Conveyancing Transactions

Key stages and Timescales for buying, selling and re-mortgaging…

Pre-Exchange

The majority of the conveyancing work happens ‘pre-exchange’. As you will note below, there are a lot of steps involved in this stage and can take 4-7 weeks to complete.

  1. Once you have agreed an offer for the property, we will take the details from you and send the initial paperwork to you for your signature and return. The paperwork will include the terms of business and costs.
  2. We are only instructed to act for you once we receive your returned signed paperwork.
  3. You, your mortgage lender (or both) will then make arrangements to have a survey carried out on the property and your application is made to obtain a mortgage if required.
  4. We will contact your seller’s conveyancer to request a draft contract and paperwork from them.
  5. We will then check the contract pack and raise any questions we have in relation to the information (pre-contract enquiries) which the sellers are required to respond to.
  6. We will draft a Transfer document to send to your sellers to confirm they are happy with.
  7. At this stage we will send you copies of the forms completed by the seller which provides more detail regarding the property and a plan for you to check the boundaries.
  8. We will submit searches on your behalf. Ordinarily four searches are carried out;- Local Authority search, Environmental search, Coal mining search and Water and drainage search. Other searches may be carried out if necessary or upon your request.
  9. Once we have obtained your mortgage offer, results of the searches carried out and have the responses to our enquiries raised from the sellers conveyancer we will then report to you either by post, email or face to face meeting. At this stage we send to you a completion statement which details the amount which is due from you for the purchase with our bank details.
  10. At this stage you will be required to check the documents and reports to confirm you are happy to proceed or if there is anything further you would like the seller to clarify. If you are happy you will need to sign the Transfer, Contract, Stamp Duty Form, and Mortgage offer (if applicable) and return these to us and make the payment of the balance detailed on the completion statement – this balance will include the purchase price, stamp duty, our legal fees and disbursements deducting any money you have paid and any mortgage advance due.
  11. We will then carry out the pre-completion searches. This is a Land Registry search against the property you are purchasing and if you are buying with the aid of a mortgage we will also carry out a bankruptcy search against you.

Exchange

This is the point in the transaction where it becomes legally binding to purchase the property. This stage happens between weeks 6-8 of the transaction.

  1. A date is agreed between all parties for completion. We contact your mortgage lender to request the funds to be sent to us and contracts are formally ‘exchanged’ which is a legally binding agreement to complete on said date. If you do not complete on that day after exchanging contracts there are usually cost consequences. Exchange may happen any time before completion or in some instances exchange and completion may happen simultaneously.

Completion

This generally happens between weeks 6-8 of the transaction.

  1. On the day of completion, the seller will vacate the property and we will send funds to the seller’s conveyancers. Once the sellers conveyancers have the money, the will notify ourselves and the estate agent to release keys.
  2. You can collect the keys from the selling agent or seller directly and you are now the legal owner of the property!

Post Completion

After 1 – 2 months:

  1. We submit and pay your Stamp Duty Land Tax.
  2. The seller’s conveyancers will send any documentation or deeds they hold relating to the property together with the Transfer Deed signed by their client.
  3. We make an application to the Land Registry and submit to them the relevant documents to record the transfer of ownership and mortgage (if applicable) and the applicable fee.
  4. Once the Land Registry have reviewed documents, they will either send us queries (requisitions) to obtain further information or will register your name against the property and send an amended Register of Title electronically to us.
  5. We check the information is correct and send a copy to you together with any documents received from the sellers for your keeping.

NB: If you are in a lengthy chain or if it is established the Land Registry do not have your title deeds (unregistered property) the transaction may be longer and subject to additional charges. There is no exact timeframe and the periods provided are estimates only. Depending upon the complexity, the timescale may increase and there are usually good reasons for this which we will communicate to you along the way.

In addition to the all of the above steps, there is extra work to be carried out and documents to obtain if you are buying a property that has a Lease. If you are buying a Leasehold property this means that you own the property, but the land the property is on is owned by someone else (freeholder). You are able to occupy the property for the length stipulated in the Lease. Extra checks are therefore necessary and this may add around 2 weeks on top of a standard conveyancing timescale.

1. The contract package will also contain a Lease and a Leasehold Information form which are usually length and require additional time to check.

2. In some instances we are require to obtain a management pack from the managing agent to check for any fees/issues/responsibilities.

3. Additional documents may also need to be drawn up or requested including a Deed of Covenant or some Leases will have to be varied and a Deed of Variation is required to be drawn up. This can incur both extra time and cost to draft and submit.

4. In addition to standard enquiries, we will also raise further enquiries in respect of any Service Charges, check service charge has been paid up to date, if there are any planned repairs/refurbishments – this is more applicable if you are purchasing an apartment in a block, check if any disputes between leaseholder and landlord, check if there is a reserve fund and adequate insurance, fire risks checks, and previous accounts if applicable.

5. On completion, we are required to submit certain documents and pay applicable fees to management companies, landlords, and freeholders etc. to confirm the transfer of ownership.

Pre-Exchange

The majority of the conveyancing work happens ‘pre-exchange’. As you will note below, there are a lot of steps involved in this stage and can take 2-5 weeks to complete.
1. Once you are on the market or have an offer accepted, you or the selling agent provide the property details to us.

2. We will then send the initial paperwork to you for your signing and return to confirm you would like to instruct us to act.

3. The paperwork will include our terms of business, fees and forms relating to the property which you will be required to complete and provide the relevant documentation where requested.

4. We will carry out ID checks against you and may ask for further proof of ownership.

5. If your property is registered, we will obtain your title deeds from the Land Registry. If your property is not registered you may hold the deeds or they may be with a deeds holder such as a solicitor or mortgage lender. The deeds will establish the owner of the property and detail any mortgages or charges on the property.

6. We prepare a draft contract to send to your buyer’s conveyancers together with copies of the documentation you have completed and any warranties, guarantees, planning permissions or building regulation documentation you hold.

7. We write to any mortgage lender or charge holder to confirm the amount that is owing.

8. The buyer’s conveyancers will check the contract and information and will send ‘pre-contract enquiries’ to us – a list of questions regarding the property which they require clarification on.

9. The questions are for us and for you to answer and we will send you a copy of these.

10. Once the buyers receive their searches and mortgage offer they wish to raise further questions and again we will forward you a copy of them to answer.

11. You will then be required to sign and return the contract and transfer deed. This may be in person or by post if more convenient.

Exchange

Some parties require a period between exchange and completion however others may prefer for exchange and completion to happen simultaneously. Exchange of contracts will usually happen around the 4-6 week of the transaction.

12. A completion date is agreed between all parties. And we request a final redemption figure form your mortgage lender (if applicable). If you are in negative equity, we will request a sum from you to cover the shortfall at this stage.

13. We will then ‘exchange contracts’ which makes the transaction legally binding. If either party withdraws from the transaction after exchanging there will likely be cost consequences.
Completion

14. On the day of completion you must vacate the property and hand any keys to the estate agent.

15. The purchaser’s conveyancers will send the purchase monies to us and once we receive them into our account we will notify you that completion has taken place.

16. We will then notify the agent that keys can be released. If you have agreed to hand the keys directly to the buyer, you must wait for us to notify you to do so.

Post-Completion

17. We pay off any outstanding charge/mortgage with the monies, and pay the estate agents fees and any policies you may have agreed to put into place. We will also take our legal fee and pay any disbursements due. We will then ring you to confirm your bank details provided and pay the remainder of the proceeds of sale into your account by bank transfer.

18. We send the signed Transfer Deed and any other applicable documents to the buyer’s conveyancers.

Whether buying or selling, issues may arise from time to time which, whilst we will do our utmost to avoid these, sometimes problems will arise and we ask for your assistance and patience in dealing with these.

1. Higher offer – no party is legal bound to buy or sell a property until exchange of contracts take place. If you are buying a property and the sellers received a higher offer, you may want to increase your offer and proceed with the transaction or find an alternative property to purchase. If you are a seller and your buyer withdraws from the transaction, again, you may want to look at re-marketing the property as quickly as possible in order to seek another buyer.

2. Survey – a surveyor is there to protect the purchase and make sure that any issues are brought to a buyer’s attention. If the surveyor finds a number of repairs are required to a property they may advise that further inspections and reports are carried out by specialist to confirm the extent or cost of repairs and damage. Issues can usually be rectified. You may agree with the seller to make the issues good, request the seller to have these rectified prior to completion or you may agree a reduced price for the property. A mortgage lender may require the works to be rectified prior to confirming they will lend on the property and this will cause delays in the transaction.

3. Down valuation by mortgage lender – although a purchase price has been agreed between the buyer and seller, a mortgage lender may have a different view of what the property is worth after considering its condition and current market conditions. If the lender thinks the property is too high in price, you may wish to negotiate to reduce the purchase price, withdraw from the transaction, make up the shortfall yourself or seek an alternative lender.

4. Chains – if you need to sell a house to buy your next one, and your seller is in the same position and so forth all needing to complete the same day, a lengthy chain may be involved (sometimes this can be 8 or 10 houses long!). As issues may arise up and down the chain there is more likely to be a delay in the transaction as parties will be reliant on all others in the chain to progress. It is important that each party knows exactly what stage the other parties are at and communication between the parties, solicitors and estate agents are key. If one party pulls out of the transaction it may lead to the chain collapsing and all parties unable to proceed.

Lengthy chains are sometimes unavoidable however if you are able to it is usually advisable for a party to ‘chain break’ by agreeing to go into temporary accommodation (rented or with family) allowing you to complete your sale and waiting in temporary accommodation for your purchase to catch up however this would still carry a degree of risk.

5. Delayed documentation – it is important that all documents, questions and forms sent to you are completely quickly and accurately and returned to us as soon as ever possible in order that we may progress your transaction. If you are selling, it is advisable to gather all planning, building, warranty and guarantee documents when going onto the market so there is no delay in obtaining these once a sale has been agreed. If you are purchasing all solicitors will require your ID, proof of address and proof of funds and it is therefore good practice to have these ready when putting an offer forward on a property.

6. Mortgage lender and third parties – there may be times where we need to notify your lender of certain information. In order to obtain a quick response from them, you may want to assist in chasing them also. As you are ultimately their client we find you may get a quicker response in some instances. When your lender sends you documentation it is essential that you check this to ensure that the information they have is correct and no spellings or errors have been made as this will cause a delay further on in the transaction.

7. Negotiating and Re-Negotiating purchase price – negotiating items of furniture, works to be carried out, re-negotiating purchase prices etc are NOT legal issues and we will not get involved with this in a transaction. If there is an estate agent involved, you will be referred back to them to negotiate, if no estate agent is involved, this should be done between the parties themselves. If you re-negotiate a purchase price, this may cause a delay as your lender will need to be notified and in some instances a new or amended mortgage offer will be issued. Documentation such as the contract, transfer and stamp duty form will also need to be amended to reflect the change.

8. Shared Ownership, Help to Buy mortgage, Help to Buy ISA, new build transaction – these are not included in the ‘standard conveyancing timescales’. Due to the nature of the transaction there is ordinarily a lot more documentation, drafting and reporting required and therefore will often take significantly longer.

This is usually a fairly straightforward process and can be completed within 2- 4 weeks.

Pre-Completion preparation

1. We will take the details from you over the phone and send the initial paperwork to you.

2. Once we have received your signed instructions, completed forms and ID we will begin work on your transaction.

3. If you property is registered we will download your title deeds from the Land Registry. If you property is not registered we will write to your deeds holder to request them (this is usually a solicitor or current mortgage lender where applicable).

4. We check the title deeds and note any current mortgage on the property. if the property is leasehold, we will need to check to the Lease and may need to raise enquiries (ask questions) with the landlord/managing agent to check that service charges, rent, are up to date and no arrear on the account and also to confirm if they require a notice of charge to be served on them on completion together with a note of any fees that may be due to them.

5. We will write to your current mortgage lender and request an initial redemption statement which provides a figure of the amount that is outstanding on your current mortgage.

6. Your lender will not usually require searches to be carried out but will ask for a policy of indemnity insurance in replacement of searches. This policy will cover the lender in the event that a loss is sustained as a result from not having searches carried out. You will be require to cover the cost of the policy and we will notify you of the amount when obtaining a draft of the policy.

7. Your new lender will issue a mortgage offer and we will check the content and provide a report to you on the contents of the offer (The important bits from the mortgage offer that you need to be aware of) together with a mortgage deed which you will need to sign and return if you are satisfied.

8. We will then ask you for a date when you would like to finalise and complete your re-mortgage. This is usually 2-10 days ahead as your mortgage lender will usually stipulate a minimum amount of days’ notice to transfer the funds to us.

9. We will then carry out ‘pre-completion searches’. This will include a search against the property which will show if any interests have been registered against the property and also a bankruptcy search against you on behalf of your lender.

10. We will then request a final redemption statement from your existing lender confirming to confirm the total amount which will be due to them calculated to your agreed date. At this stage we will also submit a request to your new mortgage lender for the monies to arrive on the agreed date.

11. We will send a completion statement to you which will show the amount of money coming from your new lender deducting the amount owed to your existing lender and any legal fees and disbursements and giving a final figure that you should expect to receive.
Completion

12. Once we receive the monies from your new lender, we will then use those funds to pay off your existing lender and request that they remove themselves from the title deeds. We will then take our legal fees and disbursements and the remainder of the monies will be sent to you by bank transfer.

Post – completion

13. Following completion we will submit an application to the Land Registry together with the applicable fee to document transaction. The Land Registry will remove your original lender and in place put the details of your new lender onto the deeds.

14. Once the Land Registry have completed the registration we will be sent a copy of the new title deeds electronically which we will check.

15. We will then forward you a copy of the new title deeds for your safe keeping.