferred between conveyancers. This usually takes around two weeks following the exchange of contracts, and once complete, your solicitor will send the funds in total, and you will receive the keys to the property.
On completion day, you should expect the sellers to have left the property clear so you can move into the property. It is a general rule of thumb that you are allowed access from 1 pm on completion day.
You can now move in…hurray! It is a good idea to change the locks and take metre readings in both your old and new properties to ensure you aren’t paying for gas or electricity you aren’t using.
Seven # Post Completion
The final stage of the conveyancing process is when your solicitor arranges for any Stamp Duty to be paid to Revenue and Customs. Your solicitor will register you as the property’s new owner with the HM Land Registry within 30 days of completion.
If you have bought with a mortgage, The HM Land Registry will send the title deeds to your solicitor, who will then pass it onto your mortgage lender. It would help if you asked for confirmation of this.
Within 20 days after completion, you should receive all the official documents applicable to the house purchase, called the title deeds. Your conveyancer will also send a copy of these to your mortgage provider, which they will keep until you pay your mortgage.
If you have purchased as Tenants in Common, your solicitor will register the Declaration of Trust.
You should make sure that you have your council tax, utilities and services registered to your name and keep any documents for the property in a safe place, as you will need them again. These include; Fixture and Fittings Guarantees/Warranties, Surveys, Boiler Servicing Records, Insurance documents for your buildings/contents and any legal indemnity insurance.
What Conveyancing Hacks Are There?
One # Instruct Quickly
When considering a house, you should choose and instruct a conveyancer. It would help if you did not wait until your offer has been accepted, as you want to avoid holding up a chain and avoid increasing the chance of being gazumped by a rival buyer.
Two # Quality Over Quantity
It would help if you always chose a conveyancer based on their legitimate Google or Trustpilot reviews and never on price. The cheapest conveyancer is rarely the best, and the same goes for the most expensive. You should do the conveyancing with someone else; if you get anything wrong, you may be liable to penalties or even lose the house. We recommend looking at the negative reviews and seeing how often they occur, as this will test true to their ability for customer service.
When you and your solicitor start the conveyancing journey, you should set a timescale by which you want the process and steps to be completed. If you need help understanding something happening during the process, you should always ask your conveyancer, as they will be more than happy to help.
You could ask your solicitor/conveyancer to sign you into any emails they’re sending, as this will let you see where things are at and can reassure you that everything is in progress.
Four # Avoid Busy Times
You should avoid booking your completion date on a Friday, the final working day of the month or a holiday, as these are often extremely busy and can dramatically increase the workload for solicitors and the conveyancing timeline may become extended.
Conveyancing Process When Buying FAQs
How long does the conveyancing process take?
The conveyancing process can take around eight to twelve weeks from agreement to completion — but it will differ hugely depending on whether you are part of a chain or how on the ball either party’s solicitors are.
What is done in conveyancing?
When a solicitor or conveyancer transfers the legal titles of property ownership from one person to another, this is known as conveyancing. They will secure the land title and make you aware of any restrictions on the property before you legally commit to the purchase.
Is a solicitor better than a conveyancer?
It depends on your situation; if you are part of a long chain with plenty of complex issues or conflicts, then you may wish to choose a solicitor as solicitors are often more expensive than a conveyancer but have a lot of general law expertise that can be used on more complex matters outside of just property transfers. Conveyancers are specialist property lawyers and are cheaper than solicitors.