The Conveyancing Process Explained
So how does it work?
The seller finds a buyer, usually by marketing the property, either through an estate agent, online or some other way of finding a buyer. The buyer makes an offer, the seller and buyer negotiate and agree a price and any other sale terms.
A solicitor or conveyancer is instructed to do the conveyancing. The instruction process is usually very quick and it usually takes just a call or email to receive a quote.
The conveyancing process differs for sellers and buyers.
The seller will complete a number of detailed questionnaires about the property and the items included in the sale, these are called “protocol forms” and include;
a general questionnaire on topics such as information on boundaries, disputes and complaints (like reported noisy neighbour complaints or boundary disputes), known proposed developments (like motorways or railways), building works, council tax, utilities, sewerage, contact details.
There are a couple of additional forms for leasehold properties such as flats. It is important that all forms are completed fully and carefully.
A fittings and contents form provides details of which fittings and fixtures included with the property.
The seller has to provide identity information to their solicitor and provide enough information for the solicitor to prepare the sale contract. When the solicitor has all the necessary information and documents a contract pack is sent to the buyer’s solicitor.
If the seller has a mortgage the seller’s solicitor will request a repayment statement (called a redemption statement) from the mortgage lender so that the solicitor can fully pay off the mortgage loan after completion of the sale.
The buyers have a busy time organising a survey of the house and organising their finances. It is important for buyers to make sure that they will have sufficient money to cover the cost of the house, the SDLT payable, and all of the moving and other costs. If the buyer will have a mortgage, then this needs to be organised and a formal offer made by the mortgage lender.
Buyers are strongly advised to inspect the property at least once and preferably more. Buyers should check everything works and that the legal plan of the property given to them by their solicitor correctly shows the property being sold. The solicitor doesn’t get to see the house or flat so the buyer must make sure that the plan is correct.
The buyer’s solicitor will review the paperwork supplied by the seller, the mortgage paperwork and the conveyancing searches. The solicitor will also negotiate the sale contract. When everything is ready the solicitor will report to the buyer and let the buyer know that the pre-exchange legal work has been done. Sometimes the buyer and seller will have further negotiations before exchange.
What do the buyer and seller usually negotiate about?
These can be fairly ordinary things such as the date of completion date and what goods are included in the sale price and what items will have to be paid for on top of the sale price.
However, later negotiations can be quite major for example if the buyer’s survey has revealed some unexpected issue with the property.
When everything is agreed, contracts are exchanged, and this actually does mean that the copy signed by the seller and the copy signed by the buyer are physically exchanged. So that the seller’s solicitor ends up with the buyer’s signed copy and the buyer’s conveyancer has the seller’s copy. In that way there can be no doubt about the contents of the contract.
On the exchange of contracts the seller and buyer are legally bound to complete on the sale of the property, and in the very great majority of cases this is what happens. There are quite severe contractual penalties for pulling out of an exchanged contract.
Between exchange and completion
On exchange, a deposit which is usually 10% of the property price is paid by the buyer to the seller. It is usually held on account by the seller’s solicitor until completion.
The seller owns the property until completion but holds it on behalf of the buyer.
The seller’s solicitor and buyer’s solicitor will make final preparations for completion. This includes preparing the documents needed to complete and dealing with the finances. Final checks are carried out. Top Tip! – It is very important to follow the solicitors instructions exactly to make sure that there are no delays caused.
On completion the buyer’s solicitor pays the money needed to buy the property to the seller’s solicitor. When the money is received, the seller’s solicitor confirms completion to the buyer’s solicitor. They also call the agent and the seller, and the keys are handed over to the buyer. Usually by the estate agent.
The seller’s solicitor hands over the property deeds to the buyer’s solicitor, pays back any mortgage and pays the agent. After all sums have been paid the remainder – called the net sale proceeds can be paid to the seller.
The buyer’s solicitor pays any SDLT and puts the return in and then deals with the post-completion matters such as registration of the buyer’s ownership of the property.
Our Conveyancing Team
Our team is headed by Robert McDonald who is a conveyancing solicitor with many years property experience conveying properties all over the South of England and London.