Higher mortgage rates have hit the housing market hard and property prices have tumbled in recent months, but whether you are hoping to downsize, buy your first home, sell a property, or refinance an existing home loan, you’ll need to use a conveyancing solicitor to handle the transaction.
In this UK Guide to the Conveyancing Process, we’ll look at what a conveyancing solicitor does, as well as the different stages of the journey.
The Early Stages
It’s a good idea to take a close look at your finances before you place an offer on a property or attempt to refinance with a new lender.
Many eager homebuyers or homeowners hoping to refinance with a new lender have found their transactions scuppered because of something in their credit file or their inability to prove their income to the satisfaction of a lender.
This is why if you are not a cash buyer, it’s sensible to secure a mortgage in principle before you start looking at properties.
What Does a Conveyancing Solicitor Do?
A conveyancing solicitor handles the legal aspects of buying and selling a property. They also work with you when you remortgage to get a better deal from a new lender. Note that you don’t need to instruct a conveyancing solicitor if you move to a new deal with your existing lender or decide to borrow more on the current mortgage.
Conveyancing solicitors also handle transactions related to:
- Holiday homes and second properties
- Residential landlord and tenants
- Site acquisitions and assembly
- Development sales
- Freehold and leasehold interests
Instruct a Conveyancing Solicitor
Once you have an offer accepted on a property, agreed on a sale price on a property you own, or applied for a new mortgage deal with a different lender, etc., you need to instruct a conveyancing or property solicitor. Your solicitor will send you some documents based on the transaction. The faster you fill out all the paperwork and return it to your solicitor, the quicker they can begin work on your file.
If you’re a cash buyer, paying for a survey is not compulsory, but it is recommended. Lots of people don’t bother having a survey done until later in the conveyancing process, but it is advantageous to book a survey as soon as you have an offer on a property accepted.
Why? Well, consider this. A survey is designed to highlight problems so you know what you’re buying. You may decide after discovering the property you love has a bad case of subsidence that you no longer want to buy it. It’s better to find this out before you incur any further costs.
Searches and Enquiries
Once your conveyancing solicitor has been instructed and received your completed forms, they will begin work.
When you are selling a property, your solicitor’s job is to prepare a contract for the sale and send all the information related to the property to the buyer’s solicitor. If you are buying a property, your solicitor will ask if you want searches ordered. These are typically obtained as a pack and include:
- Drainage searches
- Environmental searches
- Mining searches
- Chancel searches
- Local searches
The information that comes back in the searches must be examined very carefully, as it will reveal things like the property’s flood risk, local planning applications that might affect the property, whether you would be liable for the cost of repairs to a local church, etc.
This is also the stage where your solicitor will submit enquiries to the opposing solicitor, asking about boundaries, rights of way, neighbours, and other matters. If you have any questions you need answers to, ask your solicitor to raise them as enquiries.
Securing Your Mortgage
When the searches and replies to any enquiries raised arrive, your solicitor will report back to you with all their findings, so you can make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the transaction. If you are happy to go ahead, the mortgage finance can be arranged. Once you have your mortgage offer from the lender, pass on the details to your conveyancing solicitor.
This stage of the process typically takes the longest, as it can be a time-consuming process to secure all the information. The more buyers and sellers there are in a chain, the longer it all takes.
Signing the Contract
When everything is to your satisfaction, all the solicitors working on transactions in the chain will arrange for their clients to sign their contracts and agree on a completion date. Contracts are usually emailed or posted to you so you can sign them in the presence of a witness and send them back to your solicitor.
Exchange and completion of signed contracts can take place on the same day, but usually, contracts are exchanged one or two weeks before the agreed completion date. It’s important to note that once you have exchanged contracts, you can’t withdraw from the purchase/sale without a financial penalty. You are also legally liable for the property from this point, so you must arrange building’s insurance from the date of exchange, to protect your investment. A lender will insist that insurance is in place from this date.
A deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) is paid upon exchange of contracts. In a chain, the deposit paid by the first person in the chain is passed up the chain, so the money you receive may be less than 10%. Ensure you can transfer the necessary funds in good time before the exchange of contracts takes place, as delays will jeopardise the transaction.
If mortgage funding is being used to pay for the property, your solicitor will deal with the lender to obtain the funds in good time for the transaction to proceed.
The transaction is completed when all the funds needed to purchase the property are transferred from the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor to the seller’s solicitor. Your solicitor will inform you once the money has been sent/received. Keys should not be released until this happens.
After completion, there are a few remaining admin tasks left for your solicitor to do, including registering the property on the Land Registry and paying any Stamp Duty Land Tax due.
Contact Heald Nickinson
Our experienced commercial property and residential conveyancing solicitors have years of experience in navigating this process. If you have any more questions about the conveyancing process, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.
Or, simply get an online conveyancing quote!