The legal process where the title or ownership of property transfers from the seller to the buyer is known as conveyancing.
There are two main types of conveyancing: freehold and leasehold. Freehold conveyancing is usually more straightforward and your solicitor will be able to set out a reasonable approximate timescale for completion. Leasehold conveyancing can be more complicated.
The conveyancing process begins when an offer is accepted on a property. This might be you accepting an offer on your property or may be a seller accepting an offer from you. Commonly it’s both a sale and purchase as people look to move house. If you have a mortgage you will need to instruct a solicitor because lenders will not deal with individuals.
If we are instructed we will provide you with our Terms of Business. This states initial information including who will deal with your case and what our charges are. Once this is signed, we will contact the seller’s solicitor and inform them that we are acting for you. We’ll ask for the draft contract, title information and forms related to the property.
We will inspect the draft contract and documentation and go through it with you. This would be the time to check the tenure of the property is what you think it is. In the case of purchasing leasehold, check the lease length, any covenants, service charge and rent provisions. We will ensure you are happy with all arrangements. We will raise any enquiries with the seller’s solicitor.
Next, we will conduct property searches. These searches reveal information about the property and surrounding area that you might not be aware of, such as previous use, contamination and local authority planning decisions. In order to avoid problems down the line, it is essential to be armed with as much information about the property as possible before committing to the purchase. Local searches are provided by third parties so they all carry a charge.
Valuation and Survey
We will go through the terms of your mortgage offer. Your lender needs a property valuation done on the property you are purchasing because they need to know that the property provides enough security for the mortgage. Sometimes you have to pay them for this and sometimes you don’t.
You could instruct a RICS-registered surveyor to carry out a full structural survey of the property. Some lenders allow you to ‘upgrade’ their basic valuation to this. This will provide reassurance that the house is sound, but may reveal the full extent of any work needed on the property. The potential for costly works can be used to negotiate with the seller; they might drop their price or might do the work themselves. Only about a fifth of purchasers instruct a surveyor, but the cost of not doing the survey can be many times that of doing one.
Contracts and exchange
Once negotiations over the contract have been finalised, you and the and seller will sign an identical copy. Contracts will be exchanged by the solicitors involved, making the contract legally binding. You will have negotiated a completion date which will be shortly after exchange. We’ll register an interest in the property at the Land Registry. Normally your deposit is transferred to the seller’s solicitor at this point. If you pull out after exchange, you will lose this deposit and could be sued for breach of contract.
At completion, we will pay off the balance of your mortgage with the monies from your buyer, and will transfer the balance of your purchase funds to the seller’s solicitor. Any Stamp Duty Land Tax due will be settled, and we will register you as owner with the Land Registry.
If we are instructed to act for you in a sale, we will provide you with our Terms of Business with details of who will act for you and our charges. Once you receive a formal offer for your property you’ll need to complete various forms. These forms are for you to provide information to the buyer about the property. The information you must provide is wide ranging: from documenting neighbours from hell to detailing fixtures and fittings to identifying where the keys will be available for collection upon completion. These forms must be completed truthfully; if you are found out later to have misled the buyer, they could sue you.
We will draw up the draft contract and send it along with the completed information forms to the buyer’s solicitor, who will raise queries on it. Elements such as the completion date and any fixtures and fittings details can be agreed. Negotiations relating to the buyer’s survey can be resolved.
Once the buyer is happy and you are happy, contracts can be exchanged. This confirms everything and enters you into a legally binding agreement with the buyer. The buyer will transfer their deposit into out account. You will still own the property until the completion date.
On the completion date we will receive the balance of the money owed from the buyer’s solicitor. We will use this to pay off any lending on the property and to pay the estate agents. If you are also buying we will use the remaining funds towards that. If not, we will pay them out to you.