What is conveyancing?
Buying a home is likely to be the biggest purchase most of us will ever make, so it’s no great surprise that the legal process involved is so detailed. An estate agent might ask if you have appointed a conveyancer once you’ve had an offer on a house accepted – but what does a conveyancer actually do?
Put simply, a conveyancer (otherwise known as a lawyer or solicitor) will help with the legal transfer of property from one owner to another. Although the queries your solicitor will raise can sometimes seem extremely detailed, they will be acting with your best interests in mind.
You’ll have fairly frequent contact with your conveyancer if you’re buying or selling a house, so it’s worth knowing the typical steps they’ll go through on your behalf. In this week’s blog, we outline the basics of residential property conveyancing to help get you moving…
How to choose a conveyancer?
The eventual goal of a conveyancer is to ensure you receive the title deeds to the property and the land it sits on. You can choose to appoint any lawyer to help with your transaction, but a conveyancer is specifically trained to deal with the tricky world of property law – so it’s wise to make sure they’re experienced.
There are two main types of conveyancer: a conveyancing solicitor will be qualified in a wide range of legal fields and have a broad understanding of property law, whereas a licensed conveyancer will specialise solely in conveyancing.
Drafting a contract and initial paperwork
Once an offer has been agreed by both parties, the seller’s solicitor will begin by drafting the contract. This will include the conditions of sale and the terms of the deal (including the price).
The seller’s conveyancer will also provide supportive paperwork about the property from the current owner; this will include a fittings and contents form and details of any legal or planning restrictions. They will also send you the seller’s legal title to the property.
Once your solicitor has reviewed the initial documentation, they will make some checks about the property and its current ownership. At this point, your conveyancer will also begin putting questions to the seller’s solicitor about the local area, any rights of way and the boundary lines.
If you’re selling a house, your solicitor will also contact your mortgage provider to retrieve the title deeds and request that your lender sends the remaining balance to settle your mortgage.
Surveys and searches
Your solicitor will then organise a survey of the property to check its state and the condition of the land. They will also assess external factors such as drainage systems and any planned developments within the immediate area. These searches will usually take a month or so to complete.
It’s important not to confuse a survey made at this stage with the report a surveyor will draw up on behalf of your mortgage lender. The latter report will only confirm the value of the property. However, if you need to borrow money from a mortgage provider, your lender will also instruct a solicitor (usually the solicitor acting on behalf of the buyer) to check the mortgage terms.
Your conveyancer will also check to see whether there are any outstanding issues with the local authority and confirm any environmental issues with the property – such as a risk of flooding or contaminated land.
Draft contract and exchange
Whilst the survey is being completed, both solicitors will negotiate draft terms on the contract. At this stage, your conveyancer will gather all the final documents ready to exchange, including the mortgage deed and transfer. Once this has all been checked and agreed by the seller’s solicitor, you can proceed by signing the contract in readiness for exchange.
Once exchange has taken place, both parties are committed to the sale. At this point, the buyer will pay a deposit and the completion date is agreed. If you’re in a chain of property transactions, your estate agent will liaise with all involved to confirm an achievable completion date.
Once contracts have been exchanged, the formal transfer deed is signed, and final land registry and bankruptcy searches are complete.
At this stage, your solicitor will also handle the transfer of monies, including the mortgage money to be sent to the seller’s solicitor. After all funds have been received, completion will take place and the keys to your new home will be released.
At this point you might think the legal process is complete, but your solicitor still has some more work to do. If you’re selling a property, your conveyancer will have to arrange the repayment of any mortgages, settle the estate agent’s fee and pay the remaining balance to the seller.
If you’re buying a house, your lawyer will need to check the deeds and papers, report to HMRC, pay any Stamp Duty and register the property with the Land Registry. They will then follow-up with all the correct paperwork and make sure it’s distributed to the right parties.
Purchasing a flat means your solicitor will also need to make sure the terms of the lease are complied with and that the landlord/ managing agent is aware that the flat has a new owner.
Finding your new home
Buying a house can be stressful, but the right advice and support will help to take the strain out of moving. If you’re thinking of putting your property on the market, get in touch to book your free no-obligation valuation of your property from our experts. We will also be happy to recommend an experienced solicitor from our panel of conveyancers.