Transferring ownership of a property from seller to buyer, known as the conveyancing process, begins when the offer is accepted by the seller. When you’re buying a property, instructing a solicitor will help keep the complicated and lengthy conveyancing process running more smoothly.
Step One: Choose a Property Solicitor
Online conveyancing services often appear to be the cheaper option, but working with a qualified, local solicitor, with knowledge of the area means you won’t have to pay for any extra unnecessary checks. Document transfer is also much quicker in person rather than relying on the postal service.
Step Two: Terms of Engagement
Your chosen solicitor will inform you of the charges associated with working with them through your terms of engagement, requesting draft copies of all relevant property documentation from the seller’s solicitor.
Step Three: Examining the Documentation
As the buyer, you must communicate any queries you may have regarding the seller’s documents to your conveyancer, who will pass these onto the seller’s solicitor. As well as the standard condition report, HomeBuyer’s report, and building survey, your mortgage company will require other legal searches for liability purposes. Your conveyancer may recommend others too:
● Local authority searches
● Title register & title plan checks
● Environmental search
● Water authority search
● Chancel repair search
● Optional & location specific searches
You must also check if your property is leasehold or freehold - it’s the difference between owning your home outright or not!
Step Four: The Mortgage Process
If you’re not buying your new property outright, you’ll need a deposit and a mortgage. You’ll need a mortgage valuation, and your conveyancer will go through the conditions of the offer. There are several types of survey to choose from that will ensure the building you are purchasing is structurally sound, the most appropriate depends on the age of the property:
● Condition report
● HomeBuyers report
● Building survey
Step Five: Contract Signing and Exchange
When satisfied that all enquiries have been answered, all fixtures and fittings have been agreed, and a completion date specified, you should make arrangements to transfer the deposit into your conveyancer’s account for it to be cleared for the exchange, then you are ready to sign the contract. Your conveyancer, and your seller’s will make the exchange on your behalf by reading your contracts to one another over the phone while being recorded, then posting them out to one another. Your seller is now obligated to sell to only you, and you will lose your deposit if you now pull out of the sale.
Post-exchange, you will make your application to the land registry, transfer the deeds to your name, and pay the seller. You’ll also receive a statement showing the amount to pay your solicitor to be cleared the day before completion.
Step Six: Completion and Beyond
When the seller’s solicitor confirms all the money has been received, they will drop the keys at the estate agents, and you can pick them up.
Unless you are exempt, you are required to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax within 30 days of exchange. You must submit a return (even if you are exempt) if the purchase cost more than £40,000, and your conveyancer will organise this on your behalf. They will also send your legal documents to the Land Registry, and copies of the title deeds to your mortgage company. You should receive all legal documents with 20 days of completion.
By Nick Welch, Head of Property at Backhouse Solicitors