Conveyancing is the term for the legal and administrative process that comes with buying, selling or mortgaging a property or piece of land.
There is a lot to organise and coordinate, including legal matters, financial arrangements and regulations to comply with. While the conveyancing process is fairly similar for each transaction, each transaction will be different.
On average, the conveyancing process takes two to three months between instructing a conveyancer and completion of the purchase. It’s important to note, however, that the length of the process depends on individual circumstances and the number of people involved in the chain and it will be directly affected by issues or problems that may occur along the way.
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Here’s our step-by-step guide through the process.
First, as soon as you decide to sell or purchase a property you should instruct a solicitor to begin the conveyancing process. This involves choosing your preferred solicitor (perhaps based on a recommendation from a friend), getting in contact, reviewing their terms of business and signing a contract with them.
We recommend that you appoint your solicitor before you’ve found the property you want to buy. Then, once you’ve found the property and are ready to purchase, your solicitor will be ready to accept your instructions.
CONFIRMATION OF IDENTITY
Your solicitor will conduct identity checks to be sure that you’re a UK citizen eligible to buy the property. You’ll need to provide ID documents, such as your passport, proof of address and your National Insurance number.
You most likely already have a mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP) but, at this stage, you’ll need to make a full application with your chosen lender.
On average, the conveyancing process takes two to three months between instructing a conveyancer and completion of the purchase
However, the two are very different. You might never see the results of the mortgage valuation survey, so if you’d like to know in advance about any structural issues that affect the property’s value, you’ll need your own surveyor.
MEMORANDUM OF SALE CIRCULATION
Your estate agent will share the Memorandum of Sale with both parties. This document indicates that the sale has been agreed and documents your intent to buy, along with the seller’s terms of sale. It is not legally binding, so at this stage, either party can still withdraw.
The seller will complete a Property Information Form and a Fittings and Contents Form, to give you details about the property. These will be sent to your solicitor, with various other contracts and papers specific to the property. Your solicitor may make enquiries if any of the details are unusual or unexpected.
Your solicitor will order various searches to ascertain any risks that might be involved in purchasing the property, which may include ground stability, flood risk and drainage searches. These must be undertaken thoroughly, so this may take several weeks.
If you’re in a chain, you’ll need to wait for searches to be conducted for all properties before the sale can move ahead.
If the searches have uncovered anything surprising, your solicitor will make enquiries with the seller’s solicitor to find out more.
If you’re buying with the help of the old Help to Buy Individual Savings Account (ISA) or the current Lifetime ISA, your solicitor will go through the necessary steps to withdraw the money from this account, claim any bonuses that are due, and close the account. There will be some forms you’ll need to fill out to approve this.
BUILDINGS INSURANCE APPLICATION
Before contracts are exchanged, you will need to secure buildings insurance on the property you are buying, since you are liable for any problems that occur later in the process. There is no need for contents insurance at this stage.
EXCHANGE OF CONTRACTS
Your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will each prepare identical contracts and will ‘exchange’ the two. A completion date will be agreed among all parties in the buying chain, around two to four weeks after the exchange of contracts. At this point, the deposit is paid to the seller.
SIGNING OF MORTGAGE DEED
You must sign your mortgage deed and agree with your mortgage provider to send the loan funds to your solicitor.
On completion day, the full balance of the sales price will be paid to the seller, and ownership is transferred to the buyer through the signing of a Transfer of Property document, prepared by your solicitor. You’ll receive keys to your new property. We would suggest that legal completion of the purchase is a good time to start your contents insurance to protect your possessions.
Your solicitor must now report the sale to HM Revenue & Customs and make the payment of any stamp duty. They can then register you as the owner of the property in the Land Registry.
Though the time taken by this entire process varies, you should typically allow between three to four months.