Conveyancing For Buyers: What Does The Process Involve?


Home ownership is a goal of many people in the UK. Once you have saved enough for a deposit and found your dream home, you must then choose a solicitor to carry out the conveyancing.

Buying a home often needs expert guidance

This guide will explain the conveyancing process and why employing a specialist solicitor is your best option.

What is Conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of buying and selling a property. Conducting the conveyancing process yourself is possible, but if you are taking out a mortgage, a mortgage lender will always want a solicitor to act on their behalf.

Before you make an offer on a property, it's important to have identified and instructed your solicitor. As soon as your offer is accepted, your estate agent will ask you for the contact details of your solicitor to pass on to the other party involved in the transaction.

The choice of conveyancing solicitors can be confusing, it is important to find someone that is qualified and experienced. Getting a personal recommendation from a friend or relative is often the way that most people find their solicitor. You can also check out the Law Society website to see which solicitors have been accredited to undertake conveyancing work.

What Would Your Solicitor Do?

Your solicitor will carry out the legal checks on the property on behalf of you and your mortgage lender – they will make sure that there are no adverse matters affecting the property e.g. a right of way across the garden or a lease that is too short. If you have any questions about the seller's contract pack, they can also help to answer these.

Your solicitor will manage the conveyancing process, once instructed and will update you on progress. Some solicitors have gone one step further, and introduced online trackers so you can see what's happening to your purchase or sale at any time, at your convenience.

One of your solicitors' first jobs is to check the tenure of your new home i.e. whether it is leasehold or freehold. If your property is leasehold, it can be expensive to extend the lease, especially if it is below 80 years. If the lease on the property you want to purchase is under 60 years, you may want to reconsider your purchase or ask your solicitor to negotiate with the other side to see if they will extend the lease and take that into account when selling you the property.

Legal searches are another task your solicitor carries out in order to help you move into your dream home. There are some things you may not know about the property, and years down the line, may cause an issue e.g. has there been a breach of planning permission or are there restrictions on the use of the property? Assessing the flood risk, checking the Land Registry and water authority searches may seem unnecessary but this information is crucial to ensure there are no problems when you live at the property or when you want to sell it.

You need to know that you're paying the right price for the house, and that you will not have any unexpected costs.

This isn't the end of the line. Both parties still have to sign the contracts.

When Do We Sign the Contracts?

Before you approve and sign the contract, your solicitor has to make sure that:

  • Any enquiries you had have been retuned satisfactorily
  • Fixtures and fittings are what you expected
  • A completion date has been agreed by both parties
  • You have made arrangements to transfer your deposit to your solicitor's account
  • The mortgage offer has been issued and there are no unusual conditions
Its best at this point, if you're a purchaser, to go to the property and make sure that no damage has been caused to the house before you sign, and that all the agreed fittings and fixtures are still in place. This can all be done via the estate agent.

When you're happy with the contract, your solicitor and the seller's solicitors can decide on a date to exchange contracts. They will make sure that the contract the other party has is identical to yours by reading it out during a telephone call and confirm that contracts have been exchanged during the telephone conversation.

Once this has happened, you are in a legally binding agreement to buy the property and there are serious financial consequences if either party pulls out before the completion date. Your solicitor will then order your mortgage monies and will send you a completion statement showing the full balance of monies due to be paid before completion, which will include the legal fees and stamp duty.

What Happens Now?

On the day of completion, your solicitor will forward the completion monies to your seller's solicitors by telegraphic transfer. When the seller has confirmed they have received all the money that's due to them, you should be able to pick up the keys for your new home from your estate agent.

Now your solicitor will wrap things up, usually they'll pay stamp duty on your behalf. Stamp duty is payable according to a scale (available on the HMRC website) - depending on the purchase price, this can be thousands of pounds , so it's important that you budget for it.

We have a guide explaining stamp duty and how to calculate it here.

Your solicitor will lodge an application at the Land Registry to register the property in your name and once this is done, will send a copy of the Land Registry document to you. There are now very few original deeds to keep, although if your solicitor does send you any original documents, you must ensure these are kept safely for when you want to sell the property. If your property is leasehold, your solicitor will notify the freeholder about the completion.

As you can see, purchasing your own property is an involved process but instructing someone who is qualified, experienced and can run the show smoothly, is your best bet at reducing any stress you may feel.

Some people choose to do their conveyancing themselves but as we've shown, it's not such an easy task.

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