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Steps in a conveyancing transaction

Whether you are buying or selling, there can be several stages to concluding a conveyancing transaction. Here's what to watch out for.

Steps in the conveyancing transaction

When buying a property

When selling a property

The conveyancing procedure for buying a property

There is a standard procedure for legally buying a property in England or Wales, and you will need to appoint a legal representative, normally a Solicitor or a licensed conveyancer. If you don’t know the difference between Solicitors and licensed conveyancers please read our guide.

Choosing a conveyancer

Just before you make an offer on a new property it is a good time to also instruct a solicitor or licensed conveyancer.

Once a price for the purchase property has been agreed the estate agent will share the legal team’s details between the purchaser and the seller. Once the seller’s solicitor received the contact details for your legal team they can send out the contract pack, the agreement to sell, along with:

  • The fittings and contents form
  • The property information form

The pack contains details about the property, for example plans of the boundaries, and information about anything else which is covered in the price, for example are they leaving electrical fittings or carpets. Also included will be any forms completed by the seller and the title of the property. If it is a leasehold property there will also be a copy of the lease.

It is necessary to check the documents thoroughly at this point, despite your conveyancing team handling the paperwork, making sure to raise any queries or uncertainties.

If all goes well during this preliminary phase, the seller will accept your offer on the purchase property, the mortgage company will approve your application for funds, and your conveyancing team will receive the mortgage offer.

Your mortgage lender will have made their own valuation report of the property before issuing the mortgage offer, but you should also organise a property survey for yourself to identify any issues you may have missed.

If you change your mind about buying the property, or the seller decides they don’t want to sell it to you, there will be no legal repercussions of withdrawing from the process until exchange of contracts, when the deal becomes legally binding.

Applying for searches

At this stage your conveyancing solicitor will apply for necessary searches, such as the local authority search. These searches establish fundamental knowledge of the purchase property, for example:

  • Legal rights of way
  • Boundaries adjoining the property
  • Any planning permission or planning constraints
  • Outstanding disputes

Your conveyancer may require further searches, dependant on the geographical location of the property. You can find out more about different search types in our conveyancing searches article.

Setting the completion date

Your conveyancing team will inspect the mortgage offer, the local authority (and other) searches, and the contract pack sent by the seller’s solicitor.

Your conveyancer will highlight any concerns they have with the paperwork. Some typical examples are:

  • Your new property might be located near major road work planned by the council
  • Someone else may hold a right of way to cross your land.
  • If there is contamination in the land on or near the purchase property

Then you can then propose a completion date to your conveyancer and they will negotiate a mutually agreed date with the vendor’s legal team.

Once agreed your Solicitor will ask you to transfer your deposit and advise the other side’s legal team to proceed with exchange of contracts.

Exchanging contracts

Your legal team will ask you to acknowledge and sign the mortgage deed, transfer deed, and final account for completion, once they have been put together. The final statement will help you identify any extra funds that may be needed for completion.

To ensure that no modifications have taken place on the Land Register since your original searches, your conveyancer will order your final searches from the Land Registry.

Contracts are then exchanged between the buyer and seller’s solicitors, the deposit and signed Transfer deed are sent from your conveyancer to the seller’s conveyancers.

You are legally obliged to go ahead with the property purchase after exchange of contracts.

Completion

Completion is the day when you are the new legal owner, the property is transferred into your name, and the purchase is finalised. The outstanding funds, not including the deposit which has already been paid, must be sent to the seller’s solicitor. After your conveyancer will receive back the Transfer deed, signed by the seller.

Your conveyancer will request your funds from the mortgage company. Records of any outstanding mortgages, any transfer or title deed will be collected by your solicitor.

There is more information about what happens on completion day in our other articles.

After Completion

Your solicitor will register you as the new owner at HMLR (Land Registry), within 30 days of completion, by submitting the registration documents, along with the title deeds of the property. If there is any Stamp Duty liable on the purchase this must be paid to HMRC (Revenue and Customs).

The deeds of the property will be forwarded by HMRC to the mortgage company, where you have arranged a mortgage. Otherwise if you bought with cash then the title deeds will be sent back to you.

When selling a property

Preliminary work

You will be asked to complete some forms when you first instruct a conveyancer to sell your house. They will apply for a copy of the property title deeds from HMLR.

The forms you will be asked to fill in are:

  • Fixtures and Fittings
  • Property Information
  • Leasehold Information (where it is a leasehold property)

Your solicitor will need to arrange a completion date with the vendor’s conveyancer, so they will ask you to provide some suitable dates.

Where there is a mortgage outstanding on your property, your conveyancer will need to request a mortgage statement from your lender. This will allow you to account for the funds to be paid back once your sale completes.

Exchange of contracts

Your conveyancer will receive the deposit from the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor after exchange of contracts.

Once contracts have exchanged you can’t entertain any other offers on your property, as you are legally contracted to sell the property to the buyer. If the buyer doesn’t go ahead with the purchase they will lose their deposit. The deposit is normally 10% of the property sale price.

In England and Wales, neither the buyer or seller are bound legally to complete the transaction until exchange of contracts, so can pull out at any moment. After contracts are exchanged then completion must take place. If completion doesn’t happen at the agreed time, the vendor serves notice on the buyer. If completion still does not occur, then the seller keeps the buyer’s deposit.

Completion

Before completion takes place on the sale of property your final bill will be created and sent to you by your legal team for your approval. The conveyancing fees will need paying as part of the transaction before completion and this is factored into the accounts.

The sale will be completed once your solicitor has verified that the property deeds are in order, and that all the required funds have been received from the other side, at which point the deeds will be transferred to the purchaser’s solicitors. Your legal team will then pay off any remaining mortgage balances, if you had outstanding loans on the property, and pay the estate agents’ fees, where one was used. And also take payment for any conveyancing fees incurred.

After all the outstanding balances have been settled, any funds remaining from the sale of the property will be returned to you. This will normally be on completion day by telegraphic transfer.

You must relinquish the property on the day of completion at the time that was agreed with the other side. You should hand the keys to the buyer, or the estate agent.

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