Home buyers often shudder with fear at the thought of the conveyancing process due to the well voiced horror stories. Whether it was having a difficult estate agent or a non-communicative solicitor, the challenge of buying a home is worsened by not actually knowing what to do and when to do it.
Believe it or not, the process follows the same simple path regardless of the type of property you are buying. Yes there are more complex transactions such as leasehold, shared ownership or new build, however they will all follow a very simple 8 stage conveyancing process.
Step 1 – Solicitor
The first thing you need to do after getting an offer accepted is to instruct your solicitor. The estate agent will need these details in order to send out the sales memorandum. The sales memo details your agreed offer, the details for the buyers and seller’s solicitor and any specific information related to the offer such as ‘offer made subject to contract’.
Step 2 – Funding
This stage is all about ensuring not only that you have the money in place for your intended purchase but also that you can show where the money came from for compliance purposes and whether, for example, any money you’re using is a gift or a loan, something which your lender will need to know.
Step 3 – Survey
This is the point when you get an expert in on your behalf to check over the property you’re thinking of buying to see if there are any serious defects. It’s not the same as a mortgage valuation – that’s just the bank seeing if your property’s worth what it’s being sold for. The information you get from your RICS surveyor can help you decide whether to go ahead with the purchase at the price offered, bargain with the vendor for a discount or even pull out of buying the property entirely.
Step 4 – Searches
Property searches are obtained from the council, water board, environment agency and other bodies to provide critical information for you, your solicitor and the mortgage lender. Typical information includes if the property has planning permission and building regulation certificates, if the property has been flooded or if it is built on contaminated land.
Step 5 – Contracts and enquiries
Draft contracts include the formal contract drafted by the seller’s solicitor, the transfer document, title deeds, lease (if leasehold), leasehold information pack (if leasehold), property information forms completed by the seller and all the supporting warranties, guarantees and certificates that relate to the property. The buyer’s solicitor reviews all of the documents for any legal concerns and then raises enquires that the seller and their solicitor must answer.
Step 6 – Exchange of Contracts
Exchange of contracts is the formalisation of your intention to buy the property – up until this point both the buyer and seller can pull out for any reason without penalty. If both you and the mortgage lender are happy to proceed you can sign your contract, transfer document and mortgage deed and your solicitor can then exchange contracts. The solicitor will exchange on the instruction from the client.
Step 7 – Completion
This is the day when you collect the keys from the estate agent and move in! You have to ensure that you’ve given your solicitor the balance of the purchase money and all the costs including stamp duty, land registration fees and the balance of your solicitor’s bill. Your solicitor draws down the mortgage and once they have your money, your solicitor sends the completion monies to the seller’s solicitor.
Step 8 – Post Completion
Officially you have nothing more to do – on your behalf your solicitor transfers your stamp duty to HMRC within 30 days after completion and your land registry fees to the land registry. Your solicitor transfers all of the documents and this can take from 1 to 6 months. You’ll have plenty of your own things to do – time to start putting your own mark on your home and scoping out your new neighbourhood!
Co-founder of SAM Conveyancing