The Conveyancing Process - Stages of Buying & Selling a House
Whether you’re buying or selling a house, it’s important to be aware of how the conveyancing process works.
You’ll need the help of a conveyancing solicitor or licensed conveyancer for both buying and selling, although the process will slightly differ. If you’re buying, you’ll require property searches that aren't relevant if you're selling a house.
We'll take a look at all the important stages when buying and selling a house to give you a complete timeline of the conveyancing process.
Conveyancing Process for Buying a House
Conveyancing is a vital part when buying a house From Local Authority searches to pre-contract enquiries, we'll explore everything you need to know about the conveyancing process for buying.
1. Get Your Mortgage Ready
Before you view properties you should have a mortgage in principle in place to show the seller and estate agent you are a serious buyer. However, before you make an offer you should speak to a mortgage advisor or have a look at the different types of mortgages available.
If using a mortgage adviser, they will take care of the application after they’ve found you the best deal. If you’re not using a mortgage advisor, you should begin your mortgage application before making an offer so once your offer is accepted, you can kick start the conveyancing process.
2. Find A Conveyancer
Before you make an offer on a property it’s a good idea to compare conveyancing quotes to find the best deal. Check that your conveyancer or solicitor is regulated by either the CLC, SRA, LSS or LSNI and take recommendations from friends or family.
Make sure you ask for a full breakdown of the quote including conveyancing legal fees and disbursements. Find out if they offer a ‘no sale, no fee’ service which will mean you won’t have to pay their legal fee if the sale does fall through.
Once you’re happy with your chosen conveyancer or solicitor, you will need to let them know you might be making an offer soon. By letting them know your offer might be accepted, this gives them enough time to prepare your case beforehand. This will make the process run more smoothly from the moment your offer has been accepted.
To learn more, read What is Conveyancing.
4. Instruct Conveyancer
As soon as your offer has been accepted, you will need to let your conveyancer know so they can open your case and begin the conveyancing process. You will need to inform them of the agreed sale price, your current address and full name. You’ll also need to inform the estate agent of your choice of solicitor.
5. Finalise Mortgage
At this stage, you will want to be finalising your mortgage. If you’re using a mortgage adviser, you should let them know once you’ve agreed on a sale price so they can get the ball rolling with finding you a mortgage and finalising the application.
Your mortgage adviser will need to see evidence of your deposit. You’ll want to make sure you have PDF copies of the last 3 months of bank statements and payslips as well as copies of identification.
The estate agent might ask for a copy of your mortgage in principle (AIP) before they can take the property off the market. Let your mortgage adviser know to get in touch with the estate agent to provide a copy or to confirm you can borrow the value of the property.
6. Receive Paperwork From Conveyancer
Once you’ve appointed a conveyancer, they will draw up a draft contract or terms of engagement with you, setting out their charges and deposits required. You will need to read over the papers and return them to your conveyancer.
Next, your solicitor will write to your seller’s solicitor to confirm they are instructed and the seller’s conveyancer will provide your conveyancer with a contract pack which includes the Property Information Form and the Fittings and Contents form to learn more about what’s included in the sale and what items will be taken.
At this point, you should be looking at hiring a property surveyor to conduct a survey on the property. The survey will highlight any damage or defects to the property’s structure, saving you money in the long run. If your survey reveals bad results, you can still walk away from the sale or purchase, or use it to negotiate an offer. Remember to compare surveyors to get the best price for your survey.
7. Property Searches
Your conveyancer will have to organise conveyancing searches with the local council to reveal any legal or environmental issues with the house or the land near the property. Property searches are made up of the Local Authority Search, an Environmental Search and a Water and Drainage Search and will reveal important information that could influence your decision to carry on with the purchase. This would be the stage where many of your questions about buying the house will be answered.
Depending on the type of property, location and search results, your conveyancer might have to order further searches for an in-depth assessment. If your searches returned results that the property is at high risk of flooding, then your solicitor can order a Flood Risk Search for more information.
To learn more, read What are Conveyancing Searches.
8. Receive Draft Contract
Once your conveyancer has received the results from the searches, they will review the draft contract paperwork which usually happens between 0-3 weeks after an offer has been agreed. They will discuss the findings with you, giving you the opportunity to ask any questions about the results.
Your conveyancer will check over the contract pack and then talk you through the contract pack, explaining what fittings and fixtures will be staying in the property along with other important details about the house.
9. Ask Pre-Contract Enquiries
This is where your conveyancer will also raise pre-contract enquiries with the seller’s conveyancer. Make sure you carefully read through the contract pack as this is another opportunity for you to ask more questions before you exchange contracts.
The seller’s conveyancer will talk with the seller to answer the pre-contract enquiries and then return this to your conveyancer. Once all enquiries are answered, searches reviewed and mortgage offer checked, your conveyancer will write to you to report on all matters.
You will need to read everything they send you and ask questions if you have any worries or find things you want to check further. Don’t underestimate how important it is to read through everything thoroughly as after exchanging contracts the sale will be legally binding.
10. Agree On Completion Date
Once you are happy with the contract and results from the searches and enquiries, you will need to plan a completion date that suits both you and the seller. Your conveyancer will plan this on your behalf. Be realistic with the date you choose, give yourself enough time to transfer payment to your conveyancer and arrange a removal company.
11. Arrange Deposit To Be Paid
Your conveyancer will prepare the draft transfer deed and a completion information form to send to the seller's conveyancer. Once they’ve approved of these documents, your conveyancer can carry out further pre-completion searches and prepare a completion statement.
When the buyer is happy to proceed, arrangements are made for the deposit to be paid to your conveyancer in readiness for exchange of contracts.
It’s worth noting that you will need to arrange buildings insurance before exchanging contracts.
12. Exchange Contracts
The next step in the conveyancing process is to exchange contracts. Once you have exchanged contracts, the sale will become legally binding and you cannot pull out without facing any financial damage. It’s important that you are happy with all the property details before you exchange contracts.
Your conveyancer will ensure they have all the necessary documents ready to exchange. Once conveyancers on both sides are ready then the exchange of contracts is achieved by way of a telephone call between both solicitors. The transaction becomes legally binding on all parties and the completion date is formally set.
You should now have buildings insurance in place from the date of exchanging contracts.
13. Between Exchange and Completion
The time between exchange and completion can vary depending on if you or the seller is part of a property chain. Completion day typically happens anywhere between 7-28 days after exchanging contracts but can take much longer in certain situations. It’s important to ensure you conveyancer stays on top of things to ensure a smooth process avoiding any delays.
Your mortgage lender will carry out a few more checks before releasing mortgage funds to be transferred to the seller on completion day. Most buyers use the time between exchange and completion to organise everything for moving day.
14. Completion Day
The final stage in the solicitor process is completion day. On completion day, ownership of the property is legally transferred to your name and the sale is finalised. Your conveyancer will ask for your finances from your mortgage lender and the money will be transferred to the seller.
On completion, the buyer vacates the property by the agreed time and buyer’s Conveyancer sends the proceeds of sale to the seller’s Conveyancer. Seller’s Conveyancer releases the keys to the estate agent (if one was used) and sends the title deeds and transfer deed to the buyer’s Conveyancer together with an undertaking to repay any existing mortgage.
Ideally, all the buyers and sellers in the chain complete on the same day, otherwise you might have to wait for the seller to have completed buying their new home before you can move in. Completion time is usually around midday but can vary depending on your situation. If you have a share of freehold, find out how to register your name on the company register.
It’s a good idea to change the locks on your new house as soon as you move in, just in case.
15. Pay Any Stamp Duty
After completion day, you will have 30 days to pay any Stamp Duty or Land Transaction Tax due on the property. Your conveyancer will send the Stamp Duty to HMRC and receive the title deeds, transfer deed and proof that the seller has paid the outstanding mortgage on the property.
As of July 1st 2021, the Stamp Duty threshold is set at £250,000 in England and Northern Ireland. This is due to be in place until 30 September when it returns to the normal threshold of £125,000 as of October 1st.
Wales' Land Transaction Tax (LTT) holiday ended on June 30th and Scotland's Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) holiday ended on March 31st as planned.
16. Register With Land Registry
Your conveyancer will register you as the new owner of the property with The Land Registry by sending your TR1 and mortgage deed over. You’ll receive copies of the registered title deed shortly after completion day. The buyer receives a copy of the registered title from The Land Registry. Your mortgage lender might require further documentation which your conveyancer will arrange to be sent.
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Conveyancing Process for Selling a House
Conveyancing is a vital process when selling a house. The process is slightly different if you’re selling as you don’t need property searches, making the conveyancing process cheaper. Below we'll explore the steps of conveyancing for selling.
1. Talk To Your Mortgage Lender
If you’re selling a house and buying at the same time, you will have a few options with your mortgage. The first thing you’ll need to do is find out how much outstanding mortgage you have left with your mortgage lender.
Then you can either port your mortgage, which means taking the same mortgage deal with the same provider over to your new house, or you can remortgage by looking at better deals. You'll need to factor the remortgaging solicitor fees into the total cost too.
Ideally, you will do this before accepting any offer or even before you list your house for sale. Things move pretty quickly once you’ve accepted an offer so make sure you have everything in place.
2. Research Conveyancers
Once you’ve spoken to your mortgage lender, you will need to find a conveyancer. You should do this once your house has been put on the market, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a look around before this.
You’ll want to compare conveyancers so you get the best deal for selling your house. Make sure you only use SRA, CLC, LSS, LSNI or CILEx regulated conveyancers to give you peace of mind throughout the process.
Once you’ve had a few viewings and buyers have shown themselves to be serious with a Mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP) or have made an offer, you will need to let your conveyancer know that you will be needing them soon. This gives them time to prepare for your case and get things ready.
Have copies of bank statements, IDs and other important documents ready for either your estate agent or the conveyancer.
4. Instruct Conveyancer
Once you’ve accepted an offer on your house that you’re happy with and agreed on a sale price, you will first need to let your conveyancer know so you can instruct them to begin the case. They will need to know information such as your full name, address of property to be sold and how much the agreed sale price is. They will also need to know your mortgage details so put them in touch with your lender.
5. Complete Questionnaires
Once instructed, your conveyancer will send you all the necessary paperwork to complete. You'll have to complete the paperwork and legal documents before they can start the process. You’ll then need to complete a number of detailed questionnaires about the property and what you intend to include with the sale.
The sale agreement questionnaires will require you to answer questions on property information such as complaints raised with neighbours, known proposed developments and what you plan on leaving in the house. You must fill these forms out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge as if later it’s revealed that you have not been fully truthful you could be sued for compensation.
Typical questions include:
- The (TA 6): A questionnaire that asks about any disputes with neighbours, information on boundaries, known proposed developments (like motorways or railways), building works, council tax, utilities, sewerage, contact details.
- The (TA 7) and (TA9): if you don’t own the freehold of the property, then you must give details on the leasehold (TA7) or the commonhold (TA9)
- The (TA 10): This is the fittings and fixtures form where you’ll highlight what you are keeping in the property and what you’re taking with you.
- The (TA 13): This will include final details such as how you will hand over the keys and where to complete.
6. Draft Contract
With the information you provided in your questionnaire, your conveyancer will prepare the draft contract and send over to the buyer’s conveyancer to explain to the buyer. The paperwork will include the contract, Land Registry documents and property information forms that you completed such as the fittings and fixtures forms.
The buyer’s conveyancer will review the draft contract paperwork and will then submit a set of Pre-Contract Enquiries to your conveyancer to answer. Your conveyancer will usually need your help to answer some of the enquiries. They will then attempt to satisfy the enquiries and go forward with the process once all parties are happy.
Your conveyancer will liaise with the buyer’s conveyancer to agree the following:
- Date of completion
- The fixtures and fittings included in the sale
- If the buyer would like to pay for other fixtures and fittings to be included
7. Prepare Property For Survey
At this point, the buyer will be needing a property survey. The survey might flag some repair work or hidden damage that the buyer might use to renegotiate the original offer accepted, so be prepared to negotiate again.
To make things easier for the surveyor, prepare your property for the survey. Have a general tidy up of your property and make sure you’re not blocking entrances to anything such as the loft or cupboards.
8. Answer Pre Contract Enquiries
You will need to answer the buyer’s pre-contract enquiries that they set out to their conveyancer. As exchanging contracts is approaching, the buyer might have further questions as the sale becomes legally binding after exchanging.
Their conveyancer will put these questions to your conveyancer but they might require your help for some questions. Make sure you answer these questions as thoroughly and truthfully as possible. You don’t want to give false information only for the buyer to find out after they have exchanged contracts.
9. Finalise Contract And Agree on Completion Date
Once all pre-contract enquiries and further concerns are answered and the buyer is happy with the information your conveyancer has provided, your conveyancer will send them the contract to read and sign once happy.
You will need to agree on a completion date that suits all parties involved. Don’t choose a completion date that’s too soon if you are still waiting to buy your house, be realistic. You will need time to plan a removal company too.
10. Exchanging Contracts
The process of exchanging contracts is done over the phone, with each conveyancer agreeing to send to the other their client's signed contract. Once the exchange of contracts is achieved, the transaction becomes legally binding. The seller is bound to sell, and the buyer is bound to buy the property for the sale price on the completion date agreed in the contract.
Be aware that the sale of your property is now legally binding, so you can’t pull out of the sale or accept other offers without getting sued by the buyer.
Between exchange and completion the buyer can pull out, but you might be able to keep their deposit if this does happen.
11. Completion Day
Completion day will be the final step in the conveyancing process for selling a house. On completion day, you must vacate your property so the buyer can move in. Legal ownership will be transferred from you to the buyer using the TR1 form and your mortgage will be paid off.
The buyer’s conveyancer will transfer the funds from the sale to your conveyancer and once the payment is received then completion will have taken place. Your conveyancer will send the deeds to the buyers’ conveyancer and will pay for services used such as the estate agent, outstanding balance to your mortgage lender and the solicitor fees for selling a house. You will need to move out of the property and the buyer can collect the keys and move in.
12. After Completion Day
There are a few things to remember to do on and after completion day:
Remember to redirect your mail and change any subscriptions to your new address.
Remember to let your utility company know you’re moving out so you won’t be charged for anything going forward.
Remember to pack up your belongings before completion day, you don’t want to hold up the whole chain.
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How Long Does the Conveyancing Process Take?
The conveyancing process usually takes between 8 and 12 weeks. The time it takes for your solicitor to get to completion day will vary depending on if you're in a property chain or not. If you're chain free, meaning you're a first-time buyer or cash buyer, then the process should only be around 8 weeks.
To learn more, read How Long Does Conveyancing Take.
How Can I Speed up the Conveyancing Process?
To ensure a speedy conveyancing process, make sure you've spoken to a conveyancer prior to getting your offer accepted or accepting an offer on your house. Other tips to speed up the conveyancing process:
- Have bank statements ready
- Have finances ready
- Have a mortgage in principle
- Be chain free (first time buyer, cash buyer or don't need to sell/buy a house as well)
- Chase conveyancer for updates
- Be available via phone or email always