If you are buying or selling a property then you will need to instruct a conveyancer who will act on your behalf during the transfer of the property.
Conveyancers will conduct all necessary steps to move the property transfer forward from the moment an offer is accepted through to exchange and then completion.
If you want to know more about the difference between exchange and completion, see our other article on the subject for clarification.
Conveyancing is defined as ‘the legal process of transferring property from one party to another’, and the conveyancing period lasts from the moment of instruction through to completion.
Conveyancers can either be licensed conveyancers or solicitors. Either party will be fully regulated and experienced in property law.
Buying a property is an incredibly detailed process and, as it concerns matters surrounding the biggest purchase most people will make in their lifetimes, should be left to solicitors or licensed conveyancers to manage.
Likewise, selling a property requires a thorough understanding of property law as it is the seller’s party who composes the contract of sale.
There is a slightly different process involved in conveyancing depending on if you are the buyer or seller of the property.
Conveyancing process when buying a house
If you are buying a house, the solicitor process is relatively straightforward.
After receiving a mortgage in principal and having an offer accepted on a property, you should find a conveyancer and instruct them to act on your behalf.
Your conveyancer will then contact the seller’s solicitor who will send them the contract pack containing information about the property. Your conveyancer may have queries relating to the contract pack and will deal with the seller’s solicitor directly to have these queries cleared up.
The main body of work that your conveyancer will undertake will relate to the property survey and property searches. Property searches are necessary when purchasing a property to ensure that there are no issues or risks with the property that will affect the value or enjoyment of it either immediately or down the line.
Once the contracts are ready and all property searches have been completed, your conveyancer will send you all of the legal documents to review and sign.
On completion day, your conveyancer will request the release of funds from your bank or mortgage lender and will pay the remaining sale price to the seller’s solicitor.
Finally, they will register you as the property owner with the Land Registry within 30 days of completion, as well as pay any Stamp Duty due to Revenue and Customs. For up to date information on Stamp Duty Land Tax, see the official Government website here.
Conveyancing process when selling a house
If you are a seller, then the process outlined above will be reversed. It is your conveyancer who will compose the contract pack and forward this to the buyer’s solicitor.
It is advised to have your conveyancer in place before you accept an offer so as to minimise delays in the property sale.
Before they can compose the contract pack, they will need you to provide information about the property in the form of a questionnaire. This form will include information about the fittings and contents included in the sale and information about the deeds holder for the property depending on whether it is freehold or leasehold.
After this work has been completed, your conveyancer will be ready to answer any queries the buyer’s conveyancer has regarding the contract.
Once contracts are exchanged and there is an outlined completion date, your conveyancer will send you the property transfer deed to sign and return.
On completion day, they will handle the transfer of the property title deeds and repay any remaining funds left on your mortgage to your bank or mortgage lender before paying any other fees such as estate agent fees and their own cost before transferring the remaining funds to yourself.
What does under offer mean?
Under offer is used to show that a property for sale has received an offer, regardless of whether this offer meets or exceeds the asking price.
Some estate agents use under offer interchangeably with sold subject to contract or STC. This means that even though the seller has accepted the offer, the contracts have yet to be exchanged.
Buyers can still place an offer on properties during this period, so it is advised that if it is your offer that has been accepted, you ask the estate agent or the seller if they can remove the property from the market.
What are searches when buying a house?
When you are buying a house, there are a number of property searches that your solicitor will undertake with your local authority and other organisations to reveal information about the property.
These searches include local authority searches, planning searches, and drainage and water searches, among others.
This is a very important part of the purchase process because searches can reveal information about a property than can affect its value.
How long do searches take?
Most property searches will be returned by two to three weeks. However, the local authority search can take longer, up to six weeks, as it depends upon your local authority and how busy they are.
What is a transfer deed?
A transfer deed is the document that conveyancers use to transfer ownership of a property from a seller to a buyer.
As a buyer, you need to have this deed in order to be registered with the Land Registry as the property owner.
What is a draft contract?
The seller’s solicitor draws up a contract after an offer is agreed and sends this to the buyer’s solicitor for queries. This is the draft contract. It remains a draft contract until exchange when the contracts are signed by both the seller and the buyer.
Do I need a conveyancer to sell a house?
While it is technically possible to manage the sale of a property without a conveyancer, this is very much not recommended. If you are still paying off a mortgage on a property then your bank or mortgage lender, as well as the buyer’s conveyancer, will often insist on you having a conveyancer before moving forward with the sale.