COVID-19: Read the latest on how we can support your conveyancing journey

25 Apr, 2018/ by Homeward Legal /First Time Buyer

Conveyancing can be a confusing process for many people. Most of us are not familiar with the legalities around buying and selling property, and that's particularly true for first-time buyers.

But knowing who does what and when during conveyancing is important because it helps explain when and how certain things are done and why.

So, let's avoid confusion and pin down exactly who's responsible for each part of conveyancing.

Making an offer on a property

When a property is being sold through an estate agent, the buyer can make a verbal or written offer direct to the estate agent. It's smart to instruct a solicitor before you make an offer so he or she can move quickly on your behalf if the offer is accepted or there is some negotiation to be done on price.

Securing a mortgage offer

As the buyer, it's up to you to apply for a mortgage as early as possible, either personally or through an independent financial advisor, and have a firm offer from a lender in place. This is known as an agreement in principle, which is usually time limited. Having an agreement in principle in place when you make an offer will allow your solicitor to deal with the lender on your behalf and ensure there are no delays in releasing the funds for your purchase.

Carrying out a survey

The decision on whether to have a survey done is made by the buyer and the buyer is solely responsible for paying for this. Some lenders will insist on a minimum property valuation, but others may want a more thorough examination of the property to ensure it's worth the money they are lending on it. The survey itself, whether a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey, will be undertaken by a chartered surveyor who should be a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Our sister site, Surveyor Local, only uses RICS surveyors and offers value-for-money surveys tailored to your specific requirements.

Arranging searches

A mortgage lender will ask for information relating to the property you are buying. These are essential searches through the local council and other relevant authorities, which will reveal the likes of planning projects nearby, environmental details, water and drainage, any mining history and road information. Your solicitor will commission a specialist company to carry out these searches and you, the buyer, must pay for them. Some require upfront payment because your solicitor must pay the company in advance, others are added to your final account. When you instruct a solicitor through Homeward Legal, all upfront fees and charges will be outlined in the quote we give you.

Exchanging contracts

When buying a property, your solicitor will receive a standard sale contract from the seller's solicitor. You will be sent a copy of this that you should read to ensure all details are correct, sign and return to your solicitor as soon as possible. The two solicitors will only exchange contracts when all searches and survey results have been returned, the final sale price settled upon and a completion, or moving day, agreed by you and the seller. Once contracts are exchanged, neither party can back out. Exchange of contracts is usually done at least a week before completion day, though it is possible to do them on the same day.

Completion day

Before completion day, your solicitor will ask you to transfer the deposit for the property to their account, and on the day itself, he or she will request that your lender transfers the mortgage amount. This is known as "drawing down the funds". The solicitor will then pay the seller's solicitor and once that money has been confirmed as received, the seller will hand the keys to the property over to the estate agent and it's officially yours. You must pay the fees involved in the electronic bank transfer, which will be detailed on the final account your solicitor sends. Other fees to be paid after the sale is completed are those to the Land Registry for registering you as the new owner. First-time buyers pay no Stamp Duty Land Tax on the first £300,000 of a transaction and then 5 percent on the amount above £300,000 on a property purchase.

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