Conveyancing process explained for sellers
Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring home ownership from you, the seller, to the buyer. It starts from making an offer and finishes when you hand over the keys to the buyer. Understanding it will help ensure you don’t suffer any nasty surprises
Who does the conveyancing?
Regardless of whether you’re selling or buying, it’s a solicitor or conveyancer who will usually conduct the conveyancing process.
The first step for sellers
You will already have engaged an estate agent, negotiated on the price and accepted an offer. At this stage, you need to instruct someone to begin the conveyancing process to allow the sale to progress effectively.
To reduce delays, it’s probably best to have chosen which solicitor or conveyancer you want to use around the time you choose the estate agent. Once you’ve compared conveyancing quotes and found the right conveyancer or solicitor for you, it’s wise to tell them you want to sell, and agree conveyancing fees. However, you only instruct them to start work after you have a formal offer.
Before the exchange of contracts, you’ll need to complete a number of detailed questionnaires about the property and what you intend to include with the sale, which will be provided to you by your solicitor/conveyancer. You may be asked to complete:
- The (TA 6) is a general questionnaire and includes information on boundaries, disputes and complaints (like reported noisy neighbour complaints or boundary disputes), known proposed developments (like motorways or railways), building works, council tax, utilities, sewerage, contact details.
- If you do not own the freehold you should give more information on either the leasehold (TA 7) or the commonhold (TA9)
- The (TA 10) provides details of which fittings and fixtures you would like to include with the property
- The (TA 13) is more technical, but also includes finalisation details including arrangements to hand over the keys, how and where you will complete, and ensuring that the house is free of all mortgages and liability claims
You must fill these forms out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge; if it later transpires that you have not been fully truthful you could be sued for compensation. Or, if they find out before exchange of contracts, it might make the buyers nervous that you are misleading them about other things and they may pull out.
Draft contract and negotiations
Your solicitor/conveyancer will use the questionnaire information to draw up a draft contract. This is sent to the buyer for approval.
The conveyancing solicitor will lead negotiations over the draft contract. Things to agree include:
- Date of completion (usually 7-28 days after the exchange of contracts)
- What fixtures and fittings will be included in the sale price
- How much the buyer will pay for other fixtures and fittings
- Who will fix any issues raised in the buyer’s survey, or an update on the sale price that reflects the survey’s outcome, if applicable
Pay off your mortgage
Before you can exchange contracts, you need to pay off your mortgage, by requesting a redemption figure from your mortgage company. This is how much you pay upon completion of the sale
You and the buyer will have agreed on a date and time to exchange contracts. As part of the conveyancing process, your solicitor or conveyancer will exchange contracts for you. This is usually done by both solicitors/conveyancers making sure the contracts are identical, and then immediately sending them to one another in the post
If you or the buyers are in a chain, the solicitors/conveyancers 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 can I break the housing chain?
Once you’ve exchanged contracts, you will be in a legally binding contract to sell the property. This means that if the buyer does not complete the purchase, you will probably keep their deposit, and you can also sue them. If you pull out of the sale, they can sue you. Exchanging contracts also means that you can no longer accept another offer on your house.
Between exchange and completion
Immediately after exchange you should receive the buyer’s deposit – usually 10% of the property price. Legally, you own the property until completion, and so there is no need to move out before then. However, it will be a lot less stressful if you can move out some days before, rather than leaving it to the last minute.
You should go around the property before you complete, ensuring that everything that was on the fixtures and fittings inventory list is still in the property.
On completion day
On completion day you will hand over the keys. In practice, the buyer normally gets the keys from the estate agent, and you leave any spare sets you have in the property.
You or your conveyancer/solicitor will receive the outstanding balance of the sale price, hand over the legal documents that prove ownership and pay off the mortgage with the proceeds of the sale.
You will have to pay your solicitor/conveyancer and the estate agent.