18 July 2020

How we all love Solicitors going through the stages of the property conveyancing process – Some Tips (12 minute read)

Completing the conveyancing process, whether you're a buyer or a seller of property, can involve quite a few steps. Here's a reminder of the steps involved for those with experience of doing it many times but also for anyone trying to get onto the property ladder.

For Buyers

·         Instructing a conveyancer

·         Searches

·         Plan a completion date

·         Exchange

·         Completion

·         Post Completion

For Sellers

·         Sale agreement

·         Exchange

·         Completion

Most sellers are also buyers unless they are getting out of property ownership completely or leaving the country, so they may be buyers again anyhow.

Why it takes so long?

We all know the process of buying and selling a house here in this country takes far too long. The time from when a sale is agreed to the completion date can take as long as 12-14 weeks on average.

I’m sure we all agree this is unacceptable. Most of the time we like to blame the solicitors and there are many jokes about the subject. e.g. ‘’Everything was going smoothly until the solicitors got involved.’’

However, I know there are moves within the property business to bring together a government approved system were solicitors/conveyancers and estate agents can work together and significantly reduce the time involved by streamlining many of the old outdated practices.

In the USA it normally takes 4-6 weeks to complete a sale. In many countries they can complete within a few weeks or even days. London based estate agents will tell you many stories about buyers from China who expect the whole process to be done in 5 days or less.

From experience I know that solicitors acting on behalf of HNI clients (High Net worth Individuals) can complete on property purchases within a few days if they really want. Money can buy speed.

Don’t misunderstand me I fully support the due diligence process insisted upon by all solicitors here in England and I know they put their client’s interests first. Moreover, we do need to be careful to make sure the person(s) selling the property are in fact the real owners etc.

But change will come to the property buying and selling business soon.

The conveyancing process when you're a buyer

Buying property in England and Wales follows a standard legal process and you will usually use a conveyancing solicitor or a licensed conveyancer as your legal representatives.

I use the words conveyancer/solicitor together mostly as these days we have many licensed conveyancers who can legally complete the whole process on your behalf just like any solicitor who deals with property.

Instructing a solicitor or conveyancer

It's a good idea to choose a conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer as soon as you're ready to make an offer on a property.


After agreeing the purchase price, the details of both the buyers and sellers’ solicitors are exchanged through the estate agent selling the property. The seller’s conveyancer will send your solicitor/conveyancer the contract pack (formal agreement to sell), accompanied by:

  • The Property Information Form
  • The Fittings and Contents Form (an inventory of what is included in the sale)

These provide information about the property (for example, if there are any problems with boundaries) and exactly what will be included in the sale (e.g. are they leaving all of the carpets and curtains?). The contract pack will also include the property title and forms completed by the seller.

Although your solicitor/conveyancer will deal with the paperwork on your behalf, it's important that you go through these forms carefully and raise any questions or concerns at this stage.

During these initial stages, your offer to purchase the property will have been accepted and your mortgage application approved – your solicitor/conveyancer will need to obtain a copy of the mortgage offer.

At this point in the process, you should also arrange for a property survey (separate to the lender’s valuation report). I strongly advise spending the extra money to have a survey on the property you are buying.

Please remember that until you reach the exchange of contracts stage you can withdraw from a sale at any time without any legal consequences.

Searches

Your solicitor/conveyancer will carry out the required searches, including a Local Authority Search. These provide essential information about the property, such as:

  • The property boundary
  • Any Disputes
  • Rights of way
  • Planning constraints or permissions

Depending on the property and its location, other searches may also be required.

Plan a completion date

The contract pack, mortgage offer and local authority searches will be evaluated by your conveyancing solicitor.
If any issues arise, these will be drawn to your attention. For example:

  • If the property you are purchasing is located on contaminated land
  • The council are planning major road works near your new home
  • If anyone else has right of way over your land.

I strongly suggest you talk to your conveyancing solicitor about a target completion date and negotiate an agreed date with the seller’s solicitor.

DO NOT let things drift on at leisure.

Your conveyancer will notify the seller’s solicitor and let them know that you would like to progress with the contract exchange and send them your deposit.

Exchange

The solicitor/conveyancer will pull together the final completion statement, transfer deed and mortgage deed for you to agree and sign. This will also outline what money you have to provide for completion.

The final Land Registry searches will be organised by your conveyancer. This is a final check to ensure no changes have been made to the Land Register since your initial searches.

The seller’s solicitor will be sent the signed transfer deed, contracts will be exchanged and the deposit sent to the seller’s solicitor.

On exchange you are legally committed to proceed with buying the property.

Completion

Completion day is when the sale is finalised and the property is transferred to you, as the new legal owner. Your solicitor/conveyancer will pay over the balance of the sale price (less the deposit already paid) and receive the signed Transfer Deed.

Your conveyancing solicitor will ask for your finances from the mortgage lender. Title deeds, transfer deeds and proof of outstanding mortgages will be obtained by your conveyancer.

Post Completion

The conveyancer will send your deeds to the lender if you have a mortgage, arrange for any Stamp Duty to be paid (if applicable) to be received by HM Revenue and Customs, and send your documents to HM Land Registry to register you as the owner of the property – this must be done within 30 days of completion of the purchase.

HM Land Registry will send the title deeds to your conveyancer and these will be passed onto your mortgage lender, if you used one. If you are a cash buyer the title deeds will be passed on to you. 

Note: Since 8 July 2020 Stamp Duty on property purchases does not apply to properties with a sale valued under £500,000. If you are a buy-to-let landlord you will still incur stamp duty but at a reduced rate. The threshold of £500,000 will remain until 31 March 2021.

The conveyancing process when you're a seller

Sale agreement

When you instruct a conveyancing solicitor for your sale, they'll request your title deeds and ask you to complete a questionnaire.

You will need to complete:

  • Property Information Form 
  • Fixtures and Fittings Form

Be sure to discuss a completion date with your conveyancer to be negotiated with the buyer’s solicitor.

Your mortgage lender will provide your conveyancing solicitor with a statement for the total sum that needs to be repaid on completion of your sale.

Exchange

As soon as the contracts are exchanged, your solicitor will receive the buyer’s deposit – this is usually 10% of the property price.

At this point the buyer is liable to lose their deposit if they back out and you will be in a legally binding contract to sell the property – you can no longer accept another offer.

Completion

Your conveyancing solicitor will require payment for their services before completion on your property and all final accounts will be prepared by your conveyancer. A final settlement will be drafted for your approval.

Your conveyancer will verify that all deeds and remaining monies have arrived and that your sale is complete, and transfer the deeds to the buyer’s conveyancer. Your conveyancer will then pay the estate agent, repay the amount owing to the existing mortgage lender (if applicable) and take payment for their conveyancing service costs.

Once all the payments have been made, the remaining money from the house sale will be transferred to you, usually by bank transfer on the day of completion.

On completion, you must vacate the property at the agreed time and release the keys to the estate agent or the buyer of your property. I think it is better to hand the keys to your estate agent and let them hand over to the new owners. An estate agent will never hand over the keys until they get the green light from your solicitor/conveyancer.

It's worth noting that in England and Wales, until contracts are exchanged, neither party is legally bound and either party can withdraw at any time. Only once contracts have been exchanged must the buyer and seller complete. If the buyer fails to complete on the agreed date, the seller can serve a notice and if the buyers still does not complete, they will forfeit the deposit.

Some Tips

1.    Make sure you appoint a solicitor/conveyancer who is experienced in dealing with property every day. Not all of them are. Don’t be fooled.

2.    Don’t be afraid if an estate agent recommends a solicitor/conveyancer, they usually know the ones who can do things quickly and professionally.

3.    Get more than one quote for the conveyancing job. Shop around. Solicitors are used to this nowadays.

4.    Make sure you set a target date but be realistic and negotiate with the solicitor.

5.    Calculate the anticipated costs involved in the buying/selling process. Remember to budget for legal fees, estate agents fees, survey fees, removal costs etc.

6.    Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who have been through the process many times.

One of the most popular phrases you will often hear from your solicitor/conveyancer during the conveyancing process is ‘’We are waiting for the other side to respond.’’

I am always happy to help sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants

Thanks for reading

geraldbowers@thegoodea.co.uk

www.thegoodestateagent.co.uk

01777 237310 or message 07981 744003


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