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Conveyancing

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Conveyancing process explained for buyers

Conveyancing involves legally transferring home ownership from the seller to the buyer. It starts when your offer on a house is accepted and finishes when you receive the keys. Understanding what it involves will help ensure there are fewer surprises along the way.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing involves the legal transfer of home ownership from the seller to you, the buyer. The conveyancing process starts when your offer on a house is accepted and finishes when you receive the keys.

Who does your conveyancing?

A solicitor or conveyancer usually conducts the conveyancing process, but it is possible (although difficult) to do it yourself if you are not taking out a mortgage.

What happens first?

Before anything can happen, you need to decide if you want to hire a professional or do this yourself. Most people prefer to use a professional solicitor or licensed conveyancer, and “instruct them” to oversee the conveyancing process. If you do this, try to avoid using your estate agent’s recommended conveyancer as it will likely be a commission-based referral and may end up costing you more.

Our conveyancing referral service compares conveyancing firms from the most cost effective National and Local Quotes from a panel of over 120 conveyancing firms.

Once you’ve appointed a conveyancer, they will draw up a draft contract or terms of engagement with you, setting out their charges and deposits required.

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.

Legal work

One of the first parts of the conveyancing process involves your solicitor examining the draft contract and supporting documents and raising enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. 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.

You will want to double check the tenure of the property, is it leasehold or Freehold If it’s leasehold, don’t rely on your solicitor to check for the length of the lease. Leases below 99 years can be problematic, leases can also be costly to extend.

With a lease extension you need to have owned the property for 2 years before you are eligible to do so. Leases under 60 years are best avoided.

Property searches

There are things you may not know about the property just from viewing it with estate agents or even getting a survey. As part of the conveyancing process, a conveyancer 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.

These include:

  • Local authority searches which check for issues such as, are there plans for a new road to be built on your property?
  • Checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry– these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership. Both checks are legally required to sell.
  • Checking flood risk – this can also done at the Land Registry.
  • Water authority searches – find 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.
  • Environmental Search – this report is used on the majority of transactions and is provided by either Landmark or Groundsure.
  • Optional and location specific searches – sometimes extra searches are required or recommended depending on the location or type of property or due to concerns raised by the buyer. These could include:
  • Tin Mining searches in Cornwall
  • Mining searches in various parts of the UK and Cheshire Brine searches
  • Additional Local Authority Questions such as Public Paths, Pipelines, Noise Abatement Zones, Common Land, etc

The cost of these searches are often charged as extras, so make sure you factor them in to the conveyancing fees.

ONESEARCH Pledge – “Insurance if your Property Transaction falls through”

What will be reimbursed under OneSearch Pledge?

ONESEARCH Pledge, purchased along with your other search products from OneSearch, means they will reimburse your search costs up to a maximum of £300 if the purchase of your new property falls through as a consequence of any of the reasons listed below.

Reimbursement Reasons

You will be reimbursed for your searches if the seller withdraws from the transaction for any of the following reasons:-

  • The seller is not entitled to sell the property to you.
  • The seller accepts a significantly higher offer (at least £1000 more) from another buyer, and you are unwilling to increase your offer.
  • Any other reason beyond your control.

ONESEARCH will also reimburse your search costs if you withdraw from the transaction for any of the following reasons:-

  • The property is damaged during the period between offer and exchange of contracts, and the cost of repair would exceed 5% of the property value.
  • Your mortgage lender applies a retention of 5% or more of the accepted price.
  • Your mortgage lender’s survey or valuation identifies rectification work is required, and the cost of this work exceeds 5% of the sum you originally offered,    or values the property at less than 90% of the accepted sale price.
  • An adverse result is returned from our searches to the serious detriment of the property value.
  • You, or anyone you are buying the property with, are given notice of redundancy or relocation, or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, or die.

Conveyancing for your mortgage

You will need to get your mortgage in place, which includes ensuring you have the financing available for a mortgage deposit. Your solicitor will receive a copy of the mortgage offer and go through the conditions.

Before exchange of contracts can take place your lender will require you to have in place Buildings Insurance for your new home. You are responsible for the property as soon as contracts have been exchanged, so it’s in your interests to protect yourself in case of any eventuality. My Mortgage Experts can provide you with assistance to gain Building Insurance.

Signing contracts

After receiving the draft contract from the sellers solicitor at the start of the conveyancing process, your solicitor will have been communicating with you about what is covered. Before signing the contract your solicitor will need to ensure:

  • That 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, which is usually one to four weeks after exchange of contracts, though this can vary widely
  • That you have transferred the deposit into your solicitors account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange.

Exchanging contracts

You and the seller will agree on a date and time to Exchange Contracts. Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you, which 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.

If you are in a housing chain your solicitor/conveyancer will do the same thing, but will only release it if the other people in the chain are all happy to go ahead. This means if one person pulls out or delays, then everyone in the chain gets held up.

Once you have exchanged contracts you will be in a legally binding contract to buy the property with a fixed date for moving. This means that:

  • If you do not complete the purchase, you will lose your deposit.
  • The seller has to sell or you can sue them
  • The seller can no longer accept another offer

Between exchange and completion

One of the final steps in the conveyancing process involves your solicitor lodging 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.

The seller will move out generally on the day of completion.

You should get organised for your moving day.

The 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

 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. This means that the conveyancing process is over, and you can move in.

Post completion

Your solicitor will tie up some loose ends:

  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf.
  • You will receive your legal documents about 20 days after completion after your solicitor has sent them to the Land Registry
  • Send a copy of the title deeds to your mortgage lender, who will hold them until you pay your loan off
  • Notify the freeholder if the property is leasehold
  • Give you a bill for their payment

You will want to collect together all your paperwork from the purchase of your new home, including the estate agent’s brochure, to file away and keep safe for when you move again.

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