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The Residential Conveyancing Process - Frequently Asked Questions

For anyone about to step onto the property ladder for the first time, the process of purchasing a home can seem rather daunting.  Thankfully, conveyancing solicitors specialise in this area of law and understand all the intricacies and implications of property transactions.  However, even with a professional handling the legal details for you, it is important to understand the steps involved in a conveyancing transaction, what problems to look out for, and most importantly, when you can expect to take the keys of your new home.  In this article, we will address the questions we most commonly receive from first-time buyers and those unfamiliar with the technicalities of buying and selling.

13 August 2018
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What does a conveyancing solicitor do?

A conveyancer’s job is to manage the transfer of ownership of a property from the current owner to the new owner.  Buyers and sellers will instruct a conveyancing solicitor to represent their legal interests in the sale/purchase.  The process starts when an offer to buy is accepted and ends when the new owner receives the keys, and the transfer of ownership is formally completed.  In the early stage of conveyancing, your solicitor will carry out formal checks to ensure the purchase is all in order, and crucially, there are no problems with the property or its title which you need to be aware of.  

Step by step conveyancing process:

Step 1: You instruct a conveyancer to act on your behalf.

Step 2: You find a property and the offer price is accepted by the seller.

Step 3: Receive the draft contract.

The seller’s solicitor will send your conveyancer a draft contract, including the official deeds to the property.

Step 4: Searches are conducted.

Your conveyancer carries out Searches and any questions are managed with the seller’s solicitor

Step 5: A ‘report or investigation on title’ occurs. Y

our conveyancer will send this to you. It is a detailed report on the property you are purchasing and includes the property description, zoning, tax rate, and previous history of the property's ownership and titleholders.  Importantly, at this stage, you will also receive a copy of the contract for review.

Step 6: Contract Signing.

You return the contract and arrange for the deposit to be paid.

Step 7: Exchanging At this point the transaction is legally binding.  

The deposit is sent to the seller’s solicitor, and a request made to your lender for the mortgage advance.

Step 8: Completion.

This occurs when the full purchase price has been received by the seller’s solicitor, after which the keys are handed to the new owner.

Step 9: Registering the property.

Your conveyancer will then register the property in your name with the Land Registry and pay any Stamp Duty owed.

What happens at exchange of contracts?

Exchange of contracts makes the house buying process legally binding and typically happens during the month before completion. Once contracts are exchanged there is no withdrawing or going back.   Next, the buyer’s solicitor and the seller’s solicitor read out the contracts over the phone to ensure both contracts are the same.  Once this is verified, the signed contracts are posted to each other on the same day.  At this point, the purchase is legally binding, and the deposit must be paid (up to 10% of the purchase price).  

What happens between exchange and completion?

Firstly, a completion date is formally arranged after exchanging contracts. Just before completion, the final funds will be transferred to the seller’s solicitor so the keys can be handed to the purchaser. Typically, completion and the handover of keys happen in the early afternoon.  

After handling over keys on completion…

On the completion date, you will take possession of the property you have purchased, or as the seller, you will move out. Once the sale is completed, your conveyancer will arrange for the final payments to be made, including estate agent fees, stamp duty, search fee costs, and Land Registry registration fees.

How long does conveyancing take?

For a transaction with no chain, you should expect to reach the date of completion 6 to 8 weeks from your initial instruction.  Long chains may have a completion time of 10 to 12 weeks, but this very much depends on the chain length. Remember when planning your sale or purchase to allow sufficient time to find your new property and to secure a mortgage offer; a process which alone can take 2 months or more.  

Why do solicitors take so long to process a house sale?

It is important to select a conveyancer with a strong track record and reputation for completing house transactions in a timely manner.  Your conveyancer needs to be proactive, responsive, and highly organised.  Factors which can potentially lead to delays include:

  • Problems in the chain e.g. if one sale falls through.  The longer the chain, the higher the chance of possible delay, but everything will be done to avoid such an occurrence
  • The mortgage process taking longer than normal This may be due to excessive processing times by your lender, or further information is requested from a third-party which is not provided in a timely manner
  • Survey Problems Problems could include structural movement, timber and dam problems, defective wiring, defective roof coverings and a defective heating system.

Struggling with property conveyancing? Our conveyancing solicitors in Surrey are dedicated to making the process easier and more understandable for our clients. Discuss your needs with us for more information.