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Conveyancing process explained: For Buyers

This is a guide explaining what is conveyancing and what is the process when buying a home. 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.

Who does the conveyancing?

A solicitor or conveyancer usually conducts the conveyancing process, but it is possible (although difficult) to do it yourself as long as you are not taking out a mortgage. For more on the difference between solicitors and conveyancers, see Finding the right solicitor or conveyancer?. For information on doing conveyancing yourself, see Should I do conveyancing myself?

First stages

1. If like most people you are too worried or time poor to do the conveyancing yourself, the next step is to find a solicitor or conveyancer and “instruct them” to do it for you. Avoid using the estate agents recommended conveyancer as it will likely be a commission based recommendation and cost you more. Get a quote and use it to shop around for the best price and service.                                                  

2. Your appointed conveyancer will then draw up a draft contract or terms of engagement with you, setting out their charges and deposits required.

3. Your solicitor will write to your sellers 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

4. Your solicitor will examine the draft contract and supporting documents and raise 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. In particular you will want to double check the tenure of your new home: is it leasehold or freehold? If  leasehold, don’t rely on your solicitor to check for the length of the lease. Leases below 80 years are a problem, can be costly to extend and you need to have owned the property for 2 years before you are eligible to do so. Leases under 60 years are best avoided.

5. Property searches. There are things you may not know about the property just from viewing it with estate agents or even getting a survey. The conveyancer will do a set of legal searches to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of:

  • Local authority searches: are there plans for a motorway in your new garden? How about radioactive gas? This costs between £70 and £400 depending on the Local Authorityand usually takes 1-2 weeks, but can take up to 6 weeks
  • Checking the ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry– these are the legal documents proving the seller’s ownership. The title register check costs £8 and the title plan check costs £4. Both are legally required to sell.
  • Checking flood risk – this is also done at the Land Registry – and costs £12
  • Water authority searches – find out how you get your water and if any public drains on the property might affect extensions or building works.The water authority search will cost between £50 and £75. In rare cases an additional flood report may be required.
  • Chancel repair search – to ensure there are no potential leftover medieval liabilities on the property to help pay for church repairs. This is a necessity and costs £18. However, you may decide to take out Chancel repair insurance instead for £20 or so. The laws around Chancel repair changed in October 2013 so now the onus is on the Church to establish and lodge liability with the Land Registry.
  • Location specific searches – examples of such searches include:
    • Tin searches in Cornwall
    • Mining searches in Warwickshire
    • Radon gas search in Somerset
    • Environmental search from the Environmental Agency, which costs £73.20. This shows whether, for example, the plot used to be a landfill site

Your mortgage

6. You will need to get your mortgage in place. This will include ensuring you have the financing available for a mortgage deposit. Your solicitor will receive a copy of the offer and go through the conditions. For further information on mortgages, see Mortgages made simple  and What type of mortgage should I get?

7. You will need to get a mortgage valuation. This is carried out on behalf of the mortgage company so they know that the property provides sufficient security for the loan. You normally have to pay for it, but a mortgage company might throw it in for free to attract business

8. You will want to have any other necessary surveys done. Whether you have a survey done and what sort of survey you choose will depend on your specific circumstances. See What sort of survey should I have?

9. Before exchange of contracts can take place your lender will require you to get Buildings Insurance for your new home. You are responsible for the property as soon as contracts have been exchanged so it is in your interests to do so.

Signing Contracts

10. Signing the contract. Since receiving the draft contract from the sellers solicitor, your solicitor will have have been in correspondence  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 4 to 12 weeks after exchange of contracts
  • That you have made arrangements to transfer the deposit into your solicitors account so that it is cleared in time for an exchange. You may want to negotiate on the size of the deposit, which is normally 10% of the value of the property. However even if you agree to pay less than 10% you are still liable for 10% of the value of the property if you later pull out of the agreement. Therefore if you pay a 5% deposit and pull out of buying the property you will not only lose your deposit but also legally owe an additional 5% of the value of the property

11. Go to the property with the estate agent and the fixtures and fittings inventory list to ensure that everything you paid for is still there and the house has not been damaged in any way

Exchanging contracts

12. You and the seller will agree on a date and time to exchange contracts at any time on any given day

13. Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you. This 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

14. If you are in a 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. For more, see How do I break the housing chain?

15. 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 and owe the seller more if the deposit was less than 10%
  • the seller has to sell or you can sue them
  • the seller can no longer accept another offer (you no longer need to worry about being gazumped)

Between exchange and completion

16. Your solicitor will lodge 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.

17. The seller will move out (although they may leave this to the day of completion)

18. You should organise the moving

19. The solicitor will send you a statement showing the final figure to pay, which will ned to be cleared into your solicitors bank account at least one day before completion.

On completion day

20. 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. You can then move in.

After completion

21. Your solicitor will tie up some loose ends:

  • Pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on your behalf. See Five things you need to know about Stamp Duty
  • 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

22. 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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24 comments on “Conveyancing process explained: For Buyers

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  1. In August 2002, i purchased a house in Nottingham adjoining some allotments. I took what i considered to be sensible precautions and had a basic survey done and employed solicitors to carry out the conveyancing.
    Two years ago, i was informed by the people that are shareholders of the adjoining land via their Secretary, that my boundary fence is in the wrong place and depriving them of land that allegedly belongs to them. The fence was put up by the previous owner of my house and he had declared that “No boundary had been moved in the last 20 years”. From my investigations, it would seem that the council had not provided a boundary fence when the house was built in 1964.
    I would be grateful if you could advise me with regard to this issue, as i have been threatened with court action if i do not surrender the land or buy it.
    The area, according to their surveyor is 19 square metres.
    Does the law of ‘Property Misdescription’ apply for instance and could i use it in my defence?

    Yours faithfully,
    Stephen Cope.

  2. Stephen, I hope this isn’t too late for you (though it probably is).

    You almost certainly have rights as a squatter– the owners should have notified you far before if you were out of the boundary.

  3. I am considering looking for building plots to purchase as an investment for the future. Does the buying process of Land differ much from that of purchasing a property? Would the processes and charges be more or less the same?
    Please be so kind to email me some guidance on this topic.

    Many thanks.

  4. Our conveyancing solicitor seems to be causing unnecessary delays, and doesn’t seem to grasp simple maths (I’m selling to my mum who already has a £55k second charge on my house, the agreed price is £125k therefore after the consideration of £55k there is £70k payable, it seems straightforward to me but not to the solicitor).
    I’m buying another property at the same time which seems to be dragging on for a ridiculously long time.
    Is there benefit to the solicitor to extend the process? We had asked for a completion date that was well before Christmas yet we are still being delayed now and won’t be completing before the end of January!

  5. We sold our late mothers house to a buyer with no chain in October 2013. The house sale was completed Friday 21/2/14. We have not had our money paid into our account and have been told by solicitor that she is waiting for estate agents bill. Is it usual to wait this amount of time for money to be paid into our account?

  6. Hello, I have an unusual situation where I am selling my house and my tenant would like to buy it, which is great. However because she and her husband are in their late 40’s they have been told they need more than 10% deposit and the term will be shorter. They do not have sufficient deposit to buy at this time. I would like to pay their deposit of £10K but then they buy the house at £10K above the current valuation. Is this legal and secondly are there any downsides to the idea?

  7. Hi,

    I purchased my house in 2011 by getting a mortgage including a product with all legal fees covered. I have recently applied for a copy of title details from land registry and it looks like there are 2 typos in my first name. Instead of Muhammad, it says Mohammed.

    My query is: Who is responsible for this mistake as I never filled in any forms for land registry and all my applications with the mortgage lender has the correct spellings.

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

  8. I am in the process of buying a new coachhouse from a national builder I was told it was freehold I put a resevation fee down an I am about to make a 10% deposit all the developers paperwork states it is a freehold the mortgage lender has it as a freehold now the developer has said it is a leashold my solicitor is getting clarification on this but if this is the case can I get my money back as being miss sold, so far I have parted with nearly £3000

  9. Dear Teresa,

    I’m afraid your plan to pay your tenants deposit won’t work. The bank will send a valuer to the property and, if they conclude that the value of the house is less than the price you are asking for the house, they’ll refuse the mortgage.

    Don’t try “bending the rules”. This is mortgage fraud and banks have many ways to detect it.

  10. I am concerned for my brother who is in a relationship , not married but has been asked by his partner to sign a document that she has told him will help secure her a mortgage. He has only mentioned it to our mother who is extremely concerned that if anything goes wrong e.g they separate, he will be liable for half of any monies owed on her mortgage. She has assured him that this will not be the case and he walk away at any time and she will go it alone and take him off the contract . I feel that any signed document must be legally binding and that he will be held accountable, please could you advise.

  11. I want to negotiate on the size of the deposit which for the original plan of the deposit was 20%, but now we want to increase the size of the deposit up to 74.5%.
    1. will that possible to change before gain the mortgage offer?
    2. how about change the size after gaining the mortgage offer?
    Kind regards

  12. I purchased a house plot from a large building company in Aug 13, and the road on which the house would sit was sold to me as a quiet road (and it was). I visited the site several times before committing. The Sales advisor said it was a quiet road in a peaceful area and disclosed she had been working on the site for 5 years. I lived 300 miles away at the time and did not know the area, so trusted her statements, which influenced my decision to buy the plot.

    Having now moved to the area and into the property in May 14, the road is actually a busy main road, but at the time of viewing properties on the development and my reservation, I have now discovered that the road was actually closed for period of 7 months.

    The sales advisor would have known the true conditions of the road, but made a false statement of fact to me about it being quiet and never informed me that the road was actually closed.

    I used a solicitor recommended by the building Co, and he said he never knew the road was closed. Should he have known this? As it stands, I an willing to sue the building company for fraudulent misrepresentation for the contract to be undone, but need to ascertain if the solicitor is in anyway accountable for not knowing this information and therefore not telling us about the road.

    I have my reservation form which discusses aspects of the house and local area and in the section where the roads are discussed N/A has been written, but I have evidence to prove the road was closed via the local council. Should she have written ‘road closure in area discussed’.

    Any help or guidance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

  13. A friend who lives abroad is selling his house, (which I live in)and the purchaser has asked if some of the furniture can be included to which my friend has agreed but neither of them are being very specific. My friend has named some pieces that he wants to keep and indicated that he doesn’t much care what happens to the rest. The purchaser seems to have interpreted this as she gets everything that is left although my friend says he will decide when he comes over to complete the sale. The purchaser has somehow got hold of his e-mail address and the two of them are corresponding outside of legal dealings with their solicitors. The purchaser has offered to sell on his behalf anything that she doesn’t want and send him the money. He has told her to give any proceeds to me. I want nothing to do with this transaction which seems quite odd to me. My friend’s solicitor sends him forms to fill in regarding this and he is getting irritated because he doesn’t want to do this. I find the purchaser’s actions quite peculiar, I wonder what you think.

  14. The property which I am buying came up on the environemental search result as being built near to a landfill ( like 10m) away . Is it a wise decision to buy the property? The landfill consit of concerte, tiling and glass and may be asbestos.

  15. Hi
    Me and my husband were buying a 3 bed house and selling our 2 bed apartment. Everything was as standard procedure goes we had mortgage offer on our purchase and all the searches and legal work was completed on both properties. We all agreed for 11 august as a completion date and exchange contracts, but when my solicitors ask my lender that we have our completion day on monday will they send money on the day or on friday our lender responded that they got our name randomly selected for an internal audit (JUST ONE DAY BEFORE COMPLETION)!!!!!! And they need to go through our application again and need some more documents whose list and letter is posted to us but till today 9 august we didn’t receive it.
    Now I m in a situation where my buyer wont allow me a single day to stay after completion date and the property we were purchasing have moved put to another city.
    Please advice me what should I do
    Can i legally delay completion ???
    Or if I back off from my purchase what will be the legal money I have to pay to my vendor??
    By any means i vacate the property on monday no where to go i m totally lost otherwise my buyer will sue me for what is not my fault.
    Please help me out !!!
    Thanks

  16. We bought a house with off road parking & we asked questions about the drop kerb to which our solicitor said that the search returned nothing & that the sellers agreed to put indemnity insurance in place “if anything went wrong”. We have since been told by our council that it is an “illegal” crossing so we cant use our drive, this is the main reason we bought it. The solicitors have since been taken over. Can i sue the conveyancing solicitor for negligence as we wouldn’t have bought the house if it didnt have off road parking. Can i get them to pay for the work to make the crossing legal?

  17. (Experienced self-conveyancer).
    @Julia: It is OK for both sides to correspond and decide about contents; it just saves unnecessary legal fees. However, ALL contents to be included in the price MUST be specified by the seller on a form attached to the contract, and cannot be changed between contract and completion, therefore it is correct and necessary for your friend’s solicitor to send the required form to be signed, and your friend cannot leave this to be agreed at completion. Between the two parties, separate sales of furniture can, of course, be agreed post-contract, but any mess they cause is their mess, not the solicitors’ mess. As you rightly surmise, it’s better for you not to be financially involved.

  18. (Former conveyancer and experienced self-conveyancer).
    @Jo Brooks: The key is Local Authority Searches. These should have been done by your solicitor and should have been/still be available to you (you paid for them). Go through the answers and see if you conclude that the Local Authority reported the road closure or was negligent in its answers to any questions – bearing in mind the temporary nature of the closure. This will point you either towards the LA, or towards your solicitor failing to tell you facts which were revealed by the searches. In the unlikely event that you chose not to get LA searches, then you can go no further.

    On to the builders’ liability, via their employee or agent. The N/A against the ‘roads’ point could be interpreted to mean that the roads were not discussed, ie, in the sense of: “Discussion of Roads? Not Applicable, it didn’t happen.” You would know more from the exact phrasing on your reservation form.
    You may be able to make the case that the agent was either untruthful or negligent in not telling you that the road had been closed, assuming you have sound evidence that s/he knew. Verbal contract exists and can form part of a larger contract but this is contract law, rather than conveyancing law.

    If you could evidence neglect by your solicitor or the LA, as suggested above, you could bring a case for compensation, but this would not help with your ownership of the plot. If your objective is to get out of that, then you will have to establish firstly that your solicitor/LA were not at fault and then that the company’s representative misrepresented substantial factors which were material to the sale, that you couldn’t have been expected to know, and that were important enough that you would not have agreed to the contract. This is the opinion of the writer, who is not an expert in contract law.

  19. (Former conveyancer and experienced self-conveyancer).
    @Tina Humphrey
    Of course you are right to be concerned. However, your brother ‘has been asked to sign a document’ is not specific enough. It could be a contract which covers him satisfactorily if they break up, for example by ensuring he will receive a split of the house. He should employ his own solicitor before signing.

    If his partner genuinely said that in the event they separate, “she will go it alone and take him off the contract”, this shows little understanding of contract law, as that is something she could not do.

  20. I am conveying a property i am purchasing.
    The other sides solicitor says I need id1 forms completed by a solicitor, as the land registry will complete these for free.
    Does any rules/regulation give the solicitor the right to insist that I use a solicitor to have these forms completed

  21. I’m pretty sure all asbestos is burried at special hazardous waste landfill sites now so that shouldn’t be a problem. A word of warning though.. We had ‘potential asbestos artex’ flagged up on a home buyers report which was of great concern to our buyers. We contacted the asbestos watchdog who checked a sample and confirmed it was clear! The original surveyors presumption nearly cost us a sale.

  22. Hi,
    We put an offer on a property and signed with the solicitos draft contract on 12 May 2014 so that they can start there work, and now it’s Sep and our solicitors says that they are struggeling to get the enquires replied from the seller’s solicitors. Not sure what to do, the estate agent is saying that they are chasing the seller…but nothing is happening. we offered good money for the house and now the prices starts to go down, what can we do? can we knock down the price of the house becuase of all this happening? very frustrating…please advise.

  23. Hi. I wonder if anyone can help. I recently bought a property and the date of completion was the 11th of july 2014. It was a cash purchase and no mortgage was involved. However it has been 2 months and still the property has not been registered in my name. I keep going to the solicitors and he keeps telling me to bear with him every 2 days as the sellers mortgage company which is sainsburys bank are not releasing tge charge. My solicitor is saying that this could take 6 to 12 months and cannot give me a definitive answer. What can I do? Does it usually take this long. My solicitor is also threatning to bar me from his office because I keep asking for updates!

  24. Hi. We have recently purchased our first home, and are about to complete. Our solicitor has been less than helpful through this process (and we are a bit in the dark as we have never bought a property before, and are therefore not clear how things work). My question is what documents we should have in hand after completion from our solicitor? For example, we have all of the searches, but do not have the purchase agreement signed by both us and the sellers, or the deeds etc. As I know our solicitor won’t be of any help, I was hoping there is a definitive list somewhere, so I can chase our solicitor for the paperwork needed. Thanks!

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