Conveyancing – a potted guide

Our expert at Punch Robson talks about the conveyancing process and how it works

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Conveyancing is the legal process which we use to buy and sell properties.  Its role is to ensure that both the buyer and seller are protected by the law, and that the transfer of ownership is clear.

Most people are aware of the two stages to the conveyancing process.  First comes the nerve-wracking stage which leads up to Exchange of Contracts.  This is the point at which the deal is effectively done – no-one can back out without a penalty.  The second stage leads up to Completion which in most cases represents that great big, daunting day – Moving Day!

For a solicitor, the bulk of the work is done before the end of that first stage – before the point that a buyer or seller is committed to the transaction.  This is the stage where we spend our time researching the transaction, in order to ensure that our client is fully aware of any relevant information regarding the purchase.  

Some of the things we would do include:

  • making searches and advising on results
  • advising on survey recommendations
  • asking the seller to provide detailed information regarding the property
  • asking the seller to resolve any legal or practical concerns
  • drafting of amending legal documents to protect our clients
  • reporting important legal matters to any mortgage lender involved, in order to understand whether the offer of funding is affected
  • attending to matters required by law, such as verifying the source of cash funds and checking the identity of people involved in the property transaction
  • discussing and advising on timescales, and coordinating connected sales and purchases
  • advising the seller or the buyer on the content and effect of legal documents involved in the conveyancing process

By the end of the first stage, we aim to have uncovered a full picture of the transaction from our client’s perspective in order to ensure that they can make an informed decision before making a binding commitment.  Although no-one wants to delay a house sale unnecessarily, we encourage our clients to take their time to ensure they are making the right decision.

Once our client is satisfied, then they will authorise us to proceed to Exchange of Contracts.  This is the point at which the seller and buyer make a legally binding agreement with each other for the transfer of the property, and confirm the date when this will happen.  In preparation for Exchange of Contracts both the seller and buyer actually sign a physical copy of the contract, and on the day each solicitor will record key details on the contract such as date and price.  We then exchange a copy of that contract with the other side.  Usually, a deposit of 10% of the purchase price is paid at this point as a bond and sign of good faith, and we agree a Completion Date.  

The Completion Date is the date which is agreed for the conclusion of the sale or purchase of the property, and the final handover of keys.  Many of our clients are both buying and selling, so there are often detailed and lengthy discussions between all of the sellers, buyers and their solicitors in order to find a date which works for everyone.

In preparation for this day we undertake final checks, collect purchase funds, obtain mortgage redemption statements and prepare any relevant legal papers. 

Once Completion has taken place we may still have work to do.  If we are representing you in a property purchase, it is our responsibility to register the change of ownership at the Land Registry.  This process will usually take at least several weeks, and sometimes longer.

Our clients often ask us how long the conveyancing process lasts, and as you can see, there are lots of variables which could impact on the speed of the process.  However, three months is a good rule of thumb – most cases can be completed within that time, and many can move more quickly than that, especially given our dedicated team of conveyancing experts.

If you’d like to know more, we’d be happy to speak to you.  Just give us a call.

Katherine Eaton
Partner and Head of Residential Conveyancing

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