Confused about contracts? Dizzied by disbursements? Mystified by mortgages? Follow Homeward Legal’s simplified guide to the conveyancing process to get the knowledge. We break down the legal jargon to explain in simple, easy-to-understand terms exactly how conveyancing is progressed from start to finish. So, when you start shopping around for conveyancing quotes online, you’ll understand exactly what’s involved. Ready to buy or sell your home? Read on.
What is the meaning of conveyancing?
The legal work done by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer for buying or selling property is called conveyancing. This process includes:
- Changing the legal ownership of the property
- Drawing up binding contracts
- Liaising with mortgage lenders
- Paying essential legal fees and other charges such as Stamp Duty Land Tax
- Registering the change of ownership with the Land Registry
Instructing a solicitor
A seller needs a conveyancing solicitor when they accept an offer from a prospective buyer. A buyer should instruct a solicitor as soon as they have found a place they want to buy. At Homeward Legal, we work with experienced property lawyers across England and Wales. We carefully vet every firm on our panel to ensure they meet our rigorously high standards so you can be confident you are in safe hands throughout.
The first steps in the conveyancing process
The conveyancing process is different depending on whether you are buying or selling. For buyers, a conveyancing solicitor’s first step is to commission the essential searches required for conveyancing. These searches, via the local authority and other authorities such as water and sewerage operators, provide vital information about the property. Read more about the searches required in conveyancing here.
Searches vital step in conveyancing activity
A seller is under no obligation to volunteer any information about the property. So buyers need as much information as possible. This is why conveyancing searches are so important. This is also a good reason to commission a building survey, which can reveal any issues. Our partner site Surveyor Local works with chartered surveyors who are members of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Surveyor Local offers a broad range of surveys at low cost and with a quick turnaround.
Drawing up contracts
The seller’s solicitor drawing up the sale contract is an important stage in the conveyancing process. They will send a copy of the contract on to the buyer’s solicitor. They will also provide proof of who owns the property and confirm their client has the legal right to sell. The two solicitors will also discuss an agreed completion date and work towards finalising all paperwork by that date.
Another vital part of the conveyancing process is confirming the buyer has the finance to make the purchase. The buyer’s solicitor will liaise with the lender if there’s a mortgage involved and get a copy of the mortgage offer. Those details are then shared with the seller’s legal team. Those buying with no mortgage must show their solicitor proof of funds before the conveyancing process can continue.
Freehold or leasehold
As part of the conveyancing process, the buyer’s solicitor will establish if the property is freehold or leasehold. This is called the property’s tenure and is done through a Land Registry search. Freehold means the owner also owns the land on which the property stands. Leasehold means the land is owned by someone else and only leased for a specific period of time. Knowing the tenure of a property is important. The buyer has to know how long is left on the lease and how much rent charges and management fees are. Where a property is leasehold, the seller’s conveyancing solicitor will provide a Leasehold Management Pack that includes this crucial information.
The exchange of contracts is the key moment in the transaction and in the whole conveyancing process. The two solicitors exchange contracts, usually by telephone, by confirming the contracts are identical. Neither buyer nor seller can now back out. The buyer now provides a deposit, usually 10 percent of the price, which their solicitor will transfer to the seller’s legal team. The signed contracts will also be swapped at this stage.
Arranging a completion date
Both parties will agree on a completion date that suits buyer and seller once contracts have been exchanged. There’s usually a gap between the exchange of contracts and the completion, although it can happen on the same day. Before the sale is complete, the buyer’s solicitor will make a final check with the Land Registry. This is to confirm the title hasn’t changed since their initial query. They will liaise with the lender to transfer the mortgage funds to their account, then on to the buyer’s solicitor on completion day. Funds are always transferred electronically. The seller’s solicitor will only release the keys when the sale funds have reached their account.
The final steps in the conveyancing process
The seller’s solicitor will pay off any outstanding mortgage and deduct their own fees before transferring the balance to the seller. The conveyancing process is at an end now for the seller. The buyer’s side still has some legal matters to settle, including paying Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), the tax paid on any land or property transaction. Read more about SDLT here and its equivalent in Wales here. You can also use HMRC’s SDLT calculator to work out what you will pay. The buyer’s solicitor usually makes this payment using HMRC’s online return system, within a 30-day deadline. The solicitor then registers the sale with the Land Registry. The updated title will reflect the new ownership. And now the conveyancing procedure for the whole transaction is complete.
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