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Beginners Guide to Conveyancing

Conveyancing is the process of transferring a property from one legal owner to another. There are three separate stages to go through when you are selling or buying property:

  • Agreeing the sale
  • Exchange of contracts
  • Completion of sale

Agreeing the sale

  1. Once you have agreed the sale, we will put together a legal information pack to send to your buyer’s solicitor. This contains:
     

    • A property information form: You must complete this to answer questions about your property e.g .disputes with neighbours, guarantees about any work you have had done, boundaries, planning and building consents. It’s very important to complete this accurately, so make sure you check with us if you have any queries or concerns. There is a second form about leasehold properties for flat owners which includes details of the freeholder, management company, service charges and ground rent.
    • A fixtures, fittings and contents form: You need to complete this form to show your buyers which items at the property you intend to leave behind and which to take with you e.g. cupboards, shelving, kitchen appliances. Please make sure this reflects what has been agreed on the estate agent’s particulars. 
    • A copy of your title. You may hold the deeds if you own your property outright. If not, your mortgage lender may hold them for you. We will contact your mortgage lender to obtain them. In any event, we will need to obtain up-to-date title information from the land registry, where the property is registered. 
    • The contract of sale, which states the address and price of the property, and the names and addresses of the buyer and seller. 
  2. We deal with any questions from your buyer’s solicitor, and agree a completion date, or moving date. The completion date isn’t fixed in stone at this point, and often changes. Your estate agent is largely responsible for liaising with you and the buyer (and where applicable, other parties in the chain) to agree a completion date. A final completion date has to be agreed when you exchange contracts.

Exchange of contracts

  1. We receive the buyer’s deposit on your behalf.
  2. If you have a mortgage on your property we will ask your mortgage lender for a settlement figure. This is the amount you need to repay your mortgage lender once your property is sold.
  3. We will then send your signed contract to your buyer’s solicitor, who sends the buyer’s signed contract to us. You are now committed to the sale of the property, and cannot go back on it without paying a large financial penalty. The completion date is set ‘in stone’ on exchange.
  4. We will receive a Transfer Deed for you to sign which will be handed over on completion in order for the buyer to register their names on the deeds.

Completion

  1. On the completion date you have agreed, your buyer’s solicitor will send us the balance of the payment for your property.
  2. We will use this to pay off your mortgage, your estate agents fees, our fees and any costs incurred during the sale. Any money left over will be handed over to you, unless it is needed for a purchase you are making.
  3. We will then hand over the deeds of the property to your buyer’s solicitor to register their client as the new owner, and remove any reference to you and your mortgage, if any.

Buying a property

  1. We need to ask you to pay some money on account to cover expenses for searches and land registry fees. This is usually £300 and will be deducted from the final invoice.
  2. Your seller’s solicitor will send us the following documents:
    • a property information form. This will supply you with basic information about the property you wish to buy, including disputes with neighbours, guarantees about any work that has been done., boundaries and any planning regulation consents. This needs to be checked carefully to make sure you have no concerns about any of the information given. If you have any queries we will discuss them with the seller’s solicitor on your behalf.
    • a fixtures, fittings and contents form. This shows you what the sellers intend to leave at the property, and to take with them. Again if you have any queries or problems we will raise them on your behalf with the seller’s solicitors. This should mirror the estate agent’s particulars; any rights of way and any restriction as to use.
    • a copy of the title to the property. We will check this carefully to make sure that the seller is entitled to sell the property to you, and to advise you on any rights or obligations that would affect you as owners. If the property is leasehold, we will check the lease covenants to ensure that the lease is marketable and covers your intentions for use and does not prohibit sub-letting should you wish to have tenants in the future reside.
    • the contract of sale, which states the address and price of the property, and the names and addresses of the buyer and seller. We will raise some additional enquiries and investigate the title fully.
       
  3. We agree a completion date or moving date. The completion date isn’t fixed in stone at this point and often changes. A final completion date has to be agreed when you exchange contracts.
  4. We carry out the following searches:
    • Local Authority Search. This identifies issues such as existing planning and building regulations, applications on the property, breaches of planning and building regulations, tree preservation orders. It also identifies any proposals for council activity that would directly affect the property. It will also reveal whether double glazing, replacement of boilers and electrical works (where applicable) have been carried out in accordance with building regulations. 
    • Drainage Search. This shows whether your surface and foul water drains run into public or private sewers and if there are any drains or pipes running through the property.
    • Bankruptcy Search. Your mortgage lender may ask us to carry out this search to make sure you have not been declared bankrupt.
    • Environmental Search, to check the following issues relating to the land where your property is built: contamination, toxic emissions, subsidence, previous landfill or waste disposal sites, or a flood plain.
    • Chancel Check Search. This is legally defined as “a search made of historical records to establish whether the property is in the historical tithe district of a parish which may have a continuing liability for chancel repair contributions.” What that means in practice is that our search agents will check whether there is a possibility that the land you are buying carries with it an obligation to make payments to the Church in the surrounding area. If there is a possibility that you might receive demands for payments of this type, then we can take out an insurance policy to protect you against any possible demands. This will cover you and your lender. 
  5. If you will need a mortgage to buy your property, you must start arranging it now. Remember we will be acting for you and your lender and will have to disclose anything that we believe will affect your security. If you instruct us not to disclose any adverse information to the lender which may affect their security, we will not do. However we will have to withdraw acting for you and the lender as a conflict of interest will have arisen. We will need to see the mortgage offer from your lender in writing before we can exchange contracts. You must ensure that the offer is acceptable to you, and does not contain conditions which would prevent you from proceeding with your purchase because they cannot be compiled with.
  6. Arrange for a survey to be done on the property. We advise you to have a full structural survey as your mortgage lender’s survey is likely to be a valuation only, for the benefit of the lender, which you cannot rely on.
  7. We will supply you with the contract to sign when the searches are completed and all outstanding issues resolved. Before you sign the contract, we will make sure that you understand the nature of the transaction you are entering into by a report in writing and/or a personal attendance by you at our offices.
  8. On exchange of contracts we will need to provide the seller’s solicitors with a deposit, which should be 10% of the purchase price. This can be reduced by negotiation if your mortgage offer is higher than 90% of the purchase price, or if your deposit on your purchase is the deposit which is received on a related sale and amounts to less than 10% of the purchase price. This must be sent as soon as possible before exchange in order to prevent any delays.

Exchange of contracts

  1. We carry out a Land Registry Search to make sure all mortgages or other financial interests registered against the property are known about, to ensure that these are removed by the seller on completion. This prevents the seller registering any further financial charges between exchange and completion and to give your lender priority, for their security.
  2. We will prepare a transfer and mortgage deed for you to sign.
  3. We will then send your signed contract to your seller’s solicitor, who sends the seller’s signed contract to us. You are now committed to the purchase of the property, and cannot go back on it without paying a large financial penalty.

Completion

  1. As we need to pay stamp duty land tax (SDLT) to HM Revenue and Customs and register your purchase at the Land Registry, we will need the full amount of our costs and disbursements one working day prior to your completion date, in a cleared funds to avoid any delay in completion. Where completion monies are to be sent to us less than seven working days before the completion date, they will need to be sent to us by CHAPs payment.
  2. On the completion date you have agreed, we will hand over the balance of the payment for your property to your seller’s solicitor, together with any payments for apportioned service charges and ground rent, if you are buying a leasehold property.
  3. We will collect any documents relating to the property on your behalf, which will, after completion of the registration of the property in your name, either be given to you if you own the property outright, or sent to your mortgage lender.

Please note that once we have seen you to verify your identity, it will not be necessary to see you again. You do not need to be present at our offices to exchange and complete your purchase.

Top Tips

  • You sometimes need to organise buildings insurance on your new property from the day you exchange contracts. We will advise you if this is the case.
  • Remember to advise all your utility and service suppliers, as well as the council, of your moving date.
  • You may need to arrange a mail forwarding service at the post office.