NB the conveyancing process timeline and the actual legal process is quite different if you buy a property at auction – click here to find out how auction conveyancing works.
However, whether you’re buying a house or flat, freehold or leasehold, the conveyancing timeline is broadly similar.
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WHAT IS THE CONVEYANCING PROCESS TIMELINE?
Prior to placing an offer on a property you must check your finances and ensure that your mortgage offer covers the amount your are proposing to pay. You then go ahead and place an offer on the property and it is accepted by the other side.
Remember, at this stage in the process, if you have a mortgage then you cannot normally rent a property out without the permission of your lender. So if you’re looking at a buy to let, don’t assume this is automatic. Your mortgage company will normally only consent to this provided that a proper tenancy agreement is entered into which meets their requirements. And don’t risk renting out your property without the approval of the lender – that will put you in clear breach of your mortgage conditions
Click here to read more about out specialist Property Investor team
View the property on more than one occasion.
Before making an offer on a property, it is always important to consider whether or not the property is right for you. And that’s regardless of whether you are looking to buy your dream home or investing in a buy to let property to rent out. So do your research and don’t just rely on one viewing. Seeing a property in daylight, when you have previously viewed it at night time, can show up all sorts of problems.
When making an offer you should consider whether there are any fixtures and fittings that you would like to stay at the property. As part of the negotiation process you may wish to make an offer based on certain items (e.g. carpets and curtains) being included in the price.
Appoint a property solicitor. Your estate agent will want the details of your law firm when your offer is accepted by the other side. If you choose your solicitor before you start looking for your new home, you won’t have to rush your decision when you find a property.
Don’t have a conveyancing solicitor yet? Our experienced team can help you wherever you live and whatever your property is in England and Wales.
If you are buying a property together with your spouse, family member, friend or partner, make sure your solicitor knows from this early stage.
Click here to read more about the differences between types of joint home ownership – and find out what’s right for you
Your conveyancing solicitor will request contractual information from the seller’s solicitors. These include basic questions about the property and questions about important factors such as boundaries, and if there are any existing disputes between the seller and their neighbours.
Additional questions may be needed. For example, if the seller has just had a new roof fitted your conveyancing lawyer may ask if the guarantee will still be valid when you move in.
At this stage the conveyancing process the seller will make your solicitor aware of any fixtures or movable items (often referred to as “chattels”) that are included in the purchase price.
N.B. Make sure you tell your solicitor if you have plans to extend the property
It is often assumed that only planning permission and building regulations approval is required for any proposed extensions. However, if any building work is within a certain distance of the boundary to your property then you will need to comply with the Party Walls Act and serve the appropriate notices on your neighbour.
Furthermore you should check if there is a restrictive covenant against your property which may prevent such work being undertaken or may require you to obtain the consent of a former landowner such as the developer. If you are considering making alterations to the property, then you should inform your solicitor who will be able to advise you on the possible issues.
The next stage of the conveyancing process when buying a house or flat, is that your solicitor will proceed to complete all pre-contractual searches for the property, such as a Local Authority Search and Official Copies search at the Land Registry. These can take up to 3 weeks to be returned. Any problems raised by these searches will then be fed back to you with solutions proposed by your solicitor.
• Local searches should reveal any relevant issues involving the local authority which may affect the property such as whether or not it has a compulsory purchase order as well as any current or proposed changes in the area that could impact your property such as planning permission for new developments, or changes to houses or roads nearby
• Water and drainage searches will show whether your property is connected to public sewers and mains drainage
• Environmental searches can reveal vital information – in particular whether the land you want to buy is prone to flooding or has problems with contamination or other environmental issues you should know in advance
• Checking the Local Land Charges Register will also find out, for example, whether the property is a listed building or in a conservation area.
Depending on your local area, your solicitor may also recommend other searches – including coal mining or chancel repair liability searches (the latter of which will reveal if the property you are thinking of buying comes with any commitments to help pay for the upkeep of a local church)
It is at this stage that you need to consider whether to have an independent survey of the property.
Your lender will insist on a survey of their own called a Homebuyer’s Report. This is not the same as a full building survey. In our opinion, far too many people rely on the homebuyer’s report alone when they should be paying for a full survey.
Why? The mortgage lenders survey only really looks into the value of the property and whether it will cover the mortgage. In contrast, a professional survey carried out by an experienced chartered surveyor will help you to determine the true value of the property and work out if there are any structural defects or problems which you should know about before buying your new home. Any problems found with the property can then be reflected in the purchase price and saves you getting stung for restoration costs in the future. Our strong advice is that you should have a full survey completed before you sign any contract.
We regularly deal with plenty of reliable local surveyors and are happy to introduce you to one of them.
A copy of your formal mortgage offer should be sent through from the bank/building society to your conveyancing solicitor.
Check the terms and conditions of the mortgage offer to see if there are any special conditions set by the Lender, such as work to be carried out on the property before the money will be released.
The solicitor will then receive a draft copy of the contract of sale from the other side. Any prior negotiations on price in respect of fixtures, chattels and search results will be reflected in any changes made to this first draft of the contract.
Your solicitor will show you the final version of the contract and ensure that you are happy with all of it. Once this is agreed upon, a date for exchange can be set; exchange is a formal process completed between your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor. It is only when contracts have been exchanged between solicitors that you are legally committed to buy the property, and the vendor legally committed to sell to you for the agreed price. Before exchange, either party can withdraw from the sale without any legal consequence
So, remember that you can withdraw from a transaction at any time before contracts are exchanged and that there is normally NO obligation to pay any fees to the other side whatsoever – although you will probably have to pay your solicitor for costs incurred in the conveyancing to date.
Arrange appropriate buildings and contents insurance to cover the property between exchange and completion. This is a key stage in the conveyancing process.Why? When you exchange contracts with the seller, you obtain responsibility of the house – the risk passes from the seller to the buyer.
Both parties should agree upon a date for completion of the sale. Your solicitor will request the remaining mortgage monies from your lender and hold these in the firm’s client account ready for transfer. In the meanwhile they will draft the final purchase deed (TR1 form) ready to send to seller’s solicitor.
When you are dealing with a residential chain it is often better not to try and attempt exchange of contracts and completion simultaneously, although this is possible.
NB Some clients ask why exchange and completion cannot be done at the same time. It is certainly possible and on rare occasions practical. However, although same day exchange and completion would save time in theory, it works on the basis that both parties will have the necessary security (funds) to proceed with the transaction. If your buyer is selling their own property and their buyer pulls out of the transaction late or reduces their offer, this may leave them unable to complete the purchase of your property. This same principle applies to you when you are buying another property as well as selling. Be prepared to wait a little longer for the transaction to complete in a residential chain.
At this stage you can organise a date for your removal company. Do not organise a date for removals until your solicitor confirms a purchase date. This will prevent you having to cancel and losing your removals company slot to someone else.
It is at this stage in the conveyancing process timeline that contracts are exchanged. That’s when the deposit money (which should be held by your own solicitor on your behalf) is paid over to the seller.
The contact is now legally binding. If you pull out of the sale you will more than likely lose your deposit.
Years ago, solicitors would actually meet up in person to physically hand over or exchange signed contracts. These days exchange is routinely completed by a simple phone call between solicitors. They simply confirm and agree the terms of the contract and the date you have set for completion.
However, when there is a conveyancing chain involved, the process is a little different. One solicitor will give the next up the chain a ‘release’ time to come back to them to confirm the exchange later the same day – sometimes as late as 4pm or even 5pm. That solicitor then contacts the next solicitor in the chain, until the last legal representative the chain has finally been reached. The exchange is then confirmed back down the chain.
If this doesn’t happen, however, then usually the exchange process may need to be restarted on the next working day
At this point it is important for your solicitor to do some pre-completion searches (Sometimes referred to as ‘Priority Searches’) and lodge a freeze on the official copies for the property. Your solicitor will also submit some requisitions on title to the seller’s solicitor in order to confirm information such as; how and where you pick up the keys to the property. They will receive answers to these requisitions along with a completion statement from the seller’s solicitor to indicate how much money is outstanding on the sale.
Your solicitor will forward you a conveyancing completion statement indicating how much money you owe before the sale can be completed. This financial statement will take into consideration any costs incurred by the solicitor (disbursements), the solicitor’s fees, any deposit money paid, mortgage money received, stamp duty land tax owed and registration fee.
You will then have a set period of time to pay the outstanding costs in order for completion to take place.
Your solicitor will also request that your mortgage advance in sent through in sufficient time for completion.
Your solicitor undertakes to send across the funds needed to complete the purchase and the seller’s solicitor undertakes to discharge any outstanding mortgage owed on the property with the money received. This ensures that you do not take the property subject to a legal charge i.e. the seller’s mortgage, hanging over it.
The home is now yours.
There is however one final stage in the conveyancing process when buying a house or flat. In order to finalise the purchase, your solicitor will pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax [SDLT] owed and register the transfer with the Land Registry. The mortgage deed will be dated accordingly.
Move in to your new home!
You should also ensure that all service meters are read on the date the seller moves out of the property. This will help to ensure that future bills are accurate and any disputes are avoided.
Need a conveyancing quote? Call our specialist team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our four local numbers for a bespoke quote – and an answer to any questions you have about buying your home – with no strings attached – wherever you live in England and Wales.
Want to understand conveyancing jargon? Click here to read our handy guide to Conveyancing Terms Explained:A to Z