Especially if it’s your first time, the conveyancing process can seem like a minefield.
However, things are often not as complex as they may first seem. A good conveyancer will to guide you through the whole process and put your mind at ease.
Below, we’ll also try to help by highlighting the 12 essential steps that both the buyer’s and seller’s conveyancers should follow.
Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, it’s a good idea to understand how things work from all angles.
Once the sale is agreed you’ll need to decide which conveyancer you wish to instruct.
The firms you approach will send out their terms of business/engagement and conveyancing fees for you to review.
You’ll then need to confirm that you wish to formally instruct them.
However, we would usually recommend having a conveyancer in place well before instructing.
That way you can get things moving quickly once the sale is agreed.
This will get circulated amongst the buyer’s and seller’s conveyancers.
They will send out paperwork necessary to start the process.
Both the buyer and the seller will need to send some certified identification.
The most common forms of ID are a passport and driver’s licence alongside recent copies of utility or council tax bills.
Certification is necessary for someone independent to confirm that copies of any identification with a photo are a ‘true likeness of the original.’
One of the easiest ways to certify your identification is at the Post Office. Here’s some further information.
You can expect to receive a ‘seller’s pack’. This will contain a series of documents for you to complete.
Usually sent with the above, the seller will be sent a series of legal forms to complete:
The seller should ensure that these forms are filled as honestly as possible.
There should be a direct line of communication with the conveyancer to ask any questions.
The seller should also forward:
We would also suggest sending any documents to conveyancers via Royal Mail Recorded / Special delivery so you can track the delivery.
Whilst this is being organised, the buyer should be organising the mortgage and/or homebuyer survey(s). This process is usually organised with the estate agent managing the sale who will arrange access.
Always make sure the buyer has a mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP) in place. Assuming the survey comes back with the expected results, things should be able to move forward fluidly.
We always suggest that the seller’s conveyancer obtain the settlement figures for any mortgages and secured debts sooner at this stage. This will avoid any surprises down the line, such as hidden liabilities against the house.
For example, if a property is under shared ownership, then that debt will be cleared prior to completion. Note that these organisations are notoriously slow.
The seller’s conveyancer may also ask for proof of deposit funds (which should balance with the mortgage offer). This is to make sure everything is in order and avoid problems later in the process.
After these initial stages, the seller’s conveyancer will prepare and issue a draft contract which will be sent to the buyer’s conveyancer.
Copies of all the forms completed by the seller, accompany documentation and the deeds (known as ‘Office Copy Entries’) will also be sent to the buyer’s conveyancer to start examining.
The conveyancers may get in touch with their clients for any clarifications/information required.
The seller’s forms will also be sent to the buyer to review.
At this stage, the buyer may also raise any pre-transaction issues for the conveyancer to investigate.
Both the buyer’s and seller’s conveyancers should provide a target completion date to work towards.
The buyer’s solicitor will undertake searches against the property.
This is to find out specific details surrounding its background. Put another way, it’s a ‘deep dive’ to make sure there’s nothing untoward.
The range of searches will vary from property to property but the main ones (in order of priority) are:
These are classed as disbursements and will need to be paid up-front.
These issues may not be known about when an estate agent initially markets a property or it’s bought through a private homebuying company.
The buyer’s solicitor will use a third-party search provider to undertake this process. Note that there may be extra conveyancing charges if the sale is more complicated.
The buyer’s conveyancer will send a full report alongside a ‘report on title’, highlighting any pertinent issues.
The conveyancer representing the buyer will want to examine the lease in detail alongside any conditions and unfair clauses.
The seller’s conveyancer will also receive a Managing Company Questionnaire which should be forwarded to the relevant parties.
They will need to respond to any further enquiries made by the conveyancer until everything is clear.
Unfortunately, these processes usually lengthen the overall conveyancing period.
The buyer’s conveyancer will check the mortgage condition and prepare a report that outlines the main points.
Note that it’s not the conveyancer’s job to provide financial advice, nor to comment about whether you are getting a good mortgage deal or not.
Assuming the mortgage survey has come back and there are no issues, the buyer’s conveyancer will liaise with the lender about how they will forward the funds.
There must be a firm written mortgage offer in place.
The mortgage company may want to see evidence of the buyer’s deposit – usually via a bank statement.
They will probably question the source of the funds with the conveyancer. These are known as Know Your Customer (KYC) checks.
There are usually a series of questions – known as ‘pre-contract enquiries’ – that the buyer’s conveyancer will ask about the legalities of the property before allowing their client to sign the contract.
Most good conveyancers will start raising these the moment the draft contract is issued.
However, there may be some that can only be answered once all the searches are through.
The buyer’s conveyancer may also have to deal with questions from the new mortgage lender regarding the sale.
The seller’s conveyancer at this juncture will also check the transfer deed to make sure everything is in order.
The conveyancers will also produce completion statements: financial breakdowns of monies to be paid (by the buyer) and owed (to the seller minus legal and estate agency fees).
Make sure you go through these carefully and ask as many questions as you need.
Once all parties are happy with everything that’s been reported back, the buyer’s conveyancer can send the relevant paperwork to be signed.
Once this is received back, the buyer’s conveyancer will arrange a date for the deposit to be paid (shortly before exchange/completion).
In most cases, this amounts to 10% of the purchase price.
This date usually lines up with the arrival of the buyer’s mortgage funds and the completion date is set.
Prior to exchanging contracts, the buyer will also need to have a building insurance policy in place.
There will also be a precautionary Land Charges checks to make sure there have been no changes since the beginning of the transaction process.
Once the contracts are exchanged between conveyancers, the sale is legally bound.
Note that if the buyer has a change of heart after this point, the seller has every right to keep the deposit paid and seek compensation for breach of contract.
Similarly, if the seller refuses to move forward with completion, the buyer can seek a court order to force the sale or get the deposit back and seek adequate compensation.
Note that both of these situations are extremely rare.
When using a mortgage, the buyer’s conveyancer will need to first send a report before formally applying for the mortgage advance.
The mortgage company will do their own checks and send the funds (usually) on the day before completion.
The buyer’s deposit and mortgage funds (drawn down from the lender) or remainder cash (if not using a mortgage) are sent to the seller’s conveyancers who will transfer any balance due.
The buyer’s conveyancer lodges an interest in the property and the deeds are ‘frozen’ for 6 weeks. During this period the deeds will be formally transferred into the buyer’s name.
At the same time, the seller’s conveyancer sends the title and transfer deeds to the buyer’s conveyancer.
Confirmation that any outstanding mortgage on the property has been discharged should also be sent (see the HM Land Registry guidance here).
This is accompanied by a legal undertaking to pay off the mortgage and/or secured loans (plus any early redemption penalties and associated fees).
The proceeds of sale (i.e. the difference between the sold price and the mortgage) will then be sent to the seller.
Note also that the seller’s conveyancer will deduct their own fees and pay the estate agent from the proceeds of sale.
The buyer will also have to pay conveyancing fees and stamp duty at this stage.
The conveyancers will get in touch with their respective clients to confirm the sale.
Note that the situation can get complicated in a chain sale as multiple parties have to agree to exchange simultaneously.
In these chain scenarios, the deposit may be funded from the ongoing sale or passed up.
The conveyancers will liaise with each other to establish the most efficient way to execute the sales.
The estate agent can then make the necessary arrangements for keys to be picked up.
Unless the property being sold is a buy-to-let (i.e. with sitting tenants), it must be 100% vacated.
There are instances where the seller can remain, but these kinds of arrangements would require a specific licence agreement to be in place.
Although both conveyancers should offer a post-sale service, it’s mainly the buyer conveyancer that will need to undertake some further tasks.
The documentation alongside a completed AP1 (Change the Register) form will be sent to HM Land Registry to confirm the property’s new ownership.
The buyer’s stamp duty is also paid to the Inland Revenue and registered at the HMRC (using a Land Transaction Return).
The buyer’s details will then appear on the deed after 6 weeks. However, all the legal documents are usually sent within 1-2 weeks.
Note that the conveyancer will also send a copy of the revised deed to the mortgage lender.
Finally, if the property is a leasehold, the conveyancer will also make sure that the buyer’s name is entered on the lease.