What is conveyancing?

Our conveyancing team handled over 1500 conveyancing matters last year across Cumbria and North Lancashire but also countrywide. This covered a range of new builds, residential and commercial properties, and a mixture of new and existing clients. But what actually is conveyancing, why do you need it and how long does it take? We asked the team at Poole Townsend for a step by step process and to answer some frequently asked questions.

The conveyancing process
Licensed conveyancers complete the legal paper work required to transfer ownership of a property between the buyer and seller. This takes a number of different stages and starts when an offer is accepted on a property and lasts until your completion date.

How long does the conveyancing process take?
The process can take 14-16 weeks, although this can vary from case to case, as your solicitor or conveyancer are dependent on a number of third parties which can effect this timescale. Most conveyancers now use forms that can be completed electronically so there is limited requirement for clients to visit a conveyancers office, however Poole Townsend offer a face to face service if clients prefer.

Step 1 - Instructing a conveyancing solicitor
One of the delays to the process is finding and instructing a conveyancer. Many sellers don’t start their search until they have accepted an offer, and in times of high demand can find their sale delayed because they cannot start the legal paperwork. You can instruct a conveyancer ahead of time and determine the quote for the process (Poole Townsend have an online quote process available on their website) whilst you are marketing or looking for a property. Then the process can start immediately on offer.

Did you know?
Conveyancing solicitors work independently of Estate Agency practices – This means that you can use Poole Townsend Solicitors to act for you on your conveyance – even if you are not buying or selling a property with Poole Townsend Estate Agents

Step 2 - Checking documents
For sellers you will be required to complete a number of forms with information on the boundaries of the property, whether it is freehold or leasehold (see below) and what you intend to include in the sale (furnishings/ fittings). To save time it’s a good idea to find all your relevant documents and discuss what you want to take with you as you put your home on the market to avoid any delays. The information given forms the basis of the draft contract between parties.

For buyers your solicitor will undertake the relevant ID and Anti-Money Laundering checks, before contacting the seller’s solicitor to request a copy of the draft contract, the property’s title deeds and standard forms as above.

What does Freehold / Leasehold mean?
The main difference between freehold and leasehold properties is that with a freehold property, you own the house and the land it is built on, whereas with a leasehold property, you own the property but not the land it is built on. Leasehold properties are most commonly flats or apartments, but some houses are also leasehold. With a leasehold property, you effectively lease the ownership of the property for a specific period of time, which can be anything from 40 to 999 years.

Step 3 - Draft contract and enquiries
Conveyancers will examine the draft contract and raise any enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. These enquiries are usually queries or concerns about the property, for example what fixtures and fittings are being left, who is responsible for a shared boundary etc.

Step 4 - Arranging a property survey
This is not a legal requirement to progress the sale but a survey will highlight any major problems with the property such as a leaking roof, the standard of electrics etc. Some may need further investigation and this might involve a renegotiation of the price offered on the basis of the survey’s findings. It’s therefore important to do this at an early stage of the conveyancing process so your solicitor can advise on what to do next

Step 5 - Property searches
These should not be confused with a property survey above. These are legal property searches that conveyancers complete to ensure there are no other factors you should be aware of before the sale goes ahead.

These include:

  • Local authority searches. These usually cover proposed infrastructure developments in the area - for example are there plans for a new road or railway project adjacent to your property
  • Checking the ownership with the land registry, that your sellers legally own the property they are selling you
  • Checking flood risks (often incorporated into the environmental search below)
  • Water authority searches, how you get your water and if any public drains are within your boundaries which may affect access or future building works
  • Environmental searches to check your property is not built on contaminated land or if there are any ground stability issues.

These searches carry additional costs to your legal fees and are called “disbursements”. Don’t forget to ensure you factor these into your overall fees! Your solicitor will usually ask you to pay money on account to cover these costs, as your conveyancer is required to make payments to third-party providers for these.

Stage 6 - Your mortgage offer
For buyers you can get a mortgage offer ‘in principle’ before you start your property search. This can speed up the process and ensures you purchase a property within your financial means. Our mortgage team can support you in finding the right mortgage for you.

Once you’ve put in an offer on your property your mortgage lender will commission a mortgage valuation to ensure the property provides sufficient security on the loan. Once completed this information will be passed to your solicitor.

Stage 7 - Insurances
For any property purchases you need to have buildings insurances in place to cover you from the time contracts are exchanged, not from the date of completion. Mortgage companies will also advise that you have life insurance to cover your payments if the unexpected happens. Our financial services team can support you in finding the best policy.

Stage 8 - Signing and exchanging of contracts
To do this your solicitor has to be satisfied that all enquiries have been answered and the fixtures and fittings included in the sale are what you expected. You are then required to pay your deposit (usually 10% of the price agreed) to secure the property.

Your solicitor will exchange contracts for you in association with the conveyancing solicitor on the other side of the contract on an agreed date. If you are in a housing chain your conveyancer will do the same thing but only release your contract if the other people in the chain are happy to proceed - if one pulls out the whole chain can get held up.

Once you have exchanged contracts you are legally bound to proceed with the sale.

Stage 9 - Completion
This is usually planned between 1 and 4 weeks after exchange. Completion happens when the seller’s solicitor confirms they have received the funds for the property - only then can you pick up the keys and move in.
Your conveyancer will advise the final figure to pay for the property, any stamp duty that is liable, and when this should be settled (usually the day before completion). They will also advise your mortgage company to release funds.

Once completion has taken place, your conveyancer will then deal with the Land Registry formalities, transferring ownership to you.

At Poole Townsend we offer a stand alone conveyancing service or in association with buying or selling a property through one of our estate agency offices. If you would like to know more about our service, you can either contact our team or get an online quote from our dedicated web pages.

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