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Conveyancing Process For Buying A House

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10th Sep 2020 (Last updated on 23rd Oct 2020) 9 minute read

You will need a licensed conveyancer for both buying and selling property. The process is slightly different if you’re buying as you’ll require property searches, making the conveyancing process for buying a house more expensive.

Compare My Move work with property experts to bring you informative moving house advice. This guide will give a detailed look at the conveyancing process for buying a property to ensure you’re fully prepared for the conveyancing process.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Before The Conveyancing Process Begins
  2. After Offer Has Been Accepted
  3. After Completion Day
  4. Save On Your Conveyancing Costs With Compare My Move

Before The Conveyancing Process Begins

There are a few steps to take before the conveyancing process begins to ensure you’re fully prepared.

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.

3. Let Conveyancer Know You’ll Be Needing Them Soon

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.

After Offer Has Been Accepted

After your offer has been accepted, the conveyancing process will officially begin. Once a sale price has been agreed by both seller and buyer, things will start to move quickly, so it’s good to understand how the process works.

1. 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.

2. 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. 

3. 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 pull out of the sale, or use it to negotiate an offer. Remember to compare surveyors to get the best price for your survey.

4. 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.

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.

5. 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. 

6. 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. 

7. 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.

8. 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. 

9. 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.

After you have exchanged contracts, the purchase is now legally binding and you can’t pull out without facing any hefty fines.

14. 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.

15. 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.

After Completion Day

There isn’t much to be done after completion day as new changes to Stamp Duty have seen a lot of buyers not having to pay any tax. Congratulations, you can now move in and enjoy your house!

1. 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 27th July 2020, the threshold for Land Transaction Tax (LTT) in Wales has increased from £180,000 to £250,000 until 31st March 2021, as of 8th July 2020, the threshold for Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in England and Northern Ireland has increased from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31st March 2021 and as of 15th July 2020, the threshold for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland has increased from £145,000 to £250,000 until 31st March 2021.

2. 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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Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.