The Conveyancing Process

Who does what and when

The process can be divided into 2.

Firstly, the pre contract stage, when all the investigations are made to ensure it is safe for the property to be bought, and which generally takes the longest - about 4 to 8 weeks. Secondly, the post exchange stage up to completion, when you move in, followed by registration of title at the Land Registry.

The steps in the process are as follows:

  1. We take details from you of the terms agreed and establish who the solicitors for the other party are.
  2. We obtain documents to verify your identity, and address, and if you are buying, the source of your funds. This is to fulfil our obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations. If you are selling, we will need details of your lender to verify the sum to be paid to pay off any mortgage on the property.
  3. The Seller's solicitor will obtain and prepare details of the title to the property, prepare the draft contract, arrange for the Seller to complete a Property Information Form (giving details such as who owns the various boundaries, if any work has been done to the property and so on), and a Fittings and Contents Form (detailing items at the property included or excluded from the sale) and obtains copies of any relevant documents such as planning permissions, building regulation documents and guarantees. The Seller's Solicitor then sends all this documentation to the Buyer's Solicitor.
  4. The Buyer's solicitor considers the pack of papers, and raises any queries on the paperwork with the Seller's solicitor. The Buyer's solicitor will also at this stage, put in hand the appropriate searches for the property. These will be the local search, with the local authority, the drainage and water search with the local water company and an environmental search. The local search will show if the local authority have any records of any matters which could affect the property, such as proposals for a new road which would run through the property, and if the road outside the property is maintainable at the public expense, and what planning permissions and building regulation approvals there are for the property and if any notices have been registered against the property by the local authority. The drainage and water search will show if the property has mains water and sewerage, the location of the nearest mains pipes and sewers and if any of these run through the property, as well as information such as the location of the water stop cock. The environmental search will reveal any potential environmental problems that might require investigation and in particular, if the property is in an area which suffers from flooding. Any queries arising from the search results may need to be raised with the appropriate authorities, the Seller's solicitors, and or your surveyor. There are also further specialist searches, which may need to be carried out, depending on the location of the property. For example, a mining search if the property is in an area where there has been mining. The Seller's solicitors will investigate any queries raised, and take instructions from the Seller as to any replies to be made and reply appropriately to the Buyer's solicitors. They will then consider the replies and if not happy with them, will go back to the Seller's Solicitors on the relevant points, until they are satisfactorily resolved.
  5. It is also during this period that you will arrange to have a survey carried out on the property if you are buying and let us know if it brings up any points which we need to query with the Seller's solicitors.
  6. It is also in this period that the Buyer will make an application for a mortgage and the Buyer's solicitors will receive mortgage instructions from the lender to act for them and explain any relevant mortgage conditions to the Buyer and raise any matters that need to be referred to the lender for its consent to proceed.
  7. When all the above work has been satisfactorily completed, then exchange of contracts takes place. The Buyer and the Seller each sign their part of the contract and the Buyer pays a 10% deposit part of the purchase price. A completion date is agreed (this can often be a fraught subject, especially if there is a chain, and a number of people have to agree on the same date) and then contracts are exchanged by the solicitors and all parties are bound to go ahead. The Completion Date is usually about 2 weeks from exchange of contracts, to give time for final searches to be done at the Land Registry, for the Buyer's Solicitors to report on title to the mortgage lender and obtain the mortgage money - lenders normally require 5 working days notice to process and send out the mortgage advance and for the Seller's Solicitors to get notification of the sum due to pay off the mortgage from the lender - they can require up to 7 to 10 working days notice to provide the figure.
  8. In the period between exchange of contracts and completion, the Buyer's solicitors will send Requisions on title (mainly queries on the completion mechanics, such as where the keys can be collected from and the bank details of the Seller's solicitors for transmission of the monies on the completion date), and the draft transfer deed for approval to the Seller's solicitors. They will then reply. Increasingly however, this process is done before exchange of contracts to try to shorten the time between exchange and completion.
  9. The Seller's solicitors will also get the Seller to sign the transfer and contact the lender for the figure to pay off the mortgage on the property.
  10. The Buyer's solicitor will get the Buyer to sign the transfer deed, the mortgage deed and the approval of the Land Transaction Tax form in Wales or the Stamp Duty Land Tax form in England that the solicitor will have prepared. The Buyer's solicitor will also carry out final searches at the Land Registry and check the results, and prepare and submit a report of title to the lender and request and process the mortgage monies, as well as prepare a final completion statement for the client and get in any balance due from the Buyer.
  11. On the Completion date the respective solicitors will send and receive the monies and keep in touch with all the parties involved, being their client, the other solicitor and the estate agent to ensure the transaction is completed as soon as possible and the keys are handed over just as soon as they can be. This involves keeping a constant eye on our bank account online, to check on the monies coming in.
  12. After completion, the Seller's solicitor deals with discharge of the Seller's mortgage, payment of the estate agents fee, accounts to the Seller for any money due to the Seller, completes the Client's associated purchase, if there is one, and sends the deeds to the Buyer's solicitor.
  13. The Buyer's solicitor deals with the filing of the Land Transaction Tax / Stamp Duty Land Tax return and payment of any duty, and with registration of the Buyer's title to the property and the mortgage at the Land Registry deals with any queries raised by the Land Registry and confirms to the Buyer that this has been done.
  14. If the property is leasehold or a flat, there will be additional work the Solicitors will be required to do during the transaction, such as the Seller's solicitor getting what is called a pre assignment pack from the managing agents and the Buyer's solicitor perusing it and what can often be a lengthy lease (up to 60 or more pages) and explaining it to the Buyer. Apportioning ground rent and service charge before completion to ensure each party only pays for their period of ownership, negotiating retention sum if definite figures are not available from the managing agents. The Buyer's solicitor may have to deal with a deed of covenant with the managing agents by the Buyer and will have to serve notice of the purchase and mortgage on the ground landlord.

How long it will take from an offer for a property being accepted until the moving day, depends on a number of factors.

The average process takes between 8 and 12 weeks.

The first thing to bear in mind, is that every transaction is different, and different factors can either speed it up or slow it down.

Different property, different people, with different needs and expectations.

It can be quicker or slower, depending on whether or not there is a chain of transactions. It usually takes a little longer for them all to come together, ready to exchange contracts, if there is a chain and we can only go as quickly as the slowest party in the chain, although we will do all we can to speed matters up.

Problems with the title to the property which need to be resolved can cause delay.

Problems obtaining documents required can cause delay.

If there is a delay in the issue of a mortgage offer, this can also slow up the process.

Buying a leasehold flat normally takes much longer than the average transaction, normally due to delay in the Sellers and the flat management company providing the requisite documentation for consideration.

If a lease needs to be extended, that can also slow up the process, sometimes, by months, due to the legal processes that have to be gone through, such as service of notices and valuation.

The speed of purchase of a property in the course of construction is dependant upon the construction of the property being completed and the relevant building regulation completion certificate being provided. For example, bad weather can delay the completion of a property.

Even transactions involving 2 properties in the same street can raise different legal issues. One may be registered land and the other not, requiring different legal processing. One may have been extended and altered, requiring checking of planning permissions and building regulation approvals and the other not, and so on.

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